Ministers as Stewards
1 Cor. 4: 1 – 5
As children of God we have privileges, duties, and responsibilities. We have to be faithful in our daily
walk or how we live in the midst of this crooked and perverse generation. Not only on how we live
but on how we do our duty given to us by the Lord. The leadership problem created by the
Corinthians church members affected Paul so he wrote these verses to change their views regarding
their outlook and treatment to their leaders. The first five verses tell about judging and Paul is telling
the Corinthians to account them (1 Cor. 4:1) meaning regard us not as masters and leaders of
different sects, but simply as the servants of Christ
I. What Preachers and church leaders are (1 Cor. 4:1)?
A. The word “minister” means one who serves. Until now preachers are called
ministers because they are supposed to bear the responsibility of serving their
B. They are ministers of Christ. They are to be received as men that have been raised
up by God for the edification of the saints. They are not worldly heroes to be
revered and exalted; they were not lords; they are ministers and servants. They are
not to be despised, but they are also not to be worshipped. They are to be followed
as they follow Christ (1 Cor. 11:1).
C. They are stewards of the mysteries of God. A mystery in the New Testament is a
truth that was hidden in the Old Testament dispensation but revealed in this age
(Rom. 16:25-26). It refers to the teachings of the New Testament faith, which was
once delivered to the saints. Every preacher, teacher, and church leader are a
steward of these mysteries, of this faith. He is accountable before God to teach it
accurately and wholly and he will give account to God for his stewardship.
II. Faithfulness required (1 Cor. 4:2).
A. This is something that God requires. It is not an optional part of our Christianity. God
requires faithfulness in everything, in our divine duties in the home, in the church,
toward the unsaved, toward the government, in employment, in all things.
B. The believer is the steward of God. A steward is one who is in charge of another’s
property. God has committed many things to the believer and we will give an
account to Him for how we handled His property and business in this world.
C. Though the Lord requires us and expects us to be faithful in our responsibilities, He
does expect us to be fruitful. Any fruit we see as we share the Biblical explanations
of the great mysteries of God is His responsibility. God gives the increase.
Illustration 1: Charles Spurgeon
Charles Spurgeon preached to thousands in London each Lord’s Day, yet he started his ministry by
passing out tracts and teaching a Sunday school class as a teenager. When he began to give short
addresses to the Sunday school, God blessed his ministry of the Word. He was invited to preach in
obscure places in the country side, and he used every opportunity to honor the Lord. He was faithful
in the small things, and God trusted him with the greater things. “I am perfectly sure,” he said, “that,
if I had not been willing to preach to those small gatherings of people in obscure country places, I
should never have had the privilege of preaching to thousands of men and women in large buildings
all over the land. Remember our Lord’s rule, “whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he
that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching & Preachers, W. Wiersbe, p. 221
Illustration 2: Hudson Taylor
It was a stormy night in Birmingham, England, and Hudson Taylor was to speak at a meeting at the
Seven Street schoolroom. His hostess assured him that nobody would attend on such a stormy night,
but Taylor insisted on going. “I must go even if there is no one but the doorkeeper.” Less than a
dozen people showed up, but the meeting was marked with unusual spiritual power. Half of those
present either became missionaries or gave their children as missionaries; and the rest were faithful
supporters of the China Inland Mission for years to come.
Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching and Preachers, W. Wiersbe, p. 242
III. Paul’s Instruction (1 Cor. 4: 2-5)
A. Paul is not saying that believers should judge nothing at all and should leave all
judgment to God. This would be contrary to other passages in the same epistle
which instruct the believers to judge many things (e.g., 1 Cor. 2:15; 5:3, 12; 6:2- 3;
B. He is saying, rather, that it is wrong to judge ministers by our own human thinking as
to what a minister should be and how he should teach and act. The context makes it
clear that he is talking about being judged by “man’s judgment” (1 Cor. 4:3). They
are, rather, to judge righteous judgment according to God’s Word. It is not required
that a minister suit men and bend to their thinking; it is required that he be faithful
to God and to His Word, and this is the only proper standard by which he can be
C. He is saying, further, that it is wrong to judge ministers in a way that exalts one and
debases another in a carnal fashion, as the Corinthians were doing. See verse 6 —
“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.” No church leader is above being
judged by the Scriptures, but the Corinthians were judging on the basis of such
things as personality and talent and gifting and mannerisms.
D. He is also saying that ultimate and final judgment belongs only to the Lord;
therefore, we must be humble and cautious in our judgments in this present time (1
Cor. 4:4-5). Even though we have the Word of God and we are obliged to judge
things on the basis of God’s Word, we must not think that we are infallible. We have
to walk in the light that we have and live our lives and exercise our ministries on that
basis, but our knowledge is very imperfect in this present world. We can know if a
man’s teaching is false and we can know enough, therefore, to mark his error and to
avoid it, but we do not know the secrets of men’s hearts and we do not know all of
the things that will be brought to bear and come into play when God judges men in
that perfect light of a coming day.
IV. Important lessons about God’s future judgment (1 Cor. 4:5).
A. The judgment will occur after Christ returns. This would appear to give the timing of
the judgment seat of Christ.
B. In the judgment God will bring to light the hidden things of darkness. We can hide
things from men in this present world, but nothing will be hidden in that day.
C. In the judgment God will make manifest the counsels of the hearts. Not only will our
works be judged but also our motives and innermost thoughts as well.
Illustration 3: Judgment for Believers
Q. Since God forgives us when we confess our sins, what is there to deal with at the Judgment Seat
A. You are right in thinking that we stand before God as people who are cleared of all charges
(Romans 8:1). Nevertheless, when we die, we leave unfinished business. God intends to evaluate our
lives as Christians and share the information with us.
Paul’s conscience was clear, but that did not make him innocent. At the Judgment Seat (the Bema),
Paul says, the Lord “will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of
men’s hearts” (1 Corinthians 4:4-5). The passage ends with words of encouragement, not terror:
“and then shall every man have praise of God”
A review of our lives as believers, with praise, not rebuke, as the main objective, is the purpose of
the Bema. If we collect all that is written about it, we see that the emphasis is on rewards. God
wants to commend us, not punish us. See also 1Corinthians 3:10-15. “Questions & Answers”, Today
in the Word, February 1997, pp. 12-13.
We are all servants of Christ and as servants we need to be faithful in our serving. Are
you faithful enough to the “small things” that God has entrusted you? At the Judgement
Seat of Christ or Bema, He will judge us. My prayer is all of us will hear “, Well done,
thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make
thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
Note: Most of the materials here were taken from David Cloud’s book