1 Corinthians 4:1, 2
Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.…
I. WHAT THEY ARE.
1. Ministers. Not masters; servants, not lords. The word means literally "under rower," or common sailor, and is generally used of the lower class of servants. Ministers are the mere servants of Christ; they have no authority save that which they may receive from him. "Be not ye called Rabbi" (Matthew 23:8). A domineering despotic spirit is altogether out of place. If any will be chief, he must be servant of all. Many ministers have trouble with their Churches because of their own masterful spirit. Like Rehoboam, they do not heed the sage counsel, "If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever" (1 Kings 12:7). Some of the Corinthians had unduly exalted their teachers (1 Corinthians 1:12); others perhaps had regarded them as utterly insignificant ("I of Christ"); Paul defines the legitimate position. Ministerial activity is hinted at; ministers are to be workers, not idlers.
2. Ministers of Christ. This makes their calling most honourable. They are servants of the Church, servants of their fellows, but not primarily. They serve the Church and their fellow men because they desire to stove Christ. They are
(1) appointed by Christ;
(2) responsible to him;
(3) to be judged by him;
(4) to be devoted to him;
(5) to speak in his Name;
(6) to preach him and his redemption;
(7) to rely upon his help;
(8) to take orders from him;
(9) not to originate, but to ascertain his mind.
3. Stewards. A position
(1) of trust and confidence;
(2) of influence;
(3) of responsibility;
(4) of some peril;
(5) of much honour.
4. Stewards of the mysteries of God. "Mystery" in the New Testament does not mean something incomprehensible, but something beyond the reach of unaided human intelligence. The "mysteries of God" are thus "hidden" (1 Corinthians 2:7) until revealed by him. They are the truths of the gospel - "the truth as it is in Jesus." Ministers have special charge concerning these truths -
(1) to preserve them;
(2) to dispense them.
As stewards, they should be deeply impressed with
(1) the vast importance of the "riches" entrusted to them;
(2) the need of utmost care in discharging the duties of their office;
(3) the awful issues to themselves and others if they are remiss.
Many are satisfied if self approved or if praised by others; but Paul looked to the judgment of Christ (ver. 4). We are not to be despondent if we are "unpopular" with men, so that we are approved by our Lord. Though "unpopularity" with men is very far from being an argument that we please our Master: "The common people heard him gladly," and probably would so hear us if we were more like him.
II. A NECESSARY QUALIFICATION. Faithfulness. This is a first requisite in those who are "stewards of the mysteries of God." Stewards must not use their lord's goods for their own advantage. What evils result from unfaithfulness in an earthly stewardship I who can estimate the evils flowing from an unfaithful ministry! A minister should be faithful:
1. To Christ, in
2. To his flock.
(1) Preaching unadulterated doctrine. Not corrupting the Word of God. Not substituting something else for it.
(2) Rightly dividing the word of truth.
(3) Reproving, rebuking, exhorting with all long suffering and teaching (2 Timothy 4:2).
(4) Striving "to present every man perfect in Christ Jesus" (Colossians 1:28). - H.
Parallel VersesKJV: Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.