It has been quite some time since I have written; our recent outreach trip took away my normal internet access and it made me appreciate the ease of communication that technology allows us today. It makes me appreciate more the letters that Paul wrote to the churches he was involved with because since the communication system was much slower back then, you can imagine how much more thought and intention went into every letter. This is why I try to make sure I don’t just skip over the introductions and salutations of his letters that we find in the bible, because they were very intentional and while on the surface they might seem menial, we can certainly learn from them. Today we are continuing with the final chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Church at Corinth as Paul discusses his hopeful future visit to the church and what he intends to do there.
1 Corinthians 16:5-9
5 But I will come to you after I go through Macedonia, for I am going through Macedonia; 6 and perhaps I will stay with you, or even spend the winter, so that you may send me on my way wherever I may go. 7 For I do not wish to see you now just in passing; for I hope to remain with you for some time, if the Lord permits. 8 But I will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost; 9 for a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
We can look at this passage as just a part of history: mapping out Paul’s travel intentions however there are a few subtle points in here that we need to pay attention to in regards to our discipleship and relationship with the body of Christ. Paul has hinted before in his other letters about spending quality time with the churches that he started. I think it is easy to get in the habit of spending a little bit of time with everyone instead of spending a good amount of time with some. This is certainly difficult today in regards to the aforementioned communication ability we have. We think we are spending good time with more people just because we check out their Facebook status updates and send them a quick message; our society calls for us to avoid quality and instead value quantity. But here we learn the importance of spending quality time with others.
He didn’t want to just pass through quickly and say “hi” to the Corinthians. His love for them drove him to have long lasting fellowship with them. He communicated this to express his love and maybe so they could prepare for his coming. However, we must understand the importance of this relationship he had with the church. The church had overseers and leaders so it wasn’t that he needed to spend time with them for teaching and correction (if you’ve ben paying attention, you can see he did that in this letter), but rather he recognized that it is about the relationships. We must also recognize the importance in building our relationships with others. While our work and family lives are certainly important, we need to be making sure we spend quality time with those we hold dear. When I mention relationships, I often use the phrase “maintaining and building relationships” but today I realize that if we just go into maintenance mode, our relationship actually whither away. We must be constantly working on our relationships or else they will fall away. This couldn’t be truer with our relationship with God. We must be continually building our relationship with God if we desire to grow closer to Him. Also notice how he mentioned the Corinthians sending him on his way, as if the time with them will be a boost to his ministry. It is out of our quality relationships that we are emboldened and encouraged for our walk with the Lord.
Secondly in verse 9 we read Paul talking about a wide door of service opening for him to work as well as having “many adversaries.” As Christians we must recognize we are at war. We are in a constant battle against adversaries (whether they even recognize they are or not) in the spiritual realm. It is interesting to see how much our fleshly desires and the worldly perspective fights against God’s worldview and what He calls us to as His disciples. Wherever we are called to service we will face adversity. We must always keep watch for our spiritual enemies to dissuade, confuse, and destroy us. Even work itself can be our adversary if we let it get in the way of building our relationships. Everything of this world fights in opposition to the Kingdom of God as Paul warns the Philippians in chapter 3, “18 For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”
May we always be aware of our spiritual adversaries and fight back by focusing on the quality of our relationships with God and others.