Earlier in 1 Corinthians, Paul mentioned that he was sending Timothy to remind the church of the Apostle’s “ways in Christ” (4:17). Given the problems at the church in Corinth, this in-person instruction and checking in on the congregation by Timothy was necessary to secure the Corinthians’ faithfulness.
As noted in our study of 1 Corinthians 4:17, the Corinthians could count on Timothy as a reliable guide. Or at least, the Corinthians should have known they could trust him. Timothy, after all, ministered alongside Paul when the Apostle planted the church at Corinth (Acts 18:1–11). Yet Paul knew the Corinthians well and thought it possible that the suspicion they felt toward him (see 1 Cor. 4:18–21; 9:1–18) might be transferred to Timothy. So Paul, in 1 Corinthians 16:10–11, admonishes the church at Corinth to accept Timothy’s visit by putting “him at ease” and “helping him on his way in peace.” Timothy would be representing the Apostle to the believers at Corinth, and he was due the same respect and care as Paul. Though many of the Corinthians might have felt some ill will toward Paul, they were to set that aside in light of his faithful ministry and embrace him gladly. As Timothy came at Paul’s request, Timothy was to be received in like manner. Note that the church today should follow a similar principle with respect to church elders and pastors. Our elders and pastors are not infallible, of course, but insofar as they minister the Word of God faithfully, they are bringing the Apostles and their teaching to us. Thus, we should love, respect, and honor them. Matthew Henry aptly comments: “Christians should be very careful not to pour contempt on any, but especially on ministers, the faithful ministers of Christ. These, whether young or old, are to be had in high esteem for their work’s sake.”
In today’s passage, Paul also tells the Corinthians that he strongly urged Apollos to visit them (1 Cor. 16:12). Recall that many in Corinth highly esteemed Apollos, even rallying to him as perhaps the best of all God’s servants (1:12; 3:4–9). Certainly, Apollos did not approve of this. Nevertheless, if Paul were a jealous man, urging him to come would have been far from his mind, as that would mean sending one whom many of the Corinthians viewed as Paul’s rival. The Apostle, however, had the gospel foremost in mind and was humble enough to recognize the good that Apollos could do for the Corinthians. Therefore, he urged Apollos to go to Corinth.