Now I urge you, brothers—you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints—be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer. I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.
1 Corinthians 16:15-18
Like Rufus’ momma, we don’t know the names of those in the household of Stephanas. What we do know from the final instructions of Paul to the church in Corinth was:
1. They were the first converts in Achaia (one of two Greek provinces in the Roman Empire, where Corinth was located)
2. They devoted themselves to the service of the saints
3. They refreshed the spirit of Paul and those in Corinth
As a result of their life and ministry, the Corinthians were to:
1. Be subject to them (and others like them)
2. Give recognition to them (and others like them)
This is beautiful. First converts in a new region became such disciples that they became ministers to the apostle Paul who likely first led them to Jesus. It is not mentioned how much theology they knew or even if they held a positional leadership in Corinth (though some commentators think they may have been elders). What we do know is the kind of lives they lived. They devoted themselves to the service of the saints. This characteristic is attributed to pastoral leadership but to any disciple of Jesus who matures in Christ-likeness. And Paul says such people deserves (a) respect and (b) recognition. They were leaders no doubt, but it was because of their example (devotion in service) and influence (known for refreshing others).
I find this instructive for us today, especially in terms of disciple-making and leadership development. Paul made disciples and matured them to the point where they in turn ministered to him. He modeled what a life of devotion to serving the saints looked like, and they imitated him. Consequently, the investment he made into their lives in turn resulted in personal refreshment and encouragement down the road. Additionally, church leaders often commend those who can win Bible trivia contests (in other words, those who have the most Bible knowledge). I am not denigrating knowledge or being sound in doctrine, but those truly sound in doctrine (mind) will lead to a life of devoted service to the saints (hands). Of all the things that likely could have been said about the household of Stephanas, Paul chose to highlight their devotion and service to the saints. As a discipler and equipping pastor, I am praying that our church would be filled with folks like the household of Stephanas whose reputation preceded them, whose life commanded respect, and whose recognition came from heaven.
Heaven knows the household of Stephanas, and so should we. Not simply because they are written in God’s inspired Word, because because of what that Word says about their lives and what we should aspire to become as well.