Summary: As we begin the year 2004, it is good to take inventory of our Christian life. This message begins with an INVENTORY, looks at our ministry using two ILLUSTRATIONS, and concludes with an INJUNCTION for us to be faithful this new year.
“HAVE I BEEN FAITHFUL?” (1 Cor. 4:3, NLB)
“Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self” (1 Corinthians 4:1-3, KJV).
As we start the year 2004 it is fitting to ask ourselves, “Have I been faithful during the past year?” If the answer is yes, the prospect of continuing to be faithful this year should be exciting. If the answer is no, you should resolve to be faithful this year.
Paul welcomes an inventory of his life. He uses two common vocations as illustrations of his ministry. Then he postulates an injunction to be faithful.
Paul uses in verse 1 the word "account" (Gk, logizestho). This is a bookkeeping term. It means to take inventory. He is saying that he welcomes an inventory of his life and ministry. This is a discipline that every Christian should practice regularly. One of many excellent times for taking inventory is at the beginning of a new year like today.
What is included in the inventory? We should begin with making sure that we are saved. In 2 Corinthians 13:5 Paul admonishes, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith." Make sure that your sins have been forgiven. Recall the time when you asked Jesus to be your Savior and Lord. If you die today, do you know for sure that you are going straight to heaven?
Next, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:28, "Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup." Examine yourself to see if you are fit or worthy to partake of the Lord Supper. The Lord Supper is a celebration of what Christ accomplished for us. It stands for everything that the cross stands for. Paul is asking if you are fit or qualified to observe such a symbolic ceremony.
How do we know if we are qualified? Someone hypothesizes, “If someone sues you for the ‘crime’ of being a Christian, is there enough evidence to convict you?” Or, will the jury find you “not guilty” because you do not behave like a Christian or talk like a Christian? Are you any different from the unbeliever?
2 Corinthians 6:14 to 7:1 helps us to find out if we are any different from the unbeliever. It says, “And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
Here are other ways of taking inventory: (1) Compare yourself with Jesus, not with other believers, because Jesus is our model and pattern of life; (2) Go through the list in Galatians 5:22-23 and see how you fare with those Christian virtues; (3) Go through the Ten Commandments to measure your relationship with God and with your fellow men; (4) Step on the scale of the Great Commission; and (5) Compare yourself with who you were a year ago.
Paul goes on to mention his ministries using two common vocations during his time as illustrations.
First, he uses the word “minister.” The Greek word is huperetes. In classical Greek, this word refers to an under-rower. Under-rowers man the oars of a ship. They pull the oars that propel the ship forward.
Two things must be said about under-rowers. First, they work the oars in the belly of the ship. They do not know where the ship is going. They simply obey the direction of the Captain.
Secondly, under-rowers must work in harmony. If they do not work together, their efforts will be wasted, to say the least. The ship will not move, as it should. The worse scenario is that it will go in circles. And it will not reach its destination that way.
Christians are assigned the role of under-rowers. They propel the church forward. They are under the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ. He gives the orders. But they must pull together.