Day 54…1 Corinthians 4:
1 Corinthians 4:1-5: A faithful sevant or not?
In chapter 3 Paul speaks of the status of ministers of the Gospel and how people should regard them. They were never to be the focus of anyone’s loyalties, they don’t have supernatural powers and most importantly their authority is given to them by the Master–Jesus! In these next few verses Paul teaches us to not make judgments as to whether they are faithful or not. That’s God’s job.
v.1-2, Paul starts off this passage with simply putting all preachers, teachers and leaders in their place, including him. He does this because the Corinthian believers were boasting about their teacher or leader. He says “look at Apollos and me as mere servants of Christ who have been put in charge of explaining God’s mysteries.” Paul wants the Corinthian believers to regard him and all other ministers of the Gospel as simply servants or slaves. In those days no one would ever have mistaken a servant—a slave—for his master. It is not the servant or the slave who would have been prominent but his master. So it should be with Paul and all other ministers in their service of Jesus. The servant always did what the master told him to do, it was never the other way around. They were “put in charge” or managers or stewards of “explaining God’s mysteries.” Wealthy households often had stewards who managed the family resources and ran the home and the same is true of these leaders, they had been entrusted with “explaining God’s mysteries” which is the Gospel, God’s message of salvation. These mysteries cannot be discovered or comprehended by human wisdom, but they have been entrusted to God’s servants to be carefully and responsibly taught to others. Simply put they must be “faithful” or trustworthy.
v.3-4, Paul then focusses on the biggest issue facing this church and it’s members–boasting about what preacher is better. He says “it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point.” Paul was saying that human judgment was worthless just as much as human wisdom (2:6). Because Paul had been called by God to serve and preach he only looked to God alone to judge his performance. He didn’t even depend on his own self-evaluation. When he did look within, Paul could honestly say that his “conscience [was] clear, but that doesn’t prove [he was] right.” The Lord alone could make that judgment. Paul was accountable to God and only he “will examine [him] and decide” if his performance was God-honouring or not!
v.5, So with all the above in mind, Paul warns the Corinthian believers to “don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns” or be careful to jump to conclusions as to whether or not someone is faithful. Paul was saying we can only see the outward appearance of a preacher or teacher, we can’t see their heart or their motives or even if their life is the opposite of what they preach, so don’t make judgments as to whether someone is faithful or not. The reason he says the “Lord returns” is because God alone can discern a person’s heart (1 Sam 16:7). God knows the “darkest secrets” and “private motives” of all of us. Humans can’t do this so they should not jump to judging the heart of one another…especially a preacher or teacher. And when Jesus does return “God will give to each one whatever praise is due” him. At the 2nd coming, those who have been faithful, as judged by God, will receive “praise” and a reward from him.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME? For me it is very easy to get caught in the trap of jumping to conclusions about how faithful someone is or isn’t by their actions or what they say. This passage tells me clearly to not only judge others but to also not judge myself. That’s God’s job, not mine.
WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT? I get so focused on whether others approved or disapprove of me as a teacher / preacher that I forget that God is the person I should be seeking approval from. And more importantly God is who I should be honouring with my ministry or service, not man. I want to focus more on what God thinks of me and less on what others do. And when I do face criticism or even praise I want to pray for God’s perspective in it all.
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