03 Servants of Christ – 1 Cor 41 Corinthians: Called to Be Saints
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In 1 Corinthians 4, Paul continues to describe his role and ministry, and he challenges yet again the Corinthians’ habit of boasting and bragging about their superiority to each other. He describes himself and other faithful leaders as sacred stewards (1 Cor 4:1-7), scarred survivors (1 Cor 4:8-13), and purposeful parents (1 Cor 4:14-21).
Sanctified Stewards – 4:1-7
— 4:1-2 Our Goal: to be Faithful to God. That’s all!
1 Co 4:1 Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.
If you could choose the way that others regard you, see you, or evaluate you, what would it be? Paul’s self-description is a model for us all: “servant” and “steward.”
How would Paul describe his role in the church? What titles or images would he choose for himself? In contrast to some Corinthians, who wanted to be kings and masters, Paul preferred to be seen as a lowly slave with a great responsibility to God.
Servant – Greek “under-rower.” Originally implied subjection to a ship captain. Often used of Sanhedrin officers or various types of attendants. Matt 5:25; Luke 4:20; Acts 13:5; John 7:32
Steward – Greek “house ruler,” from which we derive our word “economist.” Same term used in Rom 16:23 of Epaphras and rendered as treasurer (NASB) or director of public works (NIV). Refers to one who manages the possessions of another.
Paul’s stewardship: 1 Cor 9:16-18; Eph 3:1-10; Col 1:24-29; Elders: Titus 1:7
Stewardship is a recurring theme in Jesus’ teaching: Matt 25:14-30; Luke 12:35-48; 16:1-13; 19:11-17
Clear example of both servant and steward: Joseph in Potiphar’s house. Gen 39:1-18
Every Christian is a steward of what God has given him or her. “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” 1 Peter 4:10
— 4:3-5 Our God: to Examine, Expose, and Extol Us.
3 But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. 4 For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. 5 Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.
To a steward, no one’s judgment matters except that of his master. The master will judge the steward in proportion to his knowledge, ability, assignment, and task. As a result, the owner may either reward him or execute him.
So, Paul’s ultimate concern is not the church’s, the courts’, or even his own evaluation
“Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” Rom 14:4
Though Paul determined to live right before men (Rom 12:17-18; 2 Cor 6:3; 8:20; 1 Thess 2:10; 1 Tim 3:7), he did so only as one who would answer to God, not to people.
Ga 1:10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.
The Bible tells us to judge sin (1 Cor 5:12), but not to judge the hidden motives of others.
God will fully expose every dark secret of the human heart. Only His praise matters.
— 4:6 Our Guide: to Honor Leaders as Scripture Allows.
6 Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.
What is the basis of human arrogance? Of genuine humility?
Do you ever feel superior or inferior to others? Because of what?
Do you ever boast of yourself? Or feel threatened when others do?
“Do not go beyond the Scriptures” means “Stick to biblical standards.”
True in every area. Here it applies to how we measure ourselves and others. We must not rank ourselves or others according to the world’s standards, but God’s. And we must not honor or elevate anyone beyond the limits of approval set by Scripture (cf.1 Thess 5:12; 1 Tim 5:17; Heb 13:7, 17).
Pride and arrogance were pervasive in the Corinthian church (see vv. 18, 19; 5:2; 8:1; 13:4; 2 Cor 12:20).
— 4:7 Our Gifts: to Be Used as Received, not Earned.
7 For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?
Shocking but true: every good thing you have has been given to you.
Boast in God the giver, not yourself as the unworthy recipient.
Put each gift to work!
Scarred Survivors – 4:8-13
8 You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us; and indeed, I wish that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you. 9 For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. 11 To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; 12 and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; 13 when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.
Note Paul’s use of irony, “tongue-in-cheek.” A rhetorical device, not to harm or ridicule, but to rebuke and instruct.
The Corinthians’ self-view: rich; reigning as kings; wise; strong; honorable; superior to poor Paul.
Paul’s (the apostles’) self-view: Last of all; on death row; a spectacle to all; fools; weak; lacking honor; hungry; thirsty; poorly clothed; roughly treated; homeless; reviled; persecuted; slandered; scum; refuse.
Paul’s proof: “We labor.” “Reviled, we bless.” “Persecuted, we endure.” “Slandered, we entreat.”
Cf. 2 Cor 4:7-12; 6:4-10; 11:23-29.
Purposeful Parents – 4:14-21
14 I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16 Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me. 17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church. 18 Now some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power. 21 What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness?
Paul addressed the Corinthians as he were their father and they were his children.
What parallels do you see between effective parents and effective church leaders?
Paul tells these Christians exactly what we parents must tell our children.
“I’m not trying to shame you (crush your spirit).”
“I’m admonishing you because I love you.”
“I’m correcting you because I am your father.”
“I’m only asking you to do what I have done myself first.”
“I’m sending your brother to help you.”
“I’m coming to you to deal with this in person.”
“I’m letting you choose: do you prefer tough love (discipline) or tender love (gentle persuasion)?”