1 Cor. 16:15-18 - “No Lone Rangers 2”
(Stephanas, Fortunatus, & Achaicus)
Translation and Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the
Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS 14 Feb 2010
10. Now, if
Timothy happens to come,
to see that he be fearless toward y’all,
he is working in the work of the Lord, just as I also am.
There is not anyone therefore who should make him out to be a nobody,
send him forward in peace in order that he might come to me,
I am waiting with the brothers for him.
concerning the brother Apollos:
encouraged him many [times] in order that he might go to y’all with the
he was not at all [of] a will that he should go now,
he will go whenever it is a good time.
standing fast in the faith;
to be strengthened;
let everything about you continue to happen in love.
15. Now, you know
the household of Stephanas,
it is a first-fruit of Achaia,
they organized themselves for service to the saints –
that you also be organized under these guys and any who is a co-worker and
17. I am
delighted over the visitation of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus,
these men filled up the lack of y’all,
18. for they rested up my spirit – and that of
so get to know such men!
Introduction – Review Timothy and Apollos
The issue: Graciousness with young,
See to it that he be fearless toward you
Don’t despise him
Send him forth in peace
Our church is always going to be a training ground
Do you have any disciples? Look for someone who is
Protect & Respect – don’t threaten
Support & Be good senders
Role: Peer – Paul urged him to minister in Corinth and he
Issue: Wise, independent action - not following the crowd
- “Watch/be alert,”
- “Stand fast in the faith”
- “Be manly” – includes being courageous, brave, and
- “Be strong” = passive: “Be strengthened/strengthen
yourselves” from God
- Be charitable – “let everything you do be done in love”
Associate with peers, work with them, learn from
Stay alert to God and don’t budge from what the
Bible says; be willing to be different.
Let love guide your every move.
Who was Stephanas?
- Stephanas and the people living in his household are
called the “first-fruit” of Achaia in v.15.
- This word “first-fruit” was last used in chapter 15 where
Christ was spoken as the “first-fruit” from among the dead.
- The NIV & ESV interpret the Greek word for
“firstfruit” as “first converts,”
This is a reasonable interpretation, especially since the word seems to
be used that way in Rom 16:5 of the “first [person] to come to Christ in
- Since Paul had preached
in Athens before Corinth, this would make Stephanas perhaps one of
the Aeropagites who became a Christ-follower. Perhaps Stephanas then
followed Paul to Corinth.
- Notice also, v. 15 says that the house of Stephanas was a
firstfruit. This conversion to Christ was not done individually, but as an
entire household, including Stephanas’ wife and children as well as his
slaves – to mention his house indicates it was more than just himself and
- Group conversion seem strange
to us individualistic Americans, but it is not such a strange concept in
the rest of the world where important decisions are made as groups. (See Chia Wee Hian’s article “Evangelization of Whole
Families” and Donald McGavran’s “The Bridges of God.)”
- Some, (such as Chrysostom) instead interpret “firstfruit”
as describing the best results of Paul’s ministry – the family that
showed the most promise and had endured the longest in the faith. “They
took the lead in good works” as A.T. Robertson put it.
- Whatever the case, Paul mentioned back in 1:16 that he had
baptized this household, so I assume that no local church leadership was
yet in place to baptize the people in this house – they were some of the
first baptized in Corinth as the church was just beginning to form there.
- They immediately became devoted to ministering to/serving
the saints/the people in the church. Chrysostom noted that they not merely
ministered but “set themselves to minister” indicating a chosen path of
devotion in which they are always busy.
- The only other thing we know about this exemplary man is from
v. 17, that Stephanas and a couple of other guys made a trip to Ephesus to
visit Paul there, representing the church to Paul and then returning to Corinth,
perhaps carrying the letter of 1 Corinthians back with them.
- The fact that Paul exhorts the church in v.16 to submit to
a man like Stephanas makes me think Stephanas was an elder in the church.
- Who baptized the others in Corinth if Paul says he did not
in chapter 1? Perhaps local leadership like Stephanas did.
- The word “labor” which Paul uses at the end of v.16 seems
to be used as a term to describe the work of ministry carried on by elders
and apostles in the church:
- Paul has already used it to describe the apostolic work
he did in 4:12 and 15:10,
- but he also applies it specifically to elders in local
churches in 1Thess. 5:12 “we beseech you, brethren, to show recognition
to the men who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and
- 1 Tim. 5:17 Let the elders that rule well be counted
worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and
- So I think it is reasonable to consider Stephanas an elder
in the church at Corinth.
Issue: Submission to church leadership
- How easy it is to avoid submitting to authority.
- We don’t want to get tied down or obligated to commitments.
- Our flesh fears giving up the freedom to be careless and sinful and
so it naturally avoids accountability.
- That’s why my 2-year-old hides when she steals a
cookie – she wants to eat it away from the gaze of my parental authority.
- And yet, in God’s providence, it doesn’t work when there are “too
many chiefs and not enough Indians.”
- That’s why Paul singles out an exemplary man with a good
track record of faithfulness and issues this command:
Imperative: “submit to/organize under such men as these”
- There is a play on words that is hard to translate into
English, but the Greek word for “devoted themselves” in v.15 is actually
the same root as the command in v.16 “submit yourselves,” and that common
root word has to do with order/arrangement/organization. So the word progression
goes from an extraordinary man and his family who “organized themselves”
to serve God’s people in the church, to the people in the church
“organizing themselves under” the leadership of that man and his house.
- Heb 13:17 says something similar about church leaders: “Obey
them that have the rule over you, and submit to them: for they
watch in behalf of your souls, as men who will give account...”
- Later on, Clemet of Rome will write similarly to the
Corinthians, “…submit yourselves to the presbyters, and receive correction
so as to repent, bending the knees of your hearts. Learn to be subject,
laying aside the proud and arrogant self-confidence of your tongue. For it
is better for you that you should occupy a humble but honourable place in
the flock of Christ, than that, being highly exalted, ye should be cast
out from the hope of His people.”
- Authority for leadership is earned through humble service,
not official titles, charismatic personality, or a large bank account.
(Jack Arnold) Are you willing to work hard for the body of Christ?
- If so, I’d like to welcome you to come to the Friday
morning steering committee meetings.
The purpose of this meeting is to prepare men to be candidates for
eldership in this church.
- “Great leadership and great following… would solve all
church problems” (A.T. Robertson)
If you are leadership material, let’s work on making you a great
leader! If you are not called to be a leader in the church, what
will it look like for you to be a great follower?
- To be submissive as a great follower involves not cutting
the leadership down behind their backs and complaining about them to
- Rather, it involves making
them successful even if they didn’t lay the best plans, by making sure
their purposes are accomplished and not shipwrecked by problems they
- To be submissive as a great follower means opening yourself
up to real accountability rather than keeping distance that insulates you
from having to submit to too much.
- I believe that includes stepping into a covenantal
relationship of church membership.
- To be submissive as a great follower means taking seriously
the concerns of the elders in the church and following their advice if it
does not go against God’s word.
- Being submissive does not mean being a “wimp” or a
“yes man.” It means going to your authority privately and laying your
case thoughtfully before him when you believe they are doing something
wrong or unwise.
- Your submission to God and His word gives you the
authority to have a spine and hold your leaders accountable.
- So the example of Stepnanas teaches us to work hard at
leadership and also to be great followers, but it also teaches a third
- Stephanas’ household is a home-centered model of
ministry where an entire family is serving the Lord together in
the context of a local church. “they [as a household under the headship of
Stephanas] devoted/organized themselves for ministry to the saints”!
- I am so thrilled to see the various households in this
church each developing their own unique ministries.
- “Never underestimate the power of a whole family
committed to doing ministry for the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jack Arnold)
- EXAMPLE: The impact of one family: John & Lois Kyle,
friends of my family.
After a very successful business career, John went into missions. Now he
mentors younger missionary leaders worldwide through the Senior
Show Photo of their 2009
Reunion. Here’s what their children & grandchildren are up to:
1. One daughter is married and doing mission work in China.
One of her children is working with Teach for America in Spokane, WA.
2. A son is married and is a mission leader at Food For The Hungry in
He has children serving as missionaries in China and Honduras.
3. Another son is married and living in Manhattan, NY, where he leads the
Global Church Planting Program of Redeemer Presbyterian Church.
His son works in the U.S. headquarters of Mission to the World, and he
has two daughters, one of which married a C-130 Navigator in the TN Air
National Guard, and the other is helpmate to a pastor at Key Biscayne
4. John and Lois’ fourth is a daughter who is married and serves with
Jungle Aviation & Radio Service in NC. She has a daughter who manages an
apartment complex there.
There is a household that has
devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints!
Listen, that could be you! In fact, you could even surpass the Kyle
family in a couple of decades!
Fortunatus & Achaicus
Who were they?
- Fortunatus and Achaicus are not mentioned anywhere else in
the Bible, so we can only make educated guesses about them.
- A man named Fortunatus is mentioned by Clement
of Rome (ch. 59), one of Paul’s converts who wrote a letter to the
Corinthian church decades after Paul did. Clement asks the church to send
a letter back to him by Fortunatus – who may or may not be the same
guy Paul mentions in v.17.
- Since Paul has just mentioned the household of
Stephanas, it is possible that Fortunatus and Achaicus were part of that
- They probably were not sons, since Stephanas is a Greek
name and Fortunatus and Achaicus are Roman names. (Thist.)
- So it is postulated that they were slaves. An early
tradition of naming slaves by their country of origin might explain why
Achaicus has the name of the country of Achaia, which is where the city of
Corinth was. (Arnold, Thist.)
- There is also the possibility that they are the guys that
Chloe had sent, mentioned in 1:11.
- The majority of Greek manuscripts of 1 Corinthians have a
postscript at the end of the book which says that Stephanas, Fortunatus,
Achaicus, and Timothy wrote 1 Corinthians. I suspect this actually means
that they carried the letter of 1 Cor. from Paul in Ephesus up across to
Macedonia and, unable to make it down to Corinth right away, posted
it from Philippi to Corinth.
- But leaving the speculation for now, what did they do?
1. They made a “visit” to Paul in Ephesus along with Stephanas.
Here are men who have given up profitable work at home to make a ministry
2. They “supplied what was lacking on the part of” the Corinthians
(or, if you’re following the ESV, they “made up for the absence” of the
Corinthians – which is just as good a translation as any)
3. And, as a result, Paul is rejoicing with gladness because they
“refreshed my spirit and the [spirits] of [the Corinthians]”
What does it mean that they “supplied” or “filled
up” a “lack”?
1. Throughout the Greek Old Testament and Paul’s letters to the
Corinthians, this word for “lack” is only ever used to indicate a lack of material
things like food and clothing.
It may be that these three guys from Corinth brought Paul some food or
2. However, the meaning of comforting Paul through companionship
also makes sense:
This is spoken in the context of an official “visit”
of representatives of the church.
Their “coming/arrival” at the beginning of v. 17
could be the corresponding answer to the “lack” mentioned at the end of the
The idea might be that Paul feels a hole in his
heart after leaving the Corinthian church, and when these guys visited, it
filled that hole up. (cf. 1Thess 3:10)
Likewise, what does it mean that they “refreshed [people’s]
1. The word translated “refresh” is literally “rest up” (ana+pausaw)
Reminds me of the old Coke ads: “The pause that
2 Cor. 2:13 “I had no relief for my spirit, because
I couldn’t find Titus my brother…”
A visit from an old friend can make you stop and enjoy company for a while
before you go back to the daily grind
2 Cor. 7:13b “Titus is overjoyed because his spirit
has been refreshed by you all.” – Maybe Fortunatus and Achaicus had gone back
to Corinth and were able to refresh Titus as they had refreshed Paul!
When the Jamie Soles family spent the night at my
house, we had to put everything on pause and focus on hosting this family of 10
that we’d never seen before. They kept us up ‘till about midnight, and it was a
zoo, but it was refreshing at the same time because they shared with us the
same heart for God’s word, for the church, for music, and family. They encouraged
us in the Lord, and their kids eagerly traded stories with my kids about the
differences between Canada and the USA… They even gave us cool Canadian
breakfast cereals with French on one side of the box and English on the other.
When they left, we were happier and refreshed and filled with love. That’s the
way it ought to be!
confirmed, by the way, that the church still acknowledged Paul’s authority… and
furthermore, their news wasn’t all bad about how the church in Corinth was
3. Perhaps they also refreshed the Corinthians by carrying Paul’s
letter back to them (JFB), but if they had a gift for encouragement,
then no doubt they had already been going about encouraging the
congregation in Corinth. Perhaps this is what Paul meant by “they have refreshed
my spirit and yours.”
- Fortunatus and Achaicus
were the kind of visitors that you look forward to having over because
they bring thoughtful gifts, they genuinely care about you and ask good
questions, they are kind and encouraging with their words, they don’t stay
too long, and they are good at lifting your spirits.
- Do you have anybody like that in your life? I sure do, and
boy do I need them!
Issue: Behind-the-scenes people with servant’s hearts are
- The problem is that
people with a servant’s heart are easily taken advantage of. It’s easy to
milk them for encouragement and then send them off on another errand
without really getting to know them.
- They are so unselfish that they don’t ask for much
attention, so their needs can go unnoticed.
- Sometimes they are so good at serving behind the scenes
that it is hard to recognize how mature and valuable they are in our
was the man who carried the letter from Paul in Rome to the Philippian
church in Macedonia later on. Epaphroditus just about became a casualty
through his service to Paul and the church: Phil. 2:25 But I
considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my
brother, fellow worker, and fellow-soldier, but your apostle and
the minister to my need, 26 for he was longing for all of you and worried
because you heard that he was sick. 27 For he was indeed sick, almost to
death, but God had mercy on him - and not only him, but also me, so that I
would not have sorrow upon sorrow! 28 Therefore I send him more eagerly so
that when you see him again you may be glad and I myself may be more free
from sorrow. 29 Therefore, welcome him in the Lord with all joy, and hold
those like him in honor, 30 because, through the work of Christ, he came
close unto death, risking his life in order that he might fill in for your
absence of ministry to me.” Paul essentially says, “Take good care of
him; he’s risked his life to help me and you!”
Imperative (v.18): “Acknowledge/Recognize/Get to Know
- The Greek word here does not necessarily carry the
meaning of “conveying honor/respect/applause;” it is simply a word for
“knowing a lot about” something or someone.
- That’s why I translated it, “Get to know such men.” I
think Paul is saying, “Wow, those guys have been such a blessing to me! If
you haven’t gotten to know them yet, you really ought to, because they will
be a real encouragement to you too.
- However, the other translations bring up a good point: you
will do well to realize how important such men are in your life and let
them know how valuable they are to you.
- Illustration: Aunt Polly and Uncle Bob. There is a
couple in Alabama who have been friends of my parents for as long as I can
remember. Dad has been their pastor, but it has only been in the last few
years that I have begun to recognize the significance of their ministry to
my parents. Aunt Polly is an encourager. She is always visiting my Mom
with gifts and is just brimming with enthusiastic words of encouragement.
They are prayer buddies too. I wonder if my Mom would have ever made it
this far without the ministry of encouragement that Aunt Polly brings to
- Are there people in the church you don’t know very well?
Maybe you have not prioritized getting to know them because they look like
students or they don’t look like leaders. Get to know them; you may be
glad you did!
- Take the time to thank the
people God has placed as encouragers in your life – show appreciation!
I hope these character studies help you see the importance
of the community of believers around you. Being a Christian means being in
relationship with the body of Christ.
- That includes not only making disciples like
Timothy (and being discipled).
- It includes real relationships w/ brothers & sisters in Christ,
yet not being controlled by peer pressure.
- It includes submitting to elders in the church like Stephanas.
- And it includes receiving – and giving – encouragement in
the body of Christ.
May your joy be full as you walk before God in the fullness of the
community of His church!