Genuine Fellowship part 2
Topic: Fellowship Verse: 1 Corinthians 16:15–16:24
1 Corinthians 16:15-24
Theme: The marks of genuine fellowship are clearly seen in victorious, fruitful believers.
A COMMITMENT TO SERVICE – 16:15-16
The Example to Follow – v. 15
Last week we noted the fact that Paul exhorts the believers in Corinth to allow love to envelope all that they do – “Let all that you do be done in love” – not primarily for one another, but most importantly for God.
This section begins with a command that they be motivated by love in v. 14; and, by the fact that they are loved in v. 24.
The love that Christ has for us induces a response of love for Christ that compels believers to serve Him and one another – cp. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
Now as Paul brings this book to a close, he refers to an individual who is clearly an example of what he believes should exist in every believer – one in whom full fellowship is possible: “Now I urge you, brethren (you know the household of Stephanas, that they were the first fruits of Achaia …)” – cp. 1 Corinthians 1:16
As “first fruits” – they served as a sample of what God would be “bringing in” to the church – a demonstration of God’s grace extending to the Gentiles.
They serve as the prototype of what all the believers in Corinth should individually realize – i.e. they were normative.
What was it about them that ought to be emulated? – “… that they have devoted themselves for ministry to the saints.”
“devoted themselves” [ἔταξαν] – is an intense form in Greek, demonstrating that they were not externally compelled to serve the Body of Christ, but did so on their own initiative
It literally means “to bring about an order of things by arranging, arrange, put in place.”
The notion here is that they purposefully placed themselves where they can make a difference in meeting a need by serving the Body of Christ wherever they could.
The KJV translators chose the word “addicted” to describe the character of the family of Stephanus – that is, they were perpetually serving “the saints.”
These people were the kind that when they saw a need, they didn’t run to someone and say “somebody needs to do this or that,” – they would just do it themselves; indeed, their love for Christ constrained them as they “let all they did be done in love.”
There have been repeated occasions when people have come to me and complained about deficiencies in the church – critical that no one is doing what they feel that we ought to be doing; but they didn’t see the fact that they are themselves a potential solution to that need that I can only assume that they had been praying would be met.
The Exhortation to Fulfill – v. 16
Considering their testimony of devotion and service, Paul exhorts us to “be in subjection to such men (referred to in vv. 13-14), and to everyone who helps in the work and labors.”
For a church to enjoy proper fellowship, those who are busy in faithfully serving the Lord needs to be respected and followed in their leadership.
Paul is confronting the believers who are not involved in serving to bring themselves into alignment with those who have clearly demonstrated their submission to Christ through their service.
Those who have allowed the Lord Jesus to become their Master – a fact that is demonstrated, at least in part, through the willingness to meet the needs of others – are to be the leaders in the church.
The rest are called upon to “be in subjection” [ὑποτάσσησθε] - to their leadership.
This term conveys that the believers in Corinth were to basically defer to the initiatives, ideas, and desires of such faithful servants in the church.
In some contexts, it has the idea of an “appendix” – the additional material attached to an official document as an extension or further development.
Essentially, this emphasizes that the Corinthians were to look to people like Stephanas who are utterly devoted to the work of the Lord and allow themselves to be influenced by their example – cp. 1 Corinthians 11:1; 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 1:5-6; Hebrews 13:7.
“helps in the work and labors” – a description of the nature of their devotion to the Lord, His church, and individual saints.
“helps in the work” [συνεργοῦντι] – to engage in cooperative endeavors, assist in accomplishing a task – cp. Romans 8:28
“labors” [κοπιῶντι] – to exert to a point of weariness, toil, struggle, strive – 2 Timothy 2:6.
A CAMARADERIE IN SERVING – 16:17-18
The Refreshment in Companionship – vv. 17-18a
Paul then makes a comment on the benefit that he knew through his fellowship with some of the men from Corinth that had come to visit him.
Presumably, these men brought the letter mentioned in 1 Corinthians 7:1 – and they lingered with Paul while he composed this epistle.
He says, “I rejoice over the coming of Stephanus and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have supplied what was lacking on your part. For they have refreshed my spirit and yours.”
How did they accomplish this? – merely by being present with Paul, providing him companionship.
Companionship lifts the hearts of a person who is distressed – cp. 2 Corinthians 7:6
Companionship can also serve to prevent a believer from falling into sin and maintains accountability – cp. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10.
Companionship sustains strength as there is assistance in bearing our load and burdens – cp. Galatians 6:1-2.
The Respect in Companionship – v. 18b
Paul, having noted the willingness to serve and the willingness to provide companionship by Stephanus and his friends, states “Therefore acknowledge such men.”
“Acknowledge” [ἐπιγινώσκετε] – carries the idea of giving full credence to something, to see it for what it is.
This follows along the same lines as what is mentioned in v. 11 regarding respecting Timothy, and in v. 16 about men what are faithfully serving in the church.
Paul knows the Corinthians and how arrogant they are – cp. 4:6, 18; 8:1; 13:4
As you are involved with those who are faithfully serving, holding you accountable, and providing comfort, be sure to recognize them for what they are – the servants of Christ.
“In God’s pattern for church leadership, godly persons rise to the top by virtue of their godliness – their right belief, right living, and loving care for others. Such persons we are to acknowledge, respect, and imitate. When we choose leaders simply because of the money, prestige, education, influence, or talents we follow the world’s standards rather than God’s.”
Paul is calling for the Corinthians to allow the godly men from within the church to lead.
A CUSTOM OF BEING SOCIABLE – 16:19-20.
The Warmth of an Open Home – v. 19
Not only is serving together important, as well as sharing in companionship, but also the social element of hospitality is provided here for us as important.
Paul states: “The churches of Asia greet you, Aquila and Prisca greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.”
This godly couple “Aquila and Prisca” provide an excellent example of willingly opening their home for ministry – a natural outgrowth of possessing a love for the brethren that stems out of a love for Christ.
There were eras in church history – the 1st century being no exception – when believers had no facility to gather as one large assembly and had to meet in various homes under the authority and leadership of a central group of elders.
This is descriptive, not prescriptive – meaning that meeting in homes was the practical solution for the purpose of assembly, not the prescribed way by which a church is to operate.
Nevertheless, such gatherings provide the opportunity for the church to function with greater companionship, accountability, and discipleship.
We know that genuine fellowship that centers around the person of Christ occurs as Spirit-filled people open their homes to the people of the church to come and enjoy times of refreshing as a body.
The Witness of Open Arms – v. 20
“All the brethren greet you. Greet one another with a holy kiss” – an indication that there were not matters that prevented full fellowship.
“All the brethren greet you” – a demonstration that there are no strangers among the body of Christ – that there is an immediate and very deep bond that exists between believers of any place.
This “holy kiss” [φιλήματι] - was something that never occurred between men and women, only between men and men, and women and women.
Hence Paul is addressing here the spontaneous and genuine expression of brotherly love that ought to exist between those who have been bought by the blood of Christ.
A warm and affectionate hug or handshake can express the same affection as what Paul discusses here.
A COMPELLING AFFECTION FOR THE SAVIOR – 16:21-24
The Announcement of Condemnation – vv. 21-22
Paul now takes up the “pen” himself to complete this letter by giving his own personally written greeting: “The greeting is in my own hand – Paul”
Having established this, he then proceeds to censure anyone who fails to possess such affection as referred to above for the person of Christ Jesus – “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed, Maranatha.”
The “love [for] the Lord” [φιλεῖ] (3 per. sing. from φιλέω) - mentioned here is not the super-committed “agape” kind of love, but the brotherly love – the “tender affection” that ought to exist within one’s heart for the Lord.
If a person doesn’t even have this lessor love for the Lord, it is certain that he cannot possess the supreme kind of love for Christ and therefore has no part with Him – “… he is to be accursed”
Such a person is a contaminated influence in that the Gospel impact in the life of a person must demonstrate the power of grace that transforms a person into the very image of Christ.
A lack of affection for Christ indicates an artificiality of faith or perhaps a devotion to “another gospel” that does not truly “save” – cp. Galatians 1:8.
In other words, we cannot be “okay” with such an indifferent state of faith.
One of the ways by which we can maintain a confidence in the reality of our salvation is to monitor the “tender affection” that we have for Christ in our hearts.
When we sense that there is diminished or absent love for Him, we need to seriously assess our relationship with Him – although we can never lose our salvation, the implication is that we ought never lose a tenderness of heart toward Christ either.
Although we may do wrong, if we are genuine believers, our hearts will know great agony for what we are doing to our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is all the more serious given that the problems that develop between believers within the church is always able to be traced to an underlying lack of love for the Master – a general diagnosis for the issues that Paul has addressed throughout this book.
Then Paul declares: “Maranatha” [μαράνα θά] – an Aramaic phrase that means “O Lord, come!”
There are several possibilities as to what Paul is referring to –
the possibility of Christ returning to remove us from this earth; or,
the possibility of Christ coming to “visit” those who are “accursed” and causing such defilement of the Church.,
Thus, he would be saying, “Lord come and remove the influence of these who are accursed before they do any more harm to the church!”
The Affirmation of God’s Blessing – vv. 23-24
However, on behalf of the believers in Corinth, Paul calls on God to bring blessing to them, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you” – a request that would enable the strength that the church needs to be cleansed of the various maladies that plague them.
He adds, “My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.” – as an affirmation that all the confrontation that he has done throughout this most confrontational biblical book was because of a deep, godly love for them.