1 Corinthians 16

You can read our introduction to 1 and 2 Corinthians here. Chapter 16 is a mix of travel plans and greetings as well as final instructions.

Philemon

For background information on slavery in ancient Rome, see here and here.

We do not know where or when the Letter to Philemon was written. The situation surrounding the letter appears to be this. Philemon is indebted to Paul, perhaps for his conversion (v19b). Paul is imprisoned. (v9,1,10,13,23) Onesimus, a slave runs away from his master, Philemon. In addition to the punishment for running away, Onesimus has incurred a debt to Philemon. (v15,11-13,18-19a) Onesimus has, though Paul’s efforts, become a Christian. (v10,13) Paul, noting Philemon’s Christian love and faith (v4-7), sends Onesimus back. (v12) Paul promises to repay any debts incurred by the loss of Onesimus while reminding Philemon of the debt he owes Paul. (v17-19)  In verses 22-25 Paul anticipates visiting Philemon and concludes the letter in a standard way.

The issue at hand is how can Philemon be the master of Onesimus in the world but his brother in the church?  Paul has no legal standing to demand Philemon free Onesimus. But Paul does have authority as an apostle. Paul appeals to Philemon to receive Onesumus as a brother and strongly hints that Philemon free him. (v15-16, 21)

2 Corinthians 1-3

For background on  the Corinthian letters, see here.  There is debate among scholars about whether 2 Corinthians is a single letter or is made up of two or even more letters. It is difficult to provide a “smooth” outline of the letter and to find a logical progression to it. For example, some believe chapters 10-13 are the “tearful letter” Paul refers to in 2 Cor 2:4, and chapters 1-9 are a letter of reconciliation written later. Others believe chapters 1-9 were written first, in which case chapters 10-13 are not the “tearful” letter and things between Paul and the church have gotten worse since the letter that comprises chapters 1-9 were received.  It is also difficult to discern exactly what as transpired between Paul and the church at Corinth. Whatever happened, their relationship appears to have deteriorated and Paul is attempting to repair the relationship.

1:1-11 Salutation and Thanksgiving

1:1-2 Prescript 

1:3-11 Blessing: Typically this is where Paul mentions how thankful he is for the congregation he is writing. Paul’s emphasis here is on how God has consoled both Paul and the church through difficulties.

1:12-7:16 Paul’s Apostolic Ministry and the Crisis with Corinth

1:12-2-13 Assurances of Concern

1:12-14 Introductory Plea: Paul appeals for a willingness to listen to what he has to say.

1:15-17 About the Visits: Paul’s plans changed

1:18-22 God’s Faithfulness: Paul defends his changed plans

1:23-2:11 The “Sorrowful Visit”: Paul explains why he did not visit as planned and urges reconciliation with a wayward church member.

2:12-13 Coming to Macedonia:  Some commentators believe  7:5-16 originally belonged here after 2:12-13.

2:14-5:19 Comments on Apostleship In answer to questions about Paul’s apostolic credentials, Paul explains what distinguishes an apostle.

2:14-3:6 Spreading the Gospel: verse 14 is a reference to a Roman triumphal procession where the emperor celebrated important military victories. Incense was part of the event. “Peddlers” in verse 17 appears to refer to false apostles. Paul does not need letters of recommendation, as the church itself serves as Paul’s reference. “Tablets of stone” suggest the Mosaic Covenant.

3:7-18 The Ministry of the New Covenant: Paul’s readers are to recall the story of Moses descent from Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:29-35) and to compare and contrast that story with the new covenant in Christ.

A prayer from early Church father, Gregory of Nazianus (329-389) for your use this week.

Lord, as I read the psalms let me hear you singing. As I read your words, let me hear you speaking. As I reflect on each page, let me see your image. And as I seek to put your precepts into practice, let my heart be filled with joy. Amen.

Read More About It

Furnish, Victor Paul “2 Corinthians” in  HarperCollins Bible Commentary, rev. ed.James L Mays, ed. (New York: Society of Bible Literature) 2000.

Johnson, Luke Timothy, The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation, rev. ed. (Minneapolis:Fortress Press) 1999. Chapter 12 “The Corinthian Correspondence” and Chapter 16 “The Letter to Philemon”.

Knox,John, John Reumann “I Corinthians” in  The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Bruce M. Metzger, Roland E. Murphy eds. (New York: Oxford University Press) 1994.

Knox, John, John Reumann “2 Corinthians” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Bruce M. Metzger, Roland E. Murphy eds. (New York: Oxford University Press) 1994.

Petersen, Norman R. “Philemon” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary, rev. ed.James L Mays, ed. (New York: Society of Bible Literature) 2000.

Quanbeck, Warren A., William A Beardslee, “Philemon” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Bruce M. Metzger, Roland E. Murphy eds. (New York: Oxford University Press) 1994.

Schussler Fiorenza, Elisabeth “1 Corinthians” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary, rev. ed.James L Mays, ed. (New York: Society of Bible Literature) 2000.

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