1 Corinthians 16:6-18
And it may be that I will abide, yes, and winter with you, that you may bring me on my journey wherever I go.…
If the apostle were before us in his Epistles as an inspired man of genius only, whose intellect teemed with great thoughts, and whose heart was absorbed in supplying fervency to those thoughts, his hold upon us would be weakened. The man has nothing about him of the intellectualist. Among the varieties of mind and character that have arisen from time to time in the development of humanity, turn for a moment to the ideal of an apostle, and tell us if the conception of such a person is not something unprecedented, an idea altogether original with Christianity. A new and most marvellous form of a public man - not a representative man, not a typical man, in no sense either the one or the other, since the man antedated the Church and had no continuation in the Church after its opening century. Take your ideals of philosopher, poet, military chieftain, statesman, ruler, and tell us what resemblance these bear to the character St. Paul sustained and the office he filled. Or take the worthiest dignitaries of the Church, and follow the procession as it moves, now in splendour and then in gloom, from the hills of Rome, over the Alps, through the forests of Germany, by the Rhine and the Rhone, over England, Scotland, and America, and see how they compare with him who fought with beasts at Ephesus and died daily. Quite as remarkable as the conception of this ideal was its realization in St. Paul from his conversion to his death. Look at the matter in another connection. What is the final test of greatness viewed in relation to society? Is it not the ease and freedom of access to the common heart of humanity, the magical power to create sympathy and fellowship, the God-like capacity to pass through the shallow feelings of admiration and conventional honour - often more of a tribute to our own vanity than to the worth of others - and to gain entrance to the depths of truthful affection? Beyond doubt, this was St. Paul's greatness. Just from an argument, that must have put an extraordinary pressure even on his great abilities, and which was well calculated, as all intellectual men know, to make him insensible, or at least indifferent, at the moment to the details of life, he is not forgetful of his brethren, but hopes to pass the winter in their midst. "A flying visit" (by the way) will not satisfy his love. But, for the present, he must "tarry at Ephesus." Why he would stay in this city, he states - "a great and effectual door is opened unto me;" the field of usefulness is large and promises vast results. Stay he would, moreover, because "there are many adversaries." Adversaries were the men to convert; if not that, to silence; but, any way, he will not desert a post of duty to gratify his desire to see the Corinthian brethren. If the Lord will permit, he will refresh himself among them, but, for a time, he will face the worshippers of Diana and bear the brunt of persecution. Then he thinks of the young Timotheus. If he visit you according to his expectation, be thoughtful of his youth, be specially considerate of his modesty, and see that his stay among you is "without fear," disturbed by none of your rivalries and factions. Honour him for his work's sake, for "he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do." "Let no man therefore despise him;" on the contrary, "send him on without annoyance, with good understanding, and kindly affection," that he and his travelling companions may come unto me. Again, some of the partisans at Corinth might suspect him of jealousy as to Apollos. The name of the eloquent and holy man had become a watchword of strife. Lest they should do St. Paul this dishonour, he tells them of the affectionate relations between them; nor will he say my brother, but "our brother Apollos," whom he wishes "greatly" to visit the Church at Corinth. But see! One of those sudden changes which originate in the soul, which pass from the soul into the nerves, and from the nerves into the muscles - one of those quick escapes from memory and stored up emotion - occurs, and what an intenser expression settles in the muscles about the eyes, and in the eyes themselves! There is a break in the thought. Two verses intervene before the main idea is resumed. And it could hardly have been otherwise. It is nature to the life; it is St. Paul in the very soul of his temperament. It was scarcely possible for the apostle to mention Apollos without being reminded of the unhappy divisions at Corinth, for we can neither think nor feel except by means of association and suggestion. Each faculty, each sensibility, is an individual centre of these activities. No wonder, then, that there is an abrupt transition, all the more true to the laws of mind because abrupt. "Watch ye." Ah! if there had been Christian watchfulness in the Corinthian Church, what criminations, what reproaches, what humiliations, had been averted! To be a man, one must be apprehensive of the dangers ever lurking in ambush; must have the sentinel spirit and habit, and must exert it every moment. "Stand fast in the faith." Occasional watching will not do; steadfastness must go along with watchfulness, and fortify you against the wiliest assault. "Quit you like men." No manhood can live without courage; be manful. Fighting is your safety, business, profession; fight like men, fight on, fight to the end. "Be strong," or as it is in Ephesians 3:16, "Strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man." But fight how? There are many sorts of fighting - business fighting, professional fighting, legislative fighting, alas! even Church fighting. And there they are, each class of fighters with his particular weapons and his code of warfare. Only in this are they all alike, viz. the fighter gets the help of the animal soul. Beastly fighting he abhors; the fighting which brings hot blood and excited nerves and quick breathing into service, he admires, encourages, and depends upon for victory. Not so is St. Paul's view. "Let all your things be done with charity" - love, and, after his grand discourse on "love," an allusion is enough. To have a gentlemanly intellect in our fighting is a rare thing and a great thing, but to have a loving intellect in fighting for what we believe to be truth is much rarer and infinitely greater. Christian fighting is a very unusual excellence. From this emotional digression, he returns to "the house of Stephanas." This family were "the firstfruits of Achaia." How he likes the figure! St. Paul had baptized this household. They have "addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints." What the precise ministry was, we know not, but we know that it was a kind, beautiful, noble service, fur it was rendered to the "saints." Think of the manifold ministries that Christianity set a going. It is Anno Domini, say, 57. Christianity has in its Churches men of the generation that saw Christ die, that beheld him risen, that witnessed Pentecost. Jerusalem, though approaching her overthrow, still shows the temple where he taught, the spot where he was crucified, and the grave where he was buried. In this short space of time, what numerous workers have entered on careers of beneficence! From the apostles downward through all grades of kind and loving agencies, mark the variety, the diffusion, the heterogeneous civilizations, the unity, the accordant response, the consecration, pervading these Christian ministries. Mark it, we say; for it is a solitary phenomenon, up to this time, in human annals. Mark it, we repeat; for all the antagonistic forces of the world are in league to crush it, and they are reinforced and augmented by Satanic power. Take a single specimen, the household of Stephanas. No information is given as to his social position, no mention made of the sphere or spheres of usefulness filled. Enough to know, it was a "ministry" and a blessed one, since it was "a ministry to the saints." Yet we may picture that Corinthian home in the midst of a mongrel and licentious population, keeping alive the fervour of its love and the purity of its private heart, watching, standing fast in the faith, courageous and strong, and abounding in the work of the Lord. We may be sure that the poor, the sick, the infirm, were duly cared for and helped, and that the home itself was devoted to hospitality. Now, says the apostle, "submit yourselves unto such." There are two kinds of submission - one to authority, the other to influence. We need both. We need law, we need grace. Law and grace are coexisting constituents in modern civilization so far as Christianity has permeated, and, in our times, influence has assumed a very significant relation to government and society. We are governed much more by influence than authority. St. Paul urges that Stephanas and his household be respected and honoured, their wishes consulted, their judgments followed. And not only they, but "every one that helpeth with us and laboureth." Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus had come from Corinth and visited St. Paul at Ephesus, and "they have refreshed my spirit and yours." They had been sent as representatives of the Corinthian Church. The comfort and cheer were mutual; let them be acknowledged (valued, recognized) for these good offices. Wise instruction this; to be influenced by excellence in others, and submit our minds to such a gracious power, is the strongest of all evidences that we are on the path of culture and piety. For it has pleased God, our Father, not only to reveal himself in Jesus our Lord, but he manifests himself also in those who are Christ's. Discipleship is a revelation and an inspiration. All the ministries are of God. They are his presence, his helpfulness, his glory, among the habitations of men. And whether it be the "ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation," or the lowly ministrations that fall in the silent dew and breathe in the hidden violet, they are alike from him who "worketh all in all." - L.
Parallel VersesKJV: And it may be that I will abide, yea, and winter with you, that ye may bring me on my journey whithersoever I go.