16 February 2015

1 Corinthians 4:1-5

“I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.” (vv. 3b-4)

Psalm: Psalm 110


Paul's first letter to the Corinthians is partly written in response to a request from the household of Chloe (1 Corinthians 1:11) for advice concerning divisions in the church at Corinth. In chapter 3, he tells the Corinthians that they themselves are a temple for God, and so they are called to be holy as they build this house for God (1 Corinthians 3:16). But who will be in charge of the household?

In 1 Corinthians 3:21-22, Paul speaks of differences of opinion as to which leader to follow - him, Apollos, or Cephas. He now sets out why the Corinthians should listen to all the apostles, and not set them against one another.

The ancient Greek households had servants who were given considerable authority. They were the house managers, or stewards, and they were able to act in place of the master - authorising expenditure, and making sure all things were in order by disciplining other servants where necessary. Yet despite their authority, it was delegated authority. The authority still belonged to the master, to whom the steward had to give account (see Luke 12:42-48 for a related parable of Jesus). But the fact that the steward had this authority showed how much he was trusted.

So Paul says that he and the other apostles are God's stewards, looking after the mysteries of God (verse 1). So it doesn't matter which steward people follow, for all the stewards serve the same master. He doesn't want them to have to check him out - because he himself will have to give an account to God. The implication is clear - if God trusts him, then they should trust him too. Note that Paul says something very striking in verse 3: "I do not even judge myself". All he's concerned about is that God judges him to be doing and saying the right things, as a faithful steward of God's message.

To Ponder

  • To what extent are all Christians 'stewards of the mysteries of God'?
  • Your true nature is the way you behave when no one else can see you. How much do you trust yourself?
  • If God trusts you, what does this say about the times when you 'beat yourself up' by being your own worst critic?

Bible notes author

The Revd Neil Cockling

Neil spent 20 years as a circuit minister before becoming the District Development Enabler for the Newcastle upon Tyne Methodist District. He now works full-time for the NHS as a Consultant Lead Chaplain in mental health, leading a multi-faith team of 14 chaplains working in 10 hospitals in Northumberland and Tyne & Wear.