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East Sparta Christian Church
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Stewards of Mystery

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December 05

Stewards of Mystery

I might be wrong, but I would be willing to bet that nobody who is reading this article would say that their favorite Bible verse is anywhere to be found in 1 Corinthians 4.The reason I would be willing to make that bet is that 1 Corinthians 4 is not a very upbeat kind of chapter. In fact, Paul is talking to the Corinthians Christians and he appears to be fairly disgusted
with the antics of this church. The problem, in Paul’s view, is that the Corinthian Christians are much too proud of themselves. They’ve apparently been boasting about the many spiritual gifts that they have and the wealth of financial resources their Church has and how much better they are than the other churches. In response to this attitude, Paul gives them a little bit of advice:

#1- you can’t boast about spiritual gifts because they were not yours to start off with, God gave them to you. And for that matter, Paul goes beyond spiritual gifts to things like money and talents and says in verse 7 ‘What do you have that you didn’t receive?’

#2- The apostles consider themselves to be the least of all men, so if the apostles are so lowly (like Jesus himself was) what right did the Corinthian Christians have thinking they were better than everyone else? Paul gets really mad about this one and you can just feel the sarcasm dripping off of his words in verse 10 “We (the apostles) are fools for Christ, but you (the Corinthian Christians) are wise in Christ! We are weak but you are strong! You are distinguished but we are dishonored!”

#3- You should be careful about pride because God is good about sending someone along to prove just how immature that kind of pride really is. In this case Paul is claiming to be the one who is going to show them how foolish they are being and he warns them about it in verse 21 “What do you want? Should I come to you with a rod (an obvious reference to spanking them like children), or in love and a spirit of gentleness?”

The thing that really mystifies me about this passage is that of all the churches that Paul has established, the Corinthian Church is actually one of the very most successful. So why would he be so upset with them? Paul gives us the answer in the beginning of chapter 4- he says that the church doesn’t look so successful to him because he measures success differently than they do. The only thing that matters to Paul is how well the church is acting as “stewards of God’s mysteries.” The ‘mysteries' are the truths of the New Testament and Paul gives only one qualifier to determine whether or not a church or individual is a good steward of these mysteries: “it is expected of stewards that each one of them be found faithful.”
And the message here for us is both an encouragement and a warning: it doesn’t matter how much money you put in the plate, it doesn’t matter if you think you are more spiritual than the
guy sitting next to you, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been a Christian-the only thing that really matters in the end is whether or not you have tried to carry out God’s orders.

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