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"Stewards of Mysteries"
1 Corinthians 4:1-5

Wednesday AM Bible Study
May 9, 2007

Theme: Paul combats sectarianism by showing the Corinthians how they were to view the teachers in the church.

Paul and Barnabas, on one of their missionary journeys, were once thought to be gods by the people of Lystra (Acts 14:8-13). They had to persuade the people not to sacrifice to them; and they said, "We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God . . ." (v. 15). Even in Corinth, the apostle had to remind the believers there that he and the other founding teachers in the church were merely men who were proclaiming truth from God; and that divisions should not be built up around them.

In this portion of 1 Corinthians, as Paul is dealing with the problem of sectarianism in the church, he had been teaching the people about the right view of Christ who the teachers served, and the right view of the truth that the teachers taught. Now, he turns to a right view of the teachers themselves. He calls the Corinthians to think rightly about the teachers . . .


A. First, he calls them to "consider" or to "regard" them for what they truly are in terms of God's assignment to them. He says that "a man" is to consider them in this way-- emphasizing their own humanness as 'mere men among mere men'.

1. For one thing, they are "servants of Christ". The word that Paul uses (huparetas) is not the ordinary word for "slave"; but here means "under-rower", as one who rows in a ship. The word came to mean "an official servant" or "an attendant." That's how Paul and the others were to be viewed by the Corinthians--neither as slaves (because the apostles were not the Corinthian's slaves), nor as "lords" over them. They were the official servants of Jesus Christ.

2. For another, they were "stewards" (or "household managers") of the "mysteries of God". The "mysteries" were truths that could not be known by men unless God chose to reveal them (2:7); and the teachers of the church were simply those who had been commissioned with the duty of dispensing these revealed truths to the people of God.

B. Second, Paul calls the Corinthians to consider them with respect to the essential requirement of such a steward--that he be "faithful". It was not such a steward's duty to create the truths to be dispensed, but to faithfully dispense what he had been given by Another. Nor was it the concern of the steward to make sure he was well-liked in dispensing what he had been given; nor to make sure that he only dispensed what was attractive and desirable to the people. A preacher's main responsibility is to make ask himself three things: (1) Is the word of God well preached? (2) Are the people of God well fed? (3) Is the God who sent him well pleased?


A. The people were concerned with judging one speaker and teacher against another, and aligning themselves under those teachers that they judged favorably. But Paul completely rejected this.

1. Because he knew that his main requirement was to be a "faithful" steward of the mysteries he had been given to preach, he didn't care how the Corinthians judged him. He said that it was "a small thing"--the least of his concerns.

2. Nor did he concern himself with being judged by any human court (literally "day"; as in "a day of judgment"). He who is unspiritual doesn't have the capability of rightly judging the preaching of the mysteries of God. They are "foolishness" to such a man; and can only rightly be judged by one who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit (2:14-16).

3. In fact, Paul doesn't even judge himself. Not even he had the capability of judging his own ministry. What he may have thought to be effective may not be effective at all. And what he may have thought to be unuseful to God may have turned out to be very useful to His cause.

B. Paul affirmed that he knew nothing about himself that was defficient. But he didn't feel that this was what caused him to be "righteous" in terms of the judgment passed on him. He knew that only the Lord was equipped to rightly judge him. And so, he saw the teachers of the true church accountable to no man; because no man was qualified to hold them to account. Only the Lord Himself was qualified (Romans 14:4; 2 Timothy 4:6-8).


A. Paul urged, therefore, that they were to judge "nothing before the time, until the Lord comes". This doesn't mean, of course, that teachers were not to be held accountable for teaching error, or for living in immorality. But it stresses that we can only see the outside of a man. We can't see his true motives or his true sense of call from God. We have to await the assessment of the Lord Jesus Himself. Only He can "bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts"--that is, the things that other men cannot see.

B. Thus, at the throne of Christ, each man will receive praise from God alone--not from men. It is inappropriate, then, for the Corinthians to judge and assess the teachers around them and thus align themselves under them. They don't have the criteria or the authority for doing this.

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