Thinking back now over 40+ years of church ministry, I have so many warm memories and connections of others with whom I’ve been blessed to serve God together. Just today, as I write this, a former fellow staff member from many years ago called to chat briefly and ask a couple questions. Another wrote to me a few days ago to alert me to the announcement of a much older mutual staff associate in Dallas who had recently passed away.
In church ministry, it is inevitable to have both up and down times of serving with others. There are seasons of serving that are difficult, not only due to wrestling with occasional opposition, but the tasks are great. Seeing God supply and guide in a joint venture brings people together in ways that are valued over the course of an entire lifetime.
The Apostle Paul had similar relationships, and we often get fleeting glimpses of them in the final sentences of some of his letters. And in this final section of 1 Corinthians, we see that Paul has taken the pen at some point to finish the letter personally, having used an amanuensis (secretary) to write his dictated remarks.
Paul’s special young disciple was Timothy, who was on his way to be with the Corinthians. Knowing of his own somewhat difficult experience with this rough crowd and their “issues,” and knowing of Timothy’s more timid personality, he tells the readers to not treat the young man contemptuously.
Apparently the Corinthians had hoped for Apollos to return to them. And though Paul had encouraged this, it appears Apollos was not in any hurry to get there. He probably knew well of their “issues” also.
Paul also reflects warmly on an entire household of people there who had given so much for the growth of the church in Corinth. As well, he personally mentions some of the good men who had travelled to him with news from Greece and who would be returning home.
Greetings are sent from Aquila and Priscilla who had known the Corinthians earlier, yet now being in Asia with Paul and leading a church in their home.
Paul also sends greetings from other churches in Asia (modern day Turkey) where the gospel was spreading. It was the Apostle’s desire for all these scattered Christians to have a sense of the scope of gospel successes throughout the world, that all would be encouraged and strengthened by this knowledge. And that too remains a timeless truth. I love to hear of the growth of our missions-connected churches in Europe, Asia, and Africa.
Looking at the big picture of it all, ministry is complicated. It is difficult. It involves a lot of sinners working together. Thus, Paul again directs them toward an overarching attitude of love … verse 14 – “Do everything in love.” Hey, that would make for a good theme verse for any church!
It really is a blessing to have each other to do life together, as we serve the One who in love has saved us from eternal destruction. We can never have too much of this perspective and this motivation for the most important things in life.
1 Corinthians 16:10 -When Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am. 11 No one, then, should treat him with contempt. Send him on his way in peace so that he may return to me. I am expecting him along with the brothers.
12 Now about our brother Apollos: I strongly urged him to go to you with the brothers. He was quite unwilling to go now, but he will go when he has the opportunity.
13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 14 Do everything in love.
15 You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the Lord’s people. I urge you, brothers and sisters, 16 to submit to such people and to everyone who joins in the work and labors at it. 17 I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you. 18 For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition.
19 The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house. 20 All the brothers and sisters here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.
21 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand.
22 If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed! Come, Lord!
23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.
24 My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.