This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. – 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 (ESV)
Richard Hays writes:
Paul reintroduces the servant metaphor here, but now with a different purpose. In 3:5-9, his point was that God’s servants are all serving a single common purpose; in 4:1-5, however, his point is that he and the other apostles, as God’s servants, are accountable to no one but God. The thing that matters is not whether they are winning popularity contests among the Corinthians but whether they are trustworthy, that is, whether they are following their master’s instructions. Thus, their status as servants sets them free from having to court favor in the church. This may seem paradoxical to us, but within the social world of Paul’s time, his point was perfectly understandable: Servants or slaves of powerful masters often enjoyed positions of considerable delegated authority, being charged with major administrative responsibility for affairs of the household. Paul’s image of the steward evokes this picture of the slave-in-charge. (In a world where there are no longer slaves in charge of big households, we might think analogically of the foreman in charge of a construction crew or the chief of staff in the White House.) The same picture of the trustworthy servant appears in a parable of Jesus: “Who then is the faithful and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his slaves, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives” (Luke 12:42-43). To be a “servant of Christ” (1 Cor. 4:1) is, in Paul’s symbolic world, a position of privilege and authority. Thus, Paul uses this image to assert his independence from the Corinthians’ judgments of him and his exclusive accountability to the Lord.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 89
Q. 89. How is the word made effectual to salvation?
A. The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching, of the word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation.