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#10 Kings or Servants

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(A Sermon Series on I Corinthians)

Westgate Chapel 5/17/98 a.m.            I Corinthians 4

PROPOSITION:  Men ought to regard us as servants of Christ, with the attitudes of a servant, the life of a servant, and the heart of a servant.

I. introduction

-     THE heart of the Christian life is a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, administered and empowered by the person of the Holy Spirit.

-     IN order for you and me to be ready for this relationship with God, there is a fundamental, supernatural change that is needed in our lives.

-     IT is not just the old you, with a little dash of religion.

-     IT is a fundamental change by the grace of God in you and me.

-     II CORINTHIANS 5:17 says,

      “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

-     IF you are in Christ, there has been a change in you....180 degrees from the ways of the world!

*     It is a change of citizenship.

•     Once you were a citizen of this world, with allegiance to this present evil age, destined for the wrath of God and the judgment of hell.

•     Now, Paul writes that you are “ longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household.” (Ephesians 2:19)

•     In Philippians 3:20 Paul writes, “...our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

*     It is a change of heart.

•     Once you had a heart of stone. Nothing touched you, nothing phased you, nothing moved you.

•     Now you have been given a heart of flesh. In Ezekiel 11:19, God said, “I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.”

*     It is a change of substance.

•     Once you were darkness. Your thinking was dark. Your motives were dark.

•     But Ephesians 5:8 says, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.”

*     It is a change of priorities.

•     Once you used to take care of #1, first and everything else and everyone else was a distant second.

•     Now you “ first his kingdom and his righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33)



*     It is a change of vocation.

•     Once you were the king of your own domain. You did what you wanted, said what you wanted, went wherever you wanted, acted however you wanted.

•     But now that you have been bought with so high a price you are not your are a “...servant  of Christ.” (I Corinthians 4:1)

-     AND it is this change of vocation that Paul writes about in great detail in I Corinthians 4.....from kings to servants of Christ.

-     BEFORE Paul moves on to a range of other subjects in I Corinthians, he takes one last crack at the problem of divisions in the church at Corinth.

-     AND in one sweep of the brush in chapter 4, he paints the contrast between kings and servants.

-     AND it is this difference in self-understanding (between kings and servants of Christ) that Paul feels is at the heart of the problems of division.

-     THIS is the context for I Corinthians 4.

-     AND it will be the problem in any church unless we understand that when we came to Christ there was a fundamental change that took place in our vocation.

-     WE are NOT called to be kings....with titles, and footmen attending us, and carriages, and robes and crowns.

-     WE ARE called to be servants of Christ....with aprons, and towels, and brooms and buckets, and long hours, and little earthly recognition or reward.

-     PLEASE be patient this morning. I don’t believe that this message will take any longer than usual, but it does take the whole chapter....and can’t be broken down.

ii. the attitudes of a servant

-     PAUL starts chapter 4 with a statement of how people ought to “regard” or view him, Apollos, Cephas, and the others.

-     VERSE 1,

      “So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God.

-     THERE is the heart of this chapter....servants of Christ.

-     THE Greek word for servant is huperetas, which literally means “under rower.” It is the rower in the lower decks of a ship of those days, under the command of the captain, whose pull on the oar got the boat through the ocean.

-     UNSEEN, without title, without position or rank, without acclaim, without privilege....a servant.

-     UNIMPORTANT in the world’s system of ranking and rating....but absolutely essential to the forward progress of the ship.

-     A SERVANT!

-     PAUL says, this is how men ought to see servants......of Christ.

-     THEN in the next 6 verses Paul describes several of the attitudes associated with being a servant of Christ.



1.   DETERMINED to be faithful because we have been given a trust.


-     VERSE 2,

      “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” (Verse 2)

-     THE “trust” is the life of Christ within you....treasure in an earthen vessel.

-     IT is the person of Jesus in residence in you, being revealed to the world.

-     THAT trust is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

-     IT doesn’t belong to you. You are simply a servant.

-     AND your task is to prove faithful.

*     Throughout the parables, Jesus commends the servant who is faithful in His Master’s house.

•     Faithful in stewardship.

•     Faithful in management.

•     Faithful in labor.

•     Faithful in prayer.

*     Throughout the epistles, Paul and Peter refer to friends, associates and fellow-laborers as faithful.

*     Jesus says to the believers in the church in Smyrna,

      “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10)



2.   DETERMINED to do right because the Lord is my judge.


-     THE work of a servant is always under scrutiny. But even in that there is an attitude required of a servant.

-     VERSE 3,

      “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. (4) My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. (5) Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts.” (Verses 3-5a)

-     DON’T be unsettled by the judgments of others....they don’t have God’s perspective on your life and you are not their servant, but Christ’s.

-     DON’T spend a lot of time judging yourself.....because your perspective is tainted by your humanity as well and fairly unreliable.

-     DON’T jump to conclusions about others...because you are not God and will never have the whole picture that He does of their lives.

-     THE Lord will  be the final and absolutely accurate judge of His servants.

-     SO wait, hold your judgment, and leave things in His hands.

-     THAT is what servants do.

-     SERVANTS don’t concern themselves with things outside of their sphere of responsibility.....they tend their oar....period.

-     THAT is the attitude of a servant.


3.   DETERMINED to keep my eyes on Jesus, not man, for my reward, because my praise comes from God.


-     VERSE 5b,

      “At that time each will receive his praise from God.” (5b)

-     A SERVANT is not looking around for recognition or thanks now.

-     HE or she knows it will come from the that right time.


4.   DETERMINED to not brag or compare myself to others, because everything I have comes from God.


-     VERSE 6,

      “Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, "Do not go beyond what is written." Then you will not take pride in one man over against another. (7) For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (Verses 6-7)

-     PAUL and Apollos are applying these attitudes of a servant of Christ to the Corinthians will learn that it is God’s written Word, not man that is to be lifted up.

-     HUMILITY is the standard of a servant of Christ, not taking pride in one man over another.

-     WHAT makes one man different than another?

*     Looks?

*     Intellect?

*     Teaching ability?

*     Singing voice?

*     Hospitality?

*     Administrative ability?

-     WHERE did those abilities and strengths come from?

-     SO, where does the credit for them go?

-     SO, humility about ourselves and towards others is the watchword of the servant of Christ....since he/she can take NO credit for ANY of it.

-     THE attitude of a servant of Christ....

1.   Determined to be faithful because we have been given a trust.

2.   Determined to do right because the Lord is my judge.

3.   Determined to keep my eyes on Jesus, not man, for my reward, because my praise comes from God.

4.   Determined to not brag or compare myself to others, because everything I have comes from God.

-     THE attitudes of a servant of Christ.

iii. the life of a servant

-     LET’S move on.

-     WHAT kind of a life can you expect, now that you are a servant of Christ?

-     IN the next few verses Paul draws a contrast between servants and kings.

-     AND it appears that the believers in Corinth thought they were kings.

-     SO, rather than hit them over the head, Paul uses some sarcasm to get their attention.

-     VERSE 8,

      “Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have become kings-- and that without us! How I wish that you really had become kings so that we might be kings with you!”

-     DO you see any similarity between Paul’s read on the self-understanding of the Corinthians....and Jesus’ letter to the Laodiceans (Revelation 3:17)?

*     “I am rich...I have acquired wealth”

*     “I don’t need  a thing.”

-     HARDLY the life of an under-rower.

-     WELL, what kind of life can a servant of Christ expect in this world?

-     VERSE 9,

      “For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men.”

-     WHEN a king would go to war and win, he would come home in a parade fashion and the people at the end of the procession usually would be the people assigned to give up their lives.

-     WE live in a society that is intent on saving your life....not giving it up.

-     BUT the life of a servant of Christ is not one of luxury and contentment....but of self-denial and death to self.

-     JESUS said,

      “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (25) For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)

-     PAUL goes on to describe the life of a servant of contrasting his life with how the Corinthian “kings” viewed their lives.

-     VERSE 10,

      “We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! (11) To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. (12) We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; (13) when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.”

-     THAT is the life of a servant of Christ.....because this world is NOT our home.

-     THIS is the present evil age.

-     AND friendship with the world is hatred toward God (James 4:4).

-     SO we need to realize that we will never be kings in this life.....and being a servant of Christ is going to be TOUGH!

iv. the heart of a servant

-     AND lastly, in this chapter, Paul talks to the believers in Corinth as a father.

-     REMEMBER, Dean Sherman taught us last summer that the role of the father is to provide care and order.

-     IN the first 7 verses he taught them the attitudes of a servant.

-     IN the next 6 verses he taught them about the life of a servant.

-     AND now in the last 8 verses he says,

      “I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you, as my dear children. (15) Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.” (Verse 15)

-     WHAT is the role of the father? Care and order.

-     LISTEN to Paul trying to being order to their lives in verse 16...through his life and teaching,

      “Therefore I urge you to imitate me. (17) For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church. (18) Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you. (19) But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have. (20) For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. (21) What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a whip, or in love and with a gentle spirit?”

-     WHAT is Paul calling for here?

-     HE is asking the servants of Christ in Corinth if they were willing to be teachable.

-     HERE are the key phrases in these verses....

*     Imitate me....apply my teaching and lifestyle!

*     Receive Timothy as a teacher amongst spite of his youthfulness.

*     Listen to Timothy as he teaches you!

*     Timothy is going to instruct you in the way I have taught you and shown you.

*     Some of you are arrogant and unteachable....acting and talking as if you know it all.

*     The choice is yours as to how I teach you when I come....with a whip or a gentle spirit.

*     The difference will be if you are teachable or not.

-     THIS is my last point this morning. The “heart” of a servant is teachable, not arrogant or quarrelsome.

v. conclusion

-     THE attitudes of a servant of Christ are being,

1.   Determined to be faithful because we have been given a trust.

2.   Determined to do right because the Lord is my judge.

3.   Determined to keep my eyes on Jesus, not man, for my reward, because my praise comes from God.

4.   Determined to not brag or compare myself to others, because everything I have comes from God.

-     THE life of a servant of Christ is tough sometimes.....occasionally leaving you feeling like you are at the end of a parade assigned to die.

-     THE heart of a servant of Christ is teachable, not arrogant and quarrelsome.

-     ARE you a servant of Christ?

-     JOHN 12:26,

      “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”


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