Merciful Lord, you so often give when I ask, reveal when I seek, open when I knock. How great you are.
Read 1 CORINTHIANS 16:13-24
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[a] 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[b]!
23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.
24 My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.[c]
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘… give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.’1
These closing words reinforce some of the great themes of 1 Corinthians and give us something new to reflect on as well. The reinforcement, first of all. We are told to ‘stand firm’ yet again (v 13). When Scripture says something so often we need to take special note. We are reminded about love as well (v 14) and we see practical demonstrations of love in the warm greetings that combine depth of relationship with holiness (JB Phillips’ translation of verse 20, ‘I should like you to shake hands all round as a sign of Christian love’, was not his finest hour!). We see practical, costly love demonstrated by the household of Stephanas (vs 15–18). To live consistently in these ways is hard, but Paul’s closing greeting conveys the grace of Jesus which cleanses, strengthens and equips (v 23).
The material on Stephanas’ household prompts a further reflection. They have ‘devoted’ themselves to the service of others, specifically to God’s people, and have clearly been doing this for some time since they were first to come to Christ in Achaia. Their help for Paul is just one concrete example of this practical devotion. Now notice a crucial point. It is because of their way of life – their devoted service – that the Corinthians were to ‘submit’ to them. See how Paul explicitly connects the two in verse 16. Here are leaders who can be trusted, for they are people of integrity. If you are a Christian leader (and many of us have at least some leadership responsibilities) your way of life is crucial. People deserve leaders of character, faith, and holiness. What are we like in private when no one is watching, or with our families? The psalmist prayed ‘give me an undivided heart’.1 Here is 360-degree devotion. What better way to close this set of reflections?
Spend time today praying that the lessons learned over the past few weeks may be firmly embedded in our lives.
Patient Father, I know I am prone to wander. Forgive me for my divided loyalties and dalliances with sin. Guide me in the paths of righteousness.
1 Ps 86:11
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