Pretty ordinary stuff. Travel plans of a 1st century Jewish apostle. Why did the Holy Spirit include them in the Bible?
I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries (1 Corinthians 16:5-9).
Paul is explaining how he intends to get to Corinth for the collection (1 Corinthians 16:1-4). He’s writing from Ephesus, east across the Aegean Sea from Corinth. He plans to continue ministry there, then journey by land northwest to Macedonia, probably visiting the churches in Thessalonica, Philippi and Berea located in that province..
Finally, he’ll go south to Corinth. His Corinth plans are uncertain. “ . . . perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter.” “I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits.”
Like a lot of plans, they changed. Trouble in Corinth compelled him to make a quick trip to Corinth. The trouble grew into a major crisis which took two more letters (the “lost” one and 2 Corinthians) and two visits from Titus to mend.
But we know nothing of that here. His uncertainty about his Corinth visit, however, may imply tensions exist. So, perhaps does “if the Lord permits”—implying “if the Lord changes the Corinthians’ hearts”. These tensions become glaringly obvious in Paul’s second letter to the church.
The purpose for his staying at Corinth is surprising: “so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go.” “ . . . wherever I go” suggests Paul already has in mind what will become clear later: he wants to go to Rome, then on to Spain.
Whatever his destination, he hopes for the Corinthians’ help—food, money and a few men to insure a safe and successful trip.
Meanwhile, he’ll remain in Ephesus until Pentecost because “a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” As long as opportunity remains for it, he’ll stay. Yet already, before the city-wide riot (Acts 19:23-41), “many adversaries” have appeared.
Tensions with the Corinthians move him to urge their cooperation regarding Timothy . . .
When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am. So let no one despise him. Help him on his way in peace, that he may return to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers (1 Corinthians 16:10,11).
“ . . . see that you put him at ease” is literally “see that he is without cause to be afraid”. Paul is concerned that the Corinthians may mistreat Timothy and give him cause to fear.
Why should they “put him at ease”? Because, as is Paul, Timothy “is doing the work of the Lord.” This is why “no one [should] despise him (treat him with contempt).” Nor should they despise Paul, because both he and Timothy are doing the Lord’s work.
Finally, Paul mentions Apollos, one of the Corinthians’ favorite preachers (1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:5). It may be that the church was imploring him to visit.
Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity (1 Corinthians 16:12).
Surprising that Paul would “strongly urge” Apollos to visit, since, in the Corinthians’ minds, he was Paul’s competitor. Paul, however, was concerned for the well-being of the church, not winning a popularity contest. But, writes Paul, “. . . it was not at all [Apollos’] will to come now.
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When we look back on Paul’s ministry, we see the life of an apostolic superstar. This reminds us that in the actual living of it, it, at best, looked pretty ordinary. Some of it was made up of ordinary travel plans. Only after the fact, when we look back at all the pieces, and see how they fit together and what they produced, can we really catch the overall impact.
So it is with our lives. While not on the level of an apostles’, they have significance. The Lord is using them to have eternal impact for his glory and his saving work in the world. But mostly, they seem composed of ordinary stuff.
Take parenting, for example. In the morning, getting kids ready for school. In the evening, feeding them dinner, nagging them to do their homework, supervising conflicts, getting them to bed–to say nothing of laundering their clothes, taking them to their sports’ events, teaching them about the Lord, taking them to church, and so on. Pretty ordinary stuff.
Or take our work. Most of us aren’t brain surgeons. Who of us will discover the cure for cancer or engage in diplomatic relations that will bring peace to the Middle East. Our careers are far more common.
Yet, if we live our lives with faith in Christ and live in obedience to his teachings, he turns the ordinary stuff into extraordinary for the glory of his saving work in the world. That is, of course, a faith statement. We won’t see the “sight” of it until after our lives here end and we can look back . . .