Summary: One of the serious problems in the Corinthian church concerned former ministers. Some of the church members were esteeming one minister above the other ministers and it caused severe problems.
This passage tonight goes hand-in-hand with what Jesus said in Matthew 7:1: “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” We have seen in our studies in 1 Corinthians that one of the serious problems in the Corinthian church concerned former ministers. Some of the church members were esteeming one minister above the other ministers. They were judging the gifts, ministry, and effectiveness of the former ministers and it caused severe problems:
- Some of the people had been helped and blessed by Apollos, so they spoke up for Apollos.
- Others had been helped and blessed by Cephas
- Still others were helped and blessed more by Paul.
So the people began to judge the ministers by their preaching style, ability, eloquence, charisma, intelligence, gifts, their call, and their success. They judged their whole ministry. This issue is a very prominent issue in churches today. I have been compared to former pastors here at SEBC. When I have a guest preacher fill the pulpit, people compare him to me. I have literally heard things like:
- Why don’t you wear nice suits like him?
- His hair was so much nicer than yours.
- Why don’t you walk around and preach like he did instead of staying behind the pulpit?
- When I had Bill Taylor fill the pulpit for me one person told me, I couldn’t help but notice how nice his hair was and what a nice suit he wore. I told him, “You pay me as much as he makes and I, too, will buy nicer suits and get hair stylists to do my hair.
This was happening in the Corinthian church and the fellowship of the church was threatened. So Paul gives a ninth answer to the questions that were posed to him from the Corinthian church as to how to solve this division problem. In this passage, Paul is saying, “Let God judge the ministers.”
READ vv. 1-2. Paul says, “Count ministers for what they are.” He gives three things that should always be kept in mind about ministers:
1. Ministers are ministers of Christ. They are servants. The original Greek word used literally means “under rower.” (The slave who sat below deck on a ship and pulled the large oar to move the boat along.) Christ is the Master of the ship and the minister is one of the slaves of Christ. And each minister is only one of many under-rowing servants. He is called to serve one Master, the Lord Jesus Christ.
No person who serves Christ is to be elevated above other ministers or servants in any way. No matter how much the minister has meant to a person’s life, he is only the under-rower and servant.
2. Ministers are stewards of God. When Paul says “those entrusted,” a steward, a house manager, the overseer of an estate. The steward was always a slave, subject to a master but his work was not closely supervised. So he had to be trustworthy and responsible. Notice what the minister is entrusted with—the mysteries or secret things of God.
A mystery is something that is hard to understand. It’s undiscoverable by human reason but is revealed by God to the minister. It is clear to those to whom it has been revealed but alien to those who do not receive it. What are the mysteries? They are the truths of God’s Word.
The minister is someone whom God has trusted to reveal His Word and is responsible enough to explain it to others.
3. Ministers are required to be faithful. This is the one essential for the minister. There really is no other requirement of him. He is not required to be eloquent, or brilliant, or intelligent. He is not required to be an administrator, or counselor, or socialize.
He is only required to be faithful in ministering the mysteries of God. HE will be held accountable and will be judged for how well he ministers the mysteries of God. So the minister has to be faithful to his call.
READ v. 3. Paul says that the judgment or approval of ministers by men doesn’t matter very much. When men criticize and voice their disapproval, it hurts and cuts the heart, but they don’t matter at all in the judgment of God. Man’s judgment of God’s minister has no bearing whatsoever upon what God will do with the minister.
The congregation or some clique in the church may cut the minister to shreds and they may break his heart, but they have absolutely nothing to do with the judgment of the minister’s faithfulness. Men may put the minister on trial behind his back but none of it matters to God, not one critical or negative thought.
Paul says he doesn’t even judge himself. A person who judges his own work will begin to think either too highly or too lowly of himself. Now Paul is not talking about the minister critiquing his ministry for the purpose of strengthening it. He is talking about passing judgment on himself in comparison to other ministers.