1 Corinthians 16




The Collection for God’s People (16:1-4)

1 Paul spent much time raising a collection for the poor Christians in Jerusalem, which he here calls God’s people (see Romans 15:25-26 and comment).

2 Paul wanted the Corinthians to complete the collection before he came to visit them. One year after writing this letter, Paul wrote again to the Corinthians on the subject of this collection (see 2 Corinthians 9:1-5).

Paul here gives the Corinthians (and all Christians) two practical principles concerning the raising of money. First, it is better for people to give money regularly each week, rather than to try to raise money in a hurry all at once. Giving regularly to meet the needs of the poor is the duty of every Christian.

The second principle is that each Christian should give money in keeping with his income.61 Christians don’t give because of a law. (The Jews gave a tenth of their income because the Jewish law said they had to.) Rather, Christians give because of love; they give from their hearts. Just as God has given generously to us, so we should give generously to others. Each Christian should ask God how much he should give (see Mark 12:41-44; 2 Corinthians 8:12 and comments).

3-4 Paul does not ask the Corinthians to turn the collection over to him. He doesn’t want anyone to be able to accuse him of trying to raise the money for himself (see 2 Corinthians 8:19-21). Instead, he instructs the Corinthians to choose men from among themselves to take the money to Jerusalem.

Paul’s Plans (16:5-12)

5 Macedonia was the main province of northern Greece; the Philippian and Thes-salonian churches were located there. To go from Ephesus (where Paul wrote this letter) to Corinth by land, one would have to go through Macedonia. Corinth was in the southern part of Greece, in the province of Achaia.

6-7 Paul wants the Corinthians to understand why he can’t come to them immediately. It’s not because he doesn’t care for them; rather, it’s because he does care for them. He wants to be able to spend a long time with them, so he prefers to come when he has more time (see 2 Corinthians 1:15-16).

Paul will spend time with the Corinthians if the Lord permits (verse 7). Whatever Paul does, he does it only with the Lord’s permission (see James 4:13-15 and comment).

8-9 Here Paul mentions a second reason why it is not suitable for him to go to Corinth immediately. In Ephesus a great door for effective work had opened for him. Paul was always seeking “open doors,” that is, opportunities for spreading the Gospel. To preach the Gospel was his greatest obligation; therefore, he did not feel it was right to leave a place where there was so much opportunity for effective work.

Paul’s “open door” in Ephesus is described in Acts 19:8-12,18-22. Notice that God, not Paul, opened the door. It is God’s work to open doors; it is man’s work to go through them.

Today, has any great door for effective work opened up for us? For our church? Are we going through that door?

Paul says: … there are many who oppose me (verse 9). Wherever there is an open door, there will also be many opponents. Satan will do his best to keep us from going through any open door. Some of Paul’s opponents in Ephesus are mentioned in Acts 19:23-34.

Paul says that he wants to stay in Eph-esus until PENTECOST. The day of Pentecost falls fif ty days after the last day of the Passover festival. It was on the first Pentecost after Jesus’ death, that His disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit for the first time (Acts 2:1-4).

10-11 Timothy was Paul’s colleague; Paul considered him his spiritual son (see Acts 16:1-5; 19:22; 1 Corinthians 4:17; Philippians 2:22).

12 Apollos was a great preacher, who took Paul’s place at Corinth (Acts 18:2428). Some of the Corinthians had begun to follow Apollos too eagerly, and as a result, had caused division in the church (1 Corinthians 1:12). Perhaps Apollos didn’t want to go to Corinth at that time because he feared his presence would make the division worse.

Final Instructions (16:13-24)

13 See 1 Corinthians 15:58; Ephesians 6:10; 1 Peter 5:8-9 and comments.

14 See Romans 13:8; 1 Corinthians 14:1; Ephesians 5:2; Colossians 3:14; 1 John 4:7,11 and comments.

15-16 In New Testament times, entire households of ten believed in Christ at one time (see Acts 10:24,48; 16:29-34). Such was the case with Stephanas and his household.

… submit to such as these, Paul urges. In every church there are mature leaders like Stephanas who act as spiritual “fathers” in the church. In many cases such leaders, like Stephanas, were probably the first to be converted in a certain place. Or perhaps they were the first pastor or preacher in a certain church. It is essential for other church members to submit to these leaders, and to give them respect and recognition (see Ephesians 5:21).

How of ten we slander and oppose such leaders instead of respecting them! It’s common in churches nowadays to see young and immature members criticize and attack those who are more mature and more experienced. Such immature members do the church great harm. If we ourselves have opposed any of our leaders, let us quickly repent of it and ask God for forgiveness.

17-18 Stephanas and his two colleagues, Fortunatus and Achaicus, had brought to Paul a letter from the church in Corinth, in which the Corinthians had asked various questions on such matters as marriage and food of fered to idols (1 Corinthians 7:1). Paul has answered their questions in this first letter to the Corinthians.

Stephanas and his colleagues were themselves Corinthians. By coming to see Paul, they had supplied what was lacking—that is, personal fellowship and more detailed information about the church that the Corinthians had not written in their letter to Paul. These three men had refreshed Paul’s spirit.

19 See Romans 16:3-5 and comment.

20 See Romans 16:16 and comment.

21 Paul customarily dictated his letters to a scribe (see Romans 16:22). However, Paul wrote the final four verses of this letter by his own hand. He did this to prove to the Corinthians that he was indeed the author of this letter (see 2 Thessalonians 3:17).

22 Those who do not love the Lord are cursed; that is, they have separated themselves from God. Those who do not love the Lord are those who do not obey His commandments (John 14:15,23-24). By their disobedience, some of the Corinthians have shown that they do not love the Lord. Let them be warned: the Lord will soon come and judge all men. Those who do not love Him will be condemned—cursed.

23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. The Lord’s grace includes the Lord’s mercy, His love, the fruits of the Spirit, and the power of the Spirit. When we pray for the Lord’s grace for ourselves and for others, all these things are given to us. May this be the experience of all of us!

24 Even though Paul has had to give the Corinthian Christians many severe warnings and rebukes, he still has great love for them in Christ Jesus. Paul loves them with a spiritual love. That is, he loves them with Christ’s own love, which Christ has given to him. And so Paul ends this great letter thinking of his love for the Corinthians.


1 Greece is today an important country in southern Europe. In New Testament times, Greece was part of the Roman Empire. Before that, Greece had been the leading power in the Western world, as well as the birthplace of Western civilization.

2 In the Roman Empire, the most common way to execute criminals was to hang them from a cross until they died. For further discussion, see Word List: Cross.

3 The world in this context means “unbelieving men of the world.”

4 The Greeks here include not only the inhabitants of Greece, but also all Gentiles, or non-Jews. In the New Testament, the word “Greek” is often used to mean Gentile.

5 In place of the words testimony about God, some versions of the Bible say “mystery of God,” which is a more literal translation of the original Greek text. The meaning is the same.

6 In place of the word worldly, some translations of the Bible say “carnal” or “of the flesh.” The meaning is the same.

7 In heaven we will receive a reward according to our work or labor; but salvation we receive only through faith (see Matthew 16:27; Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Corinthians 5:10 and comments; General Article: Way of Salvation).

8 The universal church of Christ cannot be destroyed, but a local church can be destroyed through the sins of its members.

9 In place of the word guardian, some translations of the Bible say “teacher.” But the word “guardian” fits better with Paul’s meaning.

10 Some people believe that Paul, being an apostle, had received special authority from Christ to pass judgment in this particular situation. Such authority would not be given to ordinary Christians, these people say. However, others say there is nothing in the New Testament to support the idea that apostles are authorized to do things that other Christians are forbidden to do. Apostles are given special authority, it’s true (Matthew 16:19; John 20:23), but not the authority to break Christ’s commands.

11 In place of the words sinful nature, some versions of the Bible say “flesh,” which is a literal translation of the original Greek text. Paul uses the Greek word for “flesh” in two ways: first, he uses it to mean “body,” which in itself is not sinful; and second, he uses it to mean “sinful nature,” as in this verse. For further discussion, see footnote to comment on Romans 7:5; Word List: Flesh.

12 In this paragraph, we are talking only about conditions relating to the person’s sin. However, on the church’s side, there are also two conditions necessary before a person can be expelled from the church. These two conditions are mentioned in verse 4: first, the church must have assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus —that is, in one mind and in accordance with Jesus’ will; and second, the power of our Lord Jesus must be present. If these two conditions are not present, then the church should not take such severe action.

13 The Passover festival is also called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. “Unleavened” means “without yeast.”

14 This statement seems to contradict Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 5:12-13, where he says it is not the business of believers to judge those outside the church … God will judge those outside. But in Chapter 5, Paul is not talking primarily of the last judgment, but rather of judging people here on earth. Whereas in Chapter 6, Paul is talking only about the last judgment at the end of the world.
    Of course, at the last judgment the “chief’ judge will be God. But God has entrusted the work of judgment to Christ (John 5:22); and Christ, in turn, will in some way give believers a share in that work. So it is in this sense that we will judge the world.

15 The Greek text of this verse is difficult to understand. Bible scholars have two main ideas about what Paul means here. Any comment on this verse thus depends on which version of the Bible one is using.
    The main difference in meaning concerns whether Paul is asking a question or giving a command. The version used in this commentary translates Paul’s words as a command: … appoint as judges even men of little account in the church.
    However, other versions translate the same words: “… why do you lay such cases before those who are least esteemed by the church?” If this second translation is chosen, then the men of little account are not believers, but rather the ungodly judges outside the church. According to this second translation, Paul’s meaning is that the Corinthians should not be bringing disputes before these ungodly judges. Thus, whichever of the two translations one chooses, Paul’s point is the same.

16 Think of how doubly offended God must be when Christian couples divorce each other in public courts!

17 In place of the words not to marry, some versions of the Bible say, “not to touch a woman,” which is the literal translation of the Greek text. The meaning is the same.

18 Many people believe that they should abstain from sexual intercourse during the wife’s menstrual period (Leviticus 15:19,24; 18:19). However, this doesn’t mean that a husband and wife must remain separated during this time. Furthermore, the Old Testament laws regarding intercourse during a wife’s period are not binding on Christians. Those laws are among the Jewish purification laws, which Christ has canceled.

19 In the case of compulsory military service, of course, the husband must serve his required time. However, in many cases young men enlist voluntarily for financial reasons. In this case, a young Christian husband must have very clear direction from God before making such a decision. It would never be God’s will for a man to jeopardize his marriage for financial gain. This would also be true for a husband who leaves his wife to work at some high paying job; only if absolutely necessary should a Christian husband ever consider doing this.

20 Because the word unmarried can also mean those who are divorced, some Christian scholars believe that Paul teaches in verse 9 that it is all right under certain circumstances for divorced people to remarry. However, in verse 11, Paul says that a divorced woman should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband (see Matthew 5:32; Mark 10:6-12 and comments).

21 Some Christians say that there are still other conditions which permit a divorced person to remarry. One possible condition is mentioned in verse 15. However, these other conditions are not clearly stated in the Bible. We must not bend the verses of Scripture to make them say what we wish they would say. The subject, however, is complicated, and sincere Christian scholars have different opinions on the matter. For further discussion, see General Article: Christian Marriage.

22 Our social and economic situation will often improve after we have become Christians, but not always. God sometimes will withhold material blessings from us in order to give us greater spiritual blessings.

23 Paul wrote all of his letters in the Greek language.

24 The alternate translation of verses 36-38 is as follows: “36 If anyone thinks he is not treating his daughter properly, and if she is getting along in years, and he feels she ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married. 37 But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind to keep the virgin unmarried—this man also does the right thing. 38 So then, he who gives his virgin in marriage does right, but he who does not give her in marriage does even better.”
    In most of the countries of Paul’s day, as in many countries today, it was a father’s duty to give his daughter in marriage. If the father did not arrange his daughter’s marriage properly, she was put to shame. Thus, a father was “not treating his daughter properly” if he neglected to arrange her marriage. In such a circumstance, says Paul, the father should arrange for his daughter to marry. To do so would not be a sin (verse 36).
    But if a father is convinced that his daughter should remained unmarried so that she might better serve the Lord, then he should not arrange her marriage (verse 37). Either way, the father “does right,” whether he gives his daughter in marriage or not. However, Paul thinks it better if he does not give her in marriage (verse 38).

25 However, we must not eat or drink anything that is harmful to our bodies. We must not become drunk with alcohol (Ephesians 5:18). We must not smoke tobacco, which has been shown to harm our bodies. Our bodies are God’s temple, and we must do nothing that will destroy God’s temple (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

26 Of course, Paul did not follow any customs or traditions that would bring dishonor to Christ.

27 Even though Christians are free from bondage to the Jewish ceremonial law, they are not free from the moral law of the Old Testament, which consists primarily of the two great commandments and the ten commandments (Exodus 20:3-17). The ten commandments are, in a sense, a detailed version of the two great commandments to love God and to love one’s neighbor. If one breaks any of the ten commandments, he is also breaking the two great commandments. Because if one disobeys any of the ten commandments, he is not showing love for God and for his neighbor (see Matthew 5:17-19; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14 and comments).

28 The manna was not only “spiritual food”; it was also actual food that the Jews could eat.

29 This kind of temptation is often called “testing.” However, outward testing (or trial) always leads to the inward temptation to give up, to lose faith, to deny Christ. This is why outward testing can be called a kind of temptation.

30 Sometimes to resist temptation means we must flee from it (see 1 Corinthians 10:14; 1 Timothy 6:11). In other words, we must actively take ourselves out of the way of temptation.

31 This does not include things that are harmful to our bodies or which lead us into temptation. Indulging in such things is not approved by God.

32 Eating, resting, enjoying fellowship, and engaging in other such legitimate activities all ultimately bring glory to God, because these activities are necessary for our physical and emotional health. We can glorify God more when we are physically and emotionally healthy.

33 These twelve men were Christ’s original twelve disciples (minus Judas Iscariot), who become known as “apostles” after the Holy Spirit had come upon them.

34 For further discussion, see General Article: Christian Marriage.

35 For further discussion of the subject of the Lord’s Supper, see General Article: Lord’s Supper.

36 For further discussion of the work of the Holy Spirit, see General Article: Holy Spirit.

37 The expression Jesus is Lord means: “Jesus is the one and only Lord.” Just as there is only one God, so there is only one Lord—namely, Jesus, the Son of God.

38 In verses 8-10, the gifts themselves are mentioned. But in 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11, it is not the gifts themselves that are mentioned, but rather special categories of workers with the corresponding gifts.

39 This gift is also used in distinguishing between true prophets and false prophets; however, in most cases, this can be done without the help of a special supernatural gift (see 1 John 4:1-3).

40 The Greek word for by in this verse can also mean “with” or “in.” Depending on which of the three meanings is chosen—”by,” “with,” or “in”—the meaning of the verse will be somewhat different. For further discussion, see General Article: Holy Spirit Baptism.

41 It is not so important what we call the coming of the Spirit into our lives as long as He comes! The Holy Spirit manifests Himself in many ways in the lives of different believers. This is why there are so many terms given in the New Testament for the various ways in which the Holy Spirit manifests His presence in the lives of Christians.

42 Some people think that these “unpresentable” parts also include our internal organs, such as our liver, lungs, intestines, etc.

43 Love is different from the other “gifts” that have been described in this chapter. Love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Indeed, it is the most important fruit. Whatever gifts we have received, we must use them in love. Without love, the Holy Spirit’s other gifts are worthless, and can even lead to harm. In our Christian lives, the most essential thing of all is love.

44 According to some translations of the New Testament, humility (or gentleness) is another fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:23).

45 In place of the words always protects, some translations of the Bible say, “bears all things.” The meaning is similar.

46 A Christian filled with love like this is called naive by worldly men—and even by some Christians. But we must understand that what the world calls “naivete” is often, in fact, a manifestation of Christ’s love. Yes, it is good for Christians to be wise and discerning, but at the same time they must be filled with love.

47 The same can also be said for a humanitarian concern for the poor and downtrodden. Such concern is always mixed with the selfish desire for merit or recognition—or, at least, self-approval.

48 In place of the words with his spirit, some translations of the Bible say, “by the Spirit.” Both meanings are possible, and both are true.

49 However, the private gift of praying in tongues isn’t meant to benefit only the one praying. The gift should make the person’s prayers for others more effective. And as a person’s own spiritual life is blessed through praying in tongues, that person should be better able to serve and bless others.

50 In place of the words those who do not understand, some translations of the Bible say “outsider,” or “inquirer.” The Greek text of this verse is difficult to translate.

51 The word Amen means, “May it be so!”

52 Sometimes there is no clear line between what is a natural gift and what is a supernatural one. Often the Holy Spirit will add a supernatural element to a natural gift that someone already has. In a sense, this happens to all of us when we become Christians; the Holy Spirit takes our natural gifts and sanctifies them and begins to use them. The most important thing to remember is that all gifts—both natural and supernatural—come ultimately from God and are to be used for the strengthening of the church (verse 26).

53 False prophets are under the control of evil spirits.

54 In some churches a time of prayer is set aside during the service when everyone prays out loud at the same time. Since such prayers are addressed to God and not to the congregation, Paul’s prohibition about more than one person speaking at a time would not apply to such prayer times.

55 In place of the words he himself will be ignored, some translations of the Bible say, “let him ignore this,” or, “let him remain ignorant.” The exact meaning of the Greek text is uncertain. Any one of the three meanings is possible.

56 In Paul’s time, the only Scriptures were the Old Testament Scriptures.

57 Death is the punishment for sin (Romans 6:23).

58 Later on, a few apostles rose up who had not seen the risen Christ (see 1 Thessalonians 2:7).

59 Paul doesn’t say whether this custom of taking baptism for dead people is good or not. As far as is known, no other group of Christians has ever practiced this custom.

60 Ephesus was an important city in the western part of present-day Turkey. Some of Paul’s experiences in Ephesus are described in Acts Chapter 19.

61 In place of the words in keeping with his income, some translations of the Bible say, “as he may prosper.” The meaning is the same. Christians should give according to their income, not their fixed possessions. Christians are not expected to sell a percentage of their land or houses each year. However, in special circumstances, a Christian may be called by God to sell a piece of property or some other possession to further the Lord’s work. And, of course, a Christian should sell any possession that he has begun to love more than God (see Mark 10:21).

Christians—even poor Christians—do well to give at least a tenth of their income for the work of the Lord. (Income can be either money or produce.) But Christians will receive greater blessing if they give more than a tenth. As one’s income increases, that doesn’t mean he’ll have more to spend on himself; it means he’ll have more to give to the Lord!