We are fast coming to a conclusion of our study of 1 Corinthians. So I would invite you take your Bible, if you will, and look at with me at the sixteenth chapter of that wonderful epistle. First Corinthians chapter 16, and I decided that we would just take our time through this, so we’ll take this Lord’s Day and next Lord’s Day, and we’ll be finished with the book. And then we’ll be ready for our Christmas Sunday message, and then we’ll go right into the book of Ephesians the following week. So the Lord has set our schedule for us a little bit in that manner.
Now we come to the end of this book. We’re looking at verses 14 through verse 18 today. And next time we’ll finish up with 19-24. Really it’s one message. It all hangs together under one theme, but we’ll divide it into two parts in order that we might give ourselves with some degree of depth to the thoughts that Paul has for us here. As you first read this over, it looks like just a lot of personal admonitions and personal instructions and a few greetings and ‘Hi, how are yous’ and all of this, but you have to remember – and this is the thing I always think about whenever I come to a passage like this or when I come to a genealogy, like So-and-so beget So-and-so beget So-and-so beget So-and-so, I have to remind myself that the Holy Spirit inspired this just as much as He did John 3:16. But this is not Paul sort of saying, “Now God’s done talking. Let me throw in a few little niceties at the end.” Not at all. This is the revelation of God equally with anything else.
In fact I remember when I was little that I had a red letter Bible, and for a long time I thought the red words were more important than the black ones because Jesus said them. And then later on I realized that there’s not any difference at all. That the whole of the Word of God is, in fact, the Word of God. And even these kinds of passages are loaded with great truth and practical insight for us. So I want us to notice this section at least as an overview this morning, and then pick up the first few verses and we’ll finish it next time.
But note verse 14 as a point of beginning. “Let all your things be done in love.” Now look at verse 24, the end of it. We’re looking at both sides of the passage, the beginning and the end. “My love be with you all in Christ Jesus.” Now did you notice that at the beginning and the end love is the issue. Paul is really talking about love in the fellowship. In all your things let them be done in love. Let love dominate your life.
Now this was a message the Corinthians needed to hear, believe me. Now love was for all practical purposes absent from their life, absent from their relationships, absent from their church. In fact, all their problems from chapters 1-15 were basically a reflection of a lack of love. The reason they had discord and disunity and the reason they were pushing each other up to high places on the basis of their intellectualism, the reason they were identifying with certain cliques, they reason they were suing each other, the reason they were having illicit sex with each other, the reason they were having marital problems, the reason they were stepping on the necks of weaker brothers, all of these things were directly related to the absence of love. And that’s why the high point in the book is 13, the thirteenth chapter where Paul describes for them the kind of love that should be manifest in their assembly.
So love is the issue. And so we’re not that surprised when at the end of the epistle, Paul reminds them, “Let all your things be done in love,” and closes up with an example by saying, “My love be with you all in Christ Jesus.” Love is the real story of the book. Paul is endeavoring to correct the absence of love in the Corinthian church. And so he closes with that same theme in mind, the theme being love.
Now we don’t need to make a big issue out the fact that love is to be a characteristic of the church, because I know you’re all very well aware of that. We’ve studied it again and again. We will study it in a matter of weeks as we look at the book of Ephesians. We’ll see again how essential love in the church is. When we were saved, Romans 5 says the love of God was shed abroad in our hearts. Consequently 1 Thessalonians tells us that we do not need to be taught to love, because God has planted that love in us. We are taught by God to love. It’s basic. Peter encourages us that since we possess this love and since God has taught us to love, we ought to stretch our love out to touch everybody at the extremity. And he talks about having fervent love, the Greek word is ektenōs. It’s a word used in physiology to speak of an extended muscle. We’re to reach as far as we can to love.
Love is a basic element of the church. And there should be no such thing as a church without love. It should be a part of our life, maybe the central part of our life that we love each other. When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, he said I have heard about your love. I have heard about your love. And so it should be for every church. Now as Paul is setting kind of the boundaries of this passage by putting love on one side and love on the other side, the middle section or the area that he’s bounded with the fence of love is about how love works. And all of these little greetings and admonitions and everything that’s in here has to do with love. Love is the basic idea and this is how love acts. So we called it love in the fellowship. This is how it functions.
And by the way, I’ll remind you of this, love is not a static item. Love is a doing thing. Love is an action, and we saw that didn’t we when we studied 1 Corinthians 13 and noted that when it says love is this and love is this and love is this and love is this that every one of those was a verb. Love acts. There can be no love without action. Love is a doing thing. And so here we see what love does. Now some are explicit, some are implicit. But as I looked through this, I tried to draw out either a direct statement or an indirect thought that would give us an idea of how love functions in the fellowship.
The first one is evangelism. One evidence of love in the fellowship is evangelism. Where there is love in the fellowship, there will be people reaching out to those that are lost. This is basic. And I think you see this implied in verse 15. He says, “I beseech you brethren,” and then he goes off to talk about this, “you know the house of Stephanas, that it is the first fruits of Achaia” – now stop right there. Now we’re introduced to a household. The word house here in the Latin is familia and it means slaves. So when it refers to a household, it’s not just talking about the husband, the wife, and the kids; it’s talking about the slaves and the servants and everybody else. Now he introduces us to a man named Stephanas. This is not an obscure man. This is a man that Paul knows. He baptized Stephanas, it says in 1 Corinthians 1:16. And if you’ll notice in verse 17 he says Stephanas has come to visit him. So Stephanas was somebody he knew. And Stephanas was a Christian, but not only Stephanas, but his whole household were saved. And Paul even says they were the first fruits of Achaia.
Now you’ll remember that the Apostle Paul on his missionary journeys proceeded west and he kept proceeding west, journey one, journey two, journey three. And finally on the third journey he came to Macedonia, and you remember a man from Macedonia came to him in a vision and said come over to Macedonia and help us and so forth. So he went to Macedonia where he preached the gospel. Well Macedonia is really Greece. Greece was divided into two sections. The southern section, below the Peloponnesus there, is called Achaia. That’s what he’s referring to here. The two major cities of Achaia were Athens and Corinth.
And so when Paul came into that area, the area of Athens and Corinth, the south of Greece – modern Greece today. The south part is the ancient Achaia – he preached Christ. In fact in the seventeenth chapter of Acts it tells us that he preached at Athens and some believed including Dionysius the Areopagite and another person as well believed, and then he went from there on – and probably some others in addition to those two – then he went on into Corinth and there he preached and there were many who believed. There was Crispus who was the leader of the synagogue. There was Gaius who probably, according to Romans 16:23, was Paul’s host while he was there in Corinth. And there was this household of Stephanas, and there was the household of one named Chloe, and there were many others who believed. Now watch. What he’s really saying here is that God was going to grow a church in Achaia. That was His plan. And as a guarantee that God was going to grow a church, God gave some first fruits.
Now if you remember the concept of first fruits, the first fruits were the first part of a crop that came in and if the first fruits were good it was a guarantee the rest of the crop would be good. And so Stephanas and his household were most likely the first fruits of the city of Corinth. It doesn’t specify Corinth here, but if you remember I said he went to Athens first and there were some people saved in Athens. So in order for Stephanas technically to be first fruits, it’s likely that he would have been first fruits in Corinth. Further, there may have been other individuals saved before him and perhaps he was the first household and that’s why he’s designated as first fruits. But either he’s included in the first fruits or he’s the first household saved in Corinth. The point simply being that he was the guarantee. By the Spirit of God giving this family and this household, God was in effect saying there’s going to be a full harvest in the city of Corinth. And there was, there was a great church built there, a wonderful church to which Paul ministered for one and a half years teaching the Word of God. And this group was the beginning of that church.
Now what am I saying in terms of my message to you this morning? Just this – Paul introduces us to the concept of evangelism. And I really think that part of letting all your things be done in love is going somewhere and planting a church. Going somewhere and getting some first fruits. Going somewhere and winning some people to Jesus Christ. The early church expressed its love in its evangelism. And you know, you can’t just sit around and love each other and get anybody to really believe it unless you’re out there carrying this wonderful gospel to the people who are so desperately in need of hearing it. If we really love the way God loves, the way Paul loved, the way the early church loved, we’ll be out touching the lives of people who desperately need to hear the message of Jesus Christ. And that’s exactly what the Apostle Paul did. The early church was busy planting churches in other places. The early church was busy winning people to Jesus Christ. Because that’s the way love works.
In 1 Thessalonians, I mentioned to you a minute ago, in verse 3 of chapter 1 Paul says, “I heard of your labor of love – I remember unceasingly your labor of love.” And then he goes on to say, “For from you sounded out the Word of the Lord.” You see their labor of love involved a sounding of the Word. The word in the Greek is the word we get echo from. From you it echoed out. It reverberated. And in fact, they were so evangelistic it was incredible. Paul was only there three Sabbaths, two weeks. In a matter of months he writes back to them the letter of 1 Thessalonians and says, “Your testimony is known all over the world.” Is that incredible? That little Thessalonian church with only three Sabbaths of ministry by the apostle, two weeks of his presence, was born in love, conceived in love, born in love, and it came out aggressively sharing that love with the world, so that a matter of months later Paul says your testimony is sounded out to all the world. Now I believe where there’s love in the fellowship, the natural response will be evangelism. And I think that’s what generates the love. I think that’s what keeps it fresh and exciting and vital.
I can remember a couple of years ago – we were talking about this at our elders meeting yesterday – and a couple of years ago they were saying that we had about 100 people that we felt were involved in evangelism directly, connected to our church. Now many others were personally involved in their own evangelism, sharing with people at work and at home and places, but about 100 people that we thought were in some kind of a planned ministry of evangelism. And I remember that two years ago I began to pray and to ask God to multiply that and multiply it and multiply it so that we would be out taking the love of Jesus Christ to the world. And the elders were saying yesterday that I – they were estimating 400 or 500, I forget the exact number of people, now aggressively involved weekly in evangelism. I won’t be happy till it’s 5,000. Because I think a church filled with love is a church that manifests its love to a lost world desperately in need of that love. Letting all your things be done in love means you’re going to see some first fruits somewhere. The Apostle Paul’s evangelism was moved by love. He says in 2 Corinthians 5:14, “The love of Christ constrains me.” Now this isn’t something you can generate. The Spirit of God produces this. You walk in the Spirit, He produces love, and you direct that love to the lost.
Let me illustrate it to you in Paul’s life by having you look at Romans chapter 9. Now you have to remember a little bit about Paul. Paul was chief persecutor of Christians. He was number one Christian hater. To the Jews, he was their key man. He was the guy who really did the job for them. He was a member of the Sanhedrin. He was the number one persecutor. He was an important teacher, a trusted leader, the greatest defender of Judaism, and he was on his way to Damascus to kill Christians, and before they knew what happened, he was preaching Jesus Christ and the Jews were absolutely shocked right out of their sandals. And they didn’t understand it, and so when Paul came along and said, “I really love all of you people in Israel. I really care for you,” boy, they didn’t buy that any more than you buy Benedict Arnold’s love for America. They didn’t buy it at all.
And so Paul wants to convince them of his love. And so in verse 1 – I like this – he feels that they won’t believe him, so he affirms his love four ways. First on his own merit, he says “I lie not.” Then on the merit of his conscience he says, “My conscience also bearing me witness.” In other words, I’m telling you the truth. That’s my own statement. My conscience doesn’t even bother me. That’s the second proof. Thirdly, “I say the truth in Christ.” Let Christ be my witness. Fourthly, “I bear witness in the Spirit.” Let Him be my witness. Now, he’s really meaning what he’s saying. He says on my own commitment I say it. On the agreement of my conscience, the Holy Spirit, and Christ Himself I’m going to say what I’m going to say. In other words, “Please believe me.”
And then he says in verse 2, “I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from God for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh who are Israelites.” Stop right there. He says, “Look, I love you, and I want you to hear the gospel and I want you to know Christ so much so that I could wish myself accursed if it could mean your salvation.” He loved them. And it was that love that tore his heart out. That love that gave him constant heaviness and sorrow. That love that drove him like a man on a vendetta, as it were, to touch everybody he could with the gospel of Jesus Christ. You see he had an intense yearning for souls that was promoted by his love for Christ and his love for people. Somebody said evangelism is the sob of God. Evangelism is the anguish cry of Christ over a doomed Jerusalem. Evangelism is the call of Moses, “Oh, this people have sinned . . . Yet now, if thou wilt, forgive them. If not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of the book Thou hast written.” Did you know Moses said that?
Evangelism is the heartbroken cry of Paul here, “I could wish myself accursed.” Evangelism is the cry of John Knox, “Give me Scotland for Christ or I die.” Evangelism is the weeping in the night of the parents of a lost and unsaved child. I think we need to ask God for that kind of love to be shed abroad not only in us – it’s already there – but from us. I think we give up too easy. I think the fact that we give up so easy when people resist the gospel really betrays the thinness of our love.
I read an interesting story this week and it just fit beautifully with what this thought is. Dr. H.A. Cameron who was an old Scotsman related this story in one of his books. Over in Scotland it used to be the custom in the time of harvest for the women in farming districts to help in making and binding the sheaves after the mower had cut down the grain. On one occasion, a mother named Hannah Lamond offered her services in that time of labor, and to make the work easier took with her her little child thinking that she could place it safely within easy reach where she could look at it now and then. But busily occupied as everyone was, the reapers did not notice that an eagle which had its nest on a nearby cliff had swooped down and snatched the sleeping baby from its little bed among the sheaves and carried it off, flying with its talons firmly fixed in the child’s clothing.
However, it had not risen far when the anguish cry went up, “The eagle has taken Hannah’s baby.” Consternation took hold of the men and women and in their commotion they ran as rescuers to the foot of the rock, where high up the eagle had its nest and to which it had transported the child to become food for its eaglets. Some of the men made a valiant effort to scale the face of the rock, but unable to get a footing, they fell back defeated and it seemed a hopeless task to recover the baby before it would be destroyed by the eagle. Among the men there was a sailor accustomed to climbing places where there was but little foothold and he did his best to ascend that precipitous cliff, but after a vigorous endeavor, he also gave up his attempt and acknowledged himself beaten.
The people were frantic and helpless and the child’s case seemed absolutely hopeless. “But who is this that now assays to do what others had failed to accomplish,” says Cameron. It is Hannah. Impelled by mother love, she begins to ascend that vertical rock and bit by bit here and there finding a little projection upon which to place her foot she gradually rises away from the plain and at last accomplishes the seeming impossible by reaching the eagles nest. There the bird of prey with flapping wings and powerful beak tries to beat her back and keep its victim now lying in that nest among the eaglets. But desperate though the bird’s efforts are, they are not equal to courage and determination of the mother of the child, and she rescues the baby from death and destruction.
She begins to move down a more perilous descent than the first journey and marvelous to tell, she comes back as surely as if not as swiftly as before. And great is the rejoicing among her friends as they welcome her returning safe and sound from her heroic and dangerous and valorous task, another proof that love always finds a way. It’s that kind of love in a spiritual sense that God will want to produce in our hearts that we might extend the gospel to other people to see other harvests in other places where God is glorified. When there’s love in the fellowship, evangelism results.
Secondly, when there’s love in the fellowship, service to the saints results, service to the saints. Verse 15 again, “I beseech you brethren, you know the house of Stephanas that it is the first fruits of Achaia and that they have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints.” Now stay with me. This is really exciting. They have devoted themselves, this house of Stephanas, to the ministry of the saints. Now there are so many things here. I could hardly straighten them out in my own mind there’s so much richness to this thought. First of all, the word themselves here is ‘their’ in the Greek. Often times it’s implied by the form of the verb. But in this case it’s ‘their,’ which makes it intensive. They themselves devoted themselves to the work or the ministry of the saints. In other words, here is a household who had no official appointment, who were not assigned by anybody, who were not commissioned by anybody, who were not called by anybody, who were not entitled by anybody, they themselves devoted themselves to serving the saints. There was a spontaneity to it. There was a freedom on their own part, self-motivated, self-appointed.
Beloved we’ve said this now for nine years here at Grace Church and we’re going to see it when we get into the book of Ephesians, the work of the ministry belongs to everybody and we all are called to devote ourselves to that. We don’t need to sit around waiting for somebody to appoint us to something. You know, often people say, “Well, we would come to Grace church, but you see, you’ve already got so many people that I’m sure you have plenty to do the work.” Well, that isn’t the point. The point is that all the saints do the ministry wherever they happen to gather. You know, we don’t have those who labor and those who watch. You know, we don’t have sanctified spectators who just come and say, “Do it and we’ll watch.” We’re all in the ministry. We just happen to assemble in this place on the Lord’s Day. Right? But then we all leave. We get in our cars and we all leave, and then we go out and we minister all the rest of our days and lives and hours to the saints if there’s love in the fellowship. You see, there aren’t just enough people to do the ministry in this church so that we don’t need any more. No, no. Whoever comes here is in some ministry. We’re all in that. And they just devoted themselves to doing what they knew they were to do. We talked about it, didn’t we, in the last couple of weeks doing the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way is everybody’s responsibility.
I want to tell you something else. The word here, the verb tassō, the literal meaning of the verb tassō is to put yourselves in line. You see they got in line all alone. Nobody called them in the line. Nobody said, “All of you who want to do this line here.” They just got in line. That’s one of its meanings. And it just reminds us of the fact people that the ministry belongs to everybody and the chances are, you’re never going to get appointed to a ministry until you’ve proven yourself faithful in one that you do on your own. William Barclay, the British commentator, writes, “In the early, church willing and spontaneous service was the beginning of official office. A man became a leader of the church not so much by any man-made appointment as because his life and work marked him out as one whom all men must respect. All those who share the work and toil of the gospel command respect, not because they have been appointed by a man to an office, but because they are doing the work of Christ.” The house of Stephanas, they were at it.
Now let me go back to the word devoted. It’s the word tassō. Moffett and Morris, in his commentary, say that the root meaning of this word is addicted. Did you get that? Addicted. What a great thought? They have addicted themselves to the service of the saints. Isn’t that great? They have addicted themselves to it. Now you say well, what is the service of the saints? Well, the word service or ministry, and your Bible may say ministry, is diakonia, from which we get deacon. Now diakonia originally meant a table waiter, and it came to mean anybody who serves somebody else in the church out of love. Any loving service is diakonia.
Now the New Testament describes all kinds of diakonia. For example, it talks about the diakonia of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:5. It says, “there are many services,” and then it goes on to describe the spiritual gifts. So spiritual gifts is one kind of diakonia. If we’re addicted to serving the saints, it means we’re addicted to using our spiritual gifts. Another one, in Acts 11:29 and 2 Corinthians 8:4, it speaks of the diakonia of giving. So that when we give our money that is serving the saints. Not as many of us are addicted to giving as perhaps we ought to be. So being addicted to the serving of the saints means we serve the saints through our spiritual gifts. We serve the saints through giving.
In Acts 6:4, it says, “we will give ourselves continually to the diakonia of the Word.” So serving the saints can be through the Word. So it can be through spiritual gifts or giving money, teaching the Word. It can be through encouragement. In 1 Timothy 1:16-18, it says that the diakonia is to encourage and that can be counseling, encouraging people, building them up. In John 12:2, it talks about the diakonia of giving food to those that are hungry. So it could be physical needs. So there’s the sum of it really. Serving the saints means using our spiritual gifts, giving them money, giving them food if they need it, giving them encouragement if they need it, teaching them the Word of God. And all of us are to do this. In Colossians 4:17, Paul said, “Take heed to the diakonia which has been committed unto you to fulfill it.” We’re all called to serve the saints.
Now let me go back to this addiction thing. You know, it’s very easy when you really fall in love with Jesus Christ and you really desire to fulfill your life to His glory, to get addicted to Christian service. Did you know that? I’m a good illustration. It’s an addiction with me, really. I have severe withdrawal if I’m not at the work of the ministry. In fact, it’s been my history through all of my life to preach all during my vacation, because I can’t – I just keep thinking, “What if the Lord comes and I’m just sitting around here fishing?” See, now I’m addicted. I don’t expect everybody to be addicted like I am, but I am addicted to it. But then, you see, I just found a verse that makes it okay. See? See? The house of Stephanas, they were addicted. They addicted themselves to this.
Paul was like that. I’m sure Paul got severe withdrawals if two days went by without a preaching. I’m sure of it. Now he said when he was writing to the Romans, he said, “I must go and minister to the saints in Jerusalem.” He was always going somewhere to minister. He just was addicted to the service of the Lord. In Hebrews chapter 6 verse 10, there’s a wonderful statement about this. It says this, “For God is not unrighteous” – the writer writing to these believers – “to forget your work and labor of love, which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints and you do minister.” You have and you are. Here were some people who were also addicted to it. Now, I don’t know if you know much about addiction. You know maybe about drug addiction. Let me give you three words that describe drug addiction and watch how they move over into the Christian ministry. Number one word – and by the way, this is the basic definition accepted by criminal justice in the field of drug addiction. The first word is habit. Drug addiction is described by the word habit to begin with. An overpowering desire or compulsion to do something. An overpowering desire or compulsion to do something. In this case, of course, to take drugs. And when it becomes so overpowering that it becomes a habit, then you do anything to do it – anything.
Second word is the word tolerance. And this is described by law enforcement as the progressive decreased responsiveness to the drug so that you have to keep taking more. Okay? First, you have a habit which is a tremendous desire and a compulsion to take this thing and you’ll do it at any cost. Then you move into the tolerance thing which means your body begins to tolerate that and you still have the desire, but you have to have more of it to be fulfilled. That’s tolerance. Then the third word is dependence. What happens in drug addiction is dependence. And this is described as a psychic, psychological, physical dependence on the effects of the drug in order to function normally. Okay? So you’ve got habit, an overpowering desire or compulsion that you’ll take any cost to fulfill. You’ve got tolerance, which means the more you do it, the more you have to do and you have to increase the doses. And dependence, you can’t function normally unless you have it.
Now you know something, that is a terrific description of being addicted to the Lord’s service. It’s terrific. First of all habit, if you want to know whether you’re like the house of Stephanas ask yourself this. Do I have an overpowering desire and compulsion to do the Lord’s work so that I’ll pay any price to get it done? If you’re not, you’re not addicted. Do you have an overpowering desire? Do you have a compulsion to continue doing the Lord’s work even if you push beyond what seems reasonable? If you’re just sort of blinking and saying boy I can’t relate to that, you’re not addicted to serving the saints.
The second word is tolerance. Do you find that the more of the Lord’s work you do, the more frustrated you become about what hasn’t been done and the greater your efforts? Boy, I can relate to that. You know, I used to look at the Lord’s work and it was a nice little thing up here, and I thought if I can just do that won’t that be terrific. It’ll be all done. See? So I started taking doses of that, and pretty soon I started seeing the Lord’s work get bigger and bigger and bigger. And you know something, the more addicted I am to the Lord’s work, the more I want of reaching out further for more of it. You know, because the more you get into the Lord’s work the more you realize what isn’t being done. You see?
And the third word, dependence. You know, you ought to get to the place where in order to function normally, you’ve got to be doing the Lord’s work, where you get terrible withdrawal if you’re not doing it. My wife gives me a bad time about this all the time. She says if you’re not studying the Bible or if you’re not teaching or preaching or doing something like that, why are you – you just fidget all the time. You can’t sit still. People always say to me, you’ve got to get away and you’ve got to relax. Well, you know, if I go away and two days I’m away – and this is true – two days I’m away and my mind is in a mad rush because I’m saying, “But I should be doing this and I should be learning this and I should be preparing for this.” You know, so really I just – it’s very difficult because I’m an addict. But that’s okay, because I got this verse right here. See? It’s going to be my life verse. I’m addicted.
I don’t know about you, I hope you get addicted so that you – it becomes a habit that you reach tolerance levels which make whatever you’re doing now insignificant as to what you need to do, and I hope you become so dependent that you get withdrawal if you’re not involved in the Lord’s work. You know something – what I believe? I believe that if there’s love in the fellowship of Grace Church, the world’s going to see a whole pile of people addicted to doing the Lord’s work.
Let me give you a third thing. A third mark of love in the fellowship is the word submission. The word submission – verse 16. And this is so practical. Now he says, “You look at that wonderful household of Stephanas. That household that was the first fruits in Achaia. That household of people addicted to the service of the saints. You look at them and you submit yourselves to those kind of people. And everybody else that helps us and works.” Do you know something beloved? In the church of Jesus Christ, we’re to submit to people who are like this family. You know what this is telling us? That godly people set the pace for the church. Boy, we ought to get underneath and submit ourselves to them.
Now submission is a vital part of the church. The church’s life literally revolves around submission. For example, Ephesians 5:22 says, “Wives submit to your husbands as unto the Lord.” First Timothy 3:4 says that children are to be in all subjection to their parents. Children are to submit. First Peter 2:13 says the believers are to submit to every ordinance of man for the king and the governor and all the rest. Hebrews 13:7 and 17 says, we are to submit to those who have the rule over us because they must give account to God. First Peter 5:5 says that the younger in the congregation are to submit to the older ones in the congregation. We’re all to be submitting somewhere. And you can study through the Bible. It even tells us that employees are to submit to employers in the Lord.
You know, we’re all in this submission thing somewhere. If you’re a wife, you have to submit to your husband and to the Lord. If you’re a child, to the elders of the church and so forth, and if you’re a child, you have to submit to everybody frankly. If you’re a man, you say who does a man submit to? Well, a man has to submit to Jesus Christ Himself and he needs to submit to the elders who rule over him and so forth. Everybody’s got somebody to submit to. Now that’s just part of the church.
We’re not – listen to this – we’re not a bunch of people trying to get on top of each other. We’re a bunch of people who are to get under the right people. See, the church is not a power play. It’s not people struggling to get the controls or the power. It’s people struggling to get under the right kind of model, to get under the right kind of example, to find a guy like Stephanas and a house like his house and to submit to that kind of living. That’s the way the church is to be run so that you have the godly people at the top and it’s a mad rush to see who can get under somebody else. You know what I love to hear when somebody will come to me and say, “John, would you have time to disciple me?” Boy, I love people to say that even though I don’t always have time to do that. But they have the right spirit, you see. They’re saying I want to get under somebody. I want to get under somebody and I want to learn and I want to grow. See? We don’t want people who want to get on top of everybody. Even Jesus said if you want to be chief in the kingdom, be the servant of everybody. The church is designed to be a whole group of people just fighting to see who can submit. Well, wouldn’t that end all the hassles? Man alive, would end them all. You wouldn’t have all these splits.
There’s a beautiful thought here. I want you to just notice this. The word submit here is another form of the verb tassō to mean addicted. Only it’s a compound, hyper-addicted. When you find somebody who is addicted to serving the saints, you get hyper-addicted to him. Isn’t that good? You make that person a habit. You make yourself dependent on that person. Boy what a beautiful picture of the church. All those who proclaim and portray the Word of God are lined up here and everybody else falls underneath to follow their example. And you know what happens? You follow the example, pretty soon, and you rise right up there to that level, and then another bunch will come and follow your example and they’ll come up, and another bunch will come up. And that’s the way the church is to equalize itself in Christ-likeness. See? Find a godly person. Find somebody addicted to the Lord’s work and get your life underneath his or hers and make them your pattern and your model.
Paul said to the Corinthians, “Be followers of me as I am of Jesus Christ.” In Luke 6:40, there’s a beautiful statement. It says this, “A disciple is not above his teacher.” Now listen, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone after he has been fully matured will be like his teacher.” Isn’t that great? Just get under the right person, and the guarantee of God, you’ll be like that person. You get under the wrong person, you’re in trouble. Submit yourselves. Paul wanted the selfish, un-submissive Corinthians to submit to his model, to his pattern, to follow his example.
We’re called to do the same. To get under those people who set the pace for us. To model our lives after their faith and their pattern. You say, who am I to submit to? Anybody who proclaims or portrays the Word of God. They set the pace. Hebrews 13:7 says, when you find them, “Whose faith follow.” Follow their faith. Paul said to Timothy, “Be thou an example to the believer.” That’s basic in the church. And beloved, I really believe that where there’s love in the church, we’re going to do that. We’re not going to fight for our rights, fight for our prominence, fight to be a big shot. We’re going to find ourselves wanting to be under somebody who is godly so that we can grow to be like them because they’re more like Christ than we are.
So where there’s love in the fellowship, there will be evangelism, there will be addiction to serving the saints so that the needs of the saints are going to be met, and there will be submission to everybody who proclaims and portrays godliness. Oh, don’t miss that people. Don’t live your life without having a pattern to follow. And by the way, set one for somebody watching you.
Lastly for this morning, another mark – and I love this – another mark of love in the fellowship is what I call companionship – companionship. I don’t need to say much about this, it’s pretty obvious here. Verse 17, “I am glad,” Paul says, “of the coming of Stephanas.” We’ve already said a lot about him. I’m sure he was glad when he came. He must have been a wonderful, wonderful man. “Fortunatus, Achaicus, for that which was lacking on your part, they have supplied. For they have refreshed my spirit and yours.” Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, it’s enough to say about those guys that when they’re around you get refreshed. Isn’t that great? They refresh. Plus as they refresh you, they refreshed me, because they supplied your lack. In other words, I loved you and I wanted you and I wanted to be with you and I wanted to come to see you, but I couldn’t, but they came and they filled up that lack. They brought you to me and they refreshed me just like they refreshed you. Here are three guys who are just refreshing Christians. Whether it’s in Corinth with the church or with Paul, they refresh.
This is what I call companionship. I really think that where there’s love in the fellowship, there should be a refreshing companionship. You know, one of the reasons that I come to church, not just because I have to be here to preach, but one of the reasons I come to church is simply because I love to just meet all the people I count part of my family. Isn’t that one reason you come? It’s just refreshing. We’re here. It’s us. It’s our family and, you know, we have home Bible studies and many of the reasons that people come have nothing to do with the Bible study actually. It has to do more with the fellowship. You know, we should be refreshing to each other. But we aren’t always, because a lot of times all we talk about is our problems.
But I imagine when these fellows came and Paul was so burdened – in fact the word refreshing here in verse 18 is the very same word used by Jesus when he said “Come unto me all ye that labor and heavy laden and I’ll give you rest.” It’s the same word. It’s rest. They came and put Paul at ease. They put Paul at ease. Just their presence comforted him and it encouraged him and it made him feel easy. He was a worried man. He was greatly concerned over the Corinthians, and they just came and refreshed his spirit. You know what that tells me? That with all of the anxiety in Corinth, with all the pain, with all the problems, with all the mess, they had some positive things to say. People like that are refreshing, aren’t they? Be positive.
When you come to meet with the assembly of believers refresh them will you? There’s more to life than your problems. Maybe part of the reason you’re so miserable all the time is you never stop to bother with the things that would refresh your spirit. God hasn’t abdicated the throne; He’s still at work. And we need to refresh each other. You know, it’s amazing we sit around for prayer request time, and we just lay out a zillion anxieties. And every once in a while someone sort of meekly says well, this isn’t a request, but it is a praise, could I give it? Oh, don’t encourage us. It’s so good being depressed. No, I think we need to have that. You know, we need to be refreshing to each other. I just think that’s really, really important.
Proverbs, I think it’s 25 – I like this – “As the cold of snow in the time of harvest so is a faithful messenger to those who send him. For he refreshes the soul of his masters.” Do you ever walk out of the house on a cold, crisp winter with the snow and just – boy, it could be 6 o’clock in the morning and zap you’re awake. Just refreshes your spirit. And then he says in verse 25, “As cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news.” Well, when somebody comes along and has good news, like cold water to a thirsty soul. You know where there’s love in the fellowship there ought to be this tremendous interchange of good news. We ought to be – we ought to come to Grace Church and we’re like walking into a winter snow. Just wakes us up, refreshes us, alerts us. It ought to be like taking a cold drink of – we ought to go away saying, “Thanks, I needed that.” You know? Just a good whack. Christian Skin Bracer.
I think part of the life of the church is going to be that companionship. I hope you’re refreshing. I think if there’s love in the fellowship, we’ll refresh each other in our company. You know this was something that was emphasized in the New Testament as well as those passages I read to you in the Old and especially with Paul. And we don’t have time to cover all of it, but let me just remind you of Paul. Second Corinthians 7 verse 6 he says, “God who comforts those that are cast down,” listen to this, “comforted us by the coming of Titus.” Isn’t that beautiful? Titus was literally a messenger from God who hit Paul like a cold drink of water. Just refreshed his heart, by the consolation which he gave. And in verse 13 of 7 he says, “Therefore we were comforted in your comfort and the more joyed were for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all.” He says you all refreshed Titus and Titus came and refreshed me. Paul loved that companionship. It was so important to him.
Let me close by showing you one other Scripture, 2 Timothy chapter 4 verse 9. Paul is at the end of his life. The specter of the axe is in his vision. He knows it won’t be long until he’ll give his life. And he’s in this prison situation and he’s lonesome. He really is lonesome. He’s given his life to everybody else all his life. He threw his life away literally. He invested it in eternity, gave it away. And now he just would like some refreshing from some people he loves, so he says in verse 9 to Timothy, he says, “Do your diligence to come quickly unto me.” He just really wanted Timothy. Timothy refreshed Paul, just refreshed him. He says, “Because Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world and has departed the Thessalonica.” Isn’t that sad? He said, I had a friend, but he betrayed the gospel. “Crescens I had to send to Galatia and Titus he’s gone to Dalmatia. And only Luke is with me.” Now nothing wrong with Luke. Luke probably always talking about medical problems though.
He said, you know, I’d just like to have you come Timothy because you refresh me. “And would you do me another favor? Would you bring Mark,” he says in verse 11. “Because he’s profitable to me for the ministry. And Tychius have I sent to Ephesus. The cloak I left at Troas with Carpus, when you come would you bring it and bring me some books?” He says, come on, I just want some fellowship Timothy and would you bring Mark and bring my coat. It’s getting cold here. And would you bring the books? Well, Paul was a man who knew what it was to have a friend, to be refreshed in the companionship of that friend. When there’s love in the fellowship, people, we’ll refresh each other. I hope that’s true. Let’s pray.
Father, we would ask that there would be love in this church, Your love. That the result would be that we would reach to a lost world with the gospel, that we would addict ourselves to serving the saints. That we would submit ourselves to all those who proclaim and portray the Word of God and the godly pattern of life and service. And that we would be to each other refreshing companions who bring joy into each other’s lives. May we be known by our love and thus draw people to You. Amen.
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