Tuesday 14 March 2017

Bible Book:
1 Corinthians

“Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries.” (v. 1)

1 Corinthians 4:1-5 Tuesday 14 March 2017

Psalm: Psalm 119:113-128


The context of this passage is a church at unease; differentgroups having allegiance to different leaders; harbouringnarratives of judgement against each other.

Paul offered the Corinthian church two images to shape theirunderstanding of ministry leadership: servants of Christ andstewards of God's mysteries.

Servants in Paul's social world enjoyed considerable delegatedauthority and so needed to be trustworthy, to carry out the spiritof their master's wishes for a household. Therefore God's servantsneed to be trustworthy, because they were accountable to no-one butGod, which set them free from courting popularity in a localchurch.

Paul's point was that he was not answerable to the Corinthianchurch. They should not hold judgement against him. He didn't evenjudge himself, though he considered he had a clean conscience.

Judgement, rather, belonged to God alone and would come when theLord came at the end of time, when the true motives in people'shearts would be uncovered.

His second image was that leaders were stewards of God'smysteries.

A strong background theme to Paul's preaching was that he didnot come to them converting them with lofty, clever words, but byproclaiming the mystery of Christ crucified.

The power of the gospel does not come from the cleverness ofhuman ideas to describe it, but in participating in the subversivedrama of the self-emptying love action of God, which itselfconfuses reason.

For Paul, stewarding the mystery of the gospel meant embodyingself-emptying love in ministry, not parading around trying to lordit over other leaders, and more specifically Paul himself.

Note that Paul was speaking into a unique conflict situation andI suggest it is important not to universalise his message out ofthat context.

A leader accepting no accountability except to God is adangerous liability.

His second image is closely entwined with the first and acorrective. A true servant of God embodies self-emptying love. Theycome from a deeper place within themselves, channelling grace sothat the fruits of grace become visible.

To Ponder

  • How do you work out accountability in your discipleship and/orleadership and sense of call in the world? What works well? What isdifficult?
  • How do you deal with a leader who sees themselves accountableonly to God, but overlooks the stewarding of self-emptyinglove?
  • Do we have a cultural resistance to accountability? Why, or whynot?
  • How do you deal with the human tendency to rush quickly tojudgement, working out who is in, who is out?
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