1 Corinthians 4:1-5
Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.…
I. WHAT THE CLERGY ARE.
(1) The word in the original signifies an "under-rower." Our Lord is the Pilot of the vessel of His Church, and the clergy are the rowers under His command. He from heaven still guides his Church below; but, under His guidance, and by His own appointment, a distinct share of the work is allotted to His ministers.
(2) Strictly speaking, the clergy are not the ministers of the congregation, and it is not their primary duty to try and please the people. They are "ministers of Christ"; and they must count it "a very small thing" that they should be "judged of man's judgment," remembering that "He that judgeth them is the Lord."
2. Stewards. A steward is one who is appointed by an owner of estates to deal on his behalf with his tenants, manage his property, rule in his absence, dispense his bounty. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the owner of the estate of His Church, and the clergy are the officers appointed by Him to represent Him in matters affecting His people. As the power of a steward is not inherent, but only delegated, so the authority of "the stewards of the mysteries of God" has its origin in, and depends for its continuance on, the will of Christ their Lord. Now it is obvious that a steward —
(1) Must receive some external appointment, and must be able to produce his credentials. It is not enough that a man should call himself a steward. "No man taketh this honour to himself, but he that is called of God."(2) Must have somewhat committed to his charge, some official acts to perform, and some bounty to dispense. And to the clergy, as "stewards," are committed "the mysteries of God." It is their business to defend and promulgate the "truth as it is in Jesus," not preaching themselves — i.e., their own theories and fancies — but "the faith once for all delivered to the saints."(3) Is not only representative of his master to the tenants, but that equally is he representative of the tenants to his master. And so it is the high privilege of the clergy as "stewards," to become intimately acquainted with the circumstances, needs, perplexities, and sorrows of Christ's people; it is their duty to find out all about them. and then, on their behalf, to go to the throne of grace and intercede. Certainly if the dignity of "the ministers of Christ" is great their responsibility is greater still.
II. HOW THE LAITY SHOULD REGARD THEM — "Account of them," &c. And if you do so you will —
1. Esteem them very highly, not for their own, but for their work's sake. Lose sight of the man in the office, and prove your esteem by receiving at his hands "the mysteries of the kingdom of God," for thus you will —
2. Encourage them. And probably there is no class of men who more greatly need encouragement. Recognising their difficulties, and wishing to encourage them, you will be led —
3. To pray for them.
(1) That the words spoken by them may have success.
(2) That they may be preserved from all the dangers peculiar to the position which they hold.
(3) Lest that by any means when they have preached to others they themselves should be castaways!
Parallel VersesKJV: Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.