Read 1 Corinthians 16 today.
This chapter brought this letter to the Corinthians to a conclusion. Paul gave instructions about how to collect the offering he was gathering for the impoverished believers in Jerusalem (vv. 1-4). He described his travel plans (vv. 5-8) and the possibility of visits from Timothy (vv. 10-11) and Apollos (v. 12). He encouraged the church to live according to their faith in Christ (v. 13) and he recommended that the Corinthians treat God’s servants well (vv. 15-16). He commended three men for the financial support they brought him (vv. 17-18) and he wrapped up the letter with some greetings and a fitting conclusion (vv. 19-24).
Tucked within these final thoughts Paul said some things about Timothy (vv. 10-11) and the family of Stephanas (vv. 15-18) that are worthy of our consideration. Regarding Timothy Paul wrote, “No one, then, should treat him with contempt” (v. 11) The reason? “he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am” (v. 10b). Regarding the Stephanas family Paul commanded the church “to submit to such people and to everyone who joins in the work and labors at it” (v. 16). The reason they should submit is “they have devoted themselves to the service of the Lord’s people.”
We know that the Corinthian church played favorites among the Lord’s servants because Paul addressed that favoritism in chapters 1-2. This kind of partisanship extended to other servants of the Lord. Given what we know about Timothy from the New Testament, can you imaging treating him “with contempt” (v. 11)? Yet that seemed to be a real potential threat. Likewise, the family of Stephanas devoted themselves to serving God’s people but Paul was concerned that the Corinthians might not submit to them.
Unfortunately, the Corinthians were not the only Christians to mistreat servants of the Lord that they viewed as “junior league” or “less than” Paul and Apollos. Some church people won’t accept ministry or instruction from the elders of their church or from staff members; they want to hear from the senior pastor only. This passage addresses that kind of attitude. All of us are servants of Christ and should be treated that way. If you decide to try another church because your pastor isn’t preaching on a particular Sunday, is that not treating God’s servant “with contempt”? If your elder contacts you and you don’t return the call or an email, is that an appropriate way to treat the Lord’s servant?
There’s nothing wrong with appreciating someone highly who is serving the Lord but there is everything wrong with elevating that person beyond the role of servant of the Lord. Check your heart and determine to treat all of God’s servants with the appropriate level of respect and submission.