1Co 16:15-18 “I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,) That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth. I am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus: for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied. For they have refreshed my spirit and yours: therefore acknowledge ye them that are such.”
Paul calls the attention of the brethren to some saints among them that were an example of Christian living. Stephanas and his household were among the first at Corinth (Corinth and Athens were cities in the province of Achaia) to be blessed to hear and receive the gospel of Jesus Christ. They were baptized by Paul but were not caught up in the division among the brethren, some of whom claimed to be of Paul, others of Apollos, etc. (1Co 1:10-13).
Stephanas and his house had addicted (assigned – see Strong’s) themselves to serving the saints of God. This was not a burden that someone else had set upon them. Rather, having been made to understand the great love that God had for them, they felt compelled by that love to minister to those whom the Lord had sanctified unto Himself. Theirs was an unwavering devotion to do good to God’s people.
Paul entreats us to submit ourselves (follow the example of) those brethren who labor in the kingdom like Stephanas and his household. We should be deeply thankful to God for those brethren who still today labor in ministering (not just preaching) unto God’s people. Paul say such are coworkers (helpers with) in the church. It should be deeply humbling to us to realize that, by God’s mercy, we are still coworkers of men like Paul, Peter, and Apollos in serving the saints of God.
We also need to realize that being coworkers with men like Stephanas, Paul, and others is work. The meaning of the Greek word translated as “laboureth” is to work hard to the point of feeling fatigue. Our service to God and His saints is simple (as in uncomplicated in Christ). However, simple does not always imply easy. Following Jesus is not taking the easy way out, but rather walking in the Way of peace and contentment in this world.
Paul tells the church at Corinth in his second letter that he preached the gospel to them freely. He even expressed that he had robbed other churches, taking wages from them so that he might serve the brethren at Corinth (2Co 11:7-9). Therefore, it is unlikely that Paul was speaking of material help when he said that Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus had supplied that which was lacking from the brethren. It is more likely that Paul was speaking about them bringing to him current news of the saints there at Corinth.
These men that came to Paul were probably among those that apprised Paul of the problems at the church in Corinth. It is also likely that they had shared with him their efforts to minister to the brethren there and encourage righteous behavior as behooved the saints of God. As a result, Paul testified that they had refreshed both his spirit and the spirits of the brethren. Then he tells the church to acknowledge, or recognize that these men were looking after their welfare.
We never want to fall into the trap of giving men honor for the work of Christ in their lives. However, we should always be ready to give God thanks for sending his ministers among us. We should tell them that we recognize their labors and that we thank God for their faithfulness. Even the master of the house was quick to acknowledge the labor of his servants that had increased the talents he had given them (Mat 25:21-23).
May we hear our Master say to us as we labor “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!”