Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

1 Corinthians 16:3-6 Travel plans and grace

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, August 9, 2023

3 Give anyone you approve of letters of introduction. When I come I will send them off to take your gift to Jerusalem, 4 and if it seems best that I should go, they can go with me.

The second part of the instructions for the gift is the way it would get to Jerusalem. It was about 200 sailing miles from Corinth to Ephesus, which might take anywhere from three days to a week to travel. It was another 200 miles from Ephesus around to the southern coast of Asia Minor (perhaps Myra in Lycia, Acts 27:5). From there another 200 miles hugging the coast would bring a ship to Perga in Pamphylia (Acts 13:13), and from there a further six hundred miles along the coast would bring them to the Judean port of Caesarea (Acts 9:30). The voyage would probably involve transferring to at least one or more different ships, depending on their destinations. Paul was used to traveling this way and even to being “in danger at sea” (2 Corinthians 11:26), so he wanted the Corinthians to choose men who would be able to handle such a voyage. It’s clear from the Greek grammar that Paul wants the Corinthians to write letters (letters of introduction) for these men for the ministers in Jerusalem who would receive them.

Some commentators make a point that Paul’s thoughts about going along depended on the size of the gift, as if it would be unworthy of an apostle to accompany a meager offering. I think such a thought would be unworthy of Paul. His travel plans were nearly always about opportunities for the ministry of the gospel, and never about his own personal pride or his own ideas about the dignity of his position. When does Paul ever care about his dignity? Paul went wherever the Holy Spirit opened doors for him.

5 I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, since I am planning to pass through Macedonia. 6 Perhaps I will stay with you for a while or even spend the winter, so that you may send me on my way, wherever I go.

We should remember that these verses indicate Paul’s plans leading up to the verses we just read, so that what he says in verses 5-6 will take place before what he says in verses 3-4. In another letter (2 Corinthians 1:15-17), Paul explains how these plans changed somewhat, but what he says here in verse 5 agrees with the actual journey he made, recorded by Luke in Acts 19:1-20:6. Spending the winter somewhere while traveling was necessary because of the dangerous storms and rough seas during the winter months. The sea temperature is less of an issue; even in January and February, the eastern Mediterranean stays between 45 and 65 degrees.

A man like Paul who was constantly being asked to go here or there had to change his plans, and although Paul seems to have been accused of changing his mind too much, “the plans of the righteous are just” (Proverbs 12:5). His main plan, of course, was to oversee the collection and delivery of the gift to the church.

The word for “gift” in the Greek text of verse 3 is charis (χάρις). “Gift” is the right translation here, but the word usually means grace or favor. What a humbling thing it is for Christians to bring grace to God and lay it down at his feet! For grace is the loving will of God. “A remnant is chosen by grace” (Romans 11:5), “It is by grace you are saved” (Ephesians 2:8), and our God is “the God of all grace” (1 Peter 5:10).

So grace is usually and most especially God’s grace and special favor (Luke 1:28). It is God’s undeserved love—and therefore it is an emotion in the mind and heart of God, directed at man. “his grace given you in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:4).

But grace is also any blessing, present, or gift given by God (grammatically we would call this a case of metonymy where the cause stands for the effect). God gave on account of his grace, and the gift is often known as grace; a token of his affection. “Grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Ephesians 4:7).  And at the same time, grace can be our thanks to God or someone else. “I thank (χάρις) God” (2 Corinthians 8:16).

We want to give thanks to God for his grace with everything we do. Whether our actions involve plans, changes to plans, or not, we should show our faith with the graciousness of Jesus for all people at all times. “He mocks the proud mockers, but he gives grace to the humble.”

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


Browse Devotion Archive