Ministers Must be MeekJanuary 9, 2017 at 3:00 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 4 Comments
Tags: 1 Corinthians 4, Apostles, Biblical sarcasm, Christian ministry, commentary on 1 Corinthians, humility, ministers, pride, Sunday School lessons on 1 Corinthians
Previously we learned that ministers must be managers.
Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.
I Corinthians 4:1-2
The word for “ministers” in 4:1 is hyperetes – the under-rowers on a Roman trireme – the lowliest of the low. They are workers who exist only to serve. While it is true that the Apostles were ministers who revealed the mysteries of God, they did not see themselves as overseers rationing out food so that no one gets too much or too little. They saw themselves as slaves driven to reach the destination of greater knowledge and greater intimate relationship with Christ.
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.
I Corinthians 4:6
There were other factions causing division in the church at Corinth, but Paul used himself and Apollos to set an example of humility. Just as the puffiness of pride will destroy a marriage, so it will also destroy a church family. Puffiness is emptiness masquerading as fullness, and it is a symptom of pride. The Holy Spirit here does a better job deflating egos than Tom Brady does deflating footballs.
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?
I Corinthians 4:7
Who made me different from anyone else? God did. What do I have that I did not receive? Nothing. Why am I proud of it if it was purely a gift? Because I forgot I am a Know, and not a Know-Not, and I thought I could steal a little of God’s glory for myself (or at least distribute some of it to somebody I really admire).
The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to engage in some biting sarcasm.
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.
I Corinthians 4:8
The “us” he referred to was the Apostles. He was suggesting to the Corinthians that, since they seemed to believe they had outgrown their teachers, perhaps they could teach the Apostles. After all, Paul and the Apostles were just out on their mission field, in the world, fighting to the death for Jesus, that’s all.
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.
I Corinthians 4:9
The “spectacle” was the last part of a gladiator show, when only the too-drunk-to-leave or the really poor or the most-depraved stuck around to see slaves and criminals fed to beasts. The main events were “contests” – these were just spectacles
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. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.
I Corinthians 4:10-13
It’s as if Paul was saying, “We’re just out here putting on a show, being humiliated, laughed at as we suffer, but you’ve got this whole Christianity thing really figured out . It’s really about sitting around trying to show off whose teacher has the most knowledge, and trying to brag about how smart you are.” He was being honest about his own hardships, persecution, and suffering, but he was also driving home the point that meekness is of the utmost importance in managing the knowledge and gifts given by God for the purpose of Christian ministry.
Next time we will see that ministers must be mild.