Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. (1 Corinthians 4:1)
When the word stewardship is mentioned, most people (Baptists anyway) start grabbing for their wallet, expecting a plea for more money. Without a doubt, we are stewards of our treasure, but Paul is not speaking of that here—he is talking about being a steward of the truth. Those who are ministers of the Gospel are called to that sacred stewardship, and those who are in the membership of the church are to hold the preachers accountable to being faithful. Faithfulness is the required attribute that must be found in those who proclaim God’s Word—faithful to preserve the integrity of the message in sound doctrine and faithful to proclaim the authority of the message in Scriptural declaration (1 Cor.4:2-3).
All followers of Christ are called to serve the Lord in some capacity. The service of the man behind the sacred desk is the ministry of the Word. The word servant is an interesting one. It is a most humble term in the original language—“an under-rower”—the slaves who rowed in the bottom of a Roman galley. It was a brutal assignment, and most did not survive long. How is it that preachers think to promote themselves as celebrities, and demand perks and privileges? Where do we think we are exalted to lord it over the church? Christ is Lord of His church! We are in the bowels of the ship of Zion, toiling for our Lord!
The preacher is a steward of mysteries—truths once hidden as buried treasure, locked away in the heart and mind of God from eternity—now unearthed in time by the Spirit’s spade. That treasure of truth is from God. These mysteries are not ours to tinker with and tailor to suit the self-centered hearts of sinful man! It is God’s Word and we must hold it in reverence, bow to it in obedience, and preach it with confidence! One day, all those who stand with a Bible in hand, will be summoned before Christ and judged according to their degree of faithfulness in this stewardship.
Paul knew what it was to be judged by men—and doubtless there were those who esteemed him very highly—and thus the temptation for devilish pride would be present. Then, there were those who judged him most harshly—and thus the temptation for discouragement to arise. Wisely, he refuses to listen to either. The Apostle would not invest the time in trying to determine the accuracy of men’s opinions. He would leave it in the hands of God (1 Cor.4:4). So must we. There are likely those sermons that men despise and that we think a disaster which we will discover on Judgment Day were honored by the Lord Jesus, and used in a powerful way beyond our wildest imagination. Then, we will find that some of the sermons which received human applause will be judged as nothing, since they led to our glorying in the flesh.
May those who sit in the congregation grading the sermon as critics might review a movie, remember that they do not get the final word. Here is Paul’s encouraging word for the pastor:
Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God. (1 Cor.4:5)