Study for my lessons on giving gave me opportunity to revisit a statement Paul made to the church at Corinth. “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1). Initially, I was interested in the Greek word for stewards, but in the process of researching that word, I became even more interested in the word for servants and the symbiotic relationship those words share in the reconciliation of sinners to Christ. There are lessons worth considering in the nineteen words that form this verse.
Regard is from a word that means to hold a mental viewpoint. Viewpoints are important but they are also very subjective. Peer pressure, social values and other factors will always influence our point of view. Israel’s first king was a young man of whom the Scriptures tell us, “there was not a more handsome person than he among the sons of Israel; from his shoulders and up he was taller than any of the people” (1 Sam. 9:2). From virtually anyone’s point of view, Saul was the stuff kings are made of. When it became necessary to anoint an-other to take his place, it was natural for Samuel to look at Jesse’s eldest son Eliab and after regarding his stature to say, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him” (16:6). Samuel was immediately instructed to subject his personal point of view to the Lord’s view-point. “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (16:7).
The viewpoints among the brethren at Corinth had been a source for division (1 Cor. 1:10-17). In all things, they were to be complete by being of the same mind and have the same judgment, i.e., viewpoint (1:10). The only way this could be accomplished would be to subject their viewpoints to the Spirit’s direction much as Samuel had done centuries before. Thus Paul, by inspiration, gave them God’s viewpoint on many things, including the very role that Paul played in the Lord’s kingdom.
Servants of Christ is not from the more common Greek word doulos, but from a word that implied a position of great trust and therefore loyalty. It also indicated a servant whose words were no less than those his master had instructed him to speak. Thus the brethren at Corinth needed to see Paul as a servant entrusted with a divine message that deserves to be heard without debate.
Stewards of the mysteries of God speaks of the gospel that had been hidden through the ages but is now brought to light (Eph. 3:8-10). Paul served Christ and served the eternal word of the gospel. He could not serve Christ without being a steward of the mysteries of God, nor could he be that steward and speak to the church or the world about anything other than Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2) even if it did prove to be a stumbling block to many Jews or a foolish message to most Gentiles (1:23).
This faithful servant and steward served both His king and the message of the gospel. He also strove mightily to encourage brethren to set aside every passion and every sin that so easily besets us (Heb. 12:1). As he indicated to the church at Thessalonica, his goal was to serve his Lord in such a way and, as a steward, to be so faithful to the truth that those who heard his message would live transformed lives “… that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified … “ (2 Thess. 1:12).
Others form viewpoints of you and me every day. While it is common to hear people say, “I don’t really care what others think of me,” we don’t have that luxury. Instead, we should be vitally interested in how they regard us. Let’s be true servants of our Lord and serve the gospel of God in word and deed.
Keep studying! DC Brown ©2012