1 Corinthians 4:1–6
Paul’s 1st letter to the church at Corinth was written to correct many problems that had surfaced in the church. The most pressing problem and the one that Paul addresses first is the sin of division. Paul attacks this problem head on in the first chapter and continues through to chapter four. He appeals to the Corinthians to remember the power and wisdom that lies in the message of the cross. He reminds them that men, be they of high esteem, low rank or even one of Christ’s apostles, are merely servants and God is the one to whom we owe our allegiance. In chapter four, Paul tells the Corinthians that Christ’s servants must prove to be faithful and he tells them how to Measure their Faithfulness.
I. Some Measure Faithfulness in the Court of Public Opinion.
A. Illustration: The story is told of a man and his grandson who are walking down the road leading a donkey. They met a man who said, "How foolish for you to be walking. One of you should be riding the donkey." So the man put his grandson on the donkey and they resumed their journey. The next traveler they met frowned at the sight and said, "How dreadful for a strong boy to be riding while an old man walks." So the boy climbed down off the donkey and his grandfather climbed on. The next person they met said, "I just can’t believe a grown man would ride and make a little boy walk." So the man pulled the boy up and they rode the donkey together. That is, until they met another man who said, "I never saw anything so cruel in all my life, two capable human beings riding on one poor defenseless donkey!" Further down the road they met a couple of men. After they passed, one of the men turned to the other and said, "Did you ever before see two men carrying a donkey?" The point is: You can’t please all men no matter how hard you try.
Illustration taken from Alan Smith @ SermonCentral.com
1. We Can never please all people all the time.
2. When we become addicted to seeking man’s approval then God’s will takes a back seat.
B. The court of public opinion has no jurisdiction over Christians. Romans 14:4
C. Yet, those who are strong in faith are concerned about public opinion.
1. 1 Timothy 3:7
2. 1 Thessalonians 4:11–12
II. Some Measure Faithfulness by their Own Conscience.
A. Illustration: In a rare yet insightful moment, one little boy described the conscience as "something that makes you tell your mother before your sister does it for you."
Illustration adapted from Alan Smith @ SermonCentral.com
B. To Violate one’s Conscience is Sin. Romans 14:23
C. The Conscience is Not our Infallible Guide.
1. The conscience can become hardened. 1 Timothy 4:2
2. The conscience is only as good as it is programed. Titus 2:15–16
a. G–I–G–O; Garbage In, Garbage Out
b. Like setting a watch or clock.
III. Everyone’s Faithfulness will be Measured by God.
A. In Accordance to one’s Faithfulness, God will give to each his reward. 2 Cor. 5:10
B. The Measure of our Faithfulness will be the Written Word of God.
1. Imagine you wake up one morning and find that, in your driveway, someone has left you some sort of James Bond type car. The person who left the car left you only a set of keys and the instruction manual describing how to use all of the cars many features. This car is so full of buttons and levers that you can barely figure out how to start the engine. You could just "wing it" but it would be foolish to do so. What if you pressed the wrong button. With the manual there at your disposal, to ignore it would be just plain dumb.
2. Yet that is what some people do in their approach to Christianity. They throw out the instruction book. They go beyond what is written.
Today we need to be ever vigilant in our worship of God and our practice of Christianity. We should constantly check to see how our faithfulness measures up. We should care how we are viewed in the court of public opinion, as long as we don’t "go beyond what is written" in order to seek man’s approval. We must be sure that we don’t violate our conscience and that we train our consciences by the word of God. We must constantly remind ourselves that ultimately, Everyone’s Faithfulness will be Measured by God.
Mitchell Skelton, Minister–Midway church of Christ