Serving As Herald Of His Coming

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Nature of True Apostleship


Servants Of Christ

1 Corinthians 4:1 NASB95
Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.

Stewards Of The Mysteries of God

1 Corinthians 4:1 NASB95
Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.

Paul brings this first section of his letter to a close by telling the readers how they are to think of the apostles. Paul used two different words to describe the apostles in 4:1, and they show the contrast of the relationship the apostles had with God and also the relationship they had with the church. The word translated “servants” came from the description of a particular Roman slave. On the great galley ships there were slaves whose work was to row the ship. Those slaves who were on the lower bank of oarsmen were called “under-rowers.” They labored only as the master directed. Paul felt that he and the other apostles did only as God directed them as His servants. In a sense, every Christian needs to see himself or herself in this relationship with God, whatever our position in the work.

The secret things of God refers to God’s wisdom, the message of the Cross known only by the Spirit’s revelation (2:7–10).

1 Corinthians 2:7–10 “but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but 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.” For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.”

The second word Paul used was translated “steward.” In contrast to the “under-rower,” the steward was a slave with great authority and large responsibility in the household, having to direct activities and to make decisions. Paul also felt that he and the other apostles had been given authority by God to preach the gospel and to give leadership in the churches. In this role they were accountable to God for how they handled their responsibility.

Stewards are to be trustworthy

1 Corinthians 4:2 NASB95
In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.

Jesus is the final Judge of the Stewards

1 Corinthians 4:5 NASB95
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.

Don’t bother about human judgment

1 Corinthians 4:3 NASB95
But 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.

Stewards are not even competent to judge themselves!

1 Corinthians 4:4 NASB95
For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.

Jesus will judge all

“He That Judgeth (Testeth) Me Is the Lord” 1 Cor. 4:4
There is in the Mint a marvellously delicate machine for assaying the weight of gold. Sovereigns are made to pass through a tube, and when they come to the end, the machine acts so that those which are overweight are thrown to the right, and those under weight are thrown to the left. Only those of exact weight are allowed to pass on.
There are several things which will be tested at the judgment-seat of Christ.
1. The “hidden things” of the inner life will be made to stand out in the light (1 Cor. 4:5).
2. The “counsels,” or the purposes of “the heart,” will be manifest as they were known (1 Cor. 4:5).
3. The “work” of the Christian worker will be revealed as to its “sort” (1 Cor. 3:3).
4. The character of the material used in the Lord’s service will be revealed—1 Cor. 13:11–13.
5. Any work that will not stand the test of the revealing fire will be “burnt up” (1 Cor. 3:15).
6. Our motives will be examined and scrutinised as to their purity—2 Cor. 5:9, 10.
7. Reward will be given to those who have faithfully served their Lord—Luke 19:16–19.1
1 Marsh, F. (1970). 1,000 Bible Study Outlines: Study Helps and Sermon Outlines (p. 380). WORDsearch.

Apostle John As An Example

He was humble and faithful

Matthew 3:11 NASB95
“As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
John 1:20–26 NASB95
And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know.
John 1:27 NASB95
It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”
John 1:30 NASB95
“This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’

John was called and His Ministry was rooted in the scripture

Malachi 4:5 NASB95
“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.
Isaiah 40:3 NASB95
A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.
John was not looking for personal earthly gain
Titus 1:7 NASB95
For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain,
1 & 2 Corinthians 1 Corinthians 4

1 Corinthians 4


The discussion in chapter 3 regarding the status of ministers of the gospel led Paul to further explain how believers should regard their ministers. The leaders (himself, Apollos, Peter, or others) were never to be the focus of anyone’s loyalty. They do not have supernatural powers, nor do they advance their own doctrines. Their authority is given and limited by the Master—Jesus Christ.


Paul and the other church leaders were “servants of Christ” (4:1). Christ’s true servants prove themselves through their personal character and the content of their teaching. Over a period of time, servant-leaders must demonstrate both aspects of their calling. Paul knew that leaders in the church played crucial roles in God’s plan, but he also knew the difference between ability and usability. The Corinthians were arguing over credentials; Paul wanted them to listen to those who were actually serving them in Christ’s name. He wasn’t worried about his declining popularity. He was concerned about the true spiritual health of fellow Christians he loved.

How does someone get your attention as a Christian leader? Are you more impressed by a person’s image or the evidence of personal integrity? What servant-leader for Christ has made the deepest impact on your life? Take time to thank God for that person.

4:1–2 Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. The believers ought not to be boasting about “their” leader (3:21). Instead, Paul wrote, think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries. As “servants of Christ,” these leaders served their Master and did exactly what he told them to do. As “stewards of God’s mysteries,” these leaders acted as managers of a household, caring for the members and dispensing the provisions as needed. Wealthy households often would have stewards who managed the family resources and ran the home. Certainly, a person with that much responsibility should be found trustworthy. The same was true with these “stewards” of God’s message of salvation. A steward worked under the authority of the master and reported directly to the master. Ministers of the gospel message are merely God’s servants.

Paul and the other leaders had been entrusted with “God’s mysteries.” The word “mysteries” refers to “God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began” (2:7 NIV)—the mystery of the plan of salvation. These mysteries cannot be discovered or comprehended by human wisdom, but they have been entrusted to God’s workers to be carefully and responsibly taught to others.


Paul rejected human judgments on his ministry. This may appear odd at first. Was he that self-confident? Didn’t he care what others thought? Actually, Paul cared far more about what Christ might say about his ministry than about anyone else’s evaluation—even his own self-evaluation. He wasn’t claiming unaccountable authority. Rather, he was telling the Corinthians that his faithfulness, as well as theirs, eventually would be measured by Christ himself.

Paul’s candor clarifies two significant temptations to be resisted by anyone in ministry. The first is to rely too heavily on the approval or disapproval of others. The second is to rely too heavily on self-rationalizations. We can justify almost any behavior. With the support of others, we may even behave scandalously. But final accountability comes from Christ. When facing criticism or praise, pray for the capacity to see things from God’s perspective.

4:3–4 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. The Corinthians battled over the preacher whom they judged to be the best or the message that they liked most, but Paul dismissed their judgment entirely. Human judgment was as worthless before God as human wisdom (2:6). Because he had been called by God to serve, Paul owed allegiance to God alone, and he looked to God alone to judge his performance. As a steward serves the master of the estate, so Paul served God. Paul did not concern himself with what any group of people thought of his teaching style or his message. Paul did not even depend on his own self-evaluation—I do not even judge myself. When he did look within, Paul could honestly say that he had a clear conscience, but that did not mean he was innocent. The Lord alone could make that pronouncement. Paul was accountable to God and would be judged by God alone.


The New Testament illustrates the importance of pleasing God, not people. The secret to pleasing God is faith, obedience, and service. (Verses are quoted from NLT.)


Key Phrase


John 8:29

“Jesus said, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man on the cross, then you will realize that … I do nothing on my own, but I speak what the Father taught me.’ ”

Believers are to follow totally, just as Christ did:

2 Corinthians 5:9

“So our aim is to please him always, whether we are here in this body or away from this body.”

Believers should aim always to please God in their words and actions.

Galatians 6:8

“Those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.”

Believers are assured of great reward when they live to please and honor God.

Ephesians 5:10

“Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.”

Believers will be shown what God wants them to do if they ask him.

Colossians 1:9–10

“We ask [God] to make you wise with spiritual wisdom. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and you will continually do good, kind things for others.”

Believers can ask God for wisdom to help them live to honor and please him.

1 Thessalonians 2:4

“Our purpose is to please God, not people. He is the one who examines the motives of our hearts.”

Believers must always focus on pleasing God; then even if they don’t please people, they know that their consciences are clear.

1 Thessalonians 4:1

“Finally … we urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus to live in a way that pleases God.”

Believers are urged to please God because of what Jesus has done for them.

Hebrews 11:6

“It is impossible to please God without faith.”

The most important ingredient to pleasing God is faith that trusts him for salvation.

4:5 So be careful not to jump to conclusions before the Lord returns as to whether or not someone is faithful. When the Lord comes, he will bring our deepest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. And then God will give to everyone whatever praise is due. The Corinthian believers had expended much energy on making judgments concerning various leaders. Paul explained that God alone could judge the leaders because he alone knows the deepest secrets and private motives. Human beings cannot do that, so they should be careful not to jump to conclusions before the Lord returns as to whether or not someone is faithful. People can see only the outside, but God can discern a person’s heart (1 Samuel 16:7). A minister may appear to be a faithful servant but be harboring pride in his heart. At the same time, another minister may not be flamboyant or outwardly successful yet be a sincere person of God. One group of believers may appear to be sincere, all the while harboring envy and dissension. Other believers may not appear to have much in the world’s estimation yet be filled with God’s Spirit and manifest his gifts.

Believers, therefore, ought not be making such judgments. This will happen when the Lord comes, and then God will give to everyone whatever praise is due (see also 2 Corinthians 5:10). At the Second Coming, those who have been faithful, as judged by God himself, will receive praise and reward from him.

Blessed is God’s ambassador who is not in bonds—bonds of habit, shackling sins of flesh or spirit, bonds within or bonds without, in his own family or church or among the ecclesiastics over him, bonds that quench the Spirit and stifle his message until he is a parrot instead of a prophet.

Vance Havner


It is tempting to judge fellow Christians, evaluating whether or not they are good followers of Christ. But only God knows a person’s heart, and he is the only one with the right to judge. Paul’s warning to the Corinthians should warn us today. We are to confront those who are sinning (see 5:12–13), but we must not judge who is a better servant for Christ. When you judge someone, you invariably consider yourself better—and that is arrogant.

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