Summary: Exposition of 1 Cor 4:1-5 regarding the stewards and servants: Paul and Apollos
Text: 1 Corinthians 4:1-5, Title: Pleasing the Man, Date/Place: NRBC, 8/22/10, AM
A. Opening illustration: Semper Fidelis, video from Marines.com
B. Background to passage: Explain why we are skipping 3:18-23. Paul now adds one last little note that relates to how the Corinthians view him (and Apollos and Peter), and this will go through the remainder of the chapter. So, still making a bridge from disunity to immorality and license, He speaks about his role and responsibility. Main thought: we see Paul encouraging correct thinking about people, apostles, ministers,
A. Simply Menial Managers (v. 1)
1. Paul again highlights the proper assessment of the importance of ministers: servants. This time he uses a different word than he did in chapter three; there he used diakonos for table waiters. Here he uses hyperetes, which means under rowers. These were the lowest of slaves on a rowing ship. They were the most menial, the most despised, the hardest worked, most cruelly punished, least appreciated, and the lowest ranking of slaves. Paul says, “that’s who we (Paul, Peter, Apollos) are.” Don’t view us as exalted leaders to follow or oppose, but simply esteem us as common servants, doing what we can to please Christ our Master. We are striving for the advancement of the Word of God for your edification. Paul also says to think of us as “house managers.” This word was used of servants who were entrusted with the property, money, and interests of the master, and instructed to carry out his will. He says that these teachers are simply Christ’s stewards that have been entrusted with the gospel (the mysteries of God). They were stewards, commissioned to manage and oversee the distribution of and application of the gospel and the bride of Christ. Their work is important, but their rank is low.
2. 2 Cor 6:4-7, 12:9-12, Ps 84:10, Philip 2:3-4,
3. Illustration: “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the House of the Lord than mingle with the top brass in the tents of the wicked,” "I would rather be a servant in the house of the Lord than set in the seat of the mighty." –Barclay, church foreclosures in ATL,
4. Remember that Christian leadership is not an authority thing, although authority is there; it is a servant thing. If you want to be great, serve the most. Get the least appreciation and the harshest treatment, deal with it. If our Lord received it, why do we think that we deserve better? We are to view pastors, teachers, missionaries, and all believers as under rowers, laboring to make known the gospel of Christ because of His command. This has a big impact on how we view ourselves, and the person sitting beside you in the pew. Because in actuality, all believers are menial managers working together to take care of the bride and the gospel. Proper view of ourselves with this perspective brings humility. If I asked five family members, and five coworkers if you were a humble person, thinking little of self, and much of others, what would they say? As a manager, how are you managing your stewardship of the kingdom, the church, the family that you have? Are you building up those around you, serving them as an under rower for Jesus?
B. One Essential Task (v. 2)
1. The later part of the text deals with who will be the one doing the judging of one’s faithfulness. Will it be the Corinthians; will it be Paul; will it be Christ alone? And verse two talks about the one task that a manager, under rower for Jesus has: be faithful. The word means someone who is trustworthy with important things, and faithful to do them. God doesn’t require eloquence, intelligence, money, fame, or skill, but simply faithfulness. Paul didn’t have to stand before the Corinthians, or the apostles in Jerusalem, or his mama, or anyone, but Christ. And the question would be: have you consistently, faithfully, managed the things entrusted to you as per my instructions? Paul’s main point is that he is free from their condemnation or exaltation. He has an audience of One.
3. Illustration: read the church covenant, “Letters? Oh, yeah – sure, got every one of them. As a matter of fact … we have a letter study every Friday night since you left. We even divide all the personnel into small groups and discuss many of the things you wrote. Some of those things were really interesting, Kent Hughes story and book Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome, Moses being successful in the eyes of the people when he struck the rock, and failing in the eyes of God. words to Take My Life (283)
4. 1) So one of the big applications to Paul’s main point is to realize that your chief audience is Christ. And He will come back, and He will settle all accounts. You don’t have to please me or give an account to me; or your wife/husband; or your boss; or your kids; or your in-laws/out-laws; or the deputy/officer that pulls you over; or the judge; or the IRS; or President Obama. But as you please God, you will 99% of the time please all those people. But remember when you are pleasing your spouse, it is because you are accountable to God. You run the vacuum not because she will make you miserable, but because that’s what God would have you do with your time and energy in loving your wife…when’s it’s your boss, remember it is because you are working for Christ, and He says be a great worker for your boss. 2) Just as Paul is going to give an account to Jesus, so are you and I. Not just rewards and losses based on deeds done in the body, but stewardship. Christ will ask you how you used what he gave you. So let’s look at areas in our lives that we have been entrusted by Christ with something: body, money, kids, grandkids, talent, intellect, skills, time, things, voice, and even your emotions. Have you done everything you can with everything that you have been given to accomplish the Master’s goals? And knowing that we have all failed, fall on grace, Rom 8:1. Know that you can do it through Him. He is not a malicious deity upstairs who enjoys making lots of rules so you will fail! He wants you to succeed, and will provide so that you can. And He instructs, commands, motivates, convicts, and encourages, and even warns for your good, and His glory. The fullest life is found in Him, in pleasing Him, in loving Him, and living for Him. So when you think about your stewardship, don’t think “I’m gonna do better, so God doesn’t get me,” but rather, “He is my treasure, and my greatest joy in life (and death) is to bring Him pleasure, therefore I will use all that I have been given to His liking.” Maybe the problem is with our joy. Maybe our joy is in the wrong things, and our tastes for things truly delightful have been soured by the empty pursuits and sugary snacks the world says are great! C. S. Lewis said, "If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." One man commented about that quote, “(it) really struck a nerve in me because it helped me to see that all of the things I loved, like sex and my entertainment, a great job with good pay, true friends and wonderful family, etc. all of those are gifts from God, and I had fallen in love with these gifts. But there is something infinitely more precious, more valuable, more lasting that all of those gifts combined ... and that is the Giver of the gifts. That is Jesus Christ Himself ... the Maker of the universe wants a relationship with me! He would let me call him "friend". How often I get so busy and caught up and distracted playing with "mud pies" that I miss the opportunity to take a vacation and to go along with God to a beautiful sandy ocean beach.”