1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 30
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998|
|Paul says, do you want to regard a preacher? Do you want to esteem a preacher? Then there are some guidelines for you that you are going to have to follow. If you are going to regard Paul, or Apollos, this is the format you are going to have to use. These are the marks of a God called preacher. He says it so clearly in 1 Corinthian 4:1 5. Let’s get into it and just see: The responsibility of a God-called preacher; the requirement of a God-called preacher; and the reward of the God-called preacher.|
I Corinthians 4:15
The Marks of a GodCalled Preacher
In 1 Corinthians 4:15 we want to talk about “The Marks of a GodCalled Preacher.” Preachers and how people think about them has very much been on Paul’s mind for the last three chapters that we have been studying together. The Corinthian believers were babes in Christ in the sense that they were intentionally immature. They refused to grow up. They would not walk by faith. They would not attach themselves to Christ and be vessels through which God could use. No, instead of doing that, there was jealousy and strife marked by the fact that they attached themselves to the preachers of that day; Paul, Apollos, Cephas, as we learned in 1:12.
Paul follows that line of thinking all the way through to where we are in 4:1-5. Instead of attaching themselves to Jesus, they attach themselves to preachers at the exclusion of others. “I am of Paul,” some would say. “I am of Apollos.” “I am of Cephas.” Well, Paul wanted them to know that they were robbing themselves. They were robbing themselves first of all of that which God wanted to do through them and they were robbing themselves of the reward that they could have one day when they stood before Him.
It has been very clear what he says. Why would you want the cow when you can have the farm? I mean, attach yourself to Christ. Don’t attach yourself to the vessel. Attach yourself to the One to whom the vessel is attached. He affirms to them that they themselves are temples of God, as you and I both studied in chapter 3. He lets them know, just like Paul was a vessel and a temple, Apollos was, where God lived, God the Holy Spirit. For some reason or another, they thought Christ was divided, that Paul got more than Apollos got and more than they got. Therefore, they had to attach themselves to a human being.
Paul was trying to say the same thing Peter says in one of his epistles. He says, “To those who have received a like faith such as ours.” I mean, I got the same thing Paul got and you did, too. All of us did. I mean, the ground is level. All of us got Jesus when we received Him. His Spirit came to live in our life. That is what Paul wants them to see. Stand on your own two feet. Come out of the nursery, walk by faith and attach yourself to Christ.
Well, he admonishes them, in the last few verses we looked at in chapter 3, to become foolish so that they might become wise. In other words, become like a little child. Stop thinking you know anything and let God teach you. Let His Word enrich your life. He sums up two and a half chapters in one verse there in verse 21 of chapter 3. If you have any doubt that his context has been “don’t you attach yourself to men and don’t you boast in men,” then look at verse 21. It is exactly what he says as he comes down now to his main thought. He says, “So then, let no one boast in men.” That is their problem. They were mencentered and not Godcentered. So he continues in verse 21, “For all things belong to you.”
Oh, if our eyes could just be opened, we could see what is ours in Jesus Christ. He says in chapter 1, “You have been enriched in all things in Him.” Now he says, “All things belong to you.” Now what in the world does he mean by that? Well, to understand that, you have got to look at verse 23. This is just a little bit of review. You have got to realize this. In verse 23, the last phrase is the key to the whole thing. The last phrase says, “and Christ belongs to God.” Now the word “belongs to” is implied. It is not in the text. The literal would be “and Christ God’s.” Now he doesn’t mean Gods plural but God’s possessive. In other words, He belongs to God. He is God’s.
There is no definite article used there. You say, “Thanks, but what does that mean?” Well, a definite article identifies something, but when it is not there it qualifies something. So he is talking not just about God, he is talking about the Godhead; no one person of the Godhead but the whole Godhead. And it says, “and Christ belongs to the Godhead.” He is God is what he is saying.
I tell you, that is a beautiful thought. Had it not been for the fact that Christ is God who came to this earth, born of a virgin, then He could not have brought God to man nor could He have brought man to God. That is the whole thing. Rest right on that one truth that Christ belongs to God. He is a part of the Godhead. He is not mere man. He is the Godman as He came to this earth. We now can belong to Him. He says, “and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.”
Now think about it for a second and the deductions begin to fall in place. If Christ is God, we know that He sustains all things and He created all things, so all things are His, right? If I belong to Christ, then in Christ all things belong to me. We haven’t gone back to Genesis much, but do you remember in Genesis 1:26 the dominion that God gave to man that man lost when he sinned? We forget sometimes that was reclaimed by the second Adam. It wasn’t given back to man. It was given back to Christ, the Godman. And in Him all things belong and consist. So therefore, if we belong to Him and all things belong to Him, then in Him we become heir to all that is His.
Now the first thing you usually want to do is sit down and make up a list. Alright! If everything belongs to me, where do I start? I want to see what is on this list. Well, now, relax. Paul has a list for you. As a matter of fact, you don’t want to go anywhere else until you look at the list that he has. The first thing that he mentions in verse 22, he says, “whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas.” What is he saying here? He is saying, “Listen, all of the teachers and preachers are gifts to the body.” He doesn’t mean everybody who stands behind a pulpit is a gift, because there are many teachers and preachers who do not honor the Word of God. Oh, no, no, no. He is not talking about them. He is talking about those who are truly Godcalled. They are given to the body.
If you attach yourself to a preacher, if you attach yourself to a teacher as they had done, you get off track somewhere. No one man has it all together. But all of them have been given, and they are equal. You draw from whoever that you might be equipped and encouraged. But remember, you are a temple of God and the true teacher, the Holy Spirit, lives in you. All the teachers have been given to the body, so why attach yourself to one, or why attach yourself to another?
Well, he goes on to say, “or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you.” Now that is an interesting thought. The world belongs to us. Some people have jumped on that doctrine and said that means the materialistic world. We can have the physical and tangible things of this world. Is that what he is talking about? No way. In fact, it wasn’t the Lord who brought the kingdoms of the world to the devil. It was the devil who brought the kingdoms of the world to Jesus and tempted Him with them. You see, He has temporary domain over this world. We are just strangers down here passing through, looking for a city not made with human hands.
So what is he saying then? How does the world belong to us? I believe it is in the sense that is in him first of all, but it is in the sense that we comprehend something about this world that the world does not comprehend. Most of the people of this world see themselves as victims, but we do not. We know who is in control of it. We know that life does not work against us, that life works for us. And having this understanding of it and appreciation for it, in that sense, the world belongs to us.
You know, we can cast our vote when the Presidents are nominated, and if our candidate wins, that is wonderful. If he doesn’t win, that is wonderful, because God is still in control. The book of Daniel clearly teaches us that He raises up kings and establishes kingdoms and is the one who takes kingdoms down. So we know God is in control.
I shared with you earlier about the cows in the pasture behind my house. I own those cows. I don’t feed them. I didn’t even pay for them. They are on somebody else’s land, but I appreciate them, and they are mine. I come out in the back yard and talk to those cows. You have to get their attention. You say, “MMMMoooooOOOO!” Now you have got to know how to do that. You have got to know their language. They may have their backs to me, but every time I do that every one of them, with the funniest looking faces, will turn around and look at me. I have got their attention. I stand out there in the back yard. Well, I own those cows. I own those cows. Do you know why? Because I appreciate those cows. There is something about them.
You see, the world belongs to those who understand who created it, who is in charge of it and who sustains it. All things belong to us. He is not talking about materialistic anything. He is just simply saying that because we are in Christ and all things belong to Him, all things belong to us.
He says life and death belongs to us in verse 22. How so? Somebody might say, “Well, hold it, hold it, hold it. I know a friend of mine who loved Jesus as much as anybody has ever loved Jesus and they died an untimely death. How can you say that life belongs to them?” The word “life” is zoe, which in scripture is never the length of life or the busyness of life. It is the essence of life. You see, the essence of life is the quality of life.
Have you ever thought about the fact that Jesus only lived on this earth 33 years as the Godman before He was crucified? Yet, the verse is written of Him in John 21:25 and it says, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did which, if they are written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books which were written.” Wow, what a life in 33 years. That is what he is talking about. It is the quality of life. And to have that kind of quality of life, you have to have the One who is that life. Paul says in Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
And death. You say, how do I possess death? Oh, friend, you possess death because death is nothing more to a believer than a doorway into the presence of the Lord Jesus Himself. That is all it is. Jesus shed a single tear when Lazarus died. You say, “Why did He do that?” Because death was a piece of cake to Him, just from here to there. Bat your eye. But He wept when He looked over at Jerusalem who had rejected Him as being their Messiah. That is when He wept. We weep over the wrong things.
Believers, all things belong to us. Life and death belong to us. We understand who gives it and sustains it. We understand death because His scripture enlightens our minds.
Verse 22 goes on to say, “things present or things to come.” They belong to us. You say, how do they belong to us? I think Ephesians 1:14 really qualifies that. He is talking about the Holy Spirit. He says, “The Holy Spirit is given as a pledge of our inheritance.” Do you know what a pledge is? It is the earnest money, not money in the sense, but the earnest of something. You know, when you go to buy a house, you put earnest money down. What does that mean? That means that is guaranteed full payment is coming later on. The Holy Spirit living in me right now is the guarantee that full payment is going to come later on.
So all things present, I can live in the victory that Jesus already has given me in Himself. But then also, live in the promise of what is to come. That is God’s Word. That is His mind. That is His understanding.
In 1 Corinthians 13:12 it says, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known.” So truly what he says is, all things belong to Christ but in Him, all things belong to us.
What is the key of this whole thing, though? What has Paul been saying for three chapters? Stop listening to the wisdom of men. Look back in 2:16. I think this is the key to understanding why we can realize all things belong to us. Verse 16 reads, “For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” Oh, man! You say, “I don’t have the mind of Christ.” You do if the Holy Spirit of God lives in you. “Well, how come it is not functioning?” Because you are not living according to the Word of God. You are living like the church of Corinth. You are living according to the word of men and the world’s ways. You are not living up under the Word of God. You are not attached to Christ by being attached to His Word, by living by faith? If you will do that, He renews your mind and you begin to see as He sees and think as He thinks. Then you can understand why all things belong to us because we are in Him and He belongs to God.
That is the bottom line of everything he has been saying. Stop attaching yourselves to men. Stop parading men’s wisdom and all these things around. Attach yourself to Christ. Live faithfully to His Word. Then let Him renew your mind and live in light of that which He offers to you. Do you want the cow or would you rather have the farm? That is the bottom line. Good night, why would you attach yourself to the vessel when you can attach yourself to Christ and live in the fullness of what He offers?
Well, in chapter 4, it comes right back to the same argument. The basic line is, get up under Christ, get in His Word. Then Paul says something. People are still evaluating preachers. You know, they still do it today. They were doing it back then. They are doing it today. I tell you how they do it today. They evaluate preachers based on the kind of preacher of the church they came from or the preacher who used to be there. That is one of the ways they evaluate preachers. They evaluate preachers on how well he visits, of whether or not they really think he cares about them because he is always there when they need him in a physical way. They evaluate preachers sometimes because of personality. They evaluate preachers sometimes because of administrative abilities. It was going on in Paul’s day and it is going on in our day.
Paul is saying, “Now listen to me. Do you want to regard a preacher? Do you want to esteem a preacher? Then there are some guidelines for you that you are going to have to follow. If you are going to regard me, or if you are going to regard Apollos, this is the format you are going to have to use. These are the marks of a Godcalled preacher.” He says it so clearly in verses 15 of chapter 4. Let’s get into it and just see what we can find.
The responsibility of a God-called preacher
There is a magazine you may be familiar with, and every year or so, they will put out the top ten preachers in America. I know I will never make that list, but you pray that I never will make that list. I won’t because of ability, but I also don’t want to because of any other reason. What in the world would any preacher who loves God want to be on a secular magazine’s acclamation of the top ten preachers in a year? What in the world does the world know about preaching? That was the problem in Corinth. They were using the world’s standards to judge preachers and Paul says, “Whoa now, whoa. Are you going to regard a preacher? Are you going to esteem a preacher? This is the only way under God you can do it.”
Number one is the responsibility of a Godcalled preacher. Paul says, “Test me and Apollos and make sure we meet the standard. Verse 1 of chapter 4 says, “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.” Now, that word “let a man regard” is the word logizomai. I remember standing at the board in math class, and trying to remember all the different things that help me solve a problem. I remember one day standing there at the board, and the teacher was saying, “Come on, Wayne, come on.” They wanted me to pass the course. It finally began to come to me. The observations that they had told me to make began to make sense. I started making the observations and lo and behold, I came out with the right conclusion. That is logizomai. It means come to this conclusion by making these observations.
What observations? There are two of them there in that first verse. First of all he says, “regard us… as servants of Christ.” Make sure that if you are going to regard this preacher and call him a Godcalled preacher, you make sure he is a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now the word for “servant” will surprise you. It is not the same word we have seen earlier in 1 Corinthians, the word diakonos, which means that menial servant from which we get the word “deacon.” That simply means if you have a glass of water and it is empty, I go get you another glass of water. Is there anything I can do to serve you?
That is a synonym for the word here that doesn’t pop up very often in Scripture. I think it is very important that we look at it. It is the word huperetes. Hupo means under, and then the word eresso, which means the rower of a boat. Now what Paul just described here as a servant is a galley slave. It was one of the slaves who would get in the lower tier of a boat and row the boat, the most menial, unenvied and despised of all slaves. Now that is in its root form, in its secular form. The word came to mean one who is absolutely submissive to authority. That is the word for “servant.”
Now the next thing you have to decide is, whose authority is a Godcalled preacher submitted to? He has to be absolutely submitted to it. Is it the church? Is it the deacons? Is it the elders? What is the priority of this surrender and submission? He says, “a servant of Christ.” A preacher first of all is a servant of Christ. Is he called to serve men? Yes. But my friend, that is not what he is talking about right here. That comes later on in the book of 1 Corinthians. Don’t start throwing all these things in. Stay with the context. The context says, first of all, the priority of his life is he is a servant of Christ. He must have the understanding that he cannot be a servant of Christ with one eye on Him and one eye on the needs of man.
I will tell you what I am talking about here. If you are focused more on the needs of man than you are the leadership of the Holy Spirit of God in your life, you fail in both areas. Because if a preacher focuses only on the needs of man and thinks he has to go and meet those needs, he forfeits and compromises the very truth of God. Then he becomes a failure in all of those areas. Before the needs of man ever enter the picture, the preacher first of all is a servant of Christ, a galleyslave. As he says earlier in the book, we are equal. Don’t you put one over another. We are just all gifted men whom God has given to the body.
Look in Acts 13:36. I want you to see how David saw himself. That word huperetes is used here. I want you to understand who David was, the great leader, the king of Israel. If you mention David or Abraham’s name to a Jew, they open their eyes very wide because these are heroes to them. But look how David considered himself. This is so important. It says in verse 36, “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep.” The word “served” is huperetes. He served as a man no more worthy than any others who are serving.
That is the bottom line of what Paul is talking about. When you are a servant of Christ, you don’t look at yourself as somebody bigger or littler than somebody else. You just look at Him and walk and follow Him.
Look back in 1 Corinthians 3:5 and 7, just to make sure we have got the thought now that he has. This is exactly what he is bringing out. I think that is why he uses the word. In I Corinthians 3:5 he says, “What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed.” Now there is the word diakonos. It says, “even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one.”
Then in 1 Corinthians 3:7 we read, “So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.” Now the question has got to come in your mind and in my mind. If he serves Christ, how does he serve Christ? A true Godcalled preacher is a man when he serves Christ and serves His Word. That is the bottom line. He serves His Word.
The word huperetes is used in that form in Luke 1:2. The apostle Luke is talking. Boy, it is so crystal clear when it comes out. It says, “Just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the Word, have handed them down to us.” In other words, the picture here is of one who is a servant of Christ who takes the Word of God and hands it to others. That is how a Godcalled preacher serves Christ. He serves His Word.
The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:16, “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion [I love that phrase there. Something is burning in my heart. This is what motivates me]; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.” Be very careful! Some people think the gospel is just the message of salvation. The gospel is the good news of the Word of God, the good news of Jesus from Genesis 1 to the last chapter of Revelation. That is why in Romans 1 Paul says, “I can’t wait to get among you believers, to preach to you the gospel.” I thought they only needed it if they were lost? No, no. You need it all the way through. It is the Word of God. And the true Godcalled preacher is one who is a servant of Christ and the way he serves Him is by serving His Word.
You know what a shepherd does? A shepherd does three things: he guides the sheep, he guards the sheep and he grazes the sheep. How does he do that? He guides them with the word, he guards them with the word and he grazes them with the word. The word, the word, the word, the word. That is what a Godcalled preacher is compelled to do. He serves Christ by serving His Word.
You say, “Wayne, you are just reading that into it.” No, finish 1 Corinthians 4:1. He said, “and stewards of the mysteries of God.” I started to say the manifold mysteries of God. It is called that in Ephesians 3:10, but here it is the mysteries of God.
Now, what is he talking about here? The word for “steward” is the word oikonomos. It means a household manager of somebody else’s property. You can be a manager of a business if it is not yours. It can be an administrator of a domestic affair. It is somebody who administrates and properly protects and distributes that which is the property of somebody else. He said, “I am a steward of the mysteries of God.” “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.” That word “mystery,” as we have already seen in 1 Corinthians, means that which can be known only by revelation. He speaks here of the Word of God.
So what is a Godcalled preacher? A Godcalled preacher is under the authority of Jesus Christ. He must be absolutely submissive to Him, never look at himself as if he is above anybody else, but he serves the Word of God. That is what he is, a steward of the mysteries of God. He holds nothing back. It is the whole counsel of God that he is committed to preach to people. That is what he is here for, that is what he does. You want to regard a preacher? Look first of all at his responsibility before God and that is to be a steward of the mysteries of God.
In Acts 20:20 Paul is speaking to the church elders. He is on the island of Milteus. They have come down to him. Look at what he says to them. It is so important that we hear this. He says, “how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable [Now that is so important. I left nothing out, he says] and teaching you publicly and from house to house.” They had house churches until way after the 8th century. And so, therefore, he would go from one house church to another house church to another house church.
Verse 21 says, “solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Then if you drop down to verse 27 of chapter 20 he says, “For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.” The apostle Paul was accountable, obedient to Christ, and accountable to Him to be a steward of the mysteries of God.
Have you ever noticed how wrong doctrine gets its start? Because people are not preaching the whole counsel of God’s Word. Wrong doctrine will come from people who major in the Old Testament. They will teach the Old Testament, and the gospels and the book of Acts, but they will not get into the epistles at all. They never talk about the epistles. That is where wrong doctrine festers – when you are not teaching the whole counsel of it. The apostle Paul says, “Man, I am under compulsion to preach the whole counsel of God unto you.”
Look back in 1 Corinthians 2:2. We have studied it but let’s look back. Listen to his heart. He is saying to them, “Don’t attach yourself to me. If you want to regard us or esteem us, remember, here are your guidelines. Number one, our responsibility.” He says in verse 2, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.” Paul knew the responsibility God had given to him.
Verse 4 continues, “And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” Then in verse 5 here is the compelling thing of a true Godcalled preacher, “that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” So the responsibility and the major concern of a true Godcalled preacher is he is never there, now listen, to please his hearers. He is there to preach thus saith the Lord. That is his responsibility before God and that is what he will answer to God one day for. Paul begins by showing them this.
It took me a long time to understand this. The average pastor in America today, they tell me, is dismissed after about eight months. It used to be two years and then it came down to one and half years. It is somewhere getting down below one now, somewhere around the area of eight months, the last thing I heard. Why is that? You know, I don’t know all the answers but I think I know some. From this passage, I think what happens is, congregations put a pressure on many preachers and do not allow them to fulfill their Godgiven responsibility. They want him here, here, here, here, over here, do this, do that, do this, do that and then come in on Sunday and expect to be fed without any comprehension of the time that it takes to get down and dig out the revealed mysteries of God in the scriptures. As a result, preachers end up being a failure to their congregation and a failure to God and a failure to themselves because they are cutting off the very thing that is the answer everybody is looking for.
Roy Hessein taught me a lot. One day I said, “Roy, I am worried.” He said, “What are you worried about, son?” I said, “I am worried about the fact that I come to church every Sunday and there are many people who never even bring their Bible. They sit there and they go half to sleep. They are looking at their watch half way through the message. They just don’t seem to be hungry at all. What do I do? What do I do about all those?” He said to me, “Wayne, you are not responsible for people who will not eat, but you are responsible for setting the table for those who want to. You won’t stand before God and answer for people who didn’t listen, but you will stand before God and answer for how you set the table.”
That set me free. It just set me free. Folks, I want to tell you, a Godcalled preacher knows that he is a servant to Christ and to serve Him he serves the Word. Now listen to me carefully, that is the way he loves the people. That is the way he serves the people is by being a steward of the mysteries of God.
That is the very thing people don’t want, especially Corinthians, who are still attached to people, in the nursery. They don’t want to hear from God. They would rather man be there. They cling to man instead of clinging to God. But that is his Godgiven responsibility. Paul says, “If you want to esteem me and Apollos, then this is our responsibility.”
The requirement of a God-called preacher
Secondly, there is the requirement of a preacher. The requirement of a preacher is found right here in verse 2. It says, “In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.” The present tense is used here for “required” which means at all times you have to find them this way. If you are going to esteem them, if you are going to regard them, here is the key, at all times.
The verb “required” is the word that means that which is expected, that which is required. So there is something expected out of a person who is a Godcalled preacher. Not only does he have a responsibility of being a servant and a steward, but he does have something else here that is required out of him – that he be found trustworthy.
The word “trustworthy” is pistos. It means to win over, to persuade. Now hang on, hang on. It is somebody you can put your confidence in, that is what he is saying. But in the context here, there are many things that characterize being trustworthy and faithful. I mean, you can get into character, etc. and that all applies, but that is not his context. His context is directly linked to what he just said. Since this man’s heart and his responsibility is to serve the Lord by serving His Word, being a steward of the mystery of God, he must be found faithful at all times to be this if you are ever going to put your confidence in Him. That is what he is saying.
Now there other things to being trustworthy, other things to being faithful, but his main emphasis here is not the wisdom of men but the wisdom of God. This is why we don’t attach ourselves to men. If you are going to esteem a preacher, these are the things that have to be there. There has to be a consistency about that fact. Whether there are 12 people or 1200 people there, they are always teaching the Word of God. They are stewards of the mystery of God.
The word “be found” is the word heurisko. It means to discover by inquiry or experience. In other words, it is really more than just asking somebody. It is something you have observed by being around that individual, whether there are just a few or a lot.
In 2 Timothy Paul said, “I say this to you, Timothy, in the presence of God and angels.” Wow! There is a bigger congregation than we can see, isn’t there? There are angels around us. Hey, guys. I mean, you can’t see them, but they are there. And not only that, when a Godcalled preacher preaches he has to understand that he stands in the presence of God Himself.
So therefore, he is always to be found trustworthy and faithful, to be consistent in teaching the Word of God and revealing the mysteries of God. This is why Paul sent Timothy, by the way, to Corinth. You think Paul wasn’t worried about Corinth? He was worried about the people who were deceiving them and beguiling them, so he sent Timothy. Now he would have to trust Timothy to be one who was faithful and trustworthy, that he would preach the Word of God to them. That is why he says what he says in 4:17 about Timothy. Look down at verse 17. He says, “For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church.” In other words, he is going to pick right up where I left off and that is why I am sending Timothy to you. You can trust him. He has always been found to be consistent in teaching the Word of God.
I understand, folks, what Paul is trying to say here. But I also want you to understand what God says. No matter what you feel, you had better get your thoughts lined up with what God’s Word says a preacher is. You had better check in with God. God says you are a servant to Me by serving My Word, by being a steward of the mysteries of God. And not only that, every time you get in that pulpit, you have to be found consistent to that task, to preach the Word of God. Folks, this is an encouraging passage to me. It might discourage you, but it sure is encouraging to my heart.
The reward of the God-called preacher
The third thing about a preacher we want to see here is not just his responsibility and not just his requirement, but his reward, the one thing he looks forward to. This is so precious. It is important to see faithfulness and all these things in a preacher’s life, but the only examination that really matters to a Godcalled preacher should be, not what the people think and not even what your own estimate is, it is what God thinks of what you are doing. That is the bottom line. This really convicted me even as I was studying. Verse 3 says, “But to me it is a very small thing that I should be examined by you, or by any human court.” Now, when he says, “a very small thing,” it is an interesting word here. The word doesn’t mean it means nothing. It just means it is minimal in its importance compared to something else that I am going to talk to you about. Certainly it is important to be examined by the people because there is accountability. But he says, “That is minimal to me. That is minimal to something else. It is not as important. It is important but it is not as important.”
The word “examined” is anakrino, which means to judge, to discern. He says, “by any human court.” That is the way it is translated, but the phrase is not that. The word hemera is used. It means on any given day, on any specific day. Paul says, “Listen, you can examine me on any specific day you choose and that examination is important and you need to do that, but that is not what I rest my life on, not what you think of me. I rest my life on what God thinks of me.”
In fact, he didn’t even examine himself to rest upon his findings. Obviously he did examine himself, but not in light of this being the important thing that motivated his life. Look at verse 3 again. “But to me it is a very small thing that I should be examined by you, or any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself.” That is present tense. In other words, “Yes, I am always checking on things, but I am not letting that become my basis for how I think about myself.”
The real test is God’s test in verse 4. “I am conscious of nothing against myself.” Isn’t that funny? I love the way he did that. If you ask me to examine myself right now, I am not conscious of anything about myself. Isn’t it funny how we can deceive ourselves and be deceived by what others tell us? “Oh, Brother Wayne, that was the greatest message I have ever heard.” And I want to tell you, I enjoy those kind of things. I really do. But it is like the apostle Paul is saying, “You had better be careful. Don’t you judge yourself by what they say and don’t you judge yourself by what you come up with either. You had better judge it by what I think about what you said.”
He goes on to say, “I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.” What does it mean to be “by this acquitted”? Let me see if I can teach you this. The word “acquitted” there is not the word that means declared righteous or made righteous. It is another word. It is dikaioo. That is an -oo verb. I call them the “Uh Oh” verbs. When the uh oh verb is used, it means not just that you are made righteous. That is not what he is saying. It means you are proven and put on display as being righteous.
Let me show you that in James 2:21 because this is important. You know, Martin Luther said, “The book of James is an epistle of straw. Throw it out.” It is one of the greatest books in the New Testament. Why did he say that? Because of this verse, but if he had understood the “Uh Ohs,” it wouldn’t have been as difficult. It is as simple as the nose on your face if you understand it. James 2:21 says, “Was not Abraham our father,” now listen to this, “justified by works,…” Somebody stands up and says, “What? Heretic! Throw him out. We are saved by faith that any man should not boast. Paul said that. James is contradicting that. He says Abraham was justified by his works.” No, no, no. He was shown to be justified by his works. That is an “Uh Oh” verb. That is what he is talking about. He is proving to be justified.
So the idea that Paul is portraying by using that word here in chapter 4 is, “Listen, you can’t acquit me. I mean, you can’t make me be proven that I am righteous. God has got to approve me. That is what I want. I don’t want men to prove me. I can’t prove myself. I want to be under God’s approval, that He proves to the people that what I am doing is of Him.”
That is the bottom line. It is not how the people think about it. It is not how you think about it. It is how does God think about it. He wants God’s approval. He wants God to put him on display and then that anointing power of God sets in on him and the attention then immediately goes to God and not to the person.
I love David. David said in Psalm 139, “O Lord, Thou hast searched me and known me.” Then he says in the last two verses, “Search me again, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my anxious thoughts and see if there be any hurtful way in me and lead me in the everlasting way.” God, you have already searched me. God, I searched myself. But God, would you search me again? Let’s make sure that you approve because I don’t want to do it if your approval is not upon me. That is what the Godcalled preacher wants more than anything else in the world, just that God’s hand is on him, that God’s approval is there, that He has put him on display as being one of His, called and assigned to do what He has told him to do.
Well, verse 5 reads, “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time.” In other words, stop trying to go around judging preachers’ motives, etc. Oh, yes, be discerning. Mark those who cause division. Check wrong doctrine. That is not what he is saying. He is saying, “Listen, be careful when you start getting down to this judgment of people’s hearts and motives if they are Godcalled. Leave it alone because one day there is going to be a judgment. God will take care of all that.”
Folks, if you want to regard a preacher, there is a responsibility that God has for him, a requirement and a reward. Pick those three to make those observations and come to your conclusions. That is the bottom line.