In the local church, have you ever observed that there are people who are living only for themselves, their ambitions, and their agendas? And then there are those who are selflessly serving others, expecting nothing in return?
Have you observed people that are always suspicious of “outsiders or newcomers” and anyone that is not like themselves? And then there are those who wholeheartedly welcome anyone and everyone that walk through the door! If so, you are not the first or the last to take notice. Unfortunately, we all have a sin nature, as people have not changed over the past thousand plus years. Our sin nature creates the same problems in Churches today that Paul saw and pointed out in his day.
In my preparation to teach Sunday school this week I read this chapter about Paul's letter to the Corinth Church. Paul addresses the self-centered attitude of the Corinthian believers. In 1 Corinthians 16:15-16, Paul urges the Corinth Church to submit to Stephanas and his household, to their brothers and sisters, and to those that are like them because they serve with great devotion. In Verse 17, Paul continues to to write that they had been providing the help that the members were not here to give him. And he said, "They have been wonderful encouragement to me, as they have been to you. You must show your appreciation to all who serve so well."
You may be wondering who is Stephanas, and their household, and why are they even mentioned. Well, I didn't have a clue until I went back to try and figure it out. Stephanas was the first person who Paul had baptized at the First Baptist of Athens. O.K., I added the Baptist part. :) Paul called him and his family the “First Fruits of Achaia." They were originally from Greece, but came to Corinth with Paul to help him with his Ministry. Paul started Baptizing his family in Corinth where they became a great asset to the Church, as well as Paul's 'on-going' Ministry. Some of the family would go with Paul on his mission trips, but other family members would stay put to offer their services to the Church. Since they were not Corinthians they were not treated all that well, and Paul knew it. This part of the letter was basically to call them out for their prejudice and lack of love. Something to point out if you go back to Verse 10 is that Paul tells the Church , ”When Timothy comes, do not intimidate him. He is doing the Lord's work, just as I am. Do not let anyone treat him with contempt. Send him on his way with your blessing when he returns to me. I expect him to come with other believers."
I was also wondering why he felt the need to say this about Timothy. As we may already know, Timothy was a teenager when he started doing mission work. Something else I found out after a little more digging was that his father was also from Greece. Like the Stephanas's family, maybe they were showing a little prejudice. Also, his father was not a believer of Christ, but his mother Eunice, and Grandmother Lois played a huge role in Timothy's spiritual up-bringing. This goes to show that even with only one parent who seeks the Lord that it can make all the difference. It also goes to show that Timothy's age did not stop him from doing God's work. If we will follow the example of Paul's encouragement to our youth, and begin a true discipleship with them, they too could make a strong witness for Christ.
In closing, I just want to remind you as Paul reminded the Corinth Church, let us continue to love one another the same. Let's not be so quick to judge others when they do not look like us. I have a friend that came and visited our old church a long time ago, but left because people made fun of her hair. It kinda makes me sad because she was really a sweet lady. I just wonder what ministry she would be involved in, or what impact our Church could have made on her Spiritual Walk the past 15 years.