By Cult Pastor Ronald Williams
"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." (1 Corinthians 16:15-18)
Paul is giving closing instructions and greetings in his first letter to the church at Corinth. He named several people who were a special part of his life and ministry. This included an entire family-the house of Stephanas
1. They were the first ones to be saved in Achaia. They were the "firstfruits" of Achaia.. Achaia was a Roman province which included all of Greece and Corinth was the capital. When Paul went to preach the Gospel in Corinth, Stephanus and his family were among the first converts.
2. This family became an important part of the church in Corinth. This was not because they forced themselves into a leadership role (like Diotrephes in 3 John, who wanted the pre-eminence). It says they "addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints." "Addict" means to appoint on one's own responsibility, to assign, to give oneself to, to do with devotion. Simply put, they had assigned themselves or devoted themselves to ministry. Ministry is being a servant to God and others.
This verb is in the aorist tense, meaning an action having begun from a certain point. At a certain point in time, they made a decision as a family that their primary focus in life was to live for Christ and to give themselves to serve others. It is in the active voice, meaning that the subject is the doer of the action. In other words, whenever they saw a need, they went to work to meet that need without waiting to be asked! What an incredible asset to this church-an entire family, faithfully, willingly and cheerfully serving!
3. Stephanas was part of a delegation sent by this church to meet Paul in Ephesus. vss. 17-18 They sacrificed of their time, finances and energies, and traveled from Corinth to where Paul was serving in Ephesus in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) to help meet his needs. As a result, Paul said that they refreshed his spirit.4. Paul encouraged the rest of this church to honor this special family and to submit to their servant leadership. vss. 16, 18b
Rather than being arrogant, proud, jealous or ungrateful toward them, the others in the church were to learn from them and look up to them for their servitude and labour of love in the ministry. The word "laboureth" in vs. 16b means to toil to the point of exhaustion.
We don't know the names of the other individuals and families in the church at Corinth, but this one stands out as a shining testimony. They were not known for their looks, talent or wealth. They were known for their servitude. The Lord Jesus said to His disciples, " But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant." (Matthew 23:11)
At some point, Stephanas and his family made a choice that they were no longer going to live for themselves or for the things of this world. They put themselves in the offering plate as living sacrifices. They did not wait to be asked to serve or to help meet need; instead, they willingly devoted themselves to serve God and others. It was not a begrudging, halfhearted kind of service
In Phil 2:21, Paul lamented that "all seek their own and not the things which are Jesus Christ's." They were not selfish or self-centered with their time, finances, or talents. Rather they had the mind of Christ Phil 2:5, " Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:" (Philippians 2:5) They were also like Epaphroditus, "Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants. For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me." (Philippians 2:25-30)
The average church member is content to sit on the side lines waiting to be served. Rather than devoting himself to ministry, he is devoted to living for himself or enjoying the temporal things of this life (hobbies, career, friends, possessions, entertainment). He waits to be asked to help meet a need and may do it reluctantly but it is not with a cheerful, willing spirit. Such a selfish, self-centered spirit hampers and handicaps the function and ministry of a local church.
Oh, that each of us would have the heart and purpose of Stephanas and his family where we would addict ourselves to ministry, being conscious and observant to what needs to be done around us. This may include helping keep the church facilities and grounds clean and orderly, evangelistic outreach intercessory prayer, or helping with financial needs. God does not forget your servitude, even if others take it for granted! " For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister." (Hebrews 6:10)