Mature Leaders Bring Unity

Key Verse: “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.”
—I Corinthians 4:1

Selected Scripture:
I Corinthians 4:1-13

THE CHURCH AT CORINTH had put Paul and other leaders, such as Apollos, on tall pedestals for human admiration. In the Key Verse, Paul reminds the Corinthians how apostles ought to be reckoned: as ministers (servants) and stewards (trustees or managers) of God’s mysteries, his plan of salvation. By doing this he was telling them that he, Apollos, and others, are not to be regarded as those to whom the church should direct their glory and honor. Rather, Paul removed himself from this sentiment entirely, saying that he desired only to be accounted as serving God.

Paul realized that the Corinthians were prone to self-inflation and would perhaps misunderstand his words. If he and others alone are subject to God, then what’s to prevent them from acting inappropriately, rationalizing their actions afterward? Hence Paul wrote: “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” (I Cor. 4:2) Further commenting on this, Paul says that the one who determines the faithfulness of these stewards, including himself, is the Lord alone. Neither the Corinthian brethren, a human court, or even Paul himself, was capable of doing this, only the Lord. (vss. 3,4) In this, the only praise sought was the “praise of God.”—vs. 5

In verse 6, Paul makes it clear that he used himself and Apollos as illustrations of the point that no one, neither the apostles, the brethren in Corinth, nor any of the Lord’s followers, should be puffed up with pride. What makes such an attitude even more displeasing to the Lord is that it is usually at the expense, or to the detriment, of someone else. “For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive?” (vs. 7) These rhetorical questions point out the fact that fleshly differences among the Lord’s people are inconsequential, since everything, without exception, is to be received as a gift from God, regardless of who we are or our position in the church.

Paul continues by pointing out the irony of the Corinthian brethren’s attitude. He says they are acting as though they were already sitting on glorious thrones in power. Paul wonders aloud, where was he and where were the other apostles when this took place? (vs. 8) By contrast, he reviews all the hardships that he and the other apostles were still suffering for the Gospel’s sake, Paul states that they have been “made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.” (vs. 9) The image given here is that of the arena, and the use of prisoners for games, pitting them against wild animals and gladiators. Included in these comments, Paul states: “Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it.”—vs. 12

These words echo those of Jesus as he preached his sermon on the mount: “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”—Matt. 5:10-12

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