5.) Now I will come to you when I pass through Macedonia (for I am passing through Macedonia).
6.) And it may be that I will remain, or even spend the winter with you, that you may send me on my journey, wherever I go.
7.) For I do not wish to see you now on the way; but I hope to stay awhile with you, if the Lord permits.
8.) But I tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost.
9.) For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
10.) And if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear; for he does the work of the Lord, as I also do.
11.) Therefore let no one despise him. Bur send him on his journey in peace, that he may come to me; for I am waiting for him with the brethren.
12.) Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to come to you with the brethren, but he was quite unwilling to come at this time; however, he will come when he has a convenient time.
As we move toward the end of our study in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, the first 4 verses are basically about Paul’s travel plans. These plans are part of Paul’s 3rd and last missionary journey. Basically, Paul is telling the Corinthians that he is going to stay in Ephesus until Pentecost as he has a great work going on. Paul is using the city of Ephesus as a central headquarters for his work in Asia Minor. At this place in time, the church is growing very fast in Colosse, Laodicea, and Hierapolis as well as Ephesus; and while he had his opponents in the silver and gold jewelry guilds, still a great work was being done.
Paul then says he will come to Greece, going to Macedonia first and then coming to Corinth. The main reason is that he is planning to be in Jerusalem by the next Passover. He could spend the late summer and fall with the saints in Macedonia, then winter with the saints in Corinth, then sail to Israel for Passover. He is doing this for two reasons: First, in hopes that the church in Corinth would help him and provide for him during his stay as well as provide for his further travel to Jerusalem. From reports in Acts and in some of his other letters, we know that the church in Macedonia is wealth disadvantaged in much the same way as the church in Jerusalem. The fact that they are not just willing but demanding that they be a part of the collection of funds for Jerusalem is a marvel to Paul.
Second, the Aegean and northern Mediterranean seas are very dangerous to sail during the winter months, so Paul figures that he can winter in Corinth and leave for Jerusalem in early spring.
The problem is that Paul reverses his stated plans. We can not only see this referenced in Acts but also read all about it in II Corinthians. In doing so, he stirs up a hornets’ nest. He ends up coming to Corinth first instead of Macedonia, sort of a drop-by visit, which was earlier than expected and not for the length of time the Corinthians had expected. The whole church was upset. They felt they were being trivialized. (‘Here is Paul, asking for support from us, and he treats us in this manner!’) Now, the entire time Paul was building the church in Corinth, he never took a dime from them but did much as he had been doing in Ephesus – he made tents and sold them. Nevertheless, it took Titus 3 trips to Corinth to smooth things over….. By the way, Paul did come back to Corinth and spend the winter with them before he departed for Israel, which also helped mollify the situation.
It is verse 10 where we find something that really pertains to our life today. Paul tells the church in Corinth that Timothy will be coming to them with some of the brethren. He is very worried about how Timothy will be received by some in the church. Paul says, “And if Timothy comes, see that he may with you without fear.” He continues In verse 11, “Therefore let no one despise him. But send him on his journey in peace.”
In the world we live in today there is not a whole lot of peace. There is not a whole lot of common courtesy. There is not a whole lot of respect for the other person or their opinions. I was listening to an interview with Mike Rowe, the gentleman who hosted the show, “Dirty Jobs”. He has begun a foundation that provides scholarships to train people for trade labor, for folks to become skilled as plumbers, electricians, welders etc. The interviewer tried to get him to betray his political leanings. Being a smart man, Mike didn’t. Instead, he told a story about the 2016 election. In raising money for his foundation on his Facebook page, he called out to Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump, noting that if they wanted to help train some people for the 6 million trade jobs available, they could do so by sending him an autographed bathrobe, which he would then auction off with proceeds going to foundation. The only one who responded to his request was Donald Trump. So, Mike did what he said he would do. On his podcast he sat in his chair in the robe and auctioned it off. The high bid was $18,000! But Mr. Rowe said he lost half of his Twitter and Facebook followers that night. You see, on the news feeds and YouTube and the streets (if you dare to venture there), people are yelling, screaming, and bullying others simply because they support a person they don’t like or agree with. I can remember the first time I watched the movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and saw the yellow journalism and the violence depicted while he was trying to do what he was doing on the Senate floor. I was thinking, surely not in the United States of America? We didn’t have the civil disobedience we are having today after the shooting of Martin Luther King. But we have had it since. People not caring about the worth or feelings or beliefs or history of others. And truth! Truth is being trampled underfoot because it disagrees with ignorance and an agenda. Good people are shouted down and bullied because those doing the shouting don’t agree with what they had to say. Good people like Drew Brees being forced to apologize because in our politically correct world he is not free to speak. His respect for the flag and what it represents to him is counter to the mindset of the truly intolerant in our nation.
You know what the really sad truth is? We haven’t learned anything in over 2000 years. I read daily from Oswald Chambers and Charles Spurgeon, and it is amazing how much of the same stupidity was going on 100 to 150 years ago. Let’s go back almost 300 years ago to the founders of our denomination, Charles and John Wesley. I have been reading in Charles Wesley’s journal from before he went to Georgia, before Aldersgate, into the 1740’s. He was an ordained clergyman forcibly removed from preaching, attending a service, or receiving the sacraments. He was forced to preach in fields and at the entry of mines and bowling greens. Men were hired by leaders in the community to cause riots and attempt to remove him and even beat him at times. He was falsely accused and imprisoned on occasion. All this was happening to him in addition to the stomach problems he had. Then there were the folks within their own movement who had been influenced by the Moravians who called themselves the Still Movement. They believed that all the commandments including those of Jesus and the sacraments were all laws, and if you followed them, you didn’t have faith. People with whom Charles Wesley had labored and prayed to bring to faith, even people he had held as dear friends, would not talk to him or even allow him into their homes. All because Charles no longer believed the same way they now believed or the way the person who was now their person of influence believed.
I know you are asking, “Preacher, what does that have to do with today’s text?” This is what Paul feared would happen to Timothy when he came to Corinth. He was afraid that Timothy (who was not a forceful person.) would be greeted by those in the Corinthian church who disagreed with Paul, that they would treat Timothy in the same way that the Anglican Bishops and Church treated John and Charles Wesley. I’m only halfway through this first book of journals, and John and Charles have gone to the Bishop of London or the Archbishop at least 6 times. The two had stated their theological case and been told by the Bishops that they were in good standing. Then they would attend an Anglican Church and not be allowed to preach, listen, or receive Sacraments. Paul asked the Corinthians not to do anything that would make Timothy feel afraid but to give him the respect of one doing the Lord’s work. The word “work” in the Greek is “ergon” (pronounced er’-gon). It literally means here, “A work one has been ordained to accomplish.” In other words, Paul is saying if you can’t respect Timothy because you know he is close to me, respect him because of the work he is performing. When we look at the news and the world events today, how much respect are you seeing across the great divide in our nation? One glaring example would be the Speaker of the House or other Democrats not standing during the State of the Union Address. The only time the Speaker stood was after the speech was done, and she then ripped the pages in half in front of the gathered Congress and Senate. How much respect was represented in those actions?
Paul also asked that Timothy not be despised. The Greek word here for “despised” is “exoutheneo” (pronounced ex-oo-then-eh’-o), meaning to treat one with contempt. Paul asked that they not treat Timothy with contempt. Today, there seems to be contempt everywhere we look: Contempt for the values of others’ property; contempt for benefits of life for which other people have worked, sacrificed and earned; contempt for the value of other beliefs, thoughts, and reasoning; contempt for a truth based on facts and documentation; contempt against life itself. Did you know that during these so-called peaceful protests that 18 other people of color have been killed by people of color? Did you know that in 2019 over 6000 people of color were killed by other people of color? And what about abortion? There is so much contempt toward basic decency and respect for life – it is heartbreaking and demoralizing.
Paul also asked that Timothy be sent on the remainder of his journey in peace. The Greek for peace is “eirene” (pronounced, i-rah’-nay) and carries with it the same meaning of the Hebrew word shalom – which is health, welfare, prosperity, every kind of good, and mercy. Paul asked the Corinthian Christians to have that kind of peace for Timothy.
What do you think could happen if both sides of the divide in this country, and even in this world, would reach out to one another and offer this kind of peace?
In my 20 years as your pastor, I’ve always tried to end my sermons with the promise of the Good News of the Cross of Jesus Christ. Today I didn’t speak a lot about Good News. But the fact is, the Cross of Christ is the only Good News. It alone is our only hope. Until we as the Church are willing to stand in the face of the real hatred, the lies, the disrespect, and the contempt we face today and proclaim the real truth of God’s love, the words found in John 3:16&17, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
We cannot and will not have that peace until we proclaim the finished work of Jesus and understand that the only person who can break the hearts on both side of the divide is not a presidential candidate, but the Holy Spirit. We must realize that what we need is not the right outcome of an election but a great awakening of the power of the Cross., a great awakening of the power of the Holy Spirit, a revival of such enormity that brings us all to our knees with the understanding of the Prodigal Son – I have nothing, I am nothing, all that I have is You, Lord, all that I can receive, all that I want to receive is You and from You. When the Church comes to that point, then we will be able to exemplify the love of God through Christ to the world, to confess and profess that Love to the world. Then we will see the Holy Spirit work that same work in the world that He has worked in us. Only then will we see respect instead of contempt, truth instead of lies, mercy instead of callousness, real love instead of systematic hatred, peace instead of conflict.
I am now asking you to join with me in something special. I know that I have only a few weeks left as your pastor, and then the responsibility of leading at Jersey UMC will fall to someone else. But what I am asking is simple, and it is something you can continue to do with me after June 30th. I’m asking you to join with me daily and pray for a Great Awakening, that Enormous Spiritual Revival, that the Holy Spirit will come down and manifest the Gospel of Christ’s work and God’s love. First to the Church to restore it – and then to restore our country. You see, The Father doesn’t believe in ballot boxes, but He does answer prayer.
Remember to claim Psalm 91 daily in the first person.
BLESSING: May The Father who raises the dead, gives life to dead bone, and breathes life into the lifeless, breathe His life into us as believers, His Church, as his Son’s body, that we might be the ones He uses to breathe life into a dead and weary world. AMEN