Now for this morning I want to take us back to 1 Corinthians chapter 4. As I said last week, I had been talking to you about the church and what the church should be, and I thought you deserved equal time for what the pastor ought to be. So last week we endeavored to give you a picture of what the Scripture says about the pastor—the pastors, spiritual leaders, those who have the responsibility to represent Christ among His people and feed the flock of God. What is required of them? And there are so many passages in Scripture that deal with this. In fact, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, all three of those brief epistles deal in detail with that, and many other portions of Scripture do as well.
But I’ve chosen 1 Corinthians 4 because I think it boils everything down to the sort of irreducible minimum; and that will be helpful, I hope, for you. So let’s go to 1 Corinthians 4, and I just want to mention verses 1 and 2 as a starting point, and then we’ll get into this chapter. So let me read that. “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.”
Now if we just jump in at chapter 4, you’re going to ask yourself, “What’s the context? What’s going on here?” And I will remind you, the Corinthian church had a lot of problems. One of the dominant problems, if not the dominant problem, was that they had a number of preachers that had ministered to them and they had chosen their favorite preacher, and there was a sort of a preacher beauty contest going on, and they were being divided. The whole church was being divided over the preference they had for one teacher against another.
You see that back in chapter 1, verse 11. Paul says, “I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you.” This is internal fighting in the church. And what is the issue? “I mean this”—verse 12—“that each one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I [am] of Apollos,’ and ‘I of Cephas,’ and ‘I of Christ.’” You’re comparing those who teach and preach. And maybe the most self-righteous of all would have said, “I am of Christ.” But the question is, “Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” This is absurd that you would put these preachers up against one another and choose favorites and have quarrels about that and divisively fracture the church.
It was so severe—over in chapter 3, verse 1—that Paul said, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men.” I couldn’t even talk to you “as to spiritual”—that is walking in the Spirit—“but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able”—you are both carnal and immature. And what is the evidence of that? Verse 3, “You are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not mere men?
“What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted”—Paul sowed the seed originally—“Apollos watered”—following Paul—“but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. . . . We are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field and God’s building.” So we are fellow workers. We are not to be compared to each other in some kind of a hierarchy that sets one above the other.
And the end of chapter 3, Paul says in verse 21, “All things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.” You can’t separate in anything because it all belongs to you. All spiritual blessings belong to you. All teachers belong to you. This is by God’s design.
Everything that the kingdom provides is for all of you. It’s not as if you need to attach to one teacher who offers you more of spiritual benefits than another one. If they’re equally faithful in their discharge of ministry, then they are dispensing to you the riches of the household of God, and they do that equally.
So then, how are we to think about pastors and teachers? It’s easy for us to compare them; that goes on all the time. How are we to regard pastors and those who are in leadership over us? Well, verse 1 of chapter 4 then gets to that: “Let a man regard us in this manner”—here’s how you have to think about us—“as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” And we looked at that last week.
“Servants of Christ” speaks about their relationship to Christ. “Stewards of the mysteries of God” speaks about their relationship to Scripture. “The mysteries of God” are those things that have been revealed through the revelation of Scripture. So you need to do this. You need to consider us in this fashion. We are “servants,” slaves of Christ, hupēretēs, third-level galley slaves, the lowest possible slaves—and we are “stewards of the mysteries of God.”
The criteria for the evaluation of anyone in ministry is, What is the nature of his relationship to Christ, and what is the nature of his relationship to Scripture? It’s to Christ and Scripture. That’s why the motto of The Master’s University is “For Christ and Scripture.”
“In this case,” verse 2 says, “moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy,” faithful. Some of your translations will say “faithful,” some “trustworthy.” It’s the Greek word pistos which essentially means faithful.
So this is how you evaluate anyone in ministry: “Are they faithful?” Faithful to what? Faithful to Christ, faithful to Scripture. Faithful to Christ means they live a life of submission and service to Him. Faithfulness to Scripture means they proclaim the truth accurately.
This is exactly where we need to be in evaluating any minister. What is his relationship to Christ? Is it manifest that he serves Christ in his life? And what is his relationship to Scripture? Is it manifest that he is a faithful steward of divine revelation? Faithfulness is everything. Faithfulness is everything. It’s a great word, it’s a great truth, and I want to maybe take it a little broader than this text for a moment.
Faithfulness is Godlike. Listen to what Scripture says about God being faithful. First Corinthians 1:9, “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” First Thessalonians 5:24, “Faithful is He”—meaning God—“who calls you, and He will also bring it to pass.” Second Thessalonians 3:3, “The Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” First Peter 4:19, “Entrust [your] souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” What that means is that God is consistent with His own nature and His own word. There’s never any variation or deviation with God. He is faithful. He is the very definition of faithfulness; and those are just a few of many Scriptures that declare that.
The Lord Jesus also is presented in Scripture as faithful. Second Timothy 2:13, the Lord Jesus Christ “remains faithful,” Paul says, “for He cannot deny Himself.” Hebrews 2:17, He is “a merciful and faithful high priest.” Hebrews 3, “He was faithful.” Hebrews 10:23, “He who promised is faithful.” First John 1:9, “He is faithful and righteous.” Revelation 3:14 speaks of Christ as “the Amen, the faithful and true Witness.” And Revelation 19:11, at the very text that is describing the return of Christ in Second Coming glory, it says: “I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and [makes] war.” God is faithful; Christ is faithful.
And Scripture is faithful. Titus 1:9, “Holding fast the faithful word.” Revelation 21:5 and 22:6, “These words are faithful and true.” God is faithful, Christ is faithful, and Scripture therefore is faithful.
And then the ministers of that Scripture and the servants of God and Christ must be defined by faithfulness. Faithfulness in what sense? Faithful to Christ in their relationship with Him, and faithful to Scripture in their handling of divine revelation.
The commendation of faithfulness is given to a number of people in the New Testament. Timothy in 1 Corinthians 4:17—you’re in that chapter; go down to the bottom, sort of the bottom of the chapter—verse 17. “For this reason,” Paul says, “I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ.” “I walk with Christ and in Christ; Timothy follows me in doing the same. Therefore, he is faithful. He will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, and he will remind you of what I teach. You will see in Timothy, his relationship to Christ is one of faithfulness, and his teaching expresses that faithfulness.”
Tychicus in Ephesians and Colossians is titled “faithful.” Epaphras in Colossians, faithful. Onesimus in Colossians, faithful. Silvanus in 1 Peter 5, faithful. Revelation 2:13, Antipas, “My faithful one, who was killed.” He was a martyr that was faithful to death. And Paul in 1 Timothy 1:12 declares that he was faithful. This is a simple statement: “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service [ministry], [and] I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, a violent aggressor. [But] . . . the grace of the Lord was . . . abundant [toward me].”
We who are in ministry are to take what’s been delivered to us, 2 Timothy 2:2, and hand it off to “faithful men who shall be able to teach others also.” That is the expression of the heart and soul of qualification for ministry: faithfulness to Christ in terms of a life that follows Christ; faithfulness to Scripture, a life and teaching that is true in every sense in representing the meaning of Scripture.
Our Lord gave a number of parables when He talked about faithful servants. He made the famous statement, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” The ultimate is to be faithful unto death, Revelation 2:10, “faithful unto death.” If you’re “faithful unto death,” it says, “I’ll give you [a] crown of life.”
So this is a very foundational truth; and all of that leads us back to the text of our Scripture in 1 Corinthians 4. So let’s go back to it. Paul says what is required is faithfulness: faithfulness as a servant of Christ and as a steward of the mysteries of God. Both of those describe a position of inferiority, a position of subjection, a position of subordination, a declaration that one is to obey orders from someone who is greater. And “It is required”—and this is such interesting language in verse 2—“It is required of stewards that one be found [faithful],” or “trustworthy.”
I want you to look at that “required.” That literally means “to search for,” “to seek,” or “to demand,” which is to say that the church has the responsibility to determine to seek, to search for, and demand the faithfulness of its leaders. It is required that you search out every person.
And then the second verb is also interesting, “that one may be found trustworthy.” That literally means “to be proven to be, to be discovered to be after examination.” The idea is that the requirement of faithfulness is so absolute that inquiry is to be made into the life of anyone who steps into spiritual leadership. The church has the responsibility to demand that a trial be held at some level and in some fashion so that he can be examined and proven to meet the standard. And the standard is, summing it up, “faithful”—not brilliant, not clever, not interesting, not eloquent, not profound, or any other human measure; only faithful to Christ and to Scripture.
The Corinthian church was not operating with that perspective; they were divided by their personal preferences for one teacher over against another. This is completely unacceptable. And Paul says, “You have to count us as faithful by one simple standard: What is our relationship to Christ and Scripture?” This is the standard.
Now, to say faithfulness is also to say humility, because faithfulness as a servant and faithfulness as a steward means you have humbled yourself to the One who is your Lord and Master. Psalm 31:23 reads, “The Lord preserves the faithful and fully [repays the one who acts in pride].” So faithfulness is contrasted with pride; therefore, faithfulness assumes humility, which is the opposite of pride.
Writing to Timothy—again, if you want to look over to 1 Timothy for a moment—at the end of the first letter, chapter 6, Paul says to Timothy—this is the very close of the book: “O Timothy”—chapter 6, verse 20—“guard what has been entrusted to you, [avoid] worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’—which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith.” “Guard what has been entrusted to you”—this is the stewardship of the mysteries of God. Guard your heart, of course, but also guard the mysteries of God.
In 2 Timothy chapter 1—just in the next page or so—verse 11, Paul says, “I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.” “He entrusted His Word to me, and I’ve entrusted my service to Him.” And then he says to Timothy in verse 13, “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.” I mean it’s inescapable that the responsibility of anyone in ministry can only be fulfilled when there is faithfulness to the person of Christ in the life and faithfulness to Scripture in the ministry.
Now with that introduction from those first two verses, let’s start at verse 3, and we’ll just pick up where we left off last time. Five—well, let’s say four for today, and I’ll combine the last two; I didn’t get there in the first service. Four elements reveal the nature of this faithfulness, four elements.
First, he was content to be a lowly servant. We’ve already seen that; that’s what we looked at last week, and I just reiterated some of it to you. He is content to be a lowly servant; a hupēretēs; a low-level galley slave, the lowest of the low. He is content to be a house servant, oikonomos, stewarding his master’s possessions. He’s humble. He is content to be a lowly servant.
Secondly—and this we did as well last week—he was content to be judged by God. Verse 3, “[For] to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.”
He’s content to be judged by God alone. He’s not even an objective judge of his own heart. He says, “Even if I am conscious of nothing against myself, I am not acquitted, because there’s enough remaining sin in me to confuse my own conscience and my own self-evaluation. I’m not seeking to be evaluated or examined by men on any human level. I’m not seeking to find myself acceptable to myself. Men may be biased and certainly ignorant; I may not be as ignorant, but still biased. The only one that matters is God.”
“Do not go on passing judgment before the time.” Don’t do that. Don’t make some human evaluation of a pastor and set him against some other one, because what you don’t know are the things hidden in the darkness. You can see what you can see, you can hear what you can hear, but you cannot know what’s hidden in the dark recesses of that heart, and you cannot know the motive of the heart. But God does. God knows what’s hidden in the heart, and He knows the motives of men’s hearts. And that’s when and where praise will be evaluated. Anything other than that is superficial.
You may evaluate a preacher on his personality or on his abilities. You may even evaluate a preacher on his accuracy. But you don’t know the darkness of the heart, you don’t know the hidden things, and you can’t know the motives. And even for the best of men, we can’t avoid, always, the sin that remains in us, nor can we always have pure motives. “Stop judging preachers,” he says. “Stop dividing the church over this. You don’t know what only God knows.” That was fine with Paul.
Paul was content to be judged by God; that’s a good thing, because that meant that Paul was confident that when he faced Christ he had discharged his ministry as faithfully as he could. He didn’t fear facing Christ; he said, “I’m content to let Him render the final verdict on my life.”
Now that gets us to the third point, verses 6 through 8: He was content to be equal with others, to be equal with others. And we saw some of that over in chapter 3: “I am of Paul and I am of Apollos is folly because we are fellow workers.” You’re going to be judged on the part that you did, but that judgment does not take place in this life, it takes place at the tribunal when you face the Lord.
So he says in verse 6, “I’m content to be equal,” and he uses Apollos as the illustration: “Now these things, brethren”—these things about which we have been speaking concerning the qualifications for ministry—“I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against [another].” He uses himself and Apollos as an illustration. He has no tolerance for the divisiveness of picking your favorite preacher and comparing him with another one.
Now Apollos is a great one to choose to make this illustration because Apollos is an amazing, amazing servant of the Lord—famous teacher, famous scholar, disciple of John the Baptist no less, converted to Christ by the testimony of Pricilla and Aquila, the tentmakers. He became a friend of the apostle Paul. He might have rivaled Paul intellectually; he might have superseded Paul intellectually. He was an Alexandrian Jew who had been Hellenized, that is, trained in Greek culture. He was learned. He was eloquent, perhaps more eloquent than Paul. It was said of Paul that his speech was contemptable; it was said of Apollos that he was eloquent. It might have been that Apollos could have superseded Paul, that he could have seen Paul as a rival to be conquered and bettered. It could have been Apollos, then, that had the great influence over the churches, or by ambition sought that.
But Apollos declined any rivalry, as formidable as he was, “mighty in the [Old Testament] Scriptures” it says of him; “fervent in spirit,” Acts 18. You combine that—brilliance, oratorical skill, knowledge of the Scripture, and fervency in spirit—and you have the prototypical preacher, the best of the best. He was such a fine servant of Christ and steward of the mysteries of God that Paul mentions him in the class with himself and Peter and even Christ. He was one who drew the factions of the Corinthian church.
So it could have been that there could have been rivalry between Paul and Apollos. But there was not. He says, “You can look at myself and Apollos, and you will see in us that you may learn not to exceed what is written. We put it on display. We showed you not to exceed what is written.” What did he mean, “not to exceed what is written”? That’s a regular formula for introducing an Old Testament quote. That’s a regular formula. The readers would know that he’s referring to an Old Testament quote. What Old Testament quote is he referring to? I mean, it’s true, generally, that you don’t want to go beyond Scripture; that is true in any regard, in any respect. But in particular, you don’t want to go beyond what is written with regard to the humility and equality of the leaders of the church.
What Scripture is he talking about? All you have to do is go back in 1 Corinthians; and if you’ll go with me to chapter 1, verse 19, there is a Scripture there from Isaiah 29: “It is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.’” So here there is obviously no virtue or value in human cleverness and human wisdom, and that’s what the Scripture says. And also at the end of chapter 1, verse 31, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” That’s right out of Jeremiah 9. So you don’t compare these men because one is wiser, one is more clever. There’s no room for boasting, no room for boasting.
Down in chapter 2, verse 8, Paul writes about “the wisdom that none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory . . . just as it is written, ‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.’” Another, basically, rejection of human wisdom. The things that come from God are not available to the human heart, so you don’t judge people by what they can produce out of their own mind.
And verse 16 is another Old Testament quote from Isaiah 40: “Who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him?” Who do you think you are? You’re going to set the Word of God aside and give your information as if it’s superior to that of the Lord Himself?
Then down in chapter 3, verse 19, it speaks of the one who’s caught in his craftiness, and in verse 20, “The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise . . . they are useless.” So all of these are Old Testament quotes. Psalm 94 is the one in verse 20.
So now that he has been quoting all these Old Testament passages about the folly of human wisdom and the stupidity of boasting and the ridiculous thought that you would offer something that you came up with in the place of divine revelation, all that comes together in chapter 4, verse 6, “So that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written.” You can’t set Scripture aside. You can’t set Scripture aside. Scripture is the leveler; no place for human wisdom, no place for human cleverness, no place for worldly-mindedness. You can’t set that aside; that’s the Old Testament Scripture. And there have been a number of them along that line.
“So when you look at myself and Apollos, and for your sakes you will find that we did not exceed what is written; we humbled ourselves, we had a relationship with equality; and this is what you can learn from: our example.” Really amazing. “So that”—back to verse 6—“no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.” You can’t become rivals, because that’s simply because you’re arrogant—or “puffed up,” literally, “puffed up.”
Paul says, “Look, I’m content to be an equal. I’m content to be an equal with anyone. I’m content to be an equal with Apollos,” who perhaps had greater gifts than Paul. “I’m content to be equal, and I will not go beyond the Scripture. The Scripture confines me to that necessary equality, because I don’t want to set an example that will cause you to be arrogant one against another. If I am playing favorites, then you will too.”
And then in verse 7 he says, “For who regards you as superior?” If you go beyond this, then you’ve decided that you’re superior to the Scripture. “What do you have that you did not receive?” Answer: nothing. Everything you have came from God. “And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” You aren’t the source of any of your gifts; you aren’t the source of any of the truth you proclaim. It’s all from God. God gave you the revelation; God gave you the gifts by His Holy Spirit. You can take no credit for any of it. It’s disgusting that you would do that. He’s so disgusted that he can’t restrain himself from being sarcastic in verse 8: “You are already filled.” It’s like saying, “You’re really something, aren’t you. You’re going to go beyond Scripture.”
“You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us; and indeed, I wish that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you.” “I wish it was the millennial kingdom, and I wish you were genuinely kings and we were kings as well. I wish this was the kingdom—but it’s not. You’re just too arrogant. You’re just too puffed up.”
Down in chapter 4, verse 18, same word, “puffed up.” “Some of you have become puffed up.” Verse 19 refers to “the words of those who are [puffed up],” or “arrogant.” Chapter 5, verse 2, “You have become arrogant,” puffed up. Verse 6, “Your boasting is not good.” Chapter 8, verse 1, this is a real problem: “Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes [puffed up,] arrogant.” Chapter 13, verse 4, “Love is patient, love is kind, is not jealous; love does not brag, is not [puffed up].”
This is arrogance: “I’m better than you because I’m of Paul.” “I’m better than you because I’m of Apollos.” ‘I’m better than either of you two because I’m of Cephas.” “Well, they’re just men; I’m of Christ.” Who do you think you are? It’s disgusting to Paul, it’s absolutely disgusting.
In the twenty-third chapter of Matthew, Jesus addresses the leaders of Israel, who were guilty of elevating themselves. In verse 8 of Matthew 23, He says to them, “Do not be called Rabbi”—or “teacher”—“for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father”—as if they are the source of divine truth and life—“for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your leader, that is, Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” And then He poured out a diatribe of woes on the leaders of Israel who were anything but humble. This is disgusting to Christ when it occurs among the people of Israel, the leadership. It’s even more disgusting to Paul because it’s happening in the church. Paul has no place for this.
So how are you to consider us? As those who serve Christ in our life and who are faithful to Scripture in our teaching. Everyone who has a proud heart, Proverbs 16:5 says, “is an abomination to the Lord.” You know, if you react to somebody with a larger ministry or more popularity, more notoriety, or someone who outshines you in gifts and accomplishments, you’ve just taken your spiritual temperature.
How you react to the praises given to other men and not have any desire at all to belittle them or their work, but only to join in the praise and gratitude will tell you where your humility level is. How you react when others prosper and you struggle will reveal your heart.
Wherever he went, George Whitefield had great popularity. Profoundly gifted, capable preacher. Some came to warn him, a particular gentleman, and he warned him that he should beware of the evils of being more popular than other ministers. And Whitefield replied with these words: “I thank you heartily, my friend. May God reward you for watching over my soul. And as to what my enemies say against me, I know worse things of myself than they could ever say.” You don’t want your friends to elevate you and make you arrogant, and you don’t want your enemies to make you arrogant either; and enemies can be just as good at making you arrogant as your friends can.
Paul was content to be a servant of Christ, a steward of the mysteries of God, judged only by God, equal to others, and a final point briefly: He was content to suffer. He was content to suffer, and that’s verses 9 to the thirteenth verse. I’ll read it and make a few comments.
“For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all.” Here’s the true story: If you’re an apostle, if you’re a representative of Christ, from the world’s viewpoint, you’re at the bottom. You’re like “men condemned to death.” You’re like prisoners paraded in a parade led by a Roman general who is bringing in the condemned captive from his latest victory, and leading them to the arena to be eaten by wild animals or killed by gladiators. And this is the world’s view of us. We’re the last of all. We’re at the bottom, as far as the world is concerned. We’re nothing more than men to be “condemned to death.” “We have become a spectacle to the world,” like we were marching in a parade to our death, “both to angels and to men.” That’s the truth about us. And you have to be willing to acknowledge that, as far as the world is going to be concerned. You’re not going to be able to be faithful and find favor with the world.
And then he gets sarcastic again in verse 10: “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor.” This is just sheer mockery. “You’re the wise one, right? You’re the strong one. You’re the distinguished one. And we apostles, hated by the world as men condemned to death, spectacles. We’re the fools, we’re the weak, and we’re those without honor.” It’s true.
“To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, poorly clothed, roughly treated, are homeless; we toil, working with our own hands.” He earned his own living by labor, Paul did. “When we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.” The dregs are what’s left when the wine is poured out, and it’s stuck to the bottom. The scum is the stuff stuck to the frying pan at the bottom after you’ve washed it and can’t get it off. “The world sees us as scum, dregs. We are slandered. We try to conciliate, but they think of us as scum.” And this is really the mark of apostolic faithfulness. This is what’s to be expected.
So Paul models for us the necessary faithfulness and humility of a leader in the church. He’s content to be a servant, content to be judged by God only, content to be equal to others, and content to suffer, to suffer even in labor to sustain himself, and to suffer at the hands of the world who have nothing but disdain for him. And isn’t that exactly the way it was with his Lord? If they thought Paul was scum, it was because they thought Jesus was scum also. That’s why they killed Him.
So the world’s estimate is that we are scum. That will be their estimate if we are faithful. You will sacrifice your public prestige. Doesn’t mean everybody in the world is going to hate you, but it does mean that if you’re proclaiming the truth faithfully, they are going to resent you. So we cannot, we cannot seek both to be faithful and exalted by the world; but that’s a fool’s approach to ministry. But it’s a popular one.
Peter sums it up; he said, “Be clothed with humility. Be clothed with humility.” “Humble yourselves [under the mighty hand of God], and He will exalt you,” James 4:10. Humble yourself the way Christ did; and the Father exalted Him to His right hand. This is what Paul says is the foundation of living a life as a true servant of Christ, true steward of the mysteries of God.
Faithfulness to Christ and Scripture looks like this. And though it may be painful at times, for most of the time it is glorious; I can tell you that. Let’s bow together in prayer.
Father, it’s so refreshing, always, to drink at the fountain of divine revelation. It’s the water of life to us. It’s refreshing truth from heaven that quenches our spiritual thirst. It’s food that satisfies our spiritual hunger. We love You, and the only way we really know You is because You have revealed Yourself to us in Your Word. The whole of the Bible is You revealing Yourself so that we could know You and know Your mind. And how wonderful in that same epistle of 1 Corinthians, Paul said, “We have the mind of Christ.” What a treasure to know how You think, because You’ve revealed Your mind in Scripture.
We can’t really say we know someone unless we know their mind. How marvelous to think that we can say we know You, and we know You very well, because we know Your mind. We know what You think about everything that’s revealed; and we therefore have an intimate relationship with You, that people who don’t know Your mind could never have. We understand everything. We understand the truth; they do not. You have given us life and truth, and You have asked us to be faithful to it in humility and gratitude for such a gift. And You have declared that if we are faithful in living and teaching, we will one day hear, “Well done, good, faithful servant; enter into the joy of your Lord.”
Thank You for the gift of the Holy Spirit to enable us to go down this path. And may we know Your special blessing as we remain faithful. Amen.
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