I urge you, brethren—you know the household of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints—that you also submit to such, and to everyone who works and labors with us. (1 Corinthians 16:15–16—NKJV)

In the Kingdom of the Lord, the highest valued character quality will be the servant’s heart (Matthew 5:3–12). Our Savior is the perfect embodiment of a servant’s heart. He was the Suffering Servant of Jehovah (Isaiah 53). In all He did in Word (Mark 10:45) and deed (John 13:1–20), He modeled humble service toward His Father and toward His fellow man.

The local church is to follow in His steps. For this reason, God gave His Spirit to indwell each saint. He is the One who causes the fruit of the Spirit to grow within so that the “servant’s heart of the redeemed” may thrive. “Me-firsters” have no place in church leadership because servant-leadership must prevail (3 John 9). Power plays, egos, and self-will must yield and submit in humble obedience to biblical precept and admonishment. “Servant-leadership” is the model for every family. Each parent, in his respective role, is running a school of servant-leadership for his children as he leads in accord with the Word of God.

Maintaining a healthy servant’s heart is growing increasingly difficult in our day because of our love of “keeping our options open,” disillusionment with life in general, the coldness of men’s unregenerate hearts, and the business of distraction (not to mention the distraction of business). Our text helps flesh out a way that the servant’s heart may be maintained in the local church context.

Paul mentions the name of someone very precious to him, the first convert that Paul had in the area of Greece called Achaia. Stephanas’ family is mentioned back in 1 Corinthians 1:16 as the only family Paul had baptized in Corinth. It would not surprise me that this conversion and baptism was no “run and gun” evangelistic campaign since Stephanas’ whole family became high quality Christians to such an extent that Paul was able to place his stamp of approval on their example to the church body. What was this high standard which they set? It was servant-leadership, not that they personally sought after Paul’s approval, but rather leadership was accorded to them for their abundant serving.

The word “devoted” (KJV translates it “addicted”) is the Greek word tasso, a very military term. It means to arrange, to set (under authority), to place in order, and to appoint. It is found in Matthew 28:16 referring to the pre-appointed meeting place in Galilee where the disciples met with Jesus Christ post-resurrection. It also used to describe the instructions given as orders from a superior officer, as is found in Luke 7:6–8 spoken by the centurion: “‘Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Therefore I did not think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this.’ And he does it.’” The word in a compound form is the word “submit” (hupotasso—line up in order of rank) in Ephesians 5:22. Tasso is found in Romans 13:1, Acts 13:48, 15:2, 22:10, and 28:23.

Because of Stephanas’ family’s devotion, placing themselves under order to minister (diakonia) to the saints, they served as a powerful example of a servant’s heart and earned not only the regard of the church but also the authority from Paul to lead in service. Verse 16 uses the word hupotasso (submit) to convey the responsive obedience required of the Corinthian church.

Are you cultivating a servant’s heart by removing self-willed distractions in your life and allowing the fruit of the Spirit to grow and mature within? Are you leading in a God-honoring fashion? Trust and obey.