Saturday, December 3, 2016

Christian Service - Humble Ministry

1 Corinthians 4:6-7
I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 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? 

It is always good to apply the truth one preaches to oneself, even before applying it to others. This is what the Apostle does here. 
Paul acknowledges that he had been so far evaluating the ministry of Apollos and himself. He actually applied all these things to himself and to Apollos. This was in order to benefit the Corinthians, by teaching them to learn not to go beyond what is written, so that they regard them according to the scriptural parameters. 

Mark the words ‘not to go beyond what is written’ which encourage us to know our boundaries are the Scriptures (v.6a). This is a good place to learn the regulative principle of worship. We must not argue from silence and so be guilty of adding. Neither should we argue away what is written and so minimize what the Lord has said effectively subtracting from the Word of God and from our basket of divine blessings.
Surface obedience to the Scriptures and the commands of the Lord is one of the wicked suggestions of the devil in order to ensnare us away from the Lord’s will for us. This is pride, which Paul describes as being ‘puffed up.’ The devil teaches pride. For God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. The humble keep within the limits of the Bible, neither adding nor subtracting. We know that Corinthians were proud of their human wisdom. They may have thought that they were very discerning in their choice of their favourite preacher (v.6b). But actually, to be proud of one’s discernment is to lack discernment!
We must realize that there is a very close relationship between the sin of unbelief and the sin of pride. The relationship is that while the latter abandons Christ for idols, the former abandons Christ for self-gratification outside of the will of God. The battle for humility is the battle for the true Christian faith. No haughty or arrogant person will enter the glory that was purchased by the humble Saviour.
Humility is acknowledging that all you have are gifts that you have graciously received from Christ! First of all you are what you are by grace, for who sees anything different in you?  (v.7). All the temporary blessings are from God, for what do you have that you did not receive? (v.7) And since you received how then can you boast as if it is a wage rather than gifts? Paul is simply saying that arrogance is not congruent with true Christianity.
In condemning their foolish pride, Paul turns to sarcasm: 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! There is an illogical retrogression from sufficiency to wealth, and then to royalty!

Pride too soon forgets and disdains he who enthroned it! Pride is a great hindrance to your improvement. For when you start reigning in your haughtiness you no longer think you need grace to become better or to listen to God’s servants who enrich you. Due attention to our obligations to divine grace would cure us of arrogance and self-conceit.

When everything has been said and done the questions to consider are:

1. Are you serving the Lord?
2. Are you serving in humility?
3. Are you willing to do whatever the Master commands in His Word?
4. Do you evaluate your service under the scrutiny and spotlight of the Word of God?
5. Do you only use Scripture as the paradigm?

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Christian Service - Humble ministry (1 Cor. 4:6-8)

I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 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?

Show me a preacher who has a high view of the Scriptures, preaching and living accordingly, and I will show you a humble minister. Therefore, Paul says here, ‘none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another’.
Paul acknowledges that he had been evaluating the ministry of both himself and of Apollos. This was for the benefit of the Corinthians, so that they may learn not to go beyond what is written. The point is ministers are to be evaluated on the basis of Scriptures (not some sentimental feelings). Mark the words ‘not to go beyond what is written’ which encourage us to know our boundaries are the Scriptures. This is a good place to learn the regulative principle of worship. We must not argue from silence and so be guilty of adding. Neither should we argue away what is written and so minimize what the Lord has said, effectively subtracting from the Word of God and from our basket of divine blessings!
Surface obedience to the Scriptures and the commands of the Lord is one of the wicked suggestions of the devil in order to ensnare us away from the Lord’s will for us. The devil teaches pride. But God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. The humble keep within the limits of the Bible, neither adding nor subtracting.
We know that Corinthians were proud of their human wisdom. They may have thought that they were very discerning in their choice of their favourite preacher. To be proud of one’s discernment is to lack discernment! Once one is wise in his own eyes, unbelieving the Word of God, then he effectively becomes proud and ‘puffed up’.
We must realize that there is a very close relationship between the sin of unbelief and the sin of pride. The relationship is that while the latter abandons Christ for idols, the former abandons Christ for self-gratification outside of the will of God. The battle for humility is the battle for the true Christian faith. No haughty or arrogant person will enter the glory that was purchased by the humble Saviour.
Humility is acknowledging that all you have are gifts that you have graciously received from Christ! First of all you are what you are by grace, for ‘who sees anything different in you’? All the temporary blessings are from God, for ‘what do you have that you did not receive’? And since you received it, how then can you boast as if it is a wage rather than a gift? Paul is simply saying that arrogance is not congruent with true Christianity. No one can truly preach the gospel in pride and arrogance. Once pride is let in, then the gospel message withdraws.
In condemning their foolish pride, Paul turns to sarcasm: “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!” There is an illogical retrogression from sufficiency to wealth, and then to royalty! Pride too soon forgets and disdains he who enthroned it!

Pride is a great hindrance to your improvement. For when you start reigning in your haughtiness you no longer think you need grace to become better or to listen to God’s servants who enrich you. Due attention to our obligations to divine grace would cure us of arrogance and self-conceit.
Preachers have no reason to boast, for what they preach is a humiliating gospel. The King whom they represent is a humble King. The sinners whom they are reaching have been humiliated by the sinfulness of sin.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Christian Ministry - faithful stewardship

What are the characteristics of Christian service?
From 1 Corinthians 4, I will present five characteristics of an effective Christian ministry and service. Each mark at a time, one-by-one. Today we begin with the first characteristic from verses 1-5

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. 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. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. (1 Corinthians 4:1-5)

Faithful stewardship is the first characteristic of Christian ministry. How are we to think of pastors and preachers in our midst? They belong to our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given them to us as gifts. Paul has already said that all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas… all things are yours.  Preachers are to be respected or regarded as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. These ministers have arduous responsibilities as Christ’s servants who have been entrusted with the gospel. But they also have immense privileges as stewards of the mysteries of God.
God has made all believers and preachers in specific to be servants as of first and foremost, as His disciples. We must never mistake a servant, or an attendant or a slave, for his master. The master is over the servant and He is prominent over the most important servant. This is the way it must always be in our service of the Lord Jesus – Christ is the Master.
God has also made all preachers stewards or trustees of the mysteries of God. Paul always uses the word mystery to mean, what was hidden to the natural faculties for ages but is now graciously revealed. ‘Mysteries of God’, therefore, is the truths, which were hidden to a natural man, but are now revealed to the spiritual man by God. The ‘mysteries of God’ is the gospel. Preachers are to faithfully manage the gospel, and faithfully propagate it for the salvation of sinners. Only the good news of the crucified and resurrected Christ can save helpless sinners.
While success in the service is important, faithfulness is the first responsibility of stewards. People’s eternal destiny hinges upon hearing the true gospel and believing in Christ. Depth in faithfulness is what God will use in expanding the breath and the extent of our ministries.
But preachers are to be assessed and judged by Christ who is their employer rather than men. ‘Pastor roasting’ is condemned when Paul says, 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. What Paul is saying is that outward critical judgment is discounted, whether by the Corinthian church, or by the human courts society around him or even by himself! He should only be judged by his employer and Master, even Christ.
Why is Paul saying this? We judge in a merely worldly manner, using only human and sometimes worldly standards in the assessment. Instead of making these unnecessary critical human judgments, we are to live in the light of the all-searching judgement that is to come on that great Day when the Lord will come. The Lord will bring the hidden things to light. He will disclose motives of hearts and every human pretense will be brought to naught. It is on this basis some will receive either commendation or condemnation from God.
Does this mean that we should not name and shame those who mismanage the truths of the gospel? Should we keep quite when there is apparent unfaithfulness? Is there a place for critiquing preachers? But Paul himself criticized Peter in Galatians for his conduct (Gal. 2:11-14). False teachers and their false teachings must be exposed (Acts 20:29-31; 1 Tim. 4:1-5; 2 Tim. 2:16-18). But if someone preaches the truth, and you know him to be a faithful minister, don’t purport to know his motive. This is what informed his statement in Philippians 1:12-18. The most important thing is that ‘Christ is proclaimed’ (v.18). We are to rejoice when the gospel is preached even from the most unlikely quarters or preachers.
Three points of application:
*   Here is a call to faithfulness more than a call to ‘success’. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (2Tim. 2:15). We have to serve the people in good conscience before God. Aim to be blameless!
*   We thank the Lord that He will recognize and reward true and faithful servants of His church, who might never be recognized by the Church. Human approbation will not always do for a servant of Christ. Sometimes opposition and rejection is what will be the road of faithful ministers, yet they have divine approval, which is far better.

*   You are to labour now as one who will soon appear before the Judgement throne of God to either receive a reward (3.14) or to be saved through fire (3:15) or to be eternally condemned! Be careful in handling the Scriptures.