Text: 1 Corinthians 4:1-21
Theme: 因神揀選我們為祂的僕人， 所以要以忠心為服侍的標誌 (Since God has chosen us to be his servants, faithfulness is to be the hallmark of our service.)
During the two weeks in China , I spent most of my time with over 40 ministers from different parts of the country. Some are from cities, others from villages. God has used them to enrich my life and ministry in some very special way. Some of them serve in cities where the religious atmosphere is more open and relaxed; others in places with tighter government control. They serve under a constant cloud of restriction and uncertainty. Their love for and devotion to the Lord is something we can all emulate. During our time together, I also fetl their deep conviction that they are God's servants, carrying with them a strong sense of responsibility over the people God has entrusted to them.
Here in Houston , this morning after the service, through voting, our congregation will have an opportunity to confirm the elders and deacons for 2007. Humanly speaking, the elders and deacons are the leaders of this local church. Yet, seldom does the scripture use the term leaders. Instead, elders and deacons are God's servants; servants of our Lord Jesus Christ. Moreover, we followers of Jesus Christ, with him as our Lord, are also his servants.
In our previous studies of 1 Corinthians, we learn about the different aspect of servanthood in God's church. This morning we’ll continue our study to further explore the truth that as God's servant, what he expects from us. We’ll learn a basic truth that Since God has chosen us to be his servants, faithfulness is to be the hallmark of our service.( 因神揀選我們為祂的僕人， 所以要以忠心為服侍的標誌 ).
I. As servants of the living God, we are expected to serve as stewards of Truth.
Paul begins this chapter with, “ 1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 這樣 ， 人應該把我們看作基督的僕人 ， 神奧祕的事的管家。 ” He affirms his identity as Christ's servant. A servant is to obey his master, Jesus Christ. As God's servants, we are the stewards of God's mysteries. In the NT, the word, “mystery” refers to truth that was hidden, but with the coming of Jesus Christ, it is now revealed to man. Mystery is a reference to God's redemptive work in the world. A steward is someone who transfers what is given to him to others. We are stewards who transfer the truth given to us to others. We are to communicate, to share God's truth with others through preaching, teaching SS, leading Bible studies and personal interactions. What kind of stewards are we?
1 Faithful stewards. What is expected from the stewards in God's household? “ 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. 對於管家的要求 ， 就是要他忠心。 ” Being faithful means to do the best one can to complete the task entrusted to us. This is certainly very different from the society, isn’t it? The society wants to know what is your profit, how large is your company and how many branch offices you have?
How about God's church? If we don’t watch out, the society’s standard will creep into this and other churches. Very often, we look at ministry in terms of buildings, Sunday attendance and offerings. We send out the hidden message that the bigger the better. We like to brag about our attendance, if there is an increase. I think it is good to keep track of Sunday attendance, however, how about another set of numbers that we seldom talk about? Do we know how many individuals have left the church because they don’t feel being cared for here. If we take these numbers into account, then there is not much we can be proud of, right?
What does God require from his servants, stewards? That we be faithful in transferring his truth to those around us.
3. God be the judge. “ 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 我被你們論斷 ， 或被人間法庭審判 ， 我都認為是極小的事 ， 連我自己也不論斷自己。 4 我雖然問心無愧，卻不能因此自以為義，因為判斷我的是主。 ” Paul is making some very bold statements. You see, the Corinthian church had been using the wrong standard to evaluate Paul. They were comparing Paul with Apollo. They were using the human yardstick to measure Paul’s ministry. To this, Paul responded by saying that he didn’t really care about human judgments. What he cared was that God was his final judge. On that judgment day, we will hear from the great judge if we have been faithful or not. Until that day, our responsibility is to do our best to transfer God's truth to others through missions, preaching, teaching SS, leading Bible studies and telling others about Jesus. This is not to say that human evaluation is not important. We are to remember that the proper and correct objective for evaluation is to further sharpen and improve our ministry.
I think of 張老師 , a very non-imposing person I met in W. 20 years ago, he saw the need of teaching God's word to children in C. He started doing it in his church. In those days, the religious atmosphere was not as open as today. There were many oppositions from the government. Yet he persistently taught the Bible to the children. Today, W has become one of the cities in C with a flourishing SS ministry. There are some churches in W with an entire building used for children SS. Many of his first students are now in their early 30’s and they are the SS teachers. Many of them also travel to remote areas to promote SS and train the ss teachers. 20 years later, 張老師 is still teaching ss, training ss teachers. This is a faithful servant of God's truth.
II. As servants of the living God, we are to serve with Humility. 6-13.
Paul continue to show us how this faithfulness is manifested. Verses 6-13 is an interesting passage; written in a sarcastic manner. A careful reading of 7,8 provide us with a glimpse of the Corinthian culture. “ 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? 8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! 使你與人不同的是誰呢 ？ 你有甚麼不是領受的呢 ？ 既然是領受的 ， 為甚麼要自誇 ， 好像不是領受的呢 ？ 8 你們已經滿足了，已經豐富了，不需要我們，自己作王了。我恨不得你們真的作了王，讓我們也可以跟你們一同作王！ ” From the 3 questions in vs.7, it appears that they were boasting about the people they follow: Paul, Peter or Apollo. This is an issue that Paul had already dealt with in chapter 1. They also took pride in their knowledge of God and the multiple gifts among them. They were boasting about their possessions. To sum up, it was a culture of self sufficiency and self determination.
But, wait a minute, isn’t this something we are familiar with? Don’t we also hear ourselves bragging about the various gifts and talents we have among us? Don’t we sometimes hear ourselves say, ‘if we want to, we can do it, money will not be a problem. Look at all that we have accomplished.” In a recent Time magazine, it reports that North American Christians like to hear messages telling us that we can be financially prosperous if they set their mind to it. We like to hear messages that God wants us to have property, and Land is what the OT message is all about. We like to hear messages about self-sufficiency and self-determination. What was Paul’s response? He recounted his ministry experience.
In vs.9,10,11,12,13, are these words: 9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 好像定了死刑的人 ， 成了愚笨的 ； 我們軟弱 ， 我們倒被輕視。我們還是又飢又渴 ， 衣不蔽體 ， 又挨打 ， 又沒有棲身的地方 ， 12 並且勞苦 ， 親手作工。被人咒罵，遭受迫害， 13 被人毀謗，人還是把我們當作世上的垃圾，萬物的渣滓。 He endures IGNOMINY, when abused, he blessed. Instead of wealth and health, it was a ministry of humility.
In many places in Asia , believers are still under constant harassment. One particular church took their 50 or so members to a retreat. When they arrived at the destination, they were met by security people, turning them back. Or having arrived at a hotel, they saw the manager pick up the phone and they have to tell him don’t bother to call, for they would leave on their own. This is not only harassment from the western standards, but it also very humiliating.
I also think of some of the ministers I met in those cities. They didn’t have any flashy clothes or attractive appearances. Instead, there was plenty of evidence of hardships in life in general and in ministry particularly. Many of them have endured emotional and physical pain in serving God. Some lived in constant fear of government interference. This Sunday, the service is held in a certain location and there is no guarantee that next week, it will be at the same place, same time. Their very existence is an echo of Paul’s words: It is a ministry of humiliation and humility. Whenever we think too highly of ourselves, when we become too comfortable in our ministry, it will do us well to remember our brothers and sisters in that part of the world.
III. As servants of the living God, we are to be models for others. 14-21
In vs.14 Paul explains to the Corinthians that he did not write to humiliate or shame them. He wrote because of his love and care for them. He then moved on and said, “ 15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 15 縱然你們在基督裡有上萬的啟蒙教師 ， 可是父親卻不多 ， 因為是我在基督耶穌裡藉著福音生了你們。 ” He told them that because he preached the gospel to them, and that is the reason they are at where they are today. Paul gave birth to them through the gospel message. Therefore, he considers himself as their father. So what is what unique aspect of this father child relationship? Vs.16, “ 16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me. 16 所以我勸你們要效法我。 ”
While in Asia , I asked the students to come up with an illustration that will help us to understand why we are to be like Christ. One said, for a child to be like his/her father is 天經地義 的事 (It is only natural and a given) . Paul says that you are to imitate me, because I am your spiritual father. What does this mean to us? Yes, we know we are to imitate Christ. But here, as servants and faithful stewards of God's truth, we are to be models for each other. We are to ask people to look at us.
This is something quite foreign to many of us. So often in this church we hear individuals say, ‘don’t look at people, look at God. People will disappoint you, but not God.” We can certainly understand the intention of these words, but this doesn’t seem to be the teaching in God's word. We are to tell others, to let others look at us, imitate us. Of course, Paul further clarifies it in 11:1 that “ 1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. 1 你們應該效法我 ， 好像我效法基督一樣。 ” We are to be models for the b/s in this church. We are to be models for our children at home. We are to be models for our friends at work and school. They are to imitate us as we imitate Christ.
The scripture also tells us some areas in life we are to be models for others.
1. Integrity in living. Vs.17, “ 17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ,as I teach them everywhere in every church. 他要提醒你們我在基督裡是怎樣行事為人 ， 正如我在各處教會中所教導的一樣。 ” Paul said that Timothy would remind them of how he lived and taught. There was consistency between his teaching and behavior. He was a man of integrity. We are to model for others in our integrity. Over one month ago, Newsweek had a special feature article on Billy Graham. For 50 years he had faithfully preached the word in US and around the world. Books and articles had been written about him and his ministry. Even his severest critics acknowledged that he is a man of integrity. As servants of Christ, we are to model integrity for others. We want others to imitate us in how we consistently live out what we teach. Brothers and sisters in church, family members, friends at school and work are to see us as men and women of integrity.
2. Gentleness and love. Another area of model is Gentleness and love. These are a part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. As we become more Christ like, we also become models for others to follow.
3. Discipline. Paul also mentioned that if the Corinthian believers do not change, he would come and exercise church discipline. This is the part no one likes. Yet, it is part of our ministry. When we have gone astray from God's word, we are to confront, so there will be repentance and change.
Certainly in this day and age, no one likes the idea of having a model. During the last several decades, individuals we once looked up to, those who were our models and sometimes even our idols, had failed us repeatedly. For this reason, we shy away from any kind of model.
Because we have seen enough failures, we not only don’t want models, but also don’t want to be models for others. We want others to model after Christ, to imitate Him. This is understandable. However, the scripture teaches us differently. Yes, we are to imitate Christ, to be like him, and at the same time, we are also models for others to imitate. They are to imitate us as we imitate Christ.
While in C, I had a good interaction with a brother about some differences between churches in US and C. He said that in US, we focus much on God's love, care and grace, resulting in a generation of believers who only know how to receive God's love. Here in C, we focus much on human responsibility, resulting in a generation of believers that works hard for God's kingdom. I think we know well the Bible never teaches such a dichotomy.
In our study of the scriptures, we know that God has chosen and called us to be his children. Therefore as children of His family, we are given different responsibilities. In our study of 1 Corinthians, we also learned that besides being God's children, we are also his servants. Not just the elders and deacons are servants in this local, visible church, but we all are.
As servants of this living God, we learn today that we are to be faithful stewards of the truth he has given us. We are to faithfully transfer his truth to those God brings into our lives. We do this by teaching SS, leading BS and sharing God's word with friends and colleagues. As faithful stewards, we are to serve him with great humility, and with the willingness to endure hardship. And finally as faithful stewards we are to be models for others. We are to be examples of integrity, gentleness, love and discipline to God's children around us.
Welcome to HCC's' Sermon archive directory. We are working to merge our archives to our current website @ hcchome.org
Please report any issues to the HCC main office or staff. Thank you.