Servants of Christ and their Work: Part 2 of 4 (series: Lessons on 1 Cor.)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Notice that a minister of Christ is a “steward of the mysteries of God.” In Paul’s day, a steward was the person who managed the household for the owner. He had charge of the house, the food, the clothing, and that sort of thing. He would give out things to the household as they needed them. In a similar way, a minister of Christ should dispense the Word of God to the members of the household.

After concluding His “mystery parables” in Matthew 13, “Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord” (Matt. 13:51). I’m inclined to think that they didn’t really understand at that time; Jesus doesn’t say whether or not they understood Him. But He does go on to say to them, “… Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old” (Matt. 13:52). That is what a steward of the mysteries of God should be doing—bringing forth out of the Word of God things new and things old. People sometimes say to me after a Bible study or after a sermon, “That’s old. I’ve heard that before.” I answer, “Well, I am a steward to bring forth things both new and old. Today I brought forth a little of the old. It is my business to bring forth the old as well as the new.” That is the calling of a steward of the mysteries of God, and I can’t think of any calling higher than that.

It is implied in this verse:
1. That the office of a minister is one that is subordinate to Christ—they are his servants.
2. That those in the office should not attempt to be the head of a sect or party in the church.
3. That the office of minister is honorable in the same way that the position of a steward is honorable.
4. That Christians should attempt to carry out and cherish the righteous ideas of ministers; to give them their true honor; but not to overrate their importance.

2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

Moreover, it is required in stewards,
The apostle having just mentioned that the character of Gospel preachers must be like that of stewards, points out that particular character trait which is most necessary. The Greek word for Stewards is oikonomos. He was usually a slave in the master’s household who is entrusted with property, while remaining subordinate to the master. However, in the latter part of this verse there is particular stress on accountability. He must render account for the manner in which he carries out his master’s orders. It was a very important position and required “that a man be found faithful.” Furthermore, the appropriate person to pass judgment on the faithfulness and trustworthiness of a steward was not to be found among the people who knew the steward or did business with him, but he was the steward's lord.

The next three verses will deal with that thought. “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10; KJV).

that a man be found faithful.
A steward must be faithful to the trust placed in him by his lord and master which appointed him to this office, and to the souls that are under his care. The same thing is true of a minister; that it can be said of him that he was faithful. I once had a pastor that liked to say, “You may not be able to teach a class, serve as a deacon, sing in the choir, or work in the nursery, but you can be faithful.” With God’s help, we can all be faithful to Him. It may be the best thing that can be said of any preacher; that he preaches the pure Gospel of Christ without any human wisdom or doctrines mixed in; and that he preached the whole Gospel, keeping back nothing which may be profitable for winning the lost and feeding the saints. The faithful Gospel preacher seeks to please God, and not men; he does not desire his own glory, and the applause of men, but he labors to bring honor to Christ, and to promote the good of His people: and the apostle was such a faithful steward.
Faithfulness is required of stewards principally because it is an office of trust; because the master's goods are at his disposal; because there are so many opportunities for the steward to take those goods for his own use, and his master cannot discover it. Faithfulness is expected of ministers; it is the main thing required of a man in their office. In other offices other virtues may be required. But here faithfulness is demanded. There is a strong similarity between the office of a steward and that of a minister of the gospel. But it is not necessary for us to dwell here on the resemblance. The idea Paul has seems to be:
1. That a minister, like a steward, is devoted to his Master's service, and should regard himself as such.
2. That he should be faithful to that trust and not abuse or violate it.
3. That he should not be judged by his fellow-stewards, or fellow-servants, but that his main desire should be to meet with the approval of his Master. A minister should be faithful for obvious reasons:
a. because he is appointed by Jesus Christ;
b. because he must answer to him;
c. because the honor of Christ, and the welfare of his kingdom, are entrusted to him; and
d. because of the importance of the matter committed to his care; and the importance of faithfulness can only be measured by the consequences of his labors on behalf of those souls in an eternal heaven or an eternal hell.

Note: A failure to teach people God's truth leaves the blood of the lost on the hands of unfaithful stewards who neglected or refused to teach it.

God's steward is not concerned with the judgment of man, in man's day, but with the Lord's judgment on His great day. This is another argument against the Corinthians for their preference for certain teachers because of their gifts: whereas what God requires in His stewards is faithfulness—“And Moses indeed was faithful in all his house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were afterward to be spoken” (Heb 3:5; (ASV)—but one difference between stewards and ministers is that the former must wait for man’s judgment while the latter must wait for the testing which will happen on the day of the Lord.

Notice that it is not required of a steward to be an eloquent speaker or to have many gifts, only that he is faithful to the ministry his Master has given him. There are so many who will be rewarded someday, not because they did some great thing or had some great gift, but because they were faithful in what they did and how they did it. I learned over the years that there were always the faithful few. I could depend on them. And I knew where they stood.

3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.

The subject of verse three is the criticism of a faithful steward.

But with me it is a very small thing
What the apostle is saying in this phrase is; “It is a matter I am not concerned much about. Since I am a steward, I am only answerable to my master. It is a matter of small concern what men think of me, provided I have his approval.” Paul was not insensitive to the opinion of people; but he did not court their favorable estimation of him, because compared with God's judgment, theirs almost comes to nothing. The principal thing which he regarded, which shows how unequivocal was his desire to serve and please the master who had appointed him to his office was the Lord’s approval. It mattered little or nothing at all, what others thought of him and how viciously they criticized his faithfulness in the ministry not even by the Corinthians themselves. The essential matter with Paul was not that the Corinthians should judge him a faithful steward, or that he should be faithful in his own judgment, but that the Lord shall count him faithful. Of course, some of the factions at Corinth belittled Paul.

that I should be judged of you,
It is not that the apostle refused to accept, or that he despised the judgment of the Corinthian Church, He may even have accepted their criticism, if they represented the majority of the congregation, and met together in the fear of God, to pass judgment on his ministry, and his faithfulness in it; but he made it a matter of small concern to him, because he knew they were under the influence of the false teachers, who had insinuated many things among them for the purpose of damaging the apostle's reputation. Therefore he considered it a small thing, rejected it, and refused to submit to it, and to any mere human judgment.

That I should be judged—The word rendered "judged" means to examine the qualities of any person or thing; and sometimes, as here, to express the result of such examination or judgment. Here it means to "blame" or "condemn."

Of you—By you. He could have said something like this: “As dear as you are to me as a church and a people, nevertheless my main desire is not to secure your respect, or to avoid your criticism, but to please my master, and secure his approval.”

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