Aug 25 2013 - 1 Corinthians 16:1-24 – Family
When you read the last chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians you quickly become aware of the fact that the Christians at Corinth belong to a wider family. Greetings are sent from the churches in Asia as well as mention being made of a number of individuals such as Apollos and Timothy, Aquila and Priscilla.
The hallmark of this new family is love. It is firstly a love for the Lord who loved us and gave himself for us – Paul writes, “If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed” (1 Corinthians 16:22). Those who do not love the Lord have not understood his love for them – or have rejected that love.
The family of Jesus are also to be marked by love for one another: “Do everything in love” says Paul, and “greet one another with a holy kiss” (16:14,20). They are also to be a people who long to make Christ known and to draw others into the embrace of his love. Paul was looking forward to visiting his friends at Corinth but was unwilling to leave Ephesus at the moment “because a great door for effective work has opened to me” (16:9); he was eager to make use of this opportunity to win people for Christ – even from those who presently opposed him.
One of the most remarkable ways in which in which the love of this new family was expressed was in the collection (16:1-4). Paul had been organising a collection from the predominantly Gentile churches around the Mediterranean to be sent to the Christians in Jerusalem and Judea who were suffering because of a famine. This collection served not only to supply their needs but also as a practical and visible expression of love and unity. It demonstrated that Gentile and Jewish Christians had become one family in Christ – a family in which the needs of one became the concerns of all.
It is good for us to be reminded that we are members of one family that stretches around the globe. When Christians in Africa (or elsewhere) suffer hunger we cannot remain unmoved; we need to do what we can to help. When Christians in Muslim countries suffer discrimination and persecution we cannot remain unmoved; they are family. We need to ask how the principle behind Paul’s collection can find practical expression among us today. Our prayers are not enough.
So Paul concludes this letter to the troubled Church at Corinth. They were living in an amoral culture; one preoccupied by the cult of celebrity and personality – much like the television culture of our day. Paul has exhorted them to live distinctively different lives as those who belong to Christ. They were an argumentative and divided church. Paul calls them to a unity grounded in the fact that they are members of one body. There were those among them who were spreading false teaching. Paul calls them back to the gospel he had preached to them. His message to them is summed up in his closing words, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love” (16:13-14).
Living God, we give you thanks that you have made us members of your family through the Lord Jesus Christ. Help us by your Spirit to live well as your children: to be on our guard against the subtle influences of the world, the flesh and the devil; to stand firm in the faith, rejoicing and glorying in your saving purposes for us and for all creation; to be strong and courageous in making the love of Christ known; to do everything in love even as you have embraced us in a love beyond words.