Generosity: Giving & Spirit (1 Corinthians 16:1-12)

September 10, 2023

Series: 1 Corinthians

All right, without further ado, please turn your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 16. Today yes, today we finish a journey that we began way back on the eigth of January. No one can say that we don’t stick to it around here. We’ve got this. We’re going to finish this. Today we conclude Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church. Are you ready? Here we go. I did want to give you a sneak peek for next week. Didn’t mean for that to rhyme, but sometimes that happens. Okay? Very good. Coming up next week, Marshall Mead, who serves really all the regions in the church but is based in the south. He’s coming over to the east to be our guest speaker next week. So we look forward to that. And then two weeks from today, we begin a new series.

 

On Sundays, for October and November, we will study the parables of Jesus. But for now, let’s dive into this brief conclusion to 1 Corinthians. Let’s read 1 Corinthians 16. Beginning in verse 13, the Scripture says, be watchful. “Stand firm in the faith. Act like men. Be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, you know that the household of Stefanas were the first converts in Achaea, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints. Be subject to such as these and to every fellow worker and laborer. I rejoice at the coming of Stefanas and Fortunatus and Achaeus because they have made up for your absence, for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people. Verse 19. The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, they send you hearty greetings in the Lord. All the brothers and sisters send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss. I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord come the grace of the Lord. Jesus be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.” There you have it. We are done.

 

That’s it. We did right. All right. We have crossed the finish line of Paul’s timeless letter to the church in Corinth. Of course, keep in mind, Paul wrote at least two more letters to the same church, one of which is Second Corinthians. That’s another story for another time. But the title of today’s lesson is Five Imperatives because that’s how Paul concludes his letter. After all he’s written, he leaves the church with a quintet of imperatives. An imperative is a command, and an imperative is something not to be avoided. It is necessary. An imperative is an order. It’s an obligation. For example, we see this all the time with signs. Do this, do that, don’t do this. I warn you. And really with signs, especially if you’re driving. There’s not time for a long explanation, and there’s not room on the sign. Right. It’s assumed that you can figure out what this is, and if you don’t know, you still have to obey it. Right. And so it’s right there on the sign. It’s brief and it’s to the point. They are imperative. So Paul’s already spent a bulk of the 16 chapters that we’ve studied in depth.

 

He spent quite a bit of time explaining the why. Now he just gives us the final commands for the church to summarize all that he’s just told us. And I know we have a language arts teacher out there and Malik Brown. We got any other language arts English teachers in the audience? Okay. Yes. All right, so you’ll hold me in check here. We’re going to go to some grammar here, and you tell me if I’m doing good or I’m doing well. I’m not really sure if it’s good or well all these years later, whatever that may mean. Okay. So I think taking us back to 9th grade English, an imperative is a grammatical mood that expresses the will to influence the behavior of another person. So in English, we know that something’s an imperative many times by the context of the sentence. Sometimes at the end of the sentence, we’ll get a hint or a big hint, there will be an exclamation point at the end. All right? And we know, okay, it’s an exclamation, it’s imperative. Don’t overuse the exclamation points. Please don’t be too gratuitous with those. They’re for effect. Right. English teachers yeah, not too many English teachers want you to put lots of exclamation points in your papers.

 

All right, I digress. But you can tell by the context of the sentence. Sometimes the exclamation point. Other times, we just recognize the imperative, that there’s some kind of command here by the tone of voice. But a lot of times in English, you’re left guessing. But in the Greek New Testament, we’re going to go Greek geek here for a second. Imperatives are nearly 100% clear when you read it in the Greek, because the verbs with the imperative mood, they have completely different endings than the other verbs, and they’re spelled differently. So there’s not going to be any question when someone’s writing in Greek in the New Testament, whether this is a command or not. Are you with me? So that’s what we have here. In verses 13 and 14, Paul gives five final commands to summarize his letter to the Corinthians. They are short and they are to the point. Number one, be watchful. Number two, stand firm in the faith. Number three goes with number four, act like men and be strong. More on that in a moment. And number five, most importantly, let all that you do be done in love. So first of all, be watchful.

 

In other words, watch yourself, check yourself, be alert, wake up. And Jesus himself gave this imperative to his followers quite often. He would say, Watch out, be on your guard. In light of Paul’s teaching in Chapter 15, which we just covered a few weeks ago on the resurrection, this means get ready. The resurrection of the dead is coming. It’s going to happen. Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead. Do not allow death or the coming of Jesus to catch you off guard. We don’t know the day, we don’t know the hour. But be watchful for the return of Jesus. It could happen at any time. It’s the classic hymn we sometimes sing. It goes like this. When the savior calls I’ll do what I will answer When He calls for me, I will hear. Because why I’ll be somewhere listening for my name. All right, but we have to be listening. We have to be ready for it, or we’re going to miss it. And I would ask all of us the question, if your name is called today by Jesus, are you ready? Be watchful. This could also mean watch out for the temptation to sin, especially based on the context and all that Paul was dealing with with the church in Corinth.

 

He wanted them to know, okay, you’re still under attack. For the Corinthians, this meant sexual sin, divisiveness, hurting their brothers and sisters with their pride and their idolatry. It also meant watching out for sneaky, false doctrines that creep into the church. Paul wanted them to know. False teaching is very subtle, but it’s deadly. It will cause conflict among brothers and sisters in the church. It also leads to distrust and rebellion against authority. Paul’s like, watch out. Second of all, stand firm in the faith. As a reminder, I think we need to look at this once again. Trouble in Corinth, many troubles that Paul contended with in Corinth. And here they are. We’ve gone through all of this since January, and the problem is for Corinth, as we’ve seen if you’ve been with us along the way on this study, many of the church members were not self aware. That’s why Paul had to write this letter. In fact, they actually thought they were spiritual. They thought they were wise and mature. They thought they were ahead of everyone else. And they actually thought that Paul was the problem, not them. So Paul commands them. He wants to reach those that he feels will accept what he’s saying with a humble, obedient heart.

 

Stand firm in the faith. Stand firm in what it takes to become a Christian. Stand firm in the Gospel, the death, the burial, the resurrection of Jesus. Stand firm in what Paul has taught you about the church and your commitment to generosity. This will not be easy. So you must stand firm. And it won’t be easy because some and you’ve experienced this if you’ve been around for a while, you know, being in the church, some people that you dearly love, perhaps even blood family members, will choose a different path. They will change their mind and neglect the confession they made in front of many witnesses. Some will choose a different path, and it will be a punch to our gut. It will hurt our hearts, and they won’t stand firm on our shared body of beliefs and then sometimes even try to persuade you with this false wisdom. We must stand firm. And that’s why Paul gives us the next two commands and they go in there together, act like men and be strong. Now, I would encourage us to take this in context here of the first century rather than reading this with 20/23 eyes.

 

Okay? When he says this, this is coming from King David. King David wrote a couple of songs. We sang the song earlier. Be strong, take heart and wait for the Lord. That was all of that song, and I love that song. All the lyrics come from Psalm 27. It’s David on the run and he wants his men to be strong in the face of what they’re facing. They’re all alone, living in caves, running from the king. So we have to wait for the Lord. We have to be strong, we have to take heart. And that comes from Psalm 27 and Psalm 31. And when Paul exhorts us to act like men, he is clearly calling on the males in the church. Hear me, brothers. He wants the males in the church to leave behind our childish, immature ways and lead the way forward with courage. Lead the way forward with gentleness and humility. Why? Well, it takes humble strength to contend with the proud. I don’t know how many times that I’ve fought pride with pride, right? That’s my go to weapon. Hey, this person’s being just so impossible with me. Okay, well, I’m just going to fight back.

 

It stirs something in myself and my own weakness. But it takes courageous reliance on the Lord, not ourselves, to stand firm, to be strong, to be brave, to stand our ground against false wisdom that creeps into the church. So Paul’s really calling on this. It’s more of a soldier mentality. We sang the words, though an army besiege me, I will not fear. Okay, the Lord is going to take care of me, and he’s calling us to do that. Last but not least, Paul. Underscores the foundation of everything we do as a church, let all that you do be done in love. Love. There it is again. Paul just gave us the grandest chapter we have on love in chapter 13. So it goes back to it a reminder. If I speak, if you speak in the language of angels but have not love, I’m a clanging symbol. I’m just noise. If I have prophetic powers, if I have all knowledge, if I have faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I’m nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. Love is not arrogant. Love is not rude. Love does not insist on having its own way.

 

Love is not irritable or resentful. I’m convicted. That’s challenging. And that’s why Paul has to keep going back to it. You must continue to build your life and build the church on love. Love never fails. You have hope, you have faith, you have love. Only love will remain. Remember, Paul said, when I was a child, I spoke like a child or reasoned like a child. When I became mature, I gave up my childish ways. He’s saying, look to love in the church. There’s no place for pride or elitism. In the church, there’s no place for setting ourselves up as more spiritual than others. 1 Corinthians 8:1, one knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Let all that we do be done in love. So those are his five imperatives. And then next, Paul gets very practical on leadership. You know, the Corinthians, they had divided into camps, and we see this right away in chapter one. Paul comes out of the gate immediately on this. He says, I’ve heard from Chloe’s household that one of you says, I follow Apollos, another, I follow Cephas. And then another is like, well, I don’t need leadership. I’ve got know, it’s just like there’s this friction, there’s these camps, these divisions, and many of them had aligned themselves with big name leaders that didn’t even live in Corinth.

 

You see what’s happening here? Name dropping these guys. Paul addresses this in chapter one. He comes back to it here. So he goes full circle. Let’s read verses 15 and 16 again. I love the way Paul does this. Begins with this, ends with this. He says in verse 15, now, I urge you, brothers and sisters, you know that the household of Stefanus were the first converts in Akea and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints. Be subject to such as these and to every fellow worker and laborer. Then he goes on to say in verse 18, give recognition to such people. In other words, don’t make these obvious leaders among you, the people in your church who are serving you and helping you in these different roles. Give them recognition. Don’t make them assert their authority. Don’t do that. Be humble. Don’t name drop Apollo, Cephas, or Paul as your leaders. In other words, what he’s saying here, and he’s come full circle, is submit yourselves to your local leadership. These are the men and women who’ve devote themselves many times for many, many years to serve the local church. These are the people you’re in relationship with.

 

These are the people that really know what’s going on with you. They really know what’s going on in the church. They’re in the trenches with you. I love expertise from the outside. I’m very thankful that our church gets that. And we want to be influenced by lots of churches, specifically our relationships with our family of churches in the state of Florida. But the people in your local church that are serving there. Or even down to a smaller level. Your family group leader, they’re the boots on the ground. We must respect them, give recognition to them, not try to go way above their head and name drop some other leader that doesn’t know what’s going on. But we do. That right. And for us, I’m so excited. It’s a big task. Pray for us. We need more elders, we need more evangelists, we need more family group leaders, we need deacons in the church, and we want to make their work a joy because they’re devoting themselves to us and building up the church. But I say all this to say it was a problem in Corinth and it could be a challenge for us today.

 

It’s so easy and convenient for us today just to turn on our phone, listen to a podcast, share a YouTube video, or have a favorite author on a spiritual book, and then they influence us. And many times it can be good, and I want to be influenced by that as well. But when you start commending them as your leaders, that’s not the biblical narrative that we see here. These are worthy resources. But these things I just mentioned, they’re helpful. But they will never replace local leadership. They will never replace the work that it takes for all of us to work things out and to submit to one another in relationship. Are you with me? What applies to Corinth back then certainly is something for us to keep our eyes on as well. No matter where you live, submit yourself to the local leadership. Verses 19 and 20. I want to say a brief word about the holy kiss sound effect again somewhere I had a sound effect, but I was very thankful for that. Yeah, there it is. Brief word about the Holy kiss. One of the real highlights of this First Corinthians series, at least for me, maybe not for you.

 

Eddie’s not here today, but if you were here for that he gave me a holy kiss one Sunday, and he did it freely in both of our church services. So if you missed it at the nine, you saw it at 11:15. Eddie planted one right on the cheek. It was quite a surprise. It was not planned. It was not planned at all. But he did that didn’t wash my cheek for a week. That was just an honor. It was a great moment. But I want to share something with you that I recently learned in the study here of First Corinthians. I didn’t mention this last time because I’ve learned it since the last time we talked about the Holy Kiss. Nothing is found in Greco-Roman society at that time about people kissing one another as a greeting. They just don’t have it. This was not a Greco Roman custom. Right? What this means is the Holy Kiss appears to be completely unique to the first century church. Alright? And you got to think about the significance of this and how groundbreaking the Church of Christ was in bringing people together, right? And the significance of this, the holy kiss in the church indicates this depth of love and relationship that is not found in the world.

 

The holy kiss crossed social boundaries. Just imagine the impact of this uncommon Christian greeting in that culture, right? If you’re from the outside looking in and you see this, you’re like, whoa. This is a new church thing, this Jesus thing. Whoa. The Jew kisses the Gentilel; the free person kisses the slave, the wealthy and the poor, they embrace and they kiss when they greet one another in public. What? The personal warmth of that holy kiss immediately breaks down all these sinful, manmade barriers. And the Corinthians needed this command based on what was going on in their church. And I think that’s the reason Paul reminds them, and some of the other churches as well greet one another with a holy kiss. People need to know what we’re all about, and when they see that, it makes an impact. So on multiple occasions, Paul would command all the Christians at that time to greet one another with a holy kiss. So it makes me ponder, especially for us now as I fast forward 2000 years, especially with the election season coming up, what can we do as Christians today to show the world that we really love one another?

 

We’re all different, we’re diverse, and that’s how God planned it. It’s a beautiful thing when we all come together. But how can the world know what’s our holy kiss? I don’t know, but it’s something to think about. Definitely is. Let’s conclude here in verse 22, paul writes some intense words here to close out if anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be cursed. Our Lord come. Or Aramaic. Maranatha. Thank you, brother. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen. So once again in verses 23 and 24, we’ve hit on this. The foundation here is the grace of Jesus, the love of Jesus. That’s what’s really going to transform us and bring us to the maturity that we need to leave behind our childish ways and do the hard things. So I talked about earlier. This is what’s going to propel us and Motivate know, even as Paul calls on the men to step up, to have thick skin and soft hearts. It’s going to be the grace of Jesus. It’s going to be the love of Jesus, the example of Jesus, imitating Jesus, that’s going to take us forward.

 

Then in verse 22, Paul carries on the tradition of Moses. In Deuteronomy 30, go back and read that. Very similar echoes of Moses here, of Paul finishing his speech or his letter to the Corinthians here, Deuteronomy 30, Moses did also the final speech of Joshua as they entered the promised Land. Joshua 24 when he says you have two choices here, but as for me and my household. It’s one of those situations. That’s how Paul ends his letter here. So it’s good to see there’s just incredible consistency throughout God’s word when we’re called to a decision. So here in verse 22, the Corinthian Church, I would say today, the Orlando Church. Today I lay before you blessings and curses. You can choose to not love and not obey the Lord fully, but in the end, you will be cursed. Or you can choose to love the Lord and obey Jesus and follow Him in all his ways and you will be blessed. Love for God, love for your neighbor. That’s the blessing. That’s what we’re called to do. Love God, love people, and you will be blessed. It means you and I can now live with the absence of fear.

 

Perfect love drives out fear. No fear of man. What can man do to me? No fear of life, no fear of death, no fear of the second coming of Jesus. That’s the blessing. When we love and we obey the Lord, the church can truly pray with confidence and conviction. Our Lord, come. We’re ready for you. Come back. Jesus, our Lord. Come. If not, judgment awaits. Let’s now bow our heads and pray as we celebrate the return of Jesus and speed his coming. Let’s pray for our communion together. Our Father in heaven, holy is your name. Thank you so much for your sacred words, your timeless words. Thank you so much for all, in a sense that the church in Corinth went through and we can learn from them thank you. That they blazed a trail for us that was quite bumpy, quite difficult. And I pray that we can learn, that we can relate, that we can humble ourselves as your Holy Spirit reveals for us individually and as a church, how we can grow and learn and become wiser and deepen our love from what we’ve learned in our study of the Corinthians. Father, I pray that we can take to heart the commands of Paul to end his letter.

 

He does it all with love, but he wants us to watch out. I pray that we can stand firm in the faith. It’s always being tested. There’s so many things out there that sound good, that my itching ears want to hear. But Father, I pray that you help us stand firm in the faith. Help us to be strong. Help the men in this church to lead the way with our humility, our gentleness, our faith, our conviction, our maturity. I pray that we can be much easier to follow than we’ve been in the past because we’re becoming more like Jesus. Father, we pray that everything we do is founded on love. Help us to imitate Christ. Help us. We love Jesus so much. Jesus is our life. He’s our title, he’s our identity. Help us to become more like Him, to not lose focus, but to keep our eyes on Jesus, the perfect human being who lived a perfect life, who knew how to be strong and take heart and wait for you. Thank you for his blood shed on the cross. Thank you for the body that he sacrificed for us. Thank you that death could not take Him out.

 

He defeated death for us. Thank you for the resurrection. Thank you so much. The sting of death is gone. Death itself has died in Jesus. Thank you, Lord, for Jesus help us to honor Him at this time, to be excited, to call ourselves Christians or even being here, have the opportunity to hear the Word and follow Jesus, the greatest man that ever lived. Thank you for the home in heaven that awaits us. Thank you for our resurrection. We love you, God. Thank you for this time to remember Jesus and to be super encouraged that we have Him in our lives. We pray all these things in his name. Amen.

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