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Servants and Stewards

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.


I have been studying to teach 1 Corinthians 4 this week at my church's Wednesday night service Digging Deeper. Chapter 4 begins with the statement above from Paul. In Chapter 3 he has cited their practice of identifying with human teachers as evidence of their spiritual immaturity. He makes the case in chapter 3 that Jesus is the one who does all the real work in the process of new birth and continuing spiritual growth and that teachers are merely instruments being used by God in the way He intended them to be used. I think these passages have a great deal to say to those of us who have been called by God to pastor today. Not only does our culture, much like the Corinthians, look to idolize and elevate pastors to an unhealthy degree and argue the merits of one over another, but some pastors have bought in and even encouraged this practice. I think sheep and shepherds alike can benefit from Paul's instructions in this chapter.

Chapter 4 begins with Paul instructing the Corinthian church in the proper way to view those set up in authority as teachers and ministers over them. The 2 terms he uses are servants and stewards.

A servant is one who does everything his master asks and only that which his master asks. His purpose is to obey the master. His usefulness is measured in how well he obeys the commands given by the master. Our master is Jesus Christ and it is to Him and Him alone that we answer and must give account to. It is not the servants task to decide what the master would ask of him just as it is not the ministers job to define the task our Master has left for us. Our job is to hear from our Master and faithfully carry out His charge.

A steward is one who has been left to manage the affairs of the master while he is away. Upon the return of the master, the steward will be asked to give an exact account of how the master's affairs were managed. Paul tells us that the affairs we have been left in charge of are the "mysteries of God", chief of which is the Gospel. By using the idea of a steward, Paul makes it very clear that we have no ownership in the mysteries of God. We did not author them nor did we determine what shape they would take on. Our job is to manage them properly and distribute them to the household of faith as the Master would if He were here. He is returning and when He does, we will be held accountable for our handling of His affairs and His household.


Paul makes it very clear that ministers are not to be exalted above their proper position as faithful servants of the Master, Jesus Christ. All that we have to offer to the body comes from God and He alone. Recognizing such dictates that neither should lay people elevate minister to a lofty pedestal nor should those of us called as ministers seek to be elevated beyond what is proper. Our reward will come from the Master when He returns and sees that we have been faithful with the Gospel He entrusted us with.

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