Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

Exegetical Insight (Chapter 33)

There is no more forceful way in the Greek language to tell someone to do something than a simple imperative—particularly the second person imperative. Especially when such a command is given regarding a specific situation, the one giving that command sees himself as an authority figure. He expects those addressed to do exactly as he has ordered.

On his third missionary journey, the apostle Paul expended much energy in attempting to get the churches he had organized to participate in the collection “for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem” (Rom 15:26). When he addressed this issue in 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, he simply told the Corinthians to get busy regularly collecting money for this cause, using the second person imperative poihvsate (v. 1), followed by a third person imperative tiqevtw (v. 2). He gives no other reason than that this is what he had also “told” (dievtaxa) the churches in Galatia to do.

Paul returns to the same issue in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. But there one is struck by the numerous ways he uses in order to try to motivate the Corinthians to participate in the collection. Most surprising is the fact that in these thirty-nine verses, there is only one imperative (ejpitelevsate, 2 Cor 8:11). The other places where the niv inserts an imperative (8:7,24; 9:7) are substantially weaker forms of expressing an imperatival idea. Such a radical shift in Paul’s approach strongly suggests that he had lost much of his authority in Corinth, mostly because of the influence of his opponents. Other elements in this letter bear out this same factor.

Undoubtedly one main reason why Paul was losing his influence in Corinth was because he was trying to run the church from a distance (i.e., from Ephesus). That simply cannot be done. Unless pastors consistently take the necessary time to nurture good, wholesome relationships with their parishioners, they risk losing their ability to motivate the church to pay attention to their preaching of God’s Word and to live the Christian life.

Verlyn Verbrugge