There is a great deal of historical information in chapter 16, and I would encourage everyone to read it. Yet, for all intents and purposes, the letter was completed in 15:59. I’m saying that based upon its context of being a letter of instruction and correction relating to the specific problems and challenges of the Corinthian church that Paul was sending them.
Yet there is one thing about this last chapter that I want to point out to you in this study:
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love. (16:14-15)
This just about sums up Paul’s entire purpose in writing to Corinth. I would imagine that if Paul could send us a text today, this would be it. We might at first find it curious that he has combined on guard, firm courageous and strong with love in this, since we seldom use the first four with the fifth, but maybe we need to rethink the way we look at love.
In this old world we live in today, we have become a little bit jaded, don’t you think? We might assume, probably correctly, that being on guard must be against evil. We might assume that standing firm in our faith can refer only to some kind of temptation, and that would probably be correct. We would also probably assume that being courageous would refer to some inherent danger all around us, and that would probably go for being strong as well. Isn’t it odd that Paul would follow these admonitions with “Do everything in love”?
The more I think about it, the less it seems odd to me; maybe Paul has hit upon something we usually miss.
How would it strike you if I suggested that each of those admonitions was entirely in reference to love? Try these on for size…
Be on your guard lest you should do things that are not out of love.
Stand firm in the faith, lest you should lose your love.
Be courageous and love even when you’d rather not.
Be strong, for the way of love is never easy in this world.
Yep, the more I think about it, the more I think this is exactly what Paul was trying to tell them… and us too.
Oh yes, I can hear it now: Don, why didn’t you mention verses 22: “If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed!” That doesn’t sound like love to me!”
In reply, I would say, “Paul didn’t tell the Corinthians to curse anybody, he just told them to leave such a person alone. Such a person has made their choice, a choice which will not be a blessing to them; we don’t need to point our fingers at them and add to the misery they’ve brought upon themselves. Let them be, and let’s pray that the circumstances they have chosen will conspire to change their minds so that they will, in the end, be saved.” Come to think of it, hasn’t Paul already said something like this in the letter?
Yes, in fact, he has.
So, we have come back to the way of love; the most excellent way. May we always remain faithful to its path.