Online Bible Commentary
Submit to Everyone Who Works or Labors
1 Corinthians 16:10 Now if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear; for he does the work of the Lord, as I also do. 11 Therefore let no one despise him. But send him on his journey in peace, that he may come to me; for I am waiting for him with the brethren. 12 Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to come to you with the brethren, but he was quite unwilling to come at this time; however, he will come when he has a convenient time. 13 Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done with love. 15 I urge you, brethren--you know the household of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints-- 16 that you also submit to such, and to everyone who works and labors with us. 17 I am glad about the coming of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, for what was lacking on your part they supplied. 18 For they refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore acknowledge such men. (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul is writing this letter to the Christians in Corinth, Greece from Ephesus, Asia (present day Turkey) during his two-year, three-month stay from A.D. 54-56, while on his third missionary journey. These teachings, while written to the first century church in Corinth, are applicable to all Christians.
In the previous chapter, Paul responded to some false teaching in the church in Corinth. The false teaching was that some teachers were denying the bodily resurrection of Christians.
Now, in this passage, Paul is giving some final instructions to the Christians in Corinth as he begins to finish this letter. He begins by instructing them on how they should receive Timothy when he comes (v. 10a).
The word “if” in verse 10 is a translation of the Greek word ean which might be better translated in this context as “whenever”. Paul was sending Timothy ahead to Corinth in preparation for Paul’s later visit.
Timothy is like a son to Paul and it was Timothy who tradition has becoming the Bishop of Ephesus after Paul’s death. Paul shows his love for Timothy by calling on the Corinthian Christians to show great care with Timothy so “that he may be with you without fear” (v. 10b).
He reminds them that Timothy is “doing the work of the Lord”, just like Paul, and should be honored just as they would honor Paul (V. 10c-11a). Paul also instructs them to provide for Timothy’s needs when he departs Corinth so that he may travel “in peace” back to Paul and his brothers in Christ (v. 11b).
Next, Paul informs the Corinthian Christians on the current status of Apollos (v. 12a). Apollos was a Jew from Alexandria, Egypt who had previously preached the Gospel in Corinth. At this time he was with, or near, Paul in Ephesus, doing the work of the Lord.
In the previous passage we learned that Paul’s ministry in Asia was opening doors for the Gospel, and Apollos likely was involved in that work. Apollos felt called to continue his work in Asia and, therefore, would not be joining Timothy in Corinth (v. 12b). Apollos’ message to them was that he would come at “a convenient time” (v. 12c).
After this, Apollos is only mentioned once more in the Bible. Tradition has it that he was the Bishop of Caesarea in his later years. Caesarea is located in north central Israel.
Now, Paul takes time to encourage the Christians in Corinth. He calls on them to “stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong…and…let all that you do be done with love (VV. 13-14). They should stand fast in the teachings of Paul, and against the false teaching which was prevalent in the area.
They also should remain “brave” and “strong” in the face of persecution. And, finally, all that they do should “be done with love”.
Paul then instructs the Corinthian Christians regarding more fellow workers in Christ, “the household of Stephanas” (v. 15a). Paul previously baptized the whole household of Stephanus, who lived in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:16).
They were the “firstfruits of Achaia “, meaning that they were among the early converts in Corinth (v. 15b). Achaia was the name of the Southern region of Greece, where Corinth is located. The northern region was referred to as Macedonia.
The family of Stephanas “devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints” (v. 15c). The fact that Paul baptized the whole family does not support infant baptism. Obviously, there were no infants in the family because infants could not have “devoted themselves to ministry”.
Paul calls for the Corinthian Christians to follow the example of the family of Stephanus and also “submit to such, and to everyone who works and labors with us” (v. 16). They were instructed to be as devoted to ministry as was the Stephanus family.
In fact, three Corinthian Christians were currently working with Paul in Ephesus, including Stephanus, himself, Fortunatus, and Achaicus (v. 17a). Paul mentions that they had supplied the help that was lacking from the other Corinthian Christians (v. 17b).
Paul does not specify how they helped but we can deduce that ministerial, financial, and emotional help were all supplied. The result of this help was that “they refreshed my spirit and yours” (v. 18a). Paul instructs the Corinthian Christians to “acknowledge” the contributions of these three men upon their return to Corinth (v. 18b).
There are three conclusions that we can draw from this passage. First, we see that there is liberty in our work for the Lord. Paul could have ordered Apollos to leave his work and return to Corinth, but by not doing so Paul teaches that those who are called to ministry are called and led by God and not by other Christians.
The second conclusion is that there is a need for many workers in the harvest field. Paul was very capable but, even he, welcomed, and needed, the help of others in ministry.
The third conclusion is that we should honor those who serve the Lord in ministry. Their contributions to the Lord’s work should be honored and respected.
In this way, we are called to submit to everyone who works or labors in the ministry. Theirs is not an easy calling. They need and deserve our help, our honor, and our respect. And they should not be questioned or criticized when following the lead of the Lord. They have liberty in their calling..