Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Today’s reading comes from the fourth chapter of the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. In this chapter, Paul speaks of the role of the Apostles among the brethren; much of what he says can equally apply to any leader in the church.
Reading: I Corinthians 4
Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.
The Greek word for “stewardship” is “oikonomia”, from which we get the word “economy”. The word literally means “management of the house”, but it describes the management of any resources or materials for yourself and your kin.
We are stewards of the mysteries of God, meaning that he has entrusted these things to us for management. It is our job to know them, distribute them, and preserve them from the ravages of time and poor interpretation.
2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.
Indeed, who would entrust their accounts to the likes of Bernie Madoff, knowing that he is a criminal who mismanaged the accounts of thousands. So, too, must we be faithful to our God who has entrusted these things to us.
3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.
4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.
5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.
Most non-Christians are aware of the verse from Matthew 7: “Judge not…”. However, they know neither the context for that command nor the meaning of judgement in the Church.
Do you care more about what your coworkers think of you or what your bosses think? If your bosses love you, you are safe from punishment and guaranteed better work, but if they hate you your employment is at risk. So it is with the judgement of man and that of God.
We pass no sentence on people, saying, “You will never be saved, and you will die in your sins and be consigned to hell.” Even the Apostle Paul was once a Jewish Zealot responsible for the persecution and execution of a number of Christians, but the Lord saw fit to redeem him. So it is that we must curse no man.
This does not mean that we are to hold our tongues on matters of Sin. The man who says, “The law says you must not …” does not condemn anyone, for he has no power to pass sentence. For example, if you were driving and someone said, “You’re going 15 over, and I see cops”, is he a judge passing sentence upon you? No – they have shown great love for you by correcting your behavior before it was too late.
6 And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; 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.
We tend to get a bit full of ourselves, and we tend to venerate other men with traits that we admire. However, it is foolish to think of the likes of Joel Osteen or Robert Beisert as anything greater than man. This same is true of all “idols” – the Kardashians, Ronald Reagan, Bernie Sanders, “the government”, etc.
7 For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?
8 Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you.
Paul is pointing out that the Lord gives rich blessings to all who believe, and these gifts are not the result of our labors. It is within every Christian in whom the Spirit dwells to be a priest, under the Great High Priest (that is, Christ). We look to religious authorities with such awe, often unaware that that same Spirit is with us.
Therefore, let us not act as though the Apostles, Priests, or Saints are more than mere men. Praise instead the God who has given them those teachings which we are made to receive.
And beware any man who says, “Acknowledge me, for I am doubly blessed in the Spirit.” When Peter healed the lame man in the temple, he commanded him to praise the Lord alone. When Paul survived the serpent’s bite, he commanded the people of Malta to worship the God who saved him.
9 For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.
10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised.
Those whom the Lord has chosen as apostles are set out before the whole world as beacons of Christ. They travelled alone or in very small groups, poor and hungry. They were set out before the authorities and challenged. They were stoned and thrown out of towns.
11 Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace;
12 And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:
13 Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.
Jesus warned his disciples that those who reviled Him would come to revile His children. They killed him, and they will kill us. They sought to punish and reprimand Him for speaking the Truth, and so they will do to us. They hated Him for acting in accordance with the Will of God, and not that of man. So, too, will they come for us.
Still, Jesus was good to those same people who hated Him. For we all were enemies of Christ, and now we sit at His table as Children of the Father.
14 I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.
15 For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
Fathers have a very special role. They are teachers, providers, instructors, sources of discipline and love, leaders, and defenders. Some of us are able to fill one of these roles, but few are able to be all these things to a congregation. For this reason, many congregations have a collection of leaders.
16 Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.
17 For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church.
Timothy was Paul’s metaphorical firstborn. He sat at Paul’s feet for years, growing in wisdom and faith and the Holy Spirit. Though Paul may not be able to come to his children in hour of need or doubt, the presence of Timothy is not unlike that of his “father”.
18 Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you.
19 But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power.
20 For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.
21 What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?
Many in the church of Corinth were haughty, lording their status over others and passing a number of judgements against them. Paul knew this well, and so he sends to them this warning. If they did not correct their ways, then Paul would come to them in righteous anger, but if they repented he would come in love and restoration.
Let us Pray
Most merciful and Holy Father; Jesus Christ, the Son; and the Holy Spirit. We praise you, for the LORD our God is One God. Let us worship no others before You.
We thank you that you sent the Apostles among us, so that they could be both our brothers and our fathers. Thank you for the teachings of the Apostle Paul, who was sent among the Gentiles to explain the mysteries to us. And thank you that His words are passed down to us so clearly from the age of antiquity.
Grant us, as always, a greater knowledge of You and Your Word. Give us the gift of understanding, and grant us the ability to explain and teach, so that we may build up one another.
We ask these things in the name of the Lord who Saves, who is God With Us – our Lord, Jesus Christ…
May the Lord bless you and keep you
May he make his face shine on you, and be gracious unto you
May he look upon you with favor
And give you his peace.
Go in peace, my brothers in Christ.