CHAPTER 31-THE MINISTRY #1Co 4:1-21
Paul tells how ministers are to be regarded, what account is be taken of them, what attitude people should have toward them. We should not be too hasty in criticizing them or passing judgment upon their work.
1. They are ministers of Christ and stewards of the mystery of God. They belong to Christ. They are stewards of mysteries. A steward was a house manager, a slave under his lord, but a master over the other slaves in the same family. The gospel is here called mysteries. Mystery is something known only to the initiated. "He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given" (#Mt 13:11). The man who never preaches anything that everybody can't understand is not preaching mysteries.
2. "It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful" (#1Co 4:2). Plain honesty is what is required of a steward. This is what is expected of bank clerks and others in positions of trust, like public officials.
3. Human judgment does not count in appraising the work of preachers. The preacher cannot judge his own ministry. Paul was not justified by what he thought of his work. He placed little importance to what the Corinthians' thought of it. The Lord is the only one who has the right or ability to judge. Failure to be conscious of one's own sin does not mean that he is innocent. Most prisoners plead "not guilty".
4. "Judge nothing before the time" (#1Co 4:5). Stop passing judgment, quit criticizing. The censorious habit was ruining the Corinthian church. Wait and let the Lord judge when He comes. He alone can judge the secret things of a man's ministry. He will turn on the light and reveal it all. Wait and get His praise.
6. It is God who makes ministers to differ. He speaks only of true God called ministers.
Preachers are to have no credit for their difference in gifts. But at Corinth they were making their different gifts ground for division. Different gifts are a great blessing. They are sovereignly bestowed. No preacher is the best example on all points. In calling and qualifying preachers, God does not imitate the candle maker who brings a tub full of tallow and pours it into one mold. All candles come out of candle molds just alike. We have diversity of gifts and divisions of labor. Exhortation, exposition, interpretation, tactfulness in visiting the sick and strangers.
Paul contrasts between the Corinthians and the apostles and uses sarcasm and irony. They were satisfied and having an easy time; the apostles were having a hard time.