4.1 Let a man so account of us (consider us), as of the ministers (servants) of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. 4.2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. 4.3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment (human court): yea, I judge not mine own self. 4.4 For I know nothing by myself (against myself); yet am I not hereby justified: but He that judgeth me is the Lord. 4.5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest (reveal) the counsels (motives) of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.
The context of verses 1-5 brings out 3 main thoughts.
- Paul describes that the outstanding character of the office a pastor of the church is that of being a servant of The Lord Jesus Christ. Paul urges the Corinthians not to think of himself, Peter or Apollos as leaders of parties, but as servants of The Lord Jesus Christ.
- Paul shows that an absolutely essential part of being a spiritual overseers responsibility in the body of Christ is that he be a faithful steward in dispensing the mysteries of God.
- Even though the matter of the judgment formed of him by the Corinthians was absurd. He calls both himself and others to remember that there is a time when The Lord will bring to light every single deed and the motive behind them at The Judgment Seat of Christ.
But as we so often see when we work our way through Scriptures, in expounding the immediate context, we are going to come across and bring out some biblical principles regarding servanthood, stewardship and judging others that applies to all of us who are in the body of Christ.
Lets talk a bit about what it means to be a servant.
Paul was an apostle; as was Peter. That was their office. But here he expresses his humility by using a Greek word for servants that literally means. “Under rowers to express what his title was before God.”
There are several different words in the language of the New Testament to describe a servant. Here, Paul uses the word that was used to describe the lowest, most menial, and most despised galley slaves, who rowed on the bottom tier of a ship. The sole responsibility of the under rower was to row according to their captain’s bidding.
This definition of the term servant or under rower quickly dispels the contemporary image of the pastor or spiritual overseer as being a CEO or spiritual leader of rock star or superstar status.
Spiritual overseers in the body of Christ are called to be servants. Whether the call of God is to be a bishop, pastor, elder or deacon, we are all under rowers in the body of Christ who are ultimately responsible to our Captain, The Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 1.1 Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle.
An under rower doesn’t set the course or determine the direction of the ship independent of his Captains command or will.
A spiritual under rower’s ministerial duty has already been set by The Lord Jesus Christ and it know as the Great Commission which is essentially two-fold:
- Winning lost souls to Christ by preaching the gospel
- Making disciples by the teaching of God’s Word
These 2 responsibilities are to be carried out within the local church according to the specific leading and guidance of The Lord Jesus Christ Who has declared I will build My church.
There may indeed be varying degrees of calling and accountability within our very own church family. But at the end of the day, our church is called to be a Spirit filled, God glorifying, and Christ centered community of servants.
Jesus said, Matthew 23.10-12 Neither be ye called masters: for One is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
There is only One Master here at Koinonia Fellowship, and that is The Lord Jesus Christ.
To be a true servant of Jesus Christ requires humility. There is no room for pride or personal agendas, because pride divides and quenches the Spirit of God.
And Who is our example of what it means to be a servant? The Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
Philippians 2.5-8 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Consider the humility of Jesus Christ in the Incarnation. Paul’s message for every person who calls this their home church to have the same humble, self denying mindset as Jesus Himself.
John 13.12-17 So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
Jesus assumed the garments and position of a common servant. His self-humbling act of washing feet is meant to be an example to all believers. Think of whose feet Jesus washed.
Mark 10.42-45 Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many
The highest calling of any human being on earth is to be a servant of The Most High God. Jesus came to serve, not to be served. Greatness in God’s kingdom is measured by a servant’s heart that is driven by a supreme love for The Lord Jesus Christ and the honor and glory that is due His Name.
A servant of God does not need a title, a crowd, or a stage in order to serve. A servant of God serves Jesus Christ because he or she has understood the love and grace of Calvary and has cultivated the reality of the power and presence of Jesus Christ in their lives.
In addition to being servants, Paul also declares that he and any other spiritual overseers are called to be stewards of the mysteries of God.
A steward is someone who serves as an administrator or overseer of something that belongs to someone else.
A spiritual steward in the body of Christ is a person who is called to feed God’s people The Word of God. When Jesus restored Peter, He said Peter if you love Me, feed My sheep.
Spiritual overseers are called by God to be faithful dispensers of the mysteries of God. A mystery being a divine revelation previously hidden. Here the word mystery is used in its broadest sense as pertaining to God’s full revealed truth in the NT.
2 Timothy 3.16-4.5 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
Spiritual overseers are called to bring forth the truth of God’s Word instead of tickling people’s ears with things that they want to hear to suit their own carnal passions and pleasures. Scripture is not given to make me feel good about however I am living. Scripture is given that I might know how to live good, think right, be holy and bring glory to God.
Spiritual stewards are not called by God to mix the teaching of Scripture with psychology, philosophy, sociology or worldly methodology. Beware of any teacher who uses psychology, philosophy, sociology of methodology to “prove” the truth of Scripture.
Beloved, read The Word, love The Word, embrace The Word, live The Word and let science, education, and all and any other “ology’s” bow the knee to the authority of Scripture.
What kind of a “steward” are you?
Everybody in the body of Christ is a steward. The word steward reminds all of us in the body of Christ that all that we possess ultimately belongs to God. A steward is not the owner, but the operator, and manager of what belongs to The Lord.
This means that the use of our finances, possessions, time, and gifts are to be done with the interests and purposes of The Lord Jesus Christ and His kingdom at heart and in focus.
For the uses of these things, good or bad, we will be held accountable at The Judgment Seat of Christ.
Stewards are required to be fond faithful. Faithful, not famous. Faithful, not popular. Faithful, not hip or cool. Faithful, not flashy. The most essential quality of all servants or stewards in the body of Christ is to be obedient to our Master, Jesus Christ.
Vs. 3-5 In these 3 verses, Paul presents three kinds of judgment: (1) the judgment of people, which he does not fear; (2) self-judgment, and he says he “knows nothing against himself” (not “by” himself); and (3) the judgment of God, which is the only true judgment.
The judgment of people-Judged by you – Paul was, in a manner of speaking, on trial in Corinth; the members were passing judgment upon his talents, upon his motives, upon his administration. It even appears that some of the Corinthians were critical of Paul because of his lack of eloquence (1 Cor 2:3–4; 2 Cor. 10:10).
As sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the whether we like it or not, if you are in any public ministry position, you will inevitably face the scrutiny and judgment of others. It is something that we cannot avoid. Paul was not callous or contemptuous of the opinion of others. Yet the critics in his life did not direct Paul’s life. They were not at the steering wheel of his life. The cross and love of Jesus were the driving power of Paul’s life and ministry.
The judgment of himself-I know nothing against myself.
In spite of the absurd accusations lodged against the authenticity of Paul’s apostleship and teaching; Paul could say before God that his doctrine and motivation for ministry was pure. In the book of Acts, we read:
Acts 23.1 And looking intently at the council, Paul said, Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.
He goes on to say to the Corinthians that a human verdict on his life is not the one that matters, even if it was his own. But please note here that he still recognized that even his own judgments were only human and he realized that even his own conscience could be mistaken.
Jeremiah 17.9,10 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
Just because we feel confident about our actions or motivations, we should never be so puffed up with pride that we assume we are always correct in our personal views and actions. Keep in mind beloved that when somebody judges us, right or wrong, we should be extremely thankful because we all know worse things about ourselves than does the person who is criticizing us.
2 Corinthians 10.18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
The judgment of God-He that judges me is The Lord
This refers to the time when God will eventually bring to light the secret acts of all individuals, exposing their true thoughts, attitudes and motives–good as well as bad.
2 Corinthians 5.9-11 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.
The terror of the Lord (the appropriate reverential awe or fear of our Creator and Judge vv. 9, 10), coupled with the love of Christ (vs 14) strengthens our resolve to serve Him and please Him, as well motivate us to persuade others to trust in Christ.
He repeats here what he previously pointed out to them in 1 Cor 3.13. Each one’s work will become manifest, for the Judgment eat of Christ will disclose it. Every thought, word deed and motive will be revealed or exposed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.
Proverbs 21.2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts.
Matthew 10:26 there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.
Scripture is very clear when it declares that the final and ultimate evaluation of any ministry and the motives for serving the people of God belongs to God alone.
An important point to make regarding the matter of judging. The typical response of people who are confronted when they are clearly out or order or are living outside of the prescribed moral will of God is judge not and you shall not be judged.
Please bear in mind beloved that Paul is not speaking here of judging the actions of men, which may be reckoned good or bad according to the word of the Lord, which he is most certainly going to do throughout this epistle. When Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, judge not and you shall not be judged. He proceeded to warn them about false prophets. To recognize a false prophet you need to be able to make a judgment based upon truth Scripture.
So when Paul is telling us to not judge, he is not saying that we should not call sin a sin.
He is not saying that we should not address someone who is biblically out of order.
He is not saying that we should not call out false teachers or heretical teaching by name.
Each one of us will appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ. What is going to be judged there? We know that we shall not be judged for our sins, because a believer’s sins have been removed as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12). Our sins are under the blood of Jesus Christ and God remembers them no more. The believer will be judged for his stewardship.
I truly believe that at he Judgment Seat of Christ, there will be many unrecognized saints who will be rewarded, not because they did some great thing or had some great gift, but because they were faithful in the little or behind the scenes things that they did for the glory of God. Beloved, be faithful to The Lord in all that you do. God does not call us to be famous, but faithful.
Am I a servant (under rower) of The Lord Jesus Christ? Am I using the time, talents, resources and abilities that God has given me to display His glory and the furtherance of His gospel? Am I investing the time, talents, resources and abilities that God has given me into the lives of others, both inside and outside of the church for the glory of God?
Jesus said, Matthew 6.24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Just as the eye cannot be divided, neither can the heart be divided. The call to salvation, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, is also the call to be a disciple and serve Him in Spirit and in truth with a single eye and heart.
No human being can have more than one master in his or her life. You cannot be totally devoted to God and anything else anymore than you can be married to more than one person at a time.
Is Jesus Christ Lord of your life? Have you repented of your sin and placed all of you faith for forgiveness of sin squarely upon His sacrifice on the cross? Are you willing to follow Him as Master and Lord of your life, no turning back?