1 Corinthians 4:1-4

1 Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.

Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.

But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself.

For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord.

servants (v.1) = under-rowers in a ship — and so any subordinate acting under another’s supervision

stewards (v.1) = managers of a household, acting for the master

We who seek to “rightly divide the Word of truth” and to preach Christ “according to the revelation of the mystery,” are often frowned upon by those who preach what they call “a more balanced gospel.” We should never apologize for this stand, however, for the apostle Paul made it very clear that he and his co-laborers wished to be known as “the servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God,” i.e., the glorious revelation committed to him, with its associated “mysteries,” or secrets. Some of these were: the blessing of the Gentiles during the temporary casting away of Israel, the reconciliation of believing Jews and Gentiles to God by the cross, the “one body” and its “one baptism,” our heavenly position and blessings, and the rapture of the Body to be with Christ.

Paul refers to the “mysteries” embodied in “the mystery” revealed to him for the present dispensation (Ephesians 3:1-3).

Indeed, the apostle called this long-hidden message his God-given gospel (Romans 16:25), and was never ashamed to be known as  steward responsible to proclaim it.

It should be noted at the outset that the word “steward” lies at the very heart of dispensational truth. The root of this word, both in English and in Greek has a very simple meaning: to administer, to dispense, to deal out.

The word “dispensation”  (Greek, oikonomia) is not a mere theological term. It is used many times in Scripture, though not always translated thus. In Ephesians 3:2 Paul writes to the Gentile believers about “the dispensation of the grace of God, which is given me to you-ward.” Just as the dispensation of the Law was committed to Moses (John 1:17), so the dispensation of the grace of God was committed to Paul.

But here in 1 Corinthians 4 the same Greek word is rendered stewardship in our English Bible. This is because the organic meaning of oikonomia is house management. Thus a “steward” was more than a servant, as some have supposed; he was the head servant, the on into whose hands the management of the household was committed. He dealt out the money for the household necessities, dispensed the food and clothing to the servants and children, paid the wages, etc. In a word, he was the dispenser of his lord’s affairs. — Stam, pages 88-89.

As a steward of the gospel committed to him, then, he must proclaim it faithfully, not striving to please men, but God, whose steward he was.

From the foregoing it is clear that in our witness for God the one great requisite is faithfulness. We are not commissioned to accomplish certain things, but to be faithful in our testimony. God has not sent us forth to save souls, but to “preach the Word.” Saving souls is His prerogative; preaching the Word, our responsibility — and privilege. If men will not hear the Word, if they will not receive it, we are not told to seek for something else which they will receive. Indeed we are forewarned that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine,” and will “turn away their ears from the truth,” but we are charged still to continue to “preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2-4). — Stam, pages 90-91.

very small thing (v.3) — It counts for very little — Paul was not accountable to them and they were not fit to judge

I do not even judge myself (v.3) — Paul wasn’t even qualified, as a man, to judge himself. He’s not referring to sin here, but to service.

I know of nothing against myself (v.4) — Paul’s conscience was clear. He knew his motives were pure.

I am not justified by this (v.4) — Paul’s conscience was clear, but human conscience was faulty. Only the Lord is competant to judge.

 

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