1 Corinthians 16:5-11
Even the Best Laid Plans
The following thoughts would probably not make a good sermon but might make a decent devotion. We’ll see.
In the first part of this passage, Paul is laying out his plans to pay the Corinthians a visit: He will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost (the “Feast of Weeks” related in Leviticus 23:15-22), then travel through Macedonia and make his way to Corinth, and perhaps spend the winter with them. Then they can send him off to “wherever” he may go (which ended up being Jerusalem as he was compelled by the Holy Spirit to go there, Acts 20:22). In the meantime, Paul would send his youthful and beloved understudy, Timothy, to, in effect, bring any further directions Paul had for them. You can hear Paul’s apprehension for Timothy’s reception by them when he says, “Put him at ease among you,” “Let no one despise him,” and “Help him on his way in peace.”
But even the best laid plans of an apostle of Jesus Christ can be undone. As we will see in more detail in Paul’s second letter to the church, they did not receive Timothy so well as he found the church in turmoil. Paul changed his plans and set out immediately for Corinth to resolve matters between him and the church. Matters only got worse. This is what Paul refers to as the “painful visit” of 2 Corinthians 2:1. He left for Ephesus leaving matters unresolved and from there sent a tearful and anguished letter by the hand of Titus to the church in hopes of their repentance (2 Corinthians 2:4; the Lord did not see fit to preserve this letter for us). Paul’s prayers were answered when he caught up with Titus in Macedonia and discovered that some Corinthians had indeed repented and longed to see Paul (2 Corinthians 7:5-9). Paul then wrote what we call “2 Corinthians” in anticipation of another visit to Corinth before setting off for Jerusalem with the collection for the relief of the Jerusalem church (see ESV Study Bible, “Introduction to 2 Corinthians,” 2219-20, or any good commentary for this historical reconstruction which is fairy representative of contemporary scholarship).
It is written, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). Or in more colloquial language, “Man proposes; God disposes.” It was true for the apostle; it is true for us. And yet, through it all, God is working his will and way, even with stubborn Corinthians, even with stubborn us. How necessary it is to have soft hearts—but not towards just anyone (that got the Corinthians into trouble)—but to the word of God.