As servants and stewards of Christ and His revealed word,
Christians are called to walk in the Way of Jesus diligently
and with humility of heart
and steadfastness of mind.
To that end, we are fine being regarded as mere slaves of Christ.
Titles, riches, or power are not our aim in this life or the next.
1 Corinthians 4:1-5
- one who functions as a helper, freq. in a subordinate capacity – Lexicon BDAG
The apostle Paul is a mere servant, a helper to the Christ in dispatching His will.
If anyone has a problem with what Paul is teaching
they need to take it up with the boss.
It is okay for us to point people to Jesus when they dislike something that He says.
We don’t beg off,
but like Paul, we just acknowledge that their problems don’t begin with us,
instead, the person is in rebellion against Christ.
A lot of people don’t like some aspect of what the word of God says.
They have their pet theology that they prefer
and so they hold that in mind
and read it into the text of the Word of God.
The less of that we do,
the closer to the truth we come.
And so we must start as servants of Christ when we labor.
We are here to deliver the message,
like Paul was;
And to be stewards as well.
- one who is entrusted with management in connection with transcendent matters – Lexicon BDAG
Paul was given the job of delivering the good news of salvation to the Gentile world.
It did not originate from him,
but he most certainly had the duty to deliver it to the world
and to see that it was kept unpolluted by worldly men.
I find these first verses convicting
and encouraging as I contrast myself with Paul.
For he has been found trustworthy time and again
as a faithful steward of the mystery of God;
faithful in both his living and his word.
He is so confident of this,
that he has no inhibitions about being examined by the brethren
or by a human court.
He knows of nothing against himself.
Paul is not being proud or clueless about himself.
Instead, his manner of life is so in-line with the role of servant of Christ and steward of the mysteries of God, that he simply has not knowingly deviated from the Way of Christ.
He is chasing after Jesus so completely
that his feet simply don’t have time to stray.
His heart is so wrapped in the love of Christ
that bitterness doesn’t have time to develop.
Yet his being unaware of anything against him
does not acquit him of being judged.
For Paul like us all,
faces the final judgment of the Lord.
He knows the motives of our hearts.
He can see into the recesses of our being.
King Jesus brings to light the hidden things of darkness,
and the motives of men’s hearts.
What praise we receive on that day will depend on these things.
For those who are cloaked in Christ
through His baptism,
they will hear the words of their salvation
Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into my midst.
But Paul is not talking only of this salvation,
but also of the commendations we might receive from our Lord
for being good stewards who put the talents given us by the Lord to proper use.
That is precisely what we are supposed to do, as Peter said in
10As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
We labor in righteousness as a result of the grace of God
poured out upon us through Christ Jesus.
And so Paul’s confidence is both convicting because I come up short,
and encouraging because it is such an excellent example of walking so entirely in Jesus.
1 Corinthians 4:6-7
yet behold the underlying truth,
God gives the increase.
We are all fellow workers with God.
But He is the primary worker.
We throw seed to land on men’s hearts.
We are one of many such seed throwers,
and it is God who works in the lives of men
to drive them toward Him and His son.
Some men become puffed up in this labor;
thinking themselves to be superior in one way or another.
But the cornerstone is Christ,
and from Him, the foundation of the apostles was laid.
The rest of us have to labor in humility
and seek to build in such a way that honors the foundation.
That is what Paul wants the Corinthian brethren to get.
Chapter 4 is the beginning of him
truly putting it to these brethren for all of their various sinfulness.
That is why the opening verses are convicting.
He is fundamentally challenging us,
asking if we know of any area where we are coming up short.
The answer is likely, yes.
And if we approach the question humbly
and submit to the Christ’s will for us,
the next steps become quite apparent.
Paul must tear down the arrogance of the Corinthians
to get them to ask themselves hard questions about their faith.
I dare to say that such arrogance is alive and well today.
Many build on the foundation of the apostles who find fault with that very foundation.
Some even go so far today
as to find fault with the chief cornerstone Himself.
These men are not necessarily trying to do evil,
they have however mistaken their efforts as the truth;
or the search, for the thing searched for.
Again, our theology can get in the way of the truth.
It is essential to read the word with a profound clarity of mind;
and with the lightest weight theological mental framework as possible.
That doesn’t mean we read without thinking, not at all.
Instead, we must allow the Word of God to do the heavy lifting,
and to put the time in on that Word
to better understand.
The Corinthians were making the mistake of living their philosophy
and looking to apply the way of Christ to it retroactively.
That is, trying to mold the word to their will
instead of being molded to the will of the Word of God, who is Jesus.
We must not exceed what is written.
Not in the name of being conservative
nor in the name of giving way to liberality.
Ours is to be as Christ would have us to be;
nothing more, nothing less.
And we most certainly cannot be playing favorites with one another.
Puffing up against our brethren
for the sake of ourselves
of for another.
We are mere servants to Christ
and ministers of the mystery of God;
servants in every sense
because everything we have
and ever will have
is a gift from God.
The truth that we know comes from Him.
The salvation we have is His gift of grace to us.
The eternal bliss is in His presence only.
The blessings of this life,
all come from Him
and Him alone.
Now notice that I didn’t say
There is a good reason for that,
sin has its pleasures.
That is how it hooks us in the first place.
Yet righteousness also has its pleasures.
These righteous pleasures,
these, too, are from the Lord.
It is, however, a distinction that must be made.
The Corinthian brethren are struggling with these distinctions.
They are puffed up on behalf of their preferred teachers.
They are arrogant toward Christ’s Way,
acting as though they know a better way to handle things.
They have this problem in the first century,
and too often, men have this problem in the twenty-first.
Look at all the various ways men say that they worship God.
Look at the inventions they come up with to “honor” God,
yet they do not do what He commands.
6And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.
7‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’
8 “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”
Today we have the same things happening all over.
We must be chastened by this too,
that we do not heap up for ourselves hypocritical traditions.
Instead, let us always seek to keep the commands of God
rather than chasing the teachings of men.
Not that we forsake all tradition,
instead, we practice the traditions of the apostles that were given by them from Christ to us.
This is the way forward,
to go back to the old paths
and walk therein
like those in Isaiah’s day.
12 “Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; You will raise up the age-old foundations; And you will be called the repairer of the breach, The restorer of the paths in which to dwell.
Yet too many are more like those of Jeremiah’s day.
16Thus says the LORD, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
And that is the most significant problem we have today.
Many say, “we will not walk in it.”
They are already filled with false ideas
and won’t let them go.
1 Corinthians 4:8-13
Never let it be said that sarcasm cannot be used toward a righteous end.
Verse eight is probably one of the most biting bits you’ll read.
But these guys had become too arrogant.
They were living with the hubris of kings.
And so Paul seeks to remind these emperor’s that they have no clothes.
By way of contrast, we have here the apostles of Christ.
These are the ambassadors of the Most High and Holy King over heaven and earth.
Yet this is how they are treated.
- Men condemned to death.
- A spectacle, a theater for the world’s bloodlust.
- A spectacle for all of creation as a testimony:
- That we would know that they truly believed these things.
- That they were not in it for gain.
- That these things are true.
- A spectacle for all of creation as a testimony:
- A spectacle, a theater for the world’s bloodlust.
Major: Men will not die for a thing they know to be a lie.
Minor: The apostles were the first to preach their doctrine and therefore knew if it was true or not.
Minor: The apostles died for the doctrine they preached.
Conclusion: Therefore, the doctrine was true.
So for this purpose, God exhibited the apostles last of all.
Last among men, and as a lasting proof of the Christ,
they became fools for Christ’s sake.
They were all tortured with the only exception being John,
who died in exile.
They were made weak,
that the gospel would not be based on their strength,
but rather that of God and Christ.
They were dishonored and treated as criminals.
Often tortured for no wrong,
imprisoned for no crime.
They were hungry, thirsty, and tired.
They were poorly clothed, roughly treated, and homeless.
when they were reviled, they blessed.
When they were persecuted, they endured.
When they were slandered, they conciliated.
And when it was all said and done,
they have the ultimate glory with Christ.
For they, in becoming the scum of the world,
brought forth the gospel of Christ
and have eternal crowns of glory with Him in heaven above.
All of this is such a good set of contrasts Paul has given us.
He is pointing the way to Christ,
and encouraging the Corinthian brethren to be truly rich
in deep spiritual blessings
and not in worldly ways.
This is a hard standard to come up to,
and yet rise we must.
1 Corinthians 4:14-21
Paul doesn’t give us the standard of living that the apostles endured
to shame us.
Instead, he is writing to the wealthy Corinthians,
and to us wealthy Americans too,
to admonish us
to be imitators of him.
He was looking to be like his heavenly Father,
and like the Christ.
To honor his king, and be a good servant of Christ
and a good minister of the mystery of God.
He sent Timothy to remind them of the Way of Christ
which they saw lived in Paul while he was among them,
and which he taught in every church.
He came not only with his manner of life and his teaching,
but also with great power from on high.
For he was richly blessed by the Spirit of God
to work signs and wonders
as a testimony of the truth of his words.
And this, the Corinthians knew as well as any of the churches where Paul worked.
So he closes this section and opens the next with a strong warning.
Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness?
Paul called these brethren his children through the gospel in Christ.
These last words in this chapter are the sort of things good dads live.
Not the least of which is our heavenly father.
Look how He warns us through this letter and throughout scripture
to not forsake Him,
lest He have to admonish us,
or even if we refuse to turn
to cast us into the outer darkness of hell.
You see, our heavenly father also says to us:
A rod, or love and a gentle spirit.
The choice is ours.
If your choice today is to accept the love and grace of our Lord and Savior;
and to turn toward God in obedient faith
confessing the Christ as Lord and Savior, Son of God
to be baptized into Him
and risen in those waters
as a new creature
receiving the Holy Spirit
at that point obedience
as a sign of your future redemption;
then please contact us
and we would be delighted to help you take these steps
and help you walk in the Christ all your days.
The choice is and has always been yours.
Appendix A: Appendix of Verses | by order of appearance
- 1 Corinthians 4:1-5
- 1 Peter 4:10
- 1 Corinthians 4:6-7
- Mark 7:6-8
- Isaiah 58:12
- Jeremiah 6:16
- 1 Corinthians 4:8-13
- 1 Corinthians 4:14-21
Glossary of Key Terms
|Servant||one who functions as a helper, freq. in a subordinate capacity – Lexicon BDAG|
|Stewards||one who is entrusted with management in connection with transcendent matters – Lexicon BDAG|