1 Cor. 16:10-12, 15-18
Paul is dealing with some practical issues here in 1 Cor. 16. He has talked about the issue of giving and the issue of planning, and now he is going to mention the subject of showing respect toward fellow workers in the faith. It is important for those of us in the church to show respect and appreciation to others who are serving alongside us in the Lord’s work. That’s what Paul is doing in this last section of 1 Cor. 16.As is his custom, Paul addresses several co-workers by name at the end of this letter. And again, since this is of a somewhat personal nature, many people just skip over this part, but we shouldn’t do that because there is some great truth here, and this is just as much a part of the inspired Word of God as any other part.
Now, we’re going to look at vs. 10-12, and then we are going to jump over vs. 13-14 because that is kind of a parenthetical thought, and then we will go on to examine vs. 15-18. We’ll come back and pick up vs. 13-14 next time. But in this section we are focusing on tonight, we see that Paul understood the importance of team ministry. He knew that he was dependent upon many others who worked alongside him in the work of the Lord.
None of us is an island and all of us are dependent upon one another. There are no superstars in God’s work; only servants. And we need to learn to respect each other’s contributions. We even need to learn to express our appreciation for each other. You can never go wrong in showing respect and appreciation for people.
Well, Paul gives us three people or groups of people that he wants the Corinthian Christians to respect and show respect for. Some of these are well-known and other are not so well-known. First of all, in vs. 10-11, he says that we should:
I. SHOW RESPECT FOR THE UNASSUMING (vs. 10-11)
Here Paul mentions his son in the faith, Timothy. Look with me at vs. 10-11, “Now if Timothy comes, see that he is with you without cause to be afraid, for he is doing the Lord’s work, as I also am.
So let no one despise him. But send him on his way in peace, so that he may come to me; for I expect him with the brethren.”
Timothy was probably the most well-known of the people Paul mentions here at the end of this letter. We know quite a bit about Timothy because he was a traveling companion of Paul. He was a “son in the faith,” as Paul had led him to the Lord and then discipled him, and now he is ministering alongside Paul in the gospel.
Timothy was just a young boy, probably in his late teens, when Paul came to his home town of Lystra and he was converted and began his spiritual growth under Paul’s teaching and training. By the way, this says a lot about the importance of discipling those who are young in the faith. It says something about the importance of training up those who will carry the baton of ministry when we are gone.
Thank God for older, more mature Christians who are willing to be patient with the immaturity of young Christians and to disciple them and help them along toward a more mature faith.
That’s what Paul did with Timothy. But even though Timothy had grown rapidly and was now an effective minister of the gospel, the Bible tells us that he had two major problems.
First of all, he was still very young, and in that culture youth was despised, while age was respected. That’s why Paul wrote in 1 Tim. 4:12, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” In our day and time the young are often more highly respected than the aged, but it was not like that in those days and it is still not that way in many nations of the world still today.
Except for America, people seem to have a natural understanding that those who have been around longer have more experience with life and therefore should be honored for their wisdom. Well, we won’t get into that debate tonight, but Paul tells the Corinthians not to despise Timothy. Perhaps this has to do with Timothy’s age.
But Timothy also had another problem that contributed to this lack of respect, and that was that he must have been somewhat shy and timid. Or at least he was unassuming.
Ray Stedman writes, “There are some commentators who speak of Timothy as though he were a very timid young man, very much afraid to get involved, because of the exhortations of the apostle to him to be a little more aggressive in his labors. But I do not think it was timidity so much as it was really a temperament that was quiet and unassuming and did not force its way to the front.” Well, whether this is correct or not, we know that Timothy was encouraged by Paul on numerous occasions to be more bold, so he must have struggled with this issue, and therefore Paul is admonishing the Corinthians to show him respect and not to despise him.
He says, “…see that he is with you without cause to be afraid…” That is another way of saying, “help to put him at ease.” “Receive him with a warm, loving attitude.” Why? Because “he is doing the Lord’s work, as I also am.”
Paul is saying “Respect him for the work he is doing. It is the Lord’s work and therefore is worthy of respect.” Listen, anyone who is doing the Lord’s work is worthy of respect and support regardless of their temperament or personality. And notice that not only does Paul say that they should respect him, but that they should support him. He says, “…send him on his way…”
Now, that does not mean they were to say to Timothy, “Tim, get on down the road…” No. What that means is that they were to give him financial and material support that would allow him to continue in his missionary endeavors. And notice that they were to send him out “in peace.” That simply means “don’t hassle him.” You see, there was probably a tendency to perhaps give Timothy a hard time. People who would not have dared to confront or argue with Paul, maybe would grab hold of Timothy and take him to task for certain viewpoints. Maybe they would argue with Timothy over doctrinal points where they never would have been brave enough to debate Paul on the same points.
This was especially a concern here in Corinth because there were some there who had even resisted Paul himself. If they had trouble with Paul, how much more would they resist the teaching of Timothy?
So Paul is warning them against this natural tendency to be overbearing toward a young man, but to listen to him, help him, respect him and support him. Show respect for the unassuming. Secondly:
II. SHOW RESPECT FOR THE UNWILLING (v. 12)
Look at v. 12, “But concerning Apollos our brother, I encouraged him greatly to come to you with the brethren; and it was not at all his desire to come now, but he will come when he has opportunity.”
Now, this is a very interesting verse of Scripture. Here is the Apostle Paul, the great apostle to the Gentiles, the founder of most of the NT churches, the author of a great portion of the NT, and he thinks that Apollos should go to Corinth. But Apollos doesn’t think he should. So what does Paul do? Does he pull rank on him? Does he order him to go? Does he bad-mouth him for not going? No. He respects his decision. He allows for Apollos to determine the Lord’s will for his own life and ministry.
This was not a matter of direct revelation from God that Apollos should go. This is Paul’s opinion, based on his best wisdom and knowledge of the facts, that Apollos should go and be with them at this time.
But Apollos has a different assessment. He believes that it is important for him to stay longer in Ephesus, in much the same way that Paul had concluded himself (we read about that in v. 8 of this same chapter).
But what I want you to see here is that Paul showed respect for his fellow worker in the faith and his right to make a decision that seemed wise to him. He didn’t try to make Apollos look bad for not wanting to come there at the time. He simply said, “Apollos will get here as soon as he can…as soon as he deems best.” Now, let’s think about the application of this for us. We can learn a lot here. I know I can. We need to be reminded here that when someone else does something that we do not agree with, we still need to respect them for their decision. We need to give them the benefit of the doubt that they also love the Lord and want to do what they believe is the best decision for His glory.
It may not be the same decision we would make, but that does not mean we can’t respect them for making it. We need to allow each other the room to pursue the will of the Lord as best we can. And we need to understand that when it comes to a “preference issue” or a “strategy issue” there are going to be different conclusions reached by different Christians. Now, if it is a matter of being obedient to something that has been clearly revealed in God’s Word, that’s different. In that case, there is only one correct response.
But when it comes to something that is not given in Scripture, then we have to allow for some differences in decisions and still respect each other for those decisions. That’s what we see modeled here by the Apostle Paul.
You say, “Well, why did Paul want Apollos to come to Corinth at this time?” We don’t know for sure, but remember, Apollos was one of the previous “pastors” there, and he was one of the ones around whom certain Corinthian Christians had fostered division.
Perhaps Paul thought that if Apollos came, he could help diffuse some of that. On the other hand, it may have been that very reason why Apollos thought it would not be good for him to go at that time. Perhaps he thought that if he stayed away, those who were committed to following him would die down. Apollos was kind of a “golden-tongued,” eloquent preacher, and maybe he thought it would only worsen things if he went back.
Well, whatever the case, Paul did not “lord it over” Apollos and order him to go there like some “general.” He “urged” him to go, but when he decided otherwise, he respected that decision. Well, there is one more group of people we need to see here in this passage. In vs. 15-18, Paul talks about the household of Stephanas (and a few others), and here we see that we should:
III. HOW RESPECT FOR THE UNTIRING (vs. 15-18)
Let’s read this whole section and then we’ll go back and break it down a little bit. Paul says, “Now I urge you, brethren (you know the household of Stephanas, that they were the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves for ministry to the saints), 16that you also be in subjection to such men and to everyone who helps in the work and labors. 17I rejoice over the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have supplied what was lacking on your part. 18For they have refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore acknowledge such men.”
Now, there are four things that we see in this passage. First of all, we see:
- The First-fruit of Salvation (v. 15a)
Notice the first part of v. 15, “Now I urge you, brethren (you know the household of Stephanas, that they were the first fruits of Achaia…” Achaia is a reference to the Peloponnesian peninsula, which is the lower part of ancient Greece. You may remember that Paul had that vision from a man in Macedonia pleading with him to come into that part of the world.
Well, from there, he went into northern Greece and then on into southern Greece, where Athens was located, but also Corinth. Paul is saying here that Stephanas was the first convert in this region known as Achaia. Now, this means that Stephanas was probably originally from Athens because that is where Paul went first, and Acts 17 tells us that after he preached that great sermon on Mars Hill there in Athens, there were some who believed. He even tells us the names of some of them.
And if Stephanas was the first fruit, that means he was the first Christian convert in Achaia. That means he would have to have been in Athens when Paul got there. At any rate, he is now in Corinth, and we are told in chp. 1 of this letter that Stephanas was one of the few individuals that Paul had personally baptized.
He must have been special to Paul for being the “first fruits” of this entire region, but the main thing we need to see here is that he was only the first of many more to come. We already know what the “first fruits” is all about… (expound) Although Stephanas was the first one to be saved in Achaia, many more would quickly follow, including that of his entire household, which would have included not only his family, but his servants as well.
The believers to which Paul is now writing in Corinth are also part of that harvest that would follow in like kind with the first-fruit. This should be a reminder to us of the importance of evangelism in the life of the church. That is to be our “heart-beat.” Everything we do should be in an effort to reach the lost with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We see that Paul is reminiscing and is thanking God for this one who was the first to come to Christ in Achaia. But there is something else Paul is thankful for in regard to Stephanas. Secondly we see:
- The Fervency of (His) Service (v. 15b)
Notice the last half of v. 15, “…and that they have devoted themselves for ministry to the saints)…” Now, there is a very interesting word that tells us that Stephanas had a problem – he was an addict. The word for “devoted” there is a word that can mean “addicted.” Get this: Stephanas (and the others) were addicted to ministry! (I can relate to that!) He was literally addicted to serving the needs of the saints. He was hooked on hospitality. He was in bondage to the beloved.
And listen, that is as it should be! Every single one of us who names the name of Christ should be addicted to ministry in the body of Christ. Devoted is too mild a word. Addicted is the one we should use. Someone who is addicted to something means that it is all that is on their minds. It means that it is just the habit of their life. It means that they thrive on it. That it is the top priority for them.
You say, “How did Stephanas get this addiction?” Well, he got it because he first got “hooked on the Lord Jesus Christ” and when he did that, this just kind of came naturally. You see, my friend, when you get hooked on Jesus, you’re going to get hooked on serving those whom He loves. You’re going to naturally become “devoted” to serving the saints. That should just be second-nature for us.
You know, to many of us the church is the passion of life. All our social relationships are here. All our friendships are here. All our priorities are here. And that the way it should be. This is more my family than my blood relatives. Now, that’s not to say that we should not be relating to the lost and trying to win them to Christ, but our primary relationships are to be in the church.
And notice that it says “…they have devoted themselves for ministry to the saints…” That means they volunteered. They weren’t coerced. They weren’t recruited. In fact, they didn’t even wait for someone to come to them and ask them to serve.They just jumped right in and began serving the needs of the saints wherever they saw them. You know, sometimes it is necessary for the church to appoint certain people, like elders and deacons, but most of the time what is needed is for Christians to simply find a need and meet it.
You don’t have to have a title. You don’t have to have a position. Just get in there and roll up your sleeves and get to work serving the saints. That’s what Stephanas and his household did. And then we see:
- The Fulfillment of Submission (v. 16)
Paul says in v. 16, “that you also be in subjection to such men and to everyone who helps in the work and labors.” We’re almost out of time, so I won’t say much about this one, except to say that God expects us to be submissive to those who lead in the things of the Lord. Anyone who is involved in doing the work of the Lord should be respected. They should be submitted to in the sense that they are representing the Lord Himself.
Of course, the Bible has a lot to say about our mutual submission to one another and our submission to those who lead in the church. But Paul tells the Corinthians to submit to these who are such a godly example in their midst. And then, lastly we see:
- The Freshness of Support (vs. 17-18)
Look at v. 17, “I rejoice over the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have supplied what was lacking on your part. 18For they have refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore acknowledge such men.” Here Paul adds a couple more names. And he says that these men are such a blessing, not only to him personally, but to the Corinthians as well.
He says, “These men have just refreshed my spirit.” Do you know Christians like that? Do you know brothers and sisters in the Lord that are just such a joy to be around that they refresh you every time you are around them?
That’s the way it ought to be with all of us. We ought to be a constant source of refreshment in how we encourage and support one another. Paul is speaking here specifically of those who support the saints and the church leaders. We don’t really know in what way they “supplied what was lacking” on the part of the Corinthians.
Perhaps it was monetary support. Perhaps it was the support of using their spiritual gifts to build them up in the faith. Whatever it was, their support was a joy and a source of refreshment. As I read this account, my mind goes to people in this body who are like that to me. They are so supportive that they are a constant source of encouragement to me. I know you can think of people like that as well.
I praise God for them, but you know what? It also motivates me to be more of that kind of person for others. I need to be like that. I need to be the kind of person that other Christians look forward to being around. And then notice what Paul says in that last sentence, “Therefore acknowledge such men.” That means to appreciate them and let them know you appreciate them. Thank them for the way they encourage you. Honor them as godly examples. This doesn’t mean that we have to put up a plaque in their honor or erect a statue of them in the foyer. It just means to express appreciation for them in any way we can. I think most of us need to do more of that.