Faithfulness is Required
1 Corinthians 4:1-2 ESV
“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.”
Are all of us, who believe in Jesus Christ, servants of the Lord? And, are we all stewards of the mysteries of God? And, what are the mysteries of God?
We, who believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, are indeed the Lord’s servants. And, this word “servant” is literally “slave” (doulos). We are bond-slaves of our Lord, with no ownership rights of our own, by our choice to trust in Jesus Christ to now have ownership and rule over our lives (1 Co. 6:19-20; 1 Pet. 2:16; Rom. 6:15-23; Rev. 1:1; Rev. 11:18; Rev. 19:5).
And, the mysteries of God are the gospel of our salvation and the divine truths of Scripture, as applied to our lives. And, they are the excellencies of God which we are to proclaim. For, he called us out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Pet. 2:9; Rom. 16:25; Eph. 1:9; Eph. 3:1-10).
So, yes, we are all stewards of God’s grace, of the salvation he has given to us, of his gospel, of his giftedness to us, and of his assignments he has given to us. (1 Pet. 4:7-11; Rom. 12:1-21; 1 Co. 12:1-31; Eph. 4:1-16).
And, yes, we must be faithful to that trust (stewardship) the Lord Jesus has given to us, both in living according to His Word, and in sharing His Word with others so that they can be saved and have eternal life with God. We must be faithful, too, in using the gifts he has given to us, and in obeying his call on each one of our lives (Acts 11:22-24; Gal. 5:22; Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:2).
Judging by Human Standards
1 Corinthians 4:3-4 ESV
“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.”
Paul, in his ministry, seemed to continually come under some type of condemnation from those who disapproved of him or who judged him by their own standards of how they thought he ought to be. So, there were times when it was necessary for him to give a defense of his ministry, because in condemning him, they were also bringing the gospel he was preaching under disrepute, and he could not have that happen.
So, he seemed to spend much time correcting error, dispelling lies and rumors, and clarifying the truth, so that he had a clear path for teaching the people what they needed to learn about Jesus Christ and the Christian life.
And, so it is today. For, when we are teaching the true gospel of our salvation, and we are exposing the fruitless deeds of darkness, and we are calling people to repentance and to obedience to Christ, we are going to have opposition, even from those who call themselves our sisters and brothers in the Lord.
And, not all the opposition is out in the open, either. Some of it is in the form of rumors, gossip and slander, as people will talk among themselves about what they disagree with rather than confront those they disagree with to give them the opportunity to defend themselves, not that that is always possible. So, sometimes the opposition won’t come in outward forms of hostility, but rather in somewhat silent dissent and withdrawal and rejection.
But, this is not saying that everyone has to agree with us. But, if what we are teaching is clearly the truth, as supported well by Scripture (taken in context), then they should agree with God.
But, a lot of opposition we will face will not have to do with differences in interpretation of Scripture but with man’s (people’s) opinions of us or with their culture or traditions or their own personal prejudices. People will judge us by their own standards or their own traditions rather than by the Word of God. And, that was what Paul often faced, too. And, I have, as well.
The Scum of the World
1 Corinthians 4:9-13 ESV
“For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.”
It isn’t just the apostles who faced this, either. If we are truly the Lord’s servants (his bond-slaves), and if we truly are being faithful to the trust we have been given by God, we are going to experience this, as well. We aren’t going to have a lot of friends, for people will find us weird, peculiar, and not normal. Even those who call themselves our brothers and sisters in the Lord will find us odd, as well, and they won’t want to hang out with us.
Or, they may be ok being with us as long as we don’t talk about the Lord, or as long as we don’t share with them what he is teaching us, or as long as we don’t share the gifts he has given us with them for their encouragement. For, so many people who call themselves Christians are just not comfortable talking about Jesus unless it is in a formal church setting where that is what they are supposed to be doing there.
It just isn’t normal for a lot of people who profess to be followers of Jesus, at least here in America, to speak the truth in love to one another, or to speak to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, or to encourage (inspire, urge, admonish, or motivate) one another in their walks of faith, as taught in Scripture, and according to the word of God.
But, depending upon where we live in the world, the level or the severity of the opposition and persecution and rejection will be varied. For, in America, up to this point, not many Christians have been put to death for their faith in Jesus Christ, but in other nations they have been, and they have been severely beaten and imprisoned and tortured for their belief in Jesus.
Yet, the nominal Christian (in name only, and not in practice) is most likely, in America, not to face much persecution at all. The worldly Christians who blend in with the world won’t face much at all, either, if any. But, if you stand out for Christ, and you teach his word in its fullness, and you don’t blend in with the world, you may experience what Paul described here where he felt that they were considered to be the scum of the world.
And, I know what that feels like, for I have faced much in the way of that type of rejection over my lifetime, too, but especially since God has called me to this ministry.
But, our attitude and our actions must reflect Christ, even when we are mistreated for righteousness’ sake. Thus, we must forgive our persecutors, and we must love our enemies. We must do good to them, pray for them, and say and do what is for their spiritual wellbeing, even if they revile us in return. So…
When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat.
Hide Me, Rock of Ages
Brantley C. George, 1946
…Keep me when the storm clouds gather;
(storm clouds gather, keep me)
‘Til the sun comes shining through;
(comes shining through, oh Savior)
Keep me ‘til my work is over;
(work is over, Jesus)
‘Til I bid this world adieu.
Hide me oh blessed rock of ages
(blessed rock of ages hide me)
‘Til Thy blessed face I see
(Thy face I see in glory)
When the storm around me rages
(round me rages, blessed)
Rock of ages hide Thou me…
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