Bible Study Material on 1 Cor. 4:1-7
This study presents the Church members and for that matter the body of Christ as stewards of God’s resources. By this Paul is of the view that believers are required to be faithful.
The role of the steward
In biblical times, a steward owned nothing. The steward was a slave who managed his or his master’s wealth. Genesis 24 for instance gives a picture of the oriental steward as one who handled Abraham’s wealth and worked for him. Luke 12:35,15:1-8, 16:12-27 and Matthew 25:14-30 identify a similar role. The pastor is a servant who is a steward. The word “minister” in 1 Cor. 4:1 is literally “the slave who rows on the lowest level of a boat.” What humility Paul had!
A steward’s responsibility is to be faithful to the Master. The pastor’s responsibility, for instance, is to be faithful to teach the things of the Lord, especially those truths that relate to the mystery of the church. His own master will judge him according to his faithfulness. How tragic it is when believers judge different workers and compare one with another.
Stewardship and judgment
In 1 Cor. 4:3-5, Paul presents three kinds of judgment: First is the judgment of the people. Paul seems not to be afraid of these people. The second is self-judgment. Paul says he “knows nothing against himself” (not “by” himself). The last has to do with the judgment of God which is the only true judgment.
The Corinthians were evaluating different servants of God, comparing one with another, and thinking of themselves to be very spiritual. Paul told them they were carnal believers and that their judgment meant nothing to a spiritual servant of God. A true servant of God is a steward of God’s wealth, and his only concern is pleasing God, not men. At the “judgment seat of The Messiah,” God will reveal the secrets and give out the rewards, and every man will have his own reward (1 Cor. 3:8) and his own glory from God (1 Cor. 4:5). To live for the praise of humans is to be false to our stewardship.
Being the steward of our godly leaders
In 1 Cor. 4:6-7, Paul summarizes the whole matter: they were not to go beyond the Word of God and treat people other than as Scripture allows. They were to love and honour their spiritual leaders and obey them as they teach the Word. To compare one leader with another, or to give glory to one over another, was contrary to God’s Word and should be avoided. After all, it is God who makes one believer different from another. Every gift a believer has come from God! We are therefore called upon not to boast over our gifts.
From the perspective of Paul, the important thing for stewards was faithfulness. Stewards have to be efficient managers of the master’s resources. The steward never owned the property or resource under his or her care. The steward simply managed it for the master and had to manage it faithfully.