1 Corinthians 4:1-5
Introduction: How would you determine if a minister is successful? What would the basic requirements be for making that assessment? Do you ever judge the minister? If you were to move away and were shopping for a church what is the criteria upon which you would base your decision as to where you would worship? A major shift has occurred over the years when it comes to evaluating churches. People have responded more like consumers than committed servers. They are more interested in what they can get than what they have to give. It is not unusual for pastors to sense that we are competing for those in the market similar to what takes place in the retail environment.
Competition was making a mess out of the church at Corinth. Paul writes to the believers there to deal with the divisiveness that had ensued. There were those in the church who were exalting men in leadership and finding fault with others. (kind of reminds me of many politicians who don’t merely tell you why you should vote for them, they tell you what is wrong with the others.) We sure are glad when elections are over and the commercials stop!
Paul instructs the Corinthians as to what successful ministers look like. Now before you think that this message is just for Pastor Mike and myself, you need to understand that we are all to be in the ministry if we are a child of God. We need to make sure that we are all successful ministers.
1. They appreciate the position v. 1
a. The position is one of subordination
a. We are to be regarded as “under-rowers”, as personal assistants to a superior.
b. There were two words normally translated “minister or servant”. This one meaning “under-rower and the other meaning “to run errands or wait tables. They both involve servant hood. The successful minister understands his position as personal servants of Christ! The word is also translated slaves. We don’t really like that concept but that is the mindset we need as a follower of Jesus.
c. The “captain” sets the course and the “rowers” follow His directions. They have to row together. If you have paddled a tandem canoe you know the challenge! Work together, keep your focus, encourage each other, etc.
b. It is also a management position
a. Paul says that they are also stewards – “those who have been given a trust”.
b. They were entrusted to be managers or overseers.
c. They did not own anything but were given the responsibility to care for the possessions of others. We are not to respond as those who are “renting”.
d. Because we are slaves/servants we can not claim ownership of anything! Children say, “that’s mine”, and fight over stuff. Stewards realize that they don’t own anything. It all belongs to the Masters. How might our lives change when we realize that fact? As adults we still struggle with the “that’s mine” mentality. It is not, it is God’s, His abilities, time, energy, resources and anything else we might be tempted to claim for as our own. Instead of saying something is mine we could rightfully say, it is God’s and I am managing it for Him. At least we should think and act that way.
e. Their specific responsibility is identified as the mysteries of God. They were given the task of spreading the work of the Lord and Master in His absence.
2. They adhere to the standard v. 2
a. The requirement for these stewards is that they are faithful and trustworthy.
b. This means that they follow their orders and carry out their duties with complete allegiance and obedience.
In Luke 16:1 we have the account of a steward who had done a poor job with his master’s belongings.
Luke 16:1-2 (NASB95)
1 Now He was also saying to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and this manager was reported to him as squandering his possessions.
2 “And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’
Luke 12:42-43 (NASB95)
42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time?
43 “Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.
c. “In this case” what would a faithful steward look like?
i. Faithful to God by following His will.
ii. Faithful to the word of God in proclaiming and living it’s content.
iii. Faithful to the family of God in service.
iv. Faithful to those outside the family in presenting the gospel.
v. Faithful to the end doing the work of God until He returns
3. They anticipate the evaluation vv.3-5
a. As we already noticed in the passages in Luke the service that is performed by stewards will be evaluated one day.
b. Paul talks about the judgment of stewards in the next three verses.
c. First, there are some judgments that he is not to concerned about.
d. He is not worried about the judgment of the Corinthians or by any other human standards. They are not a threat to him even though he has served them. They did evaluate him but as a steward his concern was not to please the people he served.
e. He also states that his own assessment of his accomplishments would also be invalid. To say that I don’t see anything wrong with something does not make it a good thing!
f. No human judgment goes far enough because it is very limited by its abilities.
i. It can only judge what it sees.
ii. It cannot see everything
iii. Its operating system is flawed
iv. It is incapable of judging the heart
v. It doesn’t know the right time to judge
g. The successful minister understands that God alone will be the judge. Notice some differences in the way God judges:
i. He judges at just the right time.
ii. He sees all even the things that we have thought were hidden.
iii. He will disclose not only what was done but why it was done. He makes clear the motivation of our hearts.
h. Does that scare you? It does me. I want you to notice why He judges that way.
i. His desire is to praise us directly!
Conclusion: We might evaluate ministers by the size of their ministries. God looks at much more than numbers and hours of service, He examines the heart with the desire to reward those who serve as faithful under-rowers and stewards. Do you have an appreciation for the position that we hold as a servant and steward of Christ? Are we adhering to the standard of being trustworthy? Are we looking forward to the evaluation that we are all going to receive someday? Those that are serve as successful ministers can and should!
1 Corinthians 4:1-5 (NASB95)
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.
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.