Today: [1 Corinthians 4:] Taking the Measure of a Christian Leader: In the previous chapter Paul corrects the Corinthians for their foolish and fickle attitudes toward their leaders. In chapter 4 he continues making it clear that those who are called to preach the gospel are not to be held in light regard for they are they carry in them the mysteries of God.
[1Co 4:1-21 KJV] 1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. 4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God. 6 And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and [to] Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think [of men] above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. 7 For who maketh thee to differ [from another]? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive [it], why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received [it]? 8 Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you. 9 For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. 10 We [are] fools for Christ’s sake, but ye [are] wise in Christ; we [are] weak, but ye [are] strong; ye [are] honourable, but we [are] despised. 11 Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; 12 And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: 13 Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, [and are] the offscouring of all things unto this day. 14 I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn [you]. 15 For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet [have ye] not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 16 Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. 17 For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church. 18 Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you. 19 But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. 20 For the kingdom of God [is] not in word, but in power. 21 What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and [in] the spirit of meekness?
In chapter 3 of 1 Corinthians Paul chastises the church in that city for unhelpful and preferential attitudes in their choice of leaders. Having pointed out what their posture should NOT be toward Christian leadership, Paul commences in chapter four to outline for the believers what their hearts should be toward those over them in the Lord. In v. 1 Paul states that the ministers of Christ should be regarded as stewards of the mysteries of God. The word used here means that Christian leaders, particularly the apostles were caretakers and dispensers of the hidden things of God that were not immediately evident to the Christian devotee. What are those mysteries? Paul states in Col. 1:27 that the preeminent mystery of God is that of “Christ in you the hope of Glory…” Whatever may be known of God and declared of His purposes in the earth we must understand that they are a declaration of who God is IN YOU. God’s primary purposes unfold not in religious infrastructure or culture, but in the human heart. All apostolic truth elucidates and illuminates for you what is IN YOU in Christ by virtue of the price paid on Calvary.
Because of Calvary, every disqualifying condition of estrangement from God is eliminated, and the way is clear for the Father and the Son in the person of the Holy Spirit to take up residence in the human heart – specifically in YOUR heart individually.
If the apostles are stewards of the mysteries, v. 2 stresses then that stewards are to be found faithful. They do not answer to themselves, neither do they answer to the people. They answer to God, in fact, because of this overarching accountability Paul states in v. three that it is a “very small thing” to be judged by his readers because, in reality, he doesn’t even deign to judge himself. Oh, that ministers of the gospel would learn this great lesson. As a man of God, or a woman of God how dare you to either validate or denigrate yourself. Your failure or success is in God’s eyes and God’s alone. This is why Kitty and I do not listen to our critics for they are not our judges. The only judgment you may make is regarding your own accountability to the leadership of God placed in your midst, for leaders are not Lord’s over God’s heritage and do not have leave of the Father to enforce their own measure or metron.
Why does Paul not judge himself? Because (v. 4) he states that he does not know anything. In other words, he doesn’t have all the information to make an assessment either of his failure or his success or even to take a measurement of his own apostolic prowess. Likewise you are not allowed to judge another man because you do not have all the information either. Keep your mouth and your mind off of God’s heritage in terms of judgments and criticisms. Would Paul have known that he was the singular most influential human being in all of history other than Christ himself, what a debilitating fact that would have been.
There is only one thing more devastating than realizing how ineffective one’s ministry is it would be to know how vast, broad and utterly impactful your work in the gospel might be! Who is the judge? The Lord is the judge, at that level, in terms of quantifying and qualifying the estimation of your worth in the kingdom your only appeal is to the throne of God itself.
Verse 5 then tells us not to judge anything before the time. The word time here is not CHRONOS or chronological time but KAIROS – the fullness of time. You might labor for an hour or a day and suddenly find kairos impactfulness causing the seeds of your sacrifice to bear fruit and produce in a moment of time. That isn’t because you are so anointed or because God, angels or men think so highly of you. You may on the other hand labor for years seemingly pounding seeds in the concrete and wonder does your life count for anything but ONLY HEAVEN will reveal the value of a life such as yours poured out like a drink offering unto the higher purposes of the kingdom. Just because you see little fruit doesn’t mean you are inept and it doesn’t mean you are set aside by God for some unknown disqualification. Judge not before the time, my brother and my sister for there will come a day that the hidden sacrifices of a 1000 obediences will come to light and you will have your reward and receive the approbation of heaven.
Paul applies these things to himself and Apollos, indicating that he had a relationship to Apollos that gave him license not only to speak of him but to speak for him. He didn’t have that intimacy or liberty with Peter or other apostles, but with Apollos, there was a fraternity of trust so deep that one could speak freely of the other without fear of objection or contradiction. Oh, that gospel ministers today shared that fraternity among themselves! Today one cannot quote the most basic scripture without being corrected or clarified by even those he has fathered in the things of the faith. Where is the Apollos of our age? You will find him with the Pauls of our time – laboring, impacting changing their world for Christ as champions of His kingdom, living not for themselves but for the higher purposes of God.
Paul goes on (v. 8-14) to mock the Corinthians and gives his first indication that he knows that they now despise him even though he literally founded and fathered this Christian community just a few years before. They are full (he feigns to allege) but he is impoverished. They are first, but he must be last. He (along with the other apostles) must be fools, weak, despised, appointed unto death; surely these Corinthians have outgrown Paul (as he senses in his spirit that his letter will not be welcomed warmly once read in their congregation). What is Paul doing? Why is he goading his readers? Because in chapter 5 he will expose the fact that he knows that fornication is rampant in their midst even to such a degree that the pagans of the city of Corinth themselves were blushing at the incendiary profligacy of the very leaders of the Corinthian church.
Having excoriated them briefly Paul pleads with them as a father saying (v. 14) that he isn’t writing these things to shame them, but as a patrician of the spirit, he warns them. How did this church in just a few years get in this state? Verse 15 gives us a clue – Paul declares though they have 10,000 instructors in Christ they have only one father. In Paul’s absence of just a few years teachers and teachings of very questionable character had swept across this city, corrupting the congregation and the leadership to the point that they were boasting in things of which they should have been humiliated (for there was in their midst a man living in a conjugal relationship with his father’s wife, perhaps a step-mother, perhaps worse).
Because these people have lost their spiritual bearings and even their moral compass, Paul sends to them Timothy, who now has grown from a stripling intern to an apostle in his own right, whose assignment is to bring the Corinthians back into a place of familiarity with Paul’s heart, and teaching and apostolic doctrine. What an appointment! Would you like to be Timothy? If you attended this church would you be willing to accept such a charge and to obey in Paul’s absence? Would you get offended that Paul didn’t come himself? Many times Kitty and I deal with people who are offended that we don’t address them ourselves. They are immature. They have a Corinthian character, and it is our job to correct them if they can, in fact, be corrected.
Paul assures them that though some of them are puffed up and offended, he will shortly come to them and then will take their measure in the power of the spirit and intensitity of his apostolic character, for the kingdom of God is not known in many words but in power. Will Paul come with a rod to chastise them or will he come in love and the spirit of meekness? His heart is to build them up, and in that hope, he corrects them ahead of time because of his deep love wherewith he loves them.
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