In 1 Corinthians 16, we are afforded one of those brief statements of Paul which affords rich insight into spiritual truth. In five rapid-fire imperatives, he calls upon the Corinthian believers to so change their lives that they would put right all the problems he has dealt with in the previous fifteen chapters.
Division and defilement, disorders and disputations – these and others, plague-like, were destroying the very fabric of testimony. Certainly, in his exercise, Paul would direct gifted men to the scene to correct the problems. But prior to his challenging call in verses 13-14, he mentions that he would like to come to them but was dependent on the Lord’s permitting it; that Timothy might come to them; and finally that Apollos was not minded to come at that time. Paul, Timothy, Apollos – men from whose ministry and care an assembly would greatly profit. But what if they did not come? Was all hope lost?
Paul reminds them, (vv 13-14), that the preservation of testimony lies with them, not with visiting brethren. An assembly values help from without. But it cannot survive on imported gift, grace, or godliness. These must come from within. Paul reminds them, then, of what should be their manner of life. “Watch ye,” carries the thought of spiritual alertness and exercise. “Stand fast in the faith,” would speak of their maintenance of truth, a commodity which was easily traded at Corinth for personal stature and prominence. Maturity is the obvious thought in “quit ye like men.” Childish, peevish behavior which marked them in their relationships and use of gift would have to be put aside for manly and mature spirituality. He calls upon them to “be strong,” or to allow God to make them men of might. In the New Testament, being strengthened is always a passive concept. It is not a self-empowerment. It is allowing God to strengthen me.
Finally, and necessarily, he touches on the motive which must control all: “Let all things be done with charity (or in love).”
How efficacious this antidote would be for everything at Corinth! How effective it would be, as well, in assemblies today.
Bowing to Leadership
One of the great weaknesses at Corinth was in leadership. It almost appears to be non-existent (perhaps they were part of the problem and not the solution). It is not until chapter 16 that Paul begins to mention men who are worthy of recognition by the assembly. Wisely, in a sphere where rivalry and self-prominence existed, Paul did not introduce the worth of individuals too quickly.
But an assembly needs leadership – both to guide and to look to, for its growth. So Paul adds this second ingredient to the spiritual needs for the assembly.
Burning with Love
One final part to the ingredients is mentioned in verse 22-23: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.” Love to Christ. The road of repentance and recovery, the tears and grief, the awkwardness of apologies to those who had been offended, and the shame of failure would all be awesome tasks. The prospect would daunt even the most ardent reformer. What would enable them to complete the work, once begun? Only love for Christ would enable them to allow godly sorrow to work repentance. Only love for Christ would be the ultimate preserving factor for assembly testimony.
The need has not changed.