1 Corinthians 16:1-11
Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. 3 And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.
5 I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, 6 and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. 7 For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. 8 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
10 When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am. 11 So let no one despise him. Help him on his way in peace, that he may return to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers. 
This final chapter of first Corinthians seems like a bit of a letdown after such a lengthy and glorious treatment of THE pivotal event in human history: the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Anything that follows Paul’s glorious language of that weighty subject seems trivial. The apostle Paul has a habit of cramming lots of his travel plans, instructions, and greetings at the end of his letters. But the ending of this letter gives us an idea of what Paul believes gospel community ought to look like in light of the resurrection.
Paul has finished addressing the questions raised in the Corinthians’ previous letter to him and the reports he has been given about them. But two matters still remain. They have written to Paul for more specific instructions about their part in his collection for the poor in the Jerusalem congregation. He gives them instructions like the one he’s given to other churches during his capital campaign. Since these instructions involve his coming to personally receive the donations, he digresses to speak about his own travel plans for coming to them (5-9). The thought of travel reminds Paul that Timothy is on his way to Corinth, so he attaches instructions regarding their reception of his young protégé (vv. 11-12).
Unlike most of the letter, this part has little that is openly confrontational; but, in light of what has preceded, we see hints of tension here as well, especially since some of these items are the very ones that explode on him between this letter and the writing of 2nd Corinthians. “Thus, the way the apostle defuses potential trouble in some workaday, personal matters becomes both a lesson in Christian tact and instructive about how Paul managed his everyday relationships with his churches.”
Paul envisions a gospel community that mends what is torn, that rights what is wrong, and that reconciles across every dividing line. There are three things a gospel community should be doing: sharing its goods; sharing its life; and crossing every barrier.
SHARING ITS GOODS
This is the first of several instances in Paul’s letters where he mentions the collection for the “poor” among the “saints” in Jerusalem. According to Gal. 2:9–10, part of the agreement reached with the leaders of the early church in Jerusalem about their mutual spheres of ministry included his willingness to “continue to remember the poor.” This collection was a major part of his concern during his third missionary tour, which functioned for him not only to bring relief to the poor, but also as his own attempt to bring unity between Gentile and Jewish Christianity. For Paul, such generosity overflowed in expressions of thanksgiving and mutual prayer (2 Cor. 9:12–14).
The congregation in Jerusalem was experiencing hard economic times. Comparatively, the church in Jerusalem had nothing and the churches around them had plenty. Paul has the idea of collecting a special fund aid the Jerusalem church. Paul expected the contribution from gentiles to patch up relations with the predominantly Jewish Jerusalem congregation. Jerusalem was the church that sent out anti-missionaries who entered Paul’s newly-established congregations to teach circumcision and covenant faithfulness as additional ingredients to salvation.
Most importantly, this contribution represented an active response to the grace of God who supplies the needs and the fulfillment of those needs. He writes in verses 1-4, “Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. 3 And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.”
Paul’s instruction is simple: share your stuff with other believers who are in need. We hear quite a bit of talk about the phrase “social justice.” Paul is NOT talking about governmental redistribution of wealth. He made this clear in 5:12 writing on the topic of evaluating others, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” Paul is writing of social justice within the gospel community, not within the civil political world at large.
Old Testament prophets prosecuted God’s people for their lack of concern for the poor among God’s people. Time and again, the Bible treats inequality not in terms of misfortune, but in terms of injustice. There are only two possible reasons for inequality: either there’s not enough to go around; or it’s simply not going around.
As in Corinth, the modern church is not always the countercultural community it is supposed to be. The Lord’s supper in the Corinthian church was a concrete example of this kind of inequality. The wealthier members kept to themselves and had their fellowship meal before the working class and slaves could even arrive. Consequently, they were forced to eat whatever meager portions they managed to bring after a long day of work. There was plenty of food to go around, it just wasn’t going around.
Remember, the Corinthians saw themselves as highly-developed, very spiritual believers. They assumed they were a cut above everyone else – including Paul. By telling the Corinthians to follow the instructions Paul gave to the churches in Galatia, he is reminding them that their gospel community is part of a broader, larger gospel community throughout the known world. In verse 2, he instructs everyone to set aside whatever amount of money they consider appropriate in their individual situations, and to do so on the first day of week. Today, we would call this the Christian Sabbath, Sunday. Back then, it was the first day of the Roman workweek. For most of the Roman Empire, this was payday.
Paul is not telling the Corinthians to take up a weekly, corporate offering during worship. Rather, he is saying that each individual should set aside some of their weekly paycheck (so to speak) and keep the money themselves until Paul comes to collect it (likely at a corporate worship service). Paul doesn’t set an amount to put on a pledge card. They are to give, “as he may prosper.”
The phrase “is intentionally ambiguous and does not mean that each should lay aside all his or her ‘profits,’ which a literal rendering of the Greek text would allow, but that in accordance with ‘whatever success or prosperity may have come their way that week,’ each should set aside something for this collection.” There’s no hint of a tithe in Paul’s instructions.
Paul wants the Corinthians to be reconciled with one another and demonstrate that fact by sharing with those of their own congregation who are in need. And he wants them to be reconciled with the whole professing church by sharing with those in need in Jerusalem. Many Christians want reconciliation without justice. Reconciliation without justice is disguised oppression. “We love you brothers and sisters, but we are keeping our stuff.”
James wrote, “15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”  That tells us Corinth was not the only church that struggled with justice. The great megachurch of Jerusalem, of which James was pastor, suffered from the same sin.
The good news is that even though God’s people have failed and still often fail to struggle against injustice in the gospel community, God has not failed. Through the pivotal event in history that changed the world, he is now forging for himself a new community that takes messed up situations and makes them right. God is building the community that imperfectly struggles, and yet still struggles, to see the plight of poor believers and say, “not your problem but our problem.” God is building a community of reconciliation led by the Spirit of the resurrected and ascended Lord Jesus Christ who is making all things right and new.
The question is how can we be a community that looks more like this? Sharing is not natural to our sinful flesh. Verse 2 suggests three practical principles of sharing. First, we need to share consistently. Regularity is the first step in making sharing more natural. Second, we have to share proportionally. That means the more you gain the more you are able to give. Sharing cannot be an afterthought. We’re not to rummage through our leftovers to toss table scraps to our less fortunate brothers and sisters. When we are not deliberate, our stuff makes us turn inward upon ourselves. The gospel community can share when we share our lives with one another.
SHARING ITS LIFE
Paul writes in verses 5-9. “5 I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, 6 and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. 7 For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. 8 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”
Paul’s concern is not only for social and economic justice within the church, but also for relationships. Paul wants more than the Corinthians’ money, he wants to re-connect with them on a heart level. He doesn’t want simply to see them in passing (v. 7). He wants to spend some time with them, to share in one another’s lives. He doesn’t want to merely send the gift to Jerusalem, but to send people from the various contributing communities to go along with it (v. 3). He is even willing to go in person to Jerusalem if his circumstances line up to do so.
The information in verses 5-9 is straightforward. Paul is in Ephesus (vv. 8–9), where he plans to stay at least until Pentecost. That means he is probably writing in early Spring. According to these plans he would not take the direct route by sea (v. 7) but would come by way of Macedonia (v. 5), where he would apparently spend the better part of summer and early fall, since he hopes to winter in Corinth.
According to 2 Cor. 1:15–2:4 Paul did exactly the opposite of this. It appears he paid them a quick visit by sea, hoping that they would send him on his way to Macedonia; from Macedonia he would return to Corinth so that they would also send him on his way to Jerusalem (1 Cor 1:15–16). But this brief visit developed into a major crisis in Paul’s relationship with this church, which took at least two more letters and two visits from Titus to straighten out.
Despite the fact that leaders in the Corinthian church were fomenting a rebellion against Paul and even putting the gospel itself at stake with their teachings and their desperate quests for horizontal approval, Paul never gives up on them. He longs to visit them and to be reconciled with them in the gospel and for all of them to share their lives together. In 2nd Corinthians 11, after listing all the life-threatening circumstances he has endured on his missionary journeys, he writes, “And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”
Despite their having turned the gospel into a vehicle for self-promotion, despite their chaotic worship which reflected the demonic pagan temple services, despite their idolatry and flirting with the demonic realm, despite their massive egos, despite their economic and social injustice, the apostle Paul will not let them go. He cannot let them go because the Lord Jesus Christ will never let Paul go. Why does Paul pursue them? He writes in 2nd Corinthians 5, “13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” 
Paul shares his life experiences, his gospel hope, and even his anxieties with the self-centered, messed-up people whom Jesus has chosen to love. Justice without personal relationship is simply arrogance. It’s not that worldly non-profit charity or governmental welfare are bad in and of themselves. But both systems attempt to supply needs without investing the time to get to know the one in need. There is no sharing of lives. Sharing lives makes the gospel community compelling. In the gospel culture, people get to know one another and practice love by sharing. Stuff flows in the proper direction, from abundence to need because of the love of Christ poured out through his people to his people.
Paul says something interesting in verse 6, “6 and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go.” Relationship was a two-way street for Paul. He tells them that he got from them just as much as he gave. That happens in gospel communities when people build deep meaningful relationships, and they share life together. When they find friendship with the needy, their arrogance melts away. The apostle Paul did not believe that his sole mission was to meet the needs of the Corinthians. He did not see them as objects of his spiritual charity. He saw them as a source of his own refreshment and restoration.
Gordon Fee notes in his commentary:
The verb “help me on my journey” is a technical one for providing a person with food, money, and traveling companions so as to ensure a safe and successful arrival at his or her destination. It seems to be a key means of Christian hospitality in antiquity. In light of the tensions over his refusal to accept monetary support while among them …this has all the earmarks of being a peace offering on this matter. Although he has refused to take money while with them so that his gospel might be offered “free of charge,” he now offers them the opportunity to assist him on his further journeys, so that in this way they, too, can have a share in his ministry.
The gospel community is to be a place that reconciles by sharing its stuff as it shares life together. Finally, it is called to do this in spite of every dividing line and social barrier.
CROSSING SOCIAL BARRIERS
So far in this text, reconciliation has been about crossing economic barriers. That is the central focus of the passage. But there’s also a richer picture of reconciliation in these 11 verses. As we noted, the fund Paul was trying to collect was going to Jerusalem, the capital city of the Jews. He wrote in verse 3, “3 And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem.”
Paul was hated by unconverted Jews. He was a traitor to their cause against this strange sect that worshipped a crucified day laborer with a somewhat cloudy paternity. Yet Paul did not fare much better as far as the Jerusalem church was concerned. He had been their early persecutor. Then, he had the audacity to insist that all the gentiles he was leading to Jesus had no need to keep the Jewish law in order to be saved. The Jerusalem church considered that an insult to their race and heritage.
In Acts 21, we see that Paul’s visit to Jerusalem went poorly. James and his fellow elders received Paul and were excited to hear of God’s work among the gentiles. There is no mention of their gratitude for the money. Instead, they asked Paul to go to the Jewish temple and participate in its rituals in an attempt to prove to the Judaizes that he was not opposed to God’s Law. Paul’s presence in the temple caused a riot in which he was beaten up and arrested by the Roman authorities. There is no mention that anyone in the church of Jerusalem attempted to support Paul in any way. He was a political hot potato for them. There is no record that any of them visited him during his long imprisonment in Palestine.
Paul had been warned along his journey to Jerusalem by God’s prophets that if he traveled on, he would be tied up and imprisoned. And yet he continued resolutely on his path because reconciliation between Jew and gentile was his burning desire. It could even be argued that Paul was so determined to reach across ethnic boundaries, he ignored God’s words of warning. His passion for reconciliation was boundless. In the ancient world, Jews and gentiles opposed one another across hostile racial lines. That racism carried over into the entire church of Paul’s day and it anguished Paul, who wrote in Romans 9:
I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.
Paul even worried over whether the Corinthians would be reconciled to Timothy when he arrived. “10 When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am. 11 So let no one despise him. Help him on his way in peace, that he may return to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers.” Why would the Corinthians “despise” Timothy? Timothy worked with Paul in the founding of this church for well over a year. Paul knew that the sentiment against him in this church was strong and that it would likely overflow toward Timothy. And Timothy had been specifically dispatched to “remind them of Paul’s ways” (4:17). The very fact that such a strong warning is written evidence Paul’s own concern to be reconciled with this church he planted.
The point is that reconciliation in the gospel community should reach across all dividing lines, with members sharing everything (their stuff and their lives). It is good that this passage rides the coattails of a long exposition on the resurrection of Christ. The road to reconciliation looks grim if we look to ourselves alone and try to manage our own sinful flesh to obtain a spiritual result. The good news is there is someone else to whom we can look. Someone who has gone ahead of us, swallowing up sin and death and injustice along the way. He died the death that we deserved. He cut off death’s stinger by rising from the grave. He travels our paths with us, sharing his things and his life, even sharing his blood and life by giving it away for us on the cross.
If we listen to enough preachers and teachers telling us to try harder and do more, we can wrongly conclude that we need to change everything in an instant when what we really need to do is ask Jesus to do the work in us and be patient. God works across years, decades, and lifetimes to accomplish his good work in us. We press on in light of the victory that is already been won. As Paul wrote in 15:57-58:
57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Co 16:1–11.
 Fee, 809.
 Id, 810–811.
 Id., 814.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jas 2:15–17.
 Fee, 817–818.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 2 Co 11:28.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 2 Co 5:13–15.
 Fee, 819.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 9:1–3.