1 Corinthians 4:1-7

1 Corinthians 4:1
Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.
Ministers - Attendants = servant
Steward - One who is manager of a household like Joseph.
Here the Apostle Paul is placing himself and those with him in proper perspective. He just finished chiding them for their following individual preachers or Apostles. He is now pointing out that he is not some super-spiritual person which belongs on a pedestal. He is stating here that he is nothing more than a servant of Christ and a steward of the Gospel. The mystery of God is the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Every Christian is a steward of this mystery and are ministers, or servants, of Christ. Paul is truncating the idea that all Christians are equal and there is no super spiritual, exalted class of Christians. Unfortunately, today, just because someone is on TV or Radio, immediately we think they have some kind of special, exalted position in the Kingdom of God. Every true Christian holds the same position in the eyes of God although our responsibilities in the Kingdom work are different. If there was such a thing as a reward or rating system, it would not be those who are in major public ministries who would get the pat on the backs from the Lord. It would be those who are humble prayer warriors or those who get involved in the lives of others to the hurt of their own. Those little old ladies in the nursing homes who bring the names of people before the throne of God would have the biggest crown.
The problem is the more famous a Christian is, the more pride they possess. All one has to do is look at the arrogance which runs rampant in the public ministry arena and you will know what I mean. Preachers or teachers who are not allowed to be challenged, those who are ivory tower theologians, those who are detached from the reality of life do not really add anything good to the Kingdom work because arrogance and self-absorption is not the godly method whereby Christ is preached. The Lord Jesus Christ hung naked on a cross in public humiliation and do we think we are going to get true ministry from the guys in $800 Armani suits? Five miles from my home, there is a Charismatic preacher in a church the size of Madison Square Garden who walks down the halls with body guards. Do you honestly think that this guy is not obsessed with his own importance?
1 Corinthians 4:2
Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.
This verse lays out the true goal of the Christian attitude. We are not to be found as the best dressers or driving the best car. The key to the successful Christian life is that we are found faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ and faithful to the work He has given us. There are three great examples in Scripture:
(Num 12:7 KJV) My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house.
Hanani & Hananiah
(Neh 7:2 KJV) That I gave my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the ruler of the palace, charge over Jerusalem: for he was a faithful man, and feared God above many.
(Dan 6:4 KJV) Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him.
Here are three great testimonies of three faithful people. It was their lives of submission to the Lord Jesus which under girded their faithfulness. This is our responsibility too. We can not concern ourselves with what other Christians are doing, instead, we measure our life according to our obedience to the revealed will of God and the Scriptures. For a Christian to remain faithful, they must be sold out to the Lord Jesus Christ and are not to be diverted from our calling. A faithful Christian is not one who has more concern for social injustices, but are those who are concerned with the salvation of souls. In the three example verses, God gave each of these men a specific responsibility. When we read God’s assessment of their lives, we see they fulfilled the requirement of faithfulness. If anyone owns a business, would they want to hire someone who is not faithful? If a Christian lacks faithfulness in their commitment to Christ, then He will not trust them with a task which has eternal consequences. Faithfulness is the premier characteristic of the Christian.
1 Corinthians 4:3
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.
Very Small Thing - The smallest matter
Judge (d) = Examined, investigated or inquired
Paul is saying that these Corinthians could not examine them properly since man cannot be objective and honest. In this world what is the only objective thing we have to make our judgments by? The Bible! Paul wanted to make sure that these Christians were not doing comparisons between them and whatever else which was causing the division in the Corinthian church. Paul did not even judge himself in this matter. This is because he was not yet finished with his present task and had not yet received his marching orders for his future task. Since we are God’s servants, He is the only one who is able to make true judgments on us. (Rom 8:33 KJV) Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Even those in the Corinthian church which were judging Paul, it was the smallest matter, since Paul had the stewardship of bringing the Gospel. He could not tie himself down with such trivial matters as being judged by those who are carnally minded, since they would not understand the deeper things which Paul was involved in.
1 Corinthians 4:4
(A) For I know nothing by myself; (B) yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.
A. Paul could not even judge or examine himself apart from the Word of the Lord. He is being up front with these Christians that when it comes to doing the Lord’s work or living the Christian life, it is foreign to the understanding of man. This is why Paul says he knows nothing by himself. If a Christian detaches themselves from the Word of God or makes it an ancillary study to man‘s writings, they will know nothing and may become confused with the circumstances in their life. This is why even when we do not understand, we are to remain faithful and trust God with the outcome.
B. Paul is justified in that he has done nothing wrong but only the Lord has the ability to examine him. (Rom 8:34 KJV) Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Christ is the only one who has the ability to do any judgments on any of His children. By Paul saying that the Lord is His judge, he is submitting to the most objective type of judgment a Christian can be subjected to. To be judged by man is to be judged subjectively and with much bias, which means that man really cannot judge. Same with us, it is the Lord that judges us and no human can ever have the same objectivity.
1 Corinthians 4:5
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.
The Corinthians were not to start a judgment campaign in the church since they were unable to know all circumstances. One thing that we must be very careful in is making a judgment on an unfinished product. Christians are unfinished until the Lord will return and then we receive our eternal bodies. What is not in view here is the responsibility that Christians have in making judgments or decisions which affect the walk of the true Christian. We are to make judgments everyday so that we are able to walk the Christian walk in truth. If we made no judgments, then we would be forced to go in line with the ways of the world which are contrary to the ways of God.
Paul says the Lord will do all the judging since he knows the heart and when all the good works will have been made manifest along with all the counsels or intents of the heart, then each one will receive their due recompense from the Lord. Humans do not have the ability to know the intents of another person unless that person chooses to reveal them, but God knows the intent of every human being. For example, a person may have a desire to give to the Lord’s work but lacks the finances to do so. Another person may look at this person and judge them to be cheap but when God looks at the heart of this person, He sees there was a real desire to give to the Lord’s work but the funds were simply not there. God knew the truth being able to know the intent of the heart but the human could only see from the outside and this is why Paul is saying not to judge before the time.
1 Corinthians 4:6
(A) And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; (B) 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.
Transferred - means the outward appearance without an inward change
A. What things is Paul speaking of? The principles of judgment which Paul just enunciated to them are the same principles he and Apollos follows. Instead of Paul making a judgment on these Corinthians, he goes and works with them and takes time to help nurture them. Now when we look at the word “transferred” we are seeing that Paul lives by the same principles. He did not need an inward change here because he already held to the nurturing position and not to judge them by leaving that to the Lord. He may have used Apollos and himself as an example of what could transpire if they were head of factions in the church. Remember, this church was loaded with divisions and Paul may have used a living illustration in himself and Apollos to show the Corinthian Christians how bad factions are.
B. The Corinthians were exalting their traditions “which is written” above Scripture and allowing a form of preacher worship. Even in modern times, some followers of certain preachers place their writings above the Bible. This no doubt created factions in the church and each faction was loaded with pride against the others. Paul wanted them to know that as he founded this church, he was no more important than anyone else in the church. He may have also applied another living illustration of himself and Apollos as being humble servants of the Lord Jesus, even though he was able to exert spiritual and physical rule in that church, being the founder. He wanted them to learn more from his being a humble servant rather than a dictatorial leader. This is the attitude he wanted to transfer to the Corinthians minds.
1 Corinthians 4:7
(A) For who maketh thee to differ from another? (B) 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?
A. Some thought they were superior to others. This is nothing new because in every church congregation there is always someone who thinks they are far superior to the other Christians. These three verses teach about what happens when a person is puffed up with their own importance.
(Prov 11:2 KJV) When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.
(Prov 13:10 KJV) Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.
(Prov 29:23 KJV) A man's pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.
B. They boasted as if what they had did not come from God and that they were their source. There are many like that today. Someone is successful in business and right away they make the business publications and are labeled “self-made.” A Christian may have extensive education or biblical understanding and may use these gifts with an attitude of pomposity. Both of these groups do not realize that it was God who allowed the business to succeed and it was God who gives the biblical knowledge and understanding.
(John 1:15-16 KJV) John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. {16} And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.
If a Christian holds to any of these attitudes, God reserves the right to deal with those attitudes and He will, because arrogance can never truly represent the character of God. Since Paul was using the humility of himself and Apollos as examples, he wanted these Corinthians to realize that all they have, is what has been given to them by God, and that they are stewards of those things. There is no such thing as a “self-made” Christian.