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(1) You should think of us as Christ's servants, who have been put in charge of God's secret truths.
(2) The one thing required of such a servant is that he be faithful to his master.
1 Corinthians 4:1–2, TEV
Dear Father in heaven, open our hearts to see and feel how our lives have been blest. Open our hearts to your blessings so that we may look forward in thankfulness and joy to what lies ahead. Grant that we may be faithful to what we have received from you and never again lose ourselves in the passing moment. May we hold to all you have brought to our hearts from eternity, that your name may be honored and our lives shaped anew in Jesus Christ. Give us courage to overcome the evils in life and to look with joy and confident expectation to the future, when the powers of your kingdom will be ever more clearly revealed. Amen.
1 Corinthians 4:1–13 begins with Paul's insistence that he is not concerned with anyone's judgment of him. The Lord will judge him, and that's what matters. The Corinthians have become arrogant in their judgment, forgetting that all the good they have is a gift. They feel self-reliant in their wealth and status while Paul and the other apostles live in poverty and under persecution, thought to be scum by the world. Still, they imitate Jesus by blessing those who mistreat them and continuing to serve Christ no matter the cost.
Paul continues to show why the Corinthian Christians must not be divided over loyalties to various Christian leaders. Only the Lord can judge His servants, including Paul. By making themselves judges, they are acting like they have all they need. They are proudly focused on reputation and status while the apostles live for Christ in poverty and under persecution. Paul writes as a father to little children. He urges them to change course and imitate his life. Do they want him to be gentle or come to them with the rod of correction?
Building on the end of chapter 3, Paul writes that the Corinthian Christians should think of Paul, Apollos, and other ministers in a very specific way. They should think of them as servants of Christ. Paul has described them as laborers given a specific task to do in the master's field (1 Corinthians 3:5–9).
Paul is emphasizing this in order to urge the Corinthians to stop dividing themselves into factions based on loyalty to specific Christian teachers. So long as their messages are equally in agreement with the gospel (Galatians 1:8–9; 2 Peter 2:1), it is a waste of time to follow servants rather than the Master. Paul wants his readers to follow Jesus Christ, first and foremost, not men like himself or Apollos.
Paul adds that one task assigned to Christian teachers, as servants of Christ, is to be stewards of the mysteries of God. A "steward" is a person who manages something he does not own, on behalf of the one who does own it. It is an important job, but it is still a servant's job.
The mysteries or secret things of God include the gospel, the teaching that those who come to God by faith in Christ and His death for sin on the cross can receive salvation. These "secret things" can be understood only by those who receive this revelation from God through the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:7–10).
Paul has described himself and other ministers in the church as stewards of the mysteries of God. A "steward" is someone who manages something that does not belong to him. For instance, a wealthy man may give a trusted servant the job of managing his investments or the running of his household.
Obviously, then, for one to be trusted as a steward, he or she must be considered faithful. That means they need to have a reputation as someone who tells the truth, does not steal, and lives with integrity. This seems obvious.
Paul is making the connection that he and the other Christian teachers must also be found faithful by God in order to serve as stewards of the revealed mysteries of God. They must be trustworthy people of high integrity. Paul will continue by suggesting, however, that the ultimate measure of his trustworthiness comes from God, not from other people. While it's important that Christian leaders have a good reputation (1 Timothy 3:7), their real responsibility is to the Lord
St. Paul and the Corinthians
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