I grew up in Oklahoma where good byes are not final until the whole family of visitors get in their vehicle, roll down the windows, honk the horn and wave wildly until they are out of sight. Preceding this display of affection, is the following:
- Guests rise from the couch and say, “Well, I guess we better get on our way.” A shout to the kids to gather their things is given. Kids keep playing because they know the “first call” gives them at least thirty more minutes of playtime.
- Host family follows adult guests to the door, stand in the door way while telling one more story or two. Another call to the kids is given. Kids ignore. They know the drill.
- Host family follows adult guests out the door to the porch with more stories being told along with, “we really must go”. “Kids, get your shoes on and collect your things!” Kids still keep playing. They know there is at least ten more minutes of play with their friends or family.
- Guests are now in the front yard, slowly headed to the vehicle. Kids are wandering around the talking adults, wondering if this is really it, the real time to get in the car, but still making the most of their opportunity to play with their friends. A game of tag begins among the kids.
- Adults now realize that the kids are not ready, so the first warning shot is fired, “Get your shoes on, gather your things, and get IN THE CAR!” This is said more loudly and passionately than the other requests so the kids finally begin to do what they have been told while the adults begin to end their “goodbyes”.
- Final hugs and kisses are made but until the adults are actually seated in the vehicle and the motor is turned on, is the goodbye in locked position. Kids know they have at least five more minutes before buckling up to hit and punch each other in fun.
- Final stage of departure happens when all are buckled in, motor is on, doors are shut, and the vehicle begins to move. Windows are rolled down, wild waving begins with final shouts of goodbye and see you later!
NOTE: Add two hours if you don’t’ see these people but once a year! Otherwise, this is typical for those who live across town or down the road.
We laugh at the scenario, but seriously, good byes are precious. Goodbyes and “see you laters” bring out the best thoughts in us. We suddenly want to say what we didn’t say when we had time.
And then there’s Paul saying goodbye…Admit it. We read over this passage of good byes from Paul to the Corinthians quickly without really thinking about what Paul’s last words really signify. Paul teaches us a great deal as he says his goodbyes to the Corinthians. So, get your things, get buckled up and really listen to the words of instruction! Let’s go!
CORINTHIANS—CALLED AND SENT
1 Corinthians 16, The Message
Coming to See You
1-4 Regarding the relief offering for poor Christians that is being collected, you get the same instructions I gave the churches in Galatia. Every Sunday each of you make an offering and put it in safekeeping. Be as generous as you can. When I get there you’ll have it ready, and I won’t have to make a special appeal. Then after I arrive, I’ll write letters authorizing whomever you delegate, and send them off to Jerusalem to deliver your gift. If you think it best that I go along, I’ll be glad to travel with them.
5-9 I plan to visit you after passing through northern Greece. I won’t be staying long there, but maybe I can stay awhile with you—maybe even spend the winter? Then you could give me a good send-off, wherever I may be headed next. I don’t want to just drop by in between other “primary” destinations. I want a good, long, leisurely visit. If the Master agrees, we’ll have it! For the present, I’m staying right here in Ephesus. A huge door of opportunity for good work has opened up here. (There is also mushrooming opposition.)
10-11 If Timothy shows up, take good care of him. Make him feel completely at home among you. He works so hard for the Master, just as I do. Don’t let anyone disparage him. After a while, send him on to me with your blessing. Tell him I’m expecting him, and any friends he has with him.
12 About our friend Apollos, I’ve done my best to get him to pay you a visit, but haven’t talked him into it yet. He doesn’t think this is the right time. But there will be a “right time.”
13-14 Keep your eyes open, hold tight to your convictions, give it all you’ve got, be resolute, and love without stopping.
15-16 Would you do me a favor, friends, and give special recognition to the family of Stephanas? You know, they were among the first converts in Greece, and they’ve put themselves out, serving Christians ever since then. I want you to honor and look up to people like that: companions and workers who show us how to do it, giving us something to aspire to.
17-18 I want you to know how delighted I am to have Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus here with me. They partially make up for your absence! They’ve refreshed me by keeping me in touch with you. Be proud that you have people like this among you.
19 The churches here in western Asia send greetings.
Aquila, Priscilla, and the church that meets in their house say hello.
20 All the friends here say hello.
Pass the greetings around with holy hugs!
21 And I, Paul—in my own handwriting!—send you my regards.
22 If anyone won’t love the Master, throw him out. Make room for the Master!
23 Our Master Jesus has his arms wide open for you.
24 And I love all of you in the Messiah, in Jesus.
THE MEANING OF PAUL’S GOODBYES
It is to the credit of the believers at Corinth that, when they wrote their questions to Paul, they asked him about the collection he was taking for the poor saints in Jerusalem. Paul answered their question and then closed the letter by informing the church of his personal travel plans and also the plans for his associates in the ministry.
This chapter may seem unrelated to our needs today, but actually it deals in a very helpful way with three areas of stewardship: money (1 Cor. 16:1–4), opportunities (1 Cor. 16:5–9), and people (1 Cor. 16:10–24). These are probably the greatest resources the church has today, and they must not be wasted.
Money (16:1–4) One of the most important ministries Paul had during his third journey was the gathering of a special “relief offering” for the poor believers in Jerusalem. Paul’s greatest motive for taking up the offering was to help unite Jewish and Gentile believers. Paul taught that giving is an act of worship, should be systematic, is person and individual, and is to be proportionate. Give according to what God has provided you. If we appreciate the grace of God extended to us, we will want to express that grace by sharing with others. And lastly, money is to be handled honestly. The various churches involved in this special offering appointed delegates to help Paul manage it and take it safely to Jerusalem.
Opportunities (16:5–9) “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15–16 NIV). Paul was as careful in his use of time as he was in his use of money. Paul had an open door of ministry in Ephesus, and this was important to him. He wanted to win the lost in Ephesus, not go to Corinth to pamper the saved. (On “open doors,” see Acts 14:27; 2 Cor. 2:12; Col. 4:3; Rev. 3:8.) Paul was neither an optimist nor a pessimist; he was a realist. He saw both the opportunities and the obstacles. God had opened “a great door for effective work,” and Paul wanted to seize the opportunities while they were still there.
The stewardship of opportunity is important. The individual believer, and the church family, must constantly ask, What opportunities is God giving us today? Instead of complaining about the obstacles, we must take advantage of the opportunities, and leave the results with the Lord.
People (16:10–24) Often at the close of his letters, Paul named various people who were a part of his life and his ministry; and what a variety they were! He was not only a soul-winner, but he was a friend maker; and many of his friends found their way into dedicated service for the Lord.
Money and opportunities are valueless without people. The church’s greatest asset is people, and yet too often the church takes people for granted. Jesus did not give His disciples money, but He did invest three years training them for service so they might seize the opportunities He would present them. If people are prepared, then God will supply both the opportunities and the money so that His work will be accomplished. Yes, and amen!
Paul’s goodbyes may or may not have been as long as an Oklahoma goodbye, but notice how he closed his letter by assuring them of his love. Paul has shared a great deal of spiritual wisdom with us. May we receive it with meekness and put it into practice to the glory of God! Oh, and see you later!
May our words and actions be led by you, motivated by your love in our hearts for each other, all for your glory! Help us to learn from you for we are listening. Continue to grow your character traits in us so we can bear the fruits of your Holy Spirit, making the most of opportunities you will provide. Help us to love each other like you love us.
In Jesus Name, Amen