Couriers for Christ

God’s mercy be yours and may His grace abound in your life!

We are very close to the end of this epistle of Paul.  He is writing his concluding remarks to the church at Corinth and expressing his gratitude for the blessing of this church to him personally.  Today he mentions three individuals by name who are a blessing to him.  He writes highly of these men. May there always be such Christian individuals in our midst today!

Brothers and sisters, you know the household of Stephanas: They are the firstfruits of Achaia and have devoted themselves to serving the saints. I urge you also to submit to such people, and to everyone who works and labors with them. I am delighted to have Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus present, because these men have made up for your absence. For they have refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore recognize such people. 1 Corinthians 16:15-18  

First Paul identifies Stephanas as the “firstfruits” of Achaia.  In this statement Paul is saying that Stephanas was one of the first converts in the region of Achaia, which is the region of the Roman Empire in which Corinth is located.

Before we go any farther, consider this.  You have one of the first converts to the Christian faith, who was evangelized by the Apostle Paul, who is now one of the couriers who have traveled to Paul with the letter from the church seeing clarification on many issues.  Why?   The reason is that as one of the first converts Stephanas has a vested interested in reconnecting with Paul and clarifying the truth or error of what is being taught.  His report will likely carry the day upon the return of those who have traveled to see Paul.

Let us remember that all these questions which have been addressed, everything from the resurrection of Jesus to role of women in the church has become an issue in the church at Corinth.  There are new teachers who are either heretics or, to say it gracefully, are misguided, who have been teaching the church wrongly.  This trio of men have come to Paul with the questions the church is asking.  These three, led by Stephanas, will soon return with the answers and the truth will be made known.  If the teachings were and honest error, the record will be set straight.  If the teaching were with malicious intent, the false teachers will not doubt be dealt with in a direct way.

As Paul expounds on his relationship with Stephanas and the role he has played in the church, what we have heard in other places rings true.  The first converts in an area seem to take on the responsibility of helping the church grow, usually by hosting the fledgling church in their home, and serving with vigor in the ministry.  This seems to be what Paul is implying when he says, and have devoted themselves to serving the saints.  He even says his readers should submit to those serving like this!  This would place Stephanas in the role of one of the spiritual leaders in the church.  Paul has already addressed the respect owed to those who serve faithfully and that they should be listen to as they teach.

We have seen in the past that people often traveled in groups rather than alone.  The listing of those who have traveled to Paul includes Stephanas but also two others, Fortunatus, and Achaicus.  Why would the church send three rather than just two?  The reason, beyond safety in numbers, is that the word these men bring as they return from Paul would be more than just the letter he wrote.  These three would be able to expound on conversations they had engaged in with Paul on many of the topics addressed in the epistle and probably issues beyond what was written.  Not one, or two, but three witnesses to the message of Paul.  It was extremely important for the church to have confirmation of the truth spoken in order to guide them to do what would be necessary to restore order in the church.  

Why would I say that order needed to be restored?  We need to be extremely honest about this.  The devil is the one who brings false teachings into the church.  It is the devil who desires to pervert the truth of the Gospel so he can drag souls to hell.  It is the devil who is at war with the people of God.  The church in Corinth has been attached by false teachers who are simply pawns in the devil’s hands.  The church of Corinth is under attack.  These three men, Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, are God’s chosen instruments to return to Corinth and confront the evil in the midst of the church and save God’s people.  Their words affirming Paul’s teachings will carry the day and the false teachings and teachers will be cast out.  These three men are of vital importance to the life and future of their church.  I pray the faithful members of every church today see themselves and those who stand in the gap and safeguard the truth of Scripture as it is taught in their midst.  May there always be those who stand together and speak the truth for the life of the church and the people of God.

Paul then says, For they have refreshed my spirit and yours.  It is one thing to worry in ignorance.  It is another to truthfully understand the situation and know which direction to go.  Paul is encouraged that these three men have come to see him, and he is just as encouraged that they will return to Corinth and share the truth with the congregation.  Paul knows where the truth is present the error will be overcome.  It is with an encouraged heart that he sends these three men home with his words.

It is my prayer that we will always stand strong on the Word of God and never compromise.  May we always take a stand against error and may the truth be known in and through us.

In Christ,
Pastor Russ

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