The background to this chapter is that Paul is collecting an offering for the Christians in Jerusalem because many were living in extreme poverty, so he wanted to provide them with relief for that suffering. It is also quite possible that Paul saw the collection as an opportunity to bring a greater sense of unity within the church across Jewish and Gentile territories. Remember the Jews and gentiles were worlds apart. Their division went back hundreds of year. Acting from a heart of generosity and Christian concern by the gentiles giving to the Jews who were suffering would demonstrate the power of God’s love.
Right at the end of the chapter there is a personal note from Paul pointing out he that he was writing the final greeting in his own hand. Out of the blue right in the middle of these final greetings, Paul inserts a short but profound statement of advice to his readers:
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14
Boy are these words timely, relevant and powerful for us Christians today. For us who desire to walk as a child of the Light it stunning in its simplicity and depth.
Be on guard
The literal translation is watch or be watchful or even Pay close attention. It is a call for us to be on spiritually on guard. Remember that the church in Corinth struggled with a myriad of problems in the area of spiritual immaturity. In other places in Paul’s letter he dealt with these issues specifically—
- arrogance of those who were in leadership positions ( Paul labelled the leaders spiritually immature),
- factions, or cliques, within the church (which caused arguments and strife and not only weakened the church, but threatened to destroy it),
- chaos in worship services,
- Christians suing other Christians in civil court,
- tolerance of a member who was living openly in sexual sin,
- gluttony and drunkenness at communion meals,
- pride in spiritual giftes and misuse of spiritual gifts, etc.
Sounds an awful lot like the issues the church is facing in the 21st century. Notice though that Paul’s call was not to be tolerant, or retreat, or become meek. His call to the church was “stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong “and this is my favorite part, “Act like men.” No offense to the women reading this. It was a call to stand on the power and truth of God’s Word. That is what “act like men” is referring to. The world when it is confused and lead astray does not need a meek church, and compromising church. It needs a church founded on the Truth of God’s Word ready to to point people to the only source of Light in a dark word. How does the church do this so that it does not come off as intolerant and rigid? The key is the last part of the section, where Paul says, “and do everything in love.”
Do everything in love
Paul in this short commendation brings the Corinthian Christians full-circle, back to the basis or foundation for how Christians should live and act. Do everything in love. Another way to explain it we should be like Christ. We should reflect His love for us in the way we Him and for each other. This Christ-likeness is at the heart of every decision we make, every action we take and every encounter we have with each other. It impacts every interactions and relationships when have with unbelievers as well.
So pray that the Holy Spirit will keep us spiritually aware, standing firm in our faith, yet wrapping our interactions with God and each other cover in the Christ like love of our Savior.