Encouragement (I Corinthians 16:13-14)

            Paul exhorts the Corinthians, in light of all that he has told them to continue on. They had been losing ground because they had been slumbering (I Corinthians 11:30; Ephesians 5:14), they had been tottering (I Corinthians 15:12), they had been cowardly and acting like children (I Corinthians 14:20), they had been weak (I Corinthians 3:2-3), and they had been full of strife (I Corinthians 1:11).

            He tells them to be watchful or be on the alert. As those who have guard duty, Christians must always be aware of what is happening in their environment (I Peter 5:8).

            Christians also need to stand firm in the faith. God’s word isn’t changeable. It doesn’t need adapting through the ages. It is falsehoods which always desire to move us away from our fortress (Galatians 1:6-10; 5:1; Colossians 1:23; II Thessalonians 2:15; I Corinthians 15:1-2).

            The phrase “be brave” is translating a word from the Greek which means “act like a man.” This is the only place it is used in the New Testament, but it was used by the Septuagint translators to translate Joshua 1:6-7, 9, 18; I Chronicles 28:20; and II Chronicles 32:7. Christianity isn’t for the cowardly (Revelation 21:8). It takes firm effort (I Corinthians 9:26-27; II Timothy 2:3; 4:7).

            Being strong is not self-confidence, but strength against opposition that comes from God (Ephesians 6:10; Psalms 27:14; Colossians 1:10-12).

            Everything should be done in love (Ephesians 4:1-3; Galatians 5:13; I John 4:7-8; I Peter 4:8). Such an attitude would prevent the divisions occurring in the church (I Corinthians 1:10; 3:3; 11:18).

Support those who lead you (I Corinthians 16:15-18)

            Along with love, the Corinthians needed to remember and support those who have been supporting them. Stephanas and his household were among the first converts in the region of Achaia and ever since they have been devoted to serving other Christians. The wording in the Greek is that they had chosen to do this voluntarily. Stephanas and his household were among the few who Paul had personally baptized (I Corinthians 1:16). He was among those who probably had brought the Corinthians’ questions to Paul (I Corinthians 16:17).

            Like the reminder in Hebrews 13:17, those who make the effort to lead through service to the Lord and them ought be followed (I Peter 5:5). Sadly, too often such people are taken for granted. People don’t take note of all that they do until they are gone.

Greetings (I Corinthians 16:19-21)

            Greetings are sent to the Corinthians from those whom Paul is with. Ephesus and other churches in Asia sent their greetings. Aquila and Priscilla, whom Paul first met in Corinth, along with the church meeting in their house, sent their greetings as well (Acts 18:1-2). This couple had traveled with Paul when he left Corinth and have now settled in Ephesus (Acts 18:18-21). It was probably because of them that Apollos went to Corinth after his conversion (Acts 18:24-28). Eventually they return to Rome and again have a church meeting in their house (Romans 16:3-5).

            In case any might have been overlooked, Paul states that all the Christians where he is send their greetings. It appears that it was customary for personal greetings to be done with a kiss (Matthew 26:49; Romans 16:16; II Corinthians 13:12; I Thessalonians 5:26). Too often people put emphasis on the physical action, the emphasis here is on the holiness of the greeting. It is not uncommon for close friends who haven't seen each other to cry out in joy and give each other a hug and a peck on the check. Some cultures even formalize it with ceremonies include a peck on each check as a show of welcome or congratulations. The word for "greet" in this verse is the Greek word aspazomai. The Complete Biblical Library defines it as "the customary greeting upon entering a house, meeting someone on the street, or saying farewells. The basic meaning seems to be 'to embrace.' Gestures probably included embracing, kissing, offering the hand, or even doing homage as to an overlord or king. By extension, the word came to mean 'to follow eagerly' and 'to be glad' about something."

            And finally Paul adds his own salute in his own hand. While the letter is from Paul, we sometimes forget that men like Paul didn’t often pen the letters personally. Usually another served as a secretary to the apostle (Romans 16:22). Still, Paul would add a note in his own handwriting to show that the letter was from him (Galatians 6:11; Colossians 4:18; II Thessalonians 3:17). These personal greetings was his mark of authenticity. Even in Paul’s day there were spurious letters being circulated (II Thessalonians 2:2).

Final Warning (I Corinthians 16:22)

            Solemnly, perhaps in his own hand, Paul closes out the letter with a curse and a blessing. If any does not love Christ he is to be considered accursed (John 3:36; Mark 16:16). In reminder of the importance of this, Paul states that the Lord will come (Jude 14-15; II Corinthians 5:10-11).

Final Blessings (I Corinthians 16:23-24)

            Ending on a cheerful note, Paul wishes for God’s grace to be with each of them (Romans 16:20, 24). It is his desire that God’s rich gifts, which no one deserves, be bestowed on each. And Paul’s love for them in Christ is with them as well.

            The letter ends with “amen” which is the Hebrew word for “so be it.”

Class Discussion:

1.         Some denominations formalize the greeting by having a time during their service for people to give greeting to people around them. Is this biblically justified?

2.         Is love unqualified or unconditional?

3.         Why end a letter like I Corinthians with “amen?”