Apostles: Faithful Servants

I Corinthians 4:1-13

A lady went to a doctor’s office where she was seen by a
Doctor. A few minutes into the examination, screeching
could be heard from the room, and then the lady burst out of
the room as if running for her life. After much effort a nurse
finally managed to calm her down enough to tell her story.
The nurse barged into the office of the Doctor and screamed,
“shame on you, Mrs. Smith is 82 years old, and you told her
she’s pregnant.” The Doctor continued writing calmly and
barely looking up said, “does she still have the hiccups?”

Today we are going to look at the 4th chapter of I Corinthians.
Paul shifts his focus from the church to the servants of the church.

Faithful Steward

I Corinthians 4:1-6

Paul makes it clear that he and Apollos are Servants of Christ.
Remember, one reason for the letter is because he heard of
division within the church.
Some are claiming to follow Paul, others Apollos, still others
Paul’s point is that they are all servants of Christ.
They are all doing the Lord’s work.

Zodhiates writes “Two things should characterize a preacher:
the proclamation of the gospel, serving out the grace of God
to others, and a voluntary submissive relationship to the
Lord Jesus Christ.” (Greek scholar Spiros Zodhiates)

Paul also writes that they are Stewards of the Mysteries of God.
He mentioned those mysteries back in chapter 2.
God revealed the truth in His perfect timing.

Paul states that stewards must be faithful.

Faithful is translated from the Greek word pistos. It means to be
steadfast in affection or allegiance. It can also be translated as
Paul has been faithful to his calling.
The church at Corinth can depend on him to faithfully speak the

A steward manages only what the master allows him to manage.
He owns nothing of his own.
A steward doesn’t serve for popularity, but out of Obedience and

Joseph was a great example of this as he served as a steward in
Potiphers house.
He was faithful despite Potipher’s wife’s attempts to make him

Next, Paul moves the discussion to judgment.
He explains that there are;
3 types of judgment

Man’s judgment – Paul isn’t interested in what man thinks about
him. He is more concerned with what God thinks. He is God’s

Self judgment – Paul isn’t concerned with his own estimation of
himself. He knows the only judgment that matters is God’s

God’s judgment – Paul knows that only God knows a man’s
heart. He will bring everything that was hidden into the light.
Those who rejected Him will be separated from Him forever.
Those who received His grace and mercy will receive their
rewards. It’s what he was writing about at the end of chapter 3.

In vv.5-6 Paul points out; 3 Errors in their Judgments

They were judging at the wrong time. It’s the Lord’s job and His
time, not mans.

They were judging by the wrong standard. The Bible is clear on
what God expects out of those He calls to serve Him. The men in
Corinth were using their own standards of what they wanted.

They were judging with wrong motives. By promoting one
minister over another they were allowing pride to get in the way of
the one purpose of the church, to glorify God.

I Corinthians 4:7-13

Humble Spectacle

Paul asks 3 Rhetorical questions to help the church see the
importance of Humility.

NASB translates the first one this way:
“For who regards you as superior?”

Paul is reminding them that God has saved them by His grace.
There is no reason for them to be prideful.
Grace isn’t for those who deserve it.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite, grace is unmerited favor.

Next, Paul asks “What do you have that you did not receive?”
This is a reminder that everything we have comes from God!

I Chronicles 29:11-16 “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and
the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for
all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is
the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.
Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all.
In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to
make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank
you, our God, and praise your glorious name. But who am I,
and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer
willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own
have we given you. For we are strangers before you and
sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are
like a shadow, and there is no abiding. O Lord our God, all
this abundance that we have provided for building you a
house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all
your own.”

Finally, Paul asks “If then you received it, why do you boast as
if you did not receive it?”

Pride is at the root of the divisions in the church. Each faction
thought they were better than the others.
Paul’s point, now as it was earlier, is that those who God appoints
are merely His servants, stewards of the gospel. Their faithfulness
to God should serve as an example to the church, not provide a
means of division. They all had the same desire, to preach Christ
and Him crucified.

In verse 8 Paul gets a little sarcastic. By Corinthian standards
they have everything they need. They are rich, they are like kings,
they are at the top of the world, but remember the context, they
are babes in Christ. They haven’t really grasped the truth of the
gospel. They are still striving after the things of the world.

Paul continues to describe the attitude of humility by comparing
himself and the other ministers to those sentenced to death.

In Rome, when a king came back from battle he brought back
captives. They were chained to the chariot and they were
sentenced to death. They would be put in an arena with a
scary beast that would devour them.

Paul then identifies as a spectacle to the world.
The word spectacle is translated from the Greek Theatron, it’s
where our word theater comes from.
Ministers live in a fish bowl. Everyone watches them for various
reasons. Some watch for ministers to mess up. Others watch for
an example to live by. In v. 16 Paul encourages the church to
imitate him. He is living a life that honors God. A humble, service
based life.

Paul closes out this section by making contrasts between the
ministers and the members of the church.

He claims to be a fool, weak, in disrepute, hungry, homeless and
working with their hands.
All things the Corinthians despised.
He even refers to himself as scum of the earth, refuse.

The Corinthians value the opposite of what Christ values.
Even though Paul is judged and looked down on by the world, he
keeps on loving like Christ did.


There are two points of application this morning.

Serve Christ Faithfully
We aren’t perfect, but we can serve Him faithfully out of gratitude
for everything He has given us. We are stewards of all He has
given us. As long as we keep that in mind we will continue to be

Serve Other Humbly
Christ modeled humility. He washed the disciples’ feet.

He put the needs of others above His own. Imagine how the world
would change if we served others rather than expected them to
serve us!