1 Corinthians 4 (KJV):
1Co 4:1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.
1Co 4:2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.
1Co 4:3 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.
1Co 4:4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.
1Co 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.
1Co 4:6 And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.
1Co 4:7 For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?
1Co 4:8 Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you.
1Co 4:9 For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.
1Co 4:10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honorable, but we are despised.
1Co 4:11 Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place;
1Co 4:12 And labor, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:
1Co 4:13 Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.
1Co 4:14 I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.
1Co 4:15 For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
1Co 4:16 Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.
1Co 4:17 For this cause have I sent unto you Timothy, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church.
1Co 4:18 Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you.
1Co 4:19 But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power.
1Co 4:20 For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.
1Co 4:21 What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?
This text gives us great insight into the characteristics of a servant of Christ. Anyone can claim to serve Christ, but to know who a true servant of Christ is we must measure them against what the bible clearly defines as characteristics of His servants.
A servant of Christ is to be a steward of the mysteries of God (v1)
A steward is someone who takes care of the affairs of his masters house. The steward himself owns nothing, but manages the estate of his master. As a steward we are to manage the message and the resources that God has entrusted to us.
A servant of Christ must be found faithful (v2)
Right after Paul tells us that faithfulness is a requirement, he makes sure we understand that this can only be judged by God and not by man (vv3-5). It is not the judgement/praise of others or even ourselves that we should be seeking – but the judgement of God. A good steward understands that what his master thinks is the important thing.
A servant of Christ learns by good examples (vv6-7)
Paul tells us to use him as an example so that we will not go beyond what is written. When we start going beyond the message that we have been entrusted with we stop being a good steward.
A good steward would not pour a cup of wine for his master from the masters choice wine and add his own cheap wine to it. That would cheapen the entire glass of wine! So we should not add our teachings to God’s.
Paul tells us that doing so puffs us up against each other. It is a sure sign of pride to think that we can add to what God has said. And this pride sets brother against brother.
He goes on to tell us the foolishness of pride. Paul reminds us that God has given us all that we have. We have received, not earned our salvation. And because we received it, we cannot boast of it. All glory goes to God.
As we see humble Christians serving the Lord, we should learn from their example and be prompted to follow in the footsteps of those who follow Christ.
A servant of Christ is poor in this world. (vv8-13)
Many people think that the Christian life is a life of material wealth. I have even heard some say that if someone is poor it is because they lack faith. This kind of thinking is in direct contradiction of God’s word.
God’s word tells us that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get to Heaven.
In the story of the rich man and poor Lazarus, it was Lazarus who went on to Heaven while the rich man suffered in the fires of Hell.
The word of God clearly teaches throughout that we should not focus on material wealth which corrodes and decays, but on the riches that have eternal weight – those that are found in Christ alone and are of great spiritual value.
Paul points to the wealth and power the Corinthians had without him. Then Paul contrasts this state of the Corinthians before they had Christ to the state of a servant of God.
When Paul describes the Christian he uses such terms as – condemned, a spectacle, fools, weak, dishonored, hungry, thirsty, poorly clothed, beaten, homeless, filth of the world. This is a description of their condition.
He then goes on to describe the Christian character in these conditions – they work, bless, endure, entreat.
This is because our focus and satisfaction are not found in our condition, but in our relationship with Jesus Christ. And this relationship is on a very intimate level.
So from a worldly perspective we are poor indeed. But from a spiritual perspective we are blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ (Eph 1:3).
A servant of Christ has paternal care for his disciples. (vv14-21)
Paul concludes by telling them why he is writing these things to them – he cares for them as a father cares for his children. As a servant of Christ, Paul is motivated out of a paternal love that he has for the Corinthians. Any other motivation outside of Godly love is illegitimate.
A true Christian will never condemn others for sin because it makes them feel superior, they will not treat others with contempt.
A true Christian will interact with people out of the overflowing love that comes from Christ within him. This love of Christ is so great that it compelled Him to go to the cross and die for our sins. And as the scripture says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”( Jn 15:13).
There is no greater love than the love of Christ. And a true Christian will be compelled by this love.
Let us consider the hope that God has called us to. It is an eternal hope, not a hope focused on the temporal things of this fallen world. We are called to a living faith in Jesus Christ who is at the right hand of the Father. Let us focus on those things that make us good servants of God, and dismiss those things that are self-centered and have no eternal weight. Some of you have already been called to the salvation that God has given us in His Son, Jesus Christ. Perhaps the Lord is calling others today to that same salvation. He sent His Son as a sacrifice for your sins. As we put our faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we will be conformed into the image of a blessed servant of Christ.