1 Corinthians 16:12-18

In 1 Corinthians 16:12-18 Paul is wrapping up his first letter to the church in Corinth. He talks about those who ministered with and to him. “Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity.” This gives a rare insight about how the early church leaders related to each other. It was not a hierarchical relationship and Paul did not dictate his will to Apollos. Paul led by example and consensus, not as the authority that told others what, when or how to do things.

Paul then gives a couple very simple, yet powerful directions to the church. “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” In a sense, each of these mean the same thing, simply saying it in a different way. Christians are to be like strong soldiers, on guard, watching for their Lord’s return. Guzik tells us “This is the only place in the New Testament where the word translated ‘act like men’ is used (andrizomai). Literally, it means, “to act like a man.” All the commands or directives in this verse are military in nature. Paul is letting church know that we are in a war against evil and have to be prepared like someone in the army.

Then he adds the biggest command of all. “Let all that you do be done in love.” All the watching, all the standing fast, all the bravery, and all the strength the Corinthian Christians might show meant nothing without love. They were called to do all those things in a meek, humble spirit of love. Paul has already been very clear in earlier parts of this letter that anything done without love was just a clanging symbol. It is worthless. The charge is not only targeted at how the church treated each other, but also how they would interact in the world around them. They would come under attack and had to respond with love.

There were three men who brought the questions of the Corinthian Christians to Paul. As Paul sends them back with this letter, Paul asked that they be received as devoted servants of the Lord. “Now I urge you, brothers —you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints— be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer.” Stephanas was the head of the household, and Fortunatus and Achaicus were two household slaves of his, who accompanied him on his visit to Paul. “I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such men.” Paul was grateful for their visit and how they brightened his spirit.

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