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.…
The Church at Corinth were divided into rival factions, arrayed under party leaders; and unprofitable controversies and unbecoming tempers were the natural results. The idea of the Christian ministry as a Divine institution was lost sight of, while the man who held the office was invested with undue importance. St. Paul endeavours to correct this state of things by showing that the office was distinct from any qualities or attractions which might belong to the man. The apostle himself was both learned and eloquent, but this did not constitute him a minister of Christ. So far as the man was concerned, he was satisfied to be esteemed "the least," and even "the servant of all," but when the office was brought into view it was a different matter. A hundred men. in any county, may write a better hand than the "county clerk," and yet his hand and seal are indispensable for the validity of certain acts. Shall so much depend on office, in worldly things, and can it be supposed that the Divine Head of the Church has taken less precaution to secure the interests of the soul?
I. "MINISTERS OF CHRIST."
1. Derive their commission from Him (John 20:21). The apostles went forth in His name, and never pleaded any authority for what they said, or did, but His. As an ambassador is duly authorised to make and ratify treaties in his king's name. and to act concerning measures involving the weal or woe of millions, so is Christ's ambassador clothed with power to proclaim the terms of reconciliation with God.
2. Are rulers in God's kingdom. "All power" was given unto the Saviour in heaven and earth, and this authority He dispenses to His servants, who are sent forth to execute His will. They are to awe men into obedience, not by implements of temporal dominion, but by weapons from God's own armoury.
3. They become the comforters of the sorrowing, and physicians of the broken-hearted.
4. Intercede with God for His people. All Christians of course discharge this duty (James 5:16), but more especially those who are commissioned by the Most High to serve at His altar.
II. "STEWARDS OF THE MYSTERIES OF GOD."
1. They are conservators, expounders, and dispensers of all those things once hidden, but now revealed.
2. They are the dispensers of His grace through the ordinances of the gospel.
3. As such it is required of them to be faithful —
(1) To their heavenly Master, not following ways agreeable to themselves, but meekly receiving their Lord's instructions and doing their utmost to carry them into effect. Worldly hopes and fears must not influence them, and all they say and do should have reference to their final account.
(2) To their fellow-servants. "Gospel ministers," says Bishop Hall, "should not only be like dials on watches, or mite-stones upon the road, but like clocks and larums, to sound the alarm to sinners. Aaron wore bells as well as pomegranates, and the prophets were commanded to lift up their voice like a trumpet. A sleeping sentinel may be the loss of the city." A dying nobleman once sent for his minister, and said to him, "You know that I have been living a very wicked life, and yet you have never warned me of my danger." "Yes, my lord," was the constrained and sickening response, "your manner of living was not unknown to me; but great personal kindness to me made me unwilling to offend you bywords of reproof." "Oh, how wicked! how cruel in you!" cried the dying man. "The provision which I made for you and your family ought to have prompted care and fidelity. You neglected to warn and instruct me; and now, my soul is lost!"Conclusion: Christians —
1. Be thankful for the provision which has been made for your instruction and guidance.
2. Be careful to improve it.
(J. N. Norton, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.