“Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:1-2).
If the believer will truly understand that he is a steward of God and that he will give account for his whole life and ministry, he will not allow himself to be carnal. He will be obedient, zealous, and faithful. This is a continuation of the instruction about the judgment seat of Christ. It is emphasized by means of repetition. Paul does this kind of thing a lot in his epistles. We see this in Romans 1-3, where there is repetition about man’s sin and God’s judgment, and in Romans 6-8, where there is repetition about walking in the Spirit and denying the flesh, and in Romans 9-11, where there is repetition about God’s plan for Israel.
“Steward” is the Greek oikonomos, “from oikos, house, and nemo, to distribute, referring to “an administrator, a person who manages the domestic affairs of a family, business, or minor, a treasurer, a chamberlain of a city, a house manager, overseer” (Complete Word Study Bible). A steward is responsible to oversee people and property that belong to another, and he must give account for his stewardship. Eliezer was Abraham’s steward (Ge. 15:2). Eliezer “ruled over all that he had” (Ge. 24:2), but he didn’t own those things; he ruled them for Abraham, under Abraham’s instruction, according to Abraham’s will, and was accountable to Abraham.
“Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.” Again, Paul is instructing the carnal believers at Corinth to stop exalting man and envying man. He is instructing them to put their eyes upon God, who owns all things. In the church, all of the people are mere stewards, from the leaders and teachers to the least of the brethren. Paul was a steward of the mysteries of God in the sense that he was given the mysteries as a prophet. Today, God’s people are stewards of the mysteries in the sense of preserving them, obeying them, teaching them, defending them.
“It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.”
- This is the most fundamental element of stewardship. “Faithful” is the Greek pistos, “worthy of belief, trust, or confidence” (Complete Word Study Bible). I must do what I am assigned to do faithfully. I must be honest, diligent, trustworthy, dependable. The master of a faithful steward has peace of mind. He can turn that particular business over to the steward, knowing that everything will be done and it will be done right, according to the master’s rules. The world requires faithfulness of its stewards, whether in business or military or sports or any other sphere. How much more does the work of God call for faithfulness!
- Every believer is a steward of God. We are stewards of our bodies, of our talents, of our money and possessions, of our days, of our spiritual gifts and callings, of our ministries, of our families, of our children. We don’t own these things; they are God’s. “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein” (Ps. 24:1).
- Joseph is an example of a faithful steward. He was a faithful steward of the dreams that God gave him, not modifying them or hiding them (Ge. 37:5-11). He was a faithful steward of his father’s order (Ge. 37:12-17). He was a faithful steward of Potipher. “And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the LORD was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field. And he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat” (Ge. 39:5-6). After that, Joseph was the faithful steward of Pharaoh. “Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou” (Ge. 41:40). Joseph faithfully carried out the 14-year plan to save Egypt from the terrible famine. He kept his attention on his very large stewardship and on what he had been assigned to do; he didn’t get distracted with other things; he didn’t grow slack in the work; he didn’t get overwhelmed and quit; he didn’t use the situation to enrich himself beyond what he was lawfully provided.
- Some believers in the first churches were called “faithful”--Timothy (1 Co. 4:17), Tychicus (Eph. 6:21), Epaphras (Col. 1:7), Onesimus (Col. 4:9), Silvanus (1 Pe. 5:12), Antipas (Re. 2:13).
- Faithfulness proves a person’s overall character. “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?” (Lu. 16:10-11).
- God will judge on the basis of faithfulness. This means that any saint, regardless of how lowly his station or how small his resources and abilities, can please God and receive His commendation. In the Parable of the Talents, the Lord says to his profitable servant, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things” (Mt. 25:21, 23). “Man values cleverness, wisdom, wealth, and success; but God is looking for those who will be faithful to Jesus in all things” (Believer’s Bible Commentary).
- Since God requires faithfulness of His stewards, churches must require faithfulness of every worker in every position. To allow people to serve in ministries when they are not faithful is an affront to God and is a major reason for the corruption of churches.
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