Friday, February 16, 2018

Trustworthy Stewards (1 Corinthians 4:1-2)

“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.” (1 Corinthians 4:1–2, NASB95)

Having written about how they were not to regard men such as himself, Apollos and Cephas, Paul now instructs the Corinthians believers as to how they are to regard him and them. In this we see three things: servants, stewards, and trustworthy. John MacArthur in his study Bible wrote in the notes, “Paul wanted everyone to view him and his fellow ministers only as the humble messengers that God ordained them to be.”

First as servants of Christ, they knew both who their head was and from whom it was that they received marching orders and their direction in fulfilling those orders. They were first and foremost Christ’s servants. They were there to do what He had set apart for them to do. The word “servants” in Greek is “hypēretas. It is a compound word that can be broken down to look at its parts and then put back together to look at its fuller meaning. The first part deriving from the word “hupo” which means “under” and a derivative of the word “eresso” which is not used by itself in Scripture but means “to row.” These men were Christ’s “under-rowers.” They were there to do as he instructed, just as the pilot of a large ship would command those who were conscripted to remain below the deck and row the boat. From this we sense a great amount of humility. To be an under-rower on a ship was not a place of prestige, but something reserved for those who were among the lowliest. And, carrying this term into other usage came with it the understanding that you were always there at the service of another. For them their lord was Christ, and it was His boat that they were called to row.

As the appointed servants charged to move His ship along, they were also entrusted with a great treasure to bring along with them. They were made “stewards of the mysteries of God.” The word “stewards” is itself another compound descriptive Greek word (oikonomos), where the word “oikos” means house or household and the word “nomos” means anything that is established such as laws, customs, commands, and rules. In other words the normal function or ways of the house. A steward was one charged with the responsibility of his master’s household or some other possession.

And the possession with which they were entrusted was the “mysteries of God.” Earlier in chapter 2, Paul wrote, “but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory;” … “For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:7, 10, NASB95) The prophets had spoken, but man did not understand. With the coming of Christ these darkened doors were opened, and the men were shown these hidden treasures or mysteries which they entrusted with to share with others. These mysteries are the revealed word of God and particularly the unfolding of our New Testament as these men of God were moved by the Holy Spirit to speak His truth (2 Peter 1:21). They were made its overseers and dispensers.

With their placement under Christ with the charge of His word, they were then expected to be trustworthy or faithful in their task. Our passage continues, “it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.” The Greek word is “pistos,” and it has the meaning of being fully reliable. Humanly speaking, if you are under someone and you are entrusted with something of theirs then it is fully expected that you will be trustworthy in executing your charge. The servant was to be both loyal and obedient. He was depended upon to do what he was charged to do. He had proven himself faithful and was trustworthy to do as he was expected. All of these things are wrapped up in that word.

Responding to a question raised by Peter after Jesus telling a parable, Jesus said in Luke 12:42-48, “And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward (oikonomos), whom his master will put in charge of his servants (doulos), to give them their rations at the proper time? “Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. “Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. “But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master will be a long time in coming,’ and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. “And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” (Luke 12:42–48, NASB95)

In human terms, it expected of the servant/steward to be found faithful over those things for which he was charged. To not be found as such came at a cost. I am so thankful that our Lord has suffered the price of our sins and has taken the lashes for us. But it does not remove the responsibility that as His we are to be found faithful until such time that He comes again, or we are ushered into His presence by death. Paul had this attitude, and it is the attitude that we see declared throughout Scripture. And, for those who have not believed by faith and been saved, judgment surely does await unless they believe as well before that appointed date.

Paul began verse 2 with the word “moreover.” To be a servant or a steward is one thing, but unless you are faithful to the charge then the position serves little benefit and frequently leads to destruction and decay. In wrapping up today, I reflected on some of the commendations of Paul in his writings. I love how he commends such as of Epaphras and Tychicus in Colossians, “just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf,” (Colossians 1:7, NASB95) And, “As to all my affairs, Tychicus, our beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord, will bring you information.” (Colossians 4:7, NASB95)

“…moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.” I can think of no greater honor than to have others say of me that I was faithful, and even more to hear the words in the presence of Christ my Lord saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21 excerpt, ESV)

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