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God’s Word for You

1 Corinthians 16:12-18 Be manly. Be strong.

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, August 12, 2023

12 Now about our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but he was not at all willing to come now. He will come when he has the opportunity.

Besides a passing visit from Timothy, Paul had hoped Apollos would return to Corinth. Apollos had worked in Corinth for a long time and knew the people well. Remember that Paul said, “I planted, Apollos watered…” 3:6). But for reasons Paul does not give here, Apollos was “not at all willing” to go to Corinth at the moment, but says that he would go later when he had an opportunity. Either he was busy with other work of the church or there was another urgent need for him to remain where he was.

13 Be alert. Stand firm in your faith. Be manly. Be strong. 14 Do everything in love.

“Be alert” is a command that would be given to a watchman. At a time when the Corinthians were perhaps not being served by a minister, this was especially important. The most basic need was for them to encourage one another to keep meeting as a congregation every week, not only for the regular gathering of the offering but more importantly for the spiritual welfare of all of the members. “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another” (Hebrews 10:25). The regular reading of the Bible, the regular public confession of sins and the forgiveness, the regular public prayers, as well as singing hymns and psalms, nourishes the faith and brings our ears into contact with the word of God over and over again, so that we ponder, consider, apply, and take God’s word to heart.

“Stand firm in your faith” is a command not to doubt or waver in one’s faith. Do not take the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for granted. Do not fail to see the Father’s hand in preserving his creation including us and our families. Do not forget that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) and what we do with that temple, where we take it, reflects on our faith and can also damage out faith. But taking the Holy Spirit’s temple to the house of the worship of God Almighty is a very good thing to do for its regular upkeep and maintenance. Regular worship should be looked at as more than an occasional task. It is food for the soul.

“Be manly. Be strong.” These are commands directly from the Greek translation of Psalm 31:24; “Be manly and be strong at heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” “Be manly” is the verb andrizomai (ἀνδρίζoμαι), something a captain might say to his soldiers (2 Samuel 10:12, 13:28). But Moses said this to all Israel just before he died, to give every one of them a sense of responsibility for one another (Deuteronomy 31:6-7). The source of the church’s bravery is the certainty that God is with us; he will not abandon us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). “Let misfortune, sin, death, and whatever the devil and the world loads upon you assail and assault you. If only you remain confident and undismayed, waiting for the Lord in faith, you have already won, you have already escaped death and far surpassed the devil and the world” (Luther’s last sermon).

“Do everything in love” repeats the theme of chapter 13. What is the motive for everything done in the church and by the church? It is love; the love we have for God, and the love we have for one another’s souls and spiritual welfare. John the Baptist and Jesus himself were followed by tax collectors and prostitutes and other sinners (Matthew 11:19, 21:32). Why? Because nobody else was offering them the forgiveness of sins, calling them to repentance, or preaching the gospel of reconciliation to them.

15 Now, brothers and sisters, you know Stephanus and his household. They were the firstfruits of Achaia, and they have dedicated themselves to the service of the saints. 16 I urge you to submit to them, and to everyone who cooperates with them and works hard. 17 I’m happy that Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived because they have made up for what is lacking on your part. 18 They have refreshed my spirit as well as yours. So give recognition to such people.

Paul doesn’t usually stick up for someone unless they needed sticking up for. The household of Stephanus were some of the only people in Corinth that Paul had baptized (1 Corinthians 1:16), and he wanted to be sure that the church did not look down on them or shove them to one side simply on account of their own ideas of who belonged and who, perhaps, did not.

“Submit to them and to everyone who cooperates with them and works hard.” It is easy and according to the fallen, sinful nature for those who have a gift for leadership but who do not like to personally do very much to start giving orders. But such people lack an understanding of the details of compassionate gospel ministry. They may have a gift, but a gift that must be tempered with love. Even they should learn to submit to those who cooperate for the sake of the ministry and who “work hard.” True leaders cooperate, and they work hard themselves. The top positions of leadership usually involve the most work and the hardest work.

Just what was “lacking on your part” that these three men brought to Paul? Certainly not money or goods, new clothes or new shoes. The idea that it might have been news about the church doesn’t fit the sentence, either. It must have been affection; the one thing the Corinthians could not project to Paul across the sea was their own emotional attachment to the apostle. Even a letter can be somewhat cold—it’s why those who use texting today need to remember to add emojis, since text messages are even colder than a letter because they are so terse. These men, Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus, are very probably the men who brought the letter to Paul that he is answering with 1 Corinthians. It seems likely that they would also be the group to take this letter back to Corinth.

“Give recognition to such people.” We need to know what Paul means by “such people” before we see how deeply we should “give recognition” to them. The three men are the kind of workers in the church who seek and find help with special problems and challenges for the church, especially the practical difficulties of working with people, wrestling with issues of doctrine and practice, and overcoming challenges that arise on account of changes in government, health crises, and doors of opportunity. This means that we should be willing to attend Bible classes, conferences, special meetings of the church, council and voters’ meetings and other gatherings, to share ideas, to recall the history of what has been done before (whether such things worked well or not), and to plan for the future. We can take to heart the example of King Hezekiah and the believers in Jerusalem who made plans to make a proper celebration of the Passover after many decades of improper practice that was displeasing to the Lord (2 Chronicles 30:1-20), or the example of Paul himself that led to the mission work in Greece and to the Corinth itself (Acts 16:9-10). Submitting ourselves to the leaders of the church means being willing to listen to them and make plans for the work of the church with them, and “to be ready to do any good work” (Titus 3:1).

If we have been reluctant to do this in the past, we should repent and make a change because of our desire to be truly obedient to Christ, who has forgiven our sins, and has plans for us that are so much bigger than anything we can imagine. He has made plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11); plans to give us peace, and to give us hope and a future.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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