Summary: In today's lesson we learn about the characteristics of the faithful minister of God.
We continue our study in The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians in a series I am calling Challenges Christians Face.
One of the challenges that Christians face is a clear understanding of the characteristics of faithful ministers. Let’s learn about this in a message I am calling, “The Faithful Minister.”
Let’s read 1 Corinthians 4:1-5:
1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. (1 Corinthians 4:1–5)
I had been an Associate Pastor for about a year when I contracted chicken pox. Since I had chicken pox as a child this was the second time I had the illness. You may have heard people say that getting chicken pox as an adult is very hard; let me assure you that they are right! I was miserable! I just wanted to die, which was not what my new bride wanted to hear!
I had pox marks all over my body, including my face. I did not shave as I did not want to create scabs on my face. Finally, after more than two weeks I felt better and was able to go back to work. But I thought that I might as well grow a beard since I had a good start on it.
I don’t grow a nice-looking beard. I have what is known as an “Apache” beard—a patch here and a patch there!
Finally, after about 6 months I shaved off my beard. I could not believe the comments after I shaved my beard off. Everyone was so glad that I had shaved off my beard! Apparently, people would comment every Sunday at lunch about how bad my beard looked! Someone even went so far as to say that instead of having roast beef for lunch each Sunday, they would have “roast Freddy”!
Over the years I have learned that the appearance of pastors is not the only thing that Christians evaluate. Christians constantly evaluate their pastors. And all kinds of criteria are used to evaluate their pastors, such as success, influence, giftedness, effectiveness, and so on. Pastor John MacArthur says that “some magazines periodically make surveys and write up extensive reports, carefully ranking the pastors by church membership, attendance at worship services, sizes of church staff and Sunday school, academic and honorary degrees, books and articles written, numbers of messages given at conferences and conventions, and so on.” And then he concludes with this challenging statement, “As popular as that practice may be, it is exceedingly offensive to God.”
In today’s passage Paul focuses our attention on the characteristics of faithful ministers. He sets before us the characteristics of the faithful minister of God.
And so, in today’s lesson we learn about the characteristics of the faithful minister of God.
Let’s use the following outline for today’s lesson:
1. The Identity of the Minister (4:1)
2. The Requirement of the Minister (4:2)
3. The Evaluation of the Minister (4:3-5)
I. The Identity of the Minister (4:1)
First, let’s examine the identity of the minister.
Paul said in verse 1a, “This is how one should regard us. . . .”
Who is the “us” to whom Paul is referring? Us refers back to Paul, Apollos, and Cephas (i.e., Peter) in the previous paragraph (1 Corinthians 3:22). And it also refers, by extension, to all “God’s fellow workers” that Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 3:9.
So Paul is about to give criteria for identifying true ministers of God. The identity of true ministers should not be determined by the criteria of our culture, community, or even our church. The identity of true ministers is not based on success, influence, giftedness, effectiveness, popularity, personality, degrees, books sold, numbers, and so on. The identity of true ministers should be determined by the criteria given to us in the Word of God.
So, what is the identity of true ministers of God?
A. Ministers Are Servants of Christ (4:1b)
First, ministers are servants of Christ.
Paul said in verse 1b: “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ. . . .”
Servants (hupçretçs) means literally, “under rowers,” originally indicating the lowest galley slaves, the ones rowing on the bottom tier of a ship. They were the most menial, unenvied, and despised of slaves. From that meaning the term came to refer to subordinates of any sort, to those under the authority of another.