1 Corinthians 4
1 Corinthians 4:1-5-Paul says that our attitude should be that we are servants of God...and consequently, responsible to Him. Notice that Paul uses two different words in this verse to describe our service to God. First, is the word “servant”. It speaks of someone who is in a subordinate role to another person. A person who takes their orders, directions and commands from another person.
- an underrower, subordinate rower
- any one who serves with hands: a servant
- in the NT of the officers and attendants of magistrates as — of the officer who executes penalties
- of the attendants of a king, servants, retinue, the soldiers of a king, of the attendant of a synagogue
iii. of any one ministering or rendering service
- any one who aids another in any work
- an assistant
- of the preacher of the gospel
The second word used to describe our service to God is “steward”.
- the manager of household or of household affairs
- esp. a steward, manager, superintendent (whether free-born or as was usually the case, a freed-man or a slave) to whom the head of the house or proprietor has intrusted the management of his affairs, the care of receipts and expenditures, and the duty of dealing out the proper portion to every servant and even to the children not yet of age
- the manager of a farm or landed estate, an overseer
- the superintendent of the city's finances, the treasurer of a city (or of treasurers or quaestors of kings)
- metaph. the apostles and other Christian teachers and bishops and overseers
This word speaks of a “servant” who is given a greater level of personal responsibility. And what is a key characteristic of a steward? He must be “trustworthy”.
- trusty, faithful
- of persons who show themselves faithful in the transaction of business, the execution of commands, or the discharge of official duties
- one who kept his plighted faith, worthy of trust
- that can be relied on
Paul says that he doesn't trust the critique of other people, or even himself, in this regard. Although he knows of nothing that he is doing wrong...he doesn't trust in his own critique. Instead, the only one that he trusts to examine him is the Lord. He tells the church to be careful of passing judgment on each other...let God do that.
1 Corinthians 4:6-16-Paul says that he has used himself and Apollos as an example in these things (they have not assumed anything for themselves that God has not given them) so that they might not assume more than what God has given, either. He then asks them who gave them their authority ("superior"). If God didn't, then where did it come from? Here they are, Apostles...and yet, these people are assuming that they have more authority than they do. The truth is, if they looked at Paul and Apollos, they would see a very different picture of what it means to be in a position of leadership.
The Apostle’s leadership led them to be…
- last of all (they have not received recognition or benefit from their service)
- condemned to death (:9)
- hungry and thirsty (:11)
- poorly clothed (:11)
- roughly treated (:11)
- homeless (:11)
- toil with their own hands (:12)
- reviled…but bless back (:12)
- persecuted…but enduring (:12)
- slandered…but seek conciliation (:13)
- scum of the world (:13)
- dregs of all things (:13)
The leadership of those opposing them…
- already filled (:8-to be satisfied, they are already receiving the recognition and benefit for their service)
- rich (:8)
- kings (:8)
The Apostles were more concerned with what they could put into those that they lead…whereas, their opponents were more concerned with what they could get out of those that they lead. The Apostles were willing to make sacrifices in behalf of those that they lead. Their opponents only want to make decisions (authority) for those that they lead. They are not willing to bear the full responsibilities, both beneficial and detrimental, of being in leadership. Paul says that he doesn’t write these things just to make them feel bad about their attitudes…but, “admonish” (to correct faulty, wrong thinking) them as his children in the faith. He is their "father" in Christ (he was instrumental in their coming to Christ)...and they should therefore follow his example.
1 Corinthians 4:17-21-Pauls says that he has sent Timothy to instruct them in these matters. But they should not take advantage of his absence...thinking that they can get away with their behavior just because he is not there. He will return. And at that time, it won't be a matter of words, or persuasive argument that will matter. But of spiritual power...because the "kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in power" (:20). In the church, the adage "might makes right" has no place. The only thing that matters is the calling of God. He then gives them a choice...will they submit to his leadership and experience his love and a gentle spirit...or, will they continue to rebel and be held to his discipline?
Prayer: Father, Paul speaks in strong language here about his role of leadership. You have called me to lead Your church. Please, Lord, help me to lead in Your Spirit and not in my flesh. I need Your guidance and wisdom in these matters. Please, Lord, help Your calling on my life to be clearly demonstrated through Your power through me...and not by my trying to assume, or control that position. I understand what Paul was dealing with. Unspiritual, immature people want to be in control of Your church. I truly need for Your calling on my life to be clearly identified by the demonstration of Your power. And, I truly need for Your authority and power to be what guides and directs me as I lead. I don't want to subtly fall into the strength of my own flesh.