Summary: Seeing the Church through grace and peace
This sermon (1 Corinthians 4: 1 - 21) was preached at West Ewell Evangelical Church, Surrey, on Sunday 15 November 2015.
The epistle was written 30 years after Paul had established the church in Corinth.
The Corinthian Christians were living in a society where anything goes – lack of morals and ethics, the multiplicity of religions – just like our nation.
The key of the epistle is found in 1: 3 – having to learn in light of grace and peace from God.
We are going to look at the important areas of:
1. Having an honest opinion
2. Being the best
3. Imitating Christ
These issues are Important – they applies to all in the church, for the epistle not exclusive to leaders.
1. Having an honest opinion
In verse 1, ‘ministers’ literally referred to ‘under-rower,’ those who rowed in the lower berth of oars in a large ship – so there are no airs and graces.
(The word us reminiscent of 3: 5, where ‘servants’ originally meant table waiters.)
The word ‘stewards’ (note: that it is in the plural) meant originally the overseer of estate, work deputed by landowner – he was over others, but he was also subject to his master. There was whole area of responsibility and accountability – which will result in not to having an inflated opinion of ourselves.
No-one is excluded for as we are reminded in 1 Peter 4: 10 – ‘Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.’
We will look at gifts in more depth in future as we move through the book.
Romans 12: 3 – ‘For by the grace [that word again!] given me I say to every one of you: Do not think more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.’
George McDonald stated: ‘It matters little where a man may be at this moment; the point is whether he is growing.’
Anon said: ‘No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow your progress, you are still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying.’
Or as Yoda (‘Star Wars Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back’) commented: ‘Do, or do not. There is no ‘try’.’
In verse 12, ‘work hard’ signifies really hard work to point of weariness.
Verse 3, ‘judge’ is the word used in courtroom for public examination. We have to be reminded that the bigger picture is what God thinks. In New Testament times, only the masters had the legal right to judge their servants, as Paul and we are God’s servants so only God can judge us. We can be harder on ourselves, reluctance to praise self.
We need to find the place where God wants to be. if you think not got a role, then you are denying the gifts and talents that God has given you, and denying the your purpose on earth that God has for you.
We need to find our role. Whatever situation we find ourselves, we have the need to encourage next generation. In verse 15, it was not the teachers but slaves who superintended welfare of children (e.g. took them to school) so we might not be in so-called major role as each person vital in God’s work. Like Paul, our relationship to be unique as Father’s love.
We are not doing by ourselves (verse 9). We are being encouraged by angels and men and women. In Hebrews 12: 1, we are told we are surrounded by clouds of witnesses – we are being cheered on.
Are you being cheered on? We cannot move on if we are in the figurative chair, doing nothing.
2. Being the best
We are reminded again in Romans 12 (verse 2) – ‘Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’
N T Wright wrote: ‘What you do in the present – by painting, preaching, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbour as yourself – will last into God’s future.’
In verse 5, we are reminded that the Day of the Lord is certain, although the timing is unknown.
Part of that is working together – as we remember that in 3: 16 – 17 where ‘you’ plural and ‘temple’ singular.
Maximus in the film ‘Gladiator’ said: ‘Whatever comes out of those gates, we have a better chance of survival if we work together.’
In verse 12, ‘labour’ or ‘work hard’ signifies hard work to the point of weariness. Our challenge is as to how much effort we really put into the work that God has given for us to do. We need to put heart and soul into the work (including training, reading, etc.) that God has for us.