by John and Ruth Greene
For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries. – 1 Corinthians 16:9, NKJV
Paul painted a clear picture that he would not let adversaries and adversity stop him. He encouraged his brothers in the first century to operate in the same way. How do you deal with adversaries and adversity? All of disciples of the Messiah have multitudes of obstacles to deal with. These obstacles are often seen as greater when your personal life is more centered around the world than need be. In the first century, disciples of the Messiah looked after the welfare of one another as part of their purpose in fulfilling YHWH’s Will and Purpose. (1 Corinthians 16:1) Do you?
In his letters to first century disciples, Paul didn’t waste any time worrying about the upkeep of buildings or the salary of pastors like so many professed Christians do today. Disciples of the Messiah in those days met in houses and rented rooms because they weren’t building up physical treasures or subsidizing a business, but were anticipating YHWH’s Kingdom, with that kingdom as the center of their lives. This is quite different from the typical approach of professed Christians today. Paul was concerned with people, but not just any people; active and sanctified disciples of Messiah that put YHWH first in their lives. He recommended that spiritually-minded disciples take care of one another, not out of today’s humanitarian attitudes, but out of love that was cultivated through increased spiritual maturity and grounded in the truth and compassion of the Master. (Acts 17:11; James 1:21-27; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 11:28; 2 Corinthians 13:5)
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Master, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Master.” – 1 Corinthians 15:58, ISR98
What was Paul’s recommendation? He didn’t fret over the topic of tithes or promote church hierarchy. “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.” – 1 Corinthians 16:2, NKJV
He insisted that disciples plan in advance for helping the needs of other brothers and sisters, taking the firstfruits and setting those aside instead of having Paul strong-arm them into a sudden collection effort. The disciples in Jerusalem were suffering from poverty and famine, so Paul was collecting money to help them. (Romans 12:9, 15:25-31; 2 Corinthians 8:4, 9:1; 1 John 3:17; Philippians 2:4; Galatians 6:2)
In those days, as it should be today, helping brothers and sisters in Messiah must be personal, with some intimate knowledge of the needs of those that need the assistance. (1 Corinthians 16:3-4) Since they traveled by road with money making proper arrangements for reasonable security was also important. They sent trusted brothers to deal with the crisis of spiritual brothers outside their city. (Matthew 25:44-45; Acts 4:34-37; 1 Timothy 6:17-19)
Paul loved the Corinthians and the opportunity to enjoy their company. He told them so, but he couldn’t turn away from the opportunity for effective ministry despite those that opposed him in the midst that opportunity. (1 Corinthians 16:8-9) When you are serving YHWH in anything, you will meet opposition. Remember that.
Still, Paul felt the need to remind his beloved that they care for the needs of other ministers that came to help them and others while he was occupied, to stand firm and do everything in love. (1 Corinthians 16:10-14) He encouraged them to support the work of other disciples that had devoted themselves exclusively to evangelizing. Because they were nearby, the congregation would see the fruits of evangelism personally. Effective ministry it is not simply about giving, effective ministry is about accountability.
Paul remembered that disciples of the Messiah are new creations, born from the Holy Spirit and changed from within, with values and lifestyles that confront the world and clash with society. Even in those days, because of local pressures, disciples had pressure from the world to be self-involved and self-centered. (Matthew 6:24) Corinth was a place much like the modern world of today. They were surrounded by corruption and every conceivable sin. Corinth was prosperous, but a notably immoral seaport where they were tried and tested in personal commitment to the Way. You have similar trials and testing, so you and every disciple need to be on guard against spiritual dangers, to stand firm in faith and trust, to behave courageously, to be strong, and to do everything with kindness and in agape love. This is imperative today as we wait for the return of Yahshua [Jesus] the Master, remembering that Elohim is our center.