Does 1 Cor. 16:15, 16 indicate that the church at Corinth did not have elders? Is responsibility of overseeing the flock placed on the faithful first, or "charter" members of a congregation which does not have elders?
I recall no place where the term "elder," or "elders," occurs in either of the letters to Corinth. At Paul's first visit to Corinth he remained about a year and six months. It seems that First Corinthians was written about three years after he left Corinth, near the end of his three years stay at Ephesus (1 Cor. 16:5-8).
1 Cor. 16:15, 16: Now I beseech you, brethren (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have set themselves to minister unto the saints), that ye also be in subjection unto such, and to every one that helpeth in the work and laboreth." It is not said that these men were set apart as elders, but it is plain that they were doing the work of elders. Perhaps they had been so appointed; or else, on account of their ability and energy in carrying on the work of the Lord, the church by common consent looked to them as leaders in the work. Both nature and the Scriptures put the better informed and the more experiencedinthe lead. In the church those who have been members the longest have the most experience, and should have more scriptural knowledge than others. It is a pity, even worse than a pity, that some members, who know little or nothing about the Bible do not hesitate to put up their ignorance and poor judgment against the wisest and best-informed meninthe church. Like the characters described by dude, they "rail at whatsoever things they know not."
The subjection required was not because the men mentioned had any official authority, but, like all acceptable service, the subjection was to be voluntary. If you were following the guidance of a man who knew the way through dangerous swamps or over dangerous mountain trails, you would obey his instructions you would submit to him, not because he had any authority, but because he had knowledge and experience. In fact, if you were sensible, you would gladly be in subjection to him. The application to living the Christian life is easy. There is authority in knowledge and experience that all people of sense recognize: but, strange to say, in religion people use less sense than in other matters. - R. L. Whiteside in Reflections