I Corinthians 4:1-7

Steve Viars August 3, 1991 1 Corinthians 3:9-23

- we've been studying the book of I Corinthians and tonight
  we're going to move into chapter 4
- if you were with us Wednesday evening, we reminded
  ourselves that these verses are actually part of an
  extended unit that began in chapter 1 verse 10 and ends
  here at the end of chapter 4

- Paul has been concerned with unity in the church
- there were terrible divisions and factions in the
  Corinthian church and as a result, they hadn't been able to
  minister effectively for the Lord

- disunity was a problem then, and its a problem in churches
  today
- while that’s obviously more true in some places than others
    - the potential for disunity exists in any church this
      side of heaven
    - because as long as there are sinners like me and
      sinners like you - the potential for disunity is always
      present

- now we've seen, that because this is such an extended
  passage of Scripture, there are actually topics contained
  in these verses that are important to study in of
  themselves

- Paul has dealt with some important subjects in his attempt
  to make the Corinthians focus on unity - and those subjects
  are important in and of themselves

- Paul's spoken about the wisdom of God and how that’s
  different than the wisdom of man
- He's talked about the terrible sin of unaddressed and
  ongoing carnality
    - a fleshly lifestyle where no growth is taking place

- He's spoken about the Judgment Seat of Christ, and how
  important it is to be preparing to give the best possible
  account on that all-important day
- so these topics have been important in and of themselves -
  but each time Paul has tied them back to the subject of
  unity and encouraged the Corinthians to change as a result
  of the new truth he's revealed

- now, in tonight's passage, Paul is going "go after" the
  source of disunity in the Corinthians church by talking
  about sinful pride and godly humility

- we're talking about "Being A Humble Servant God Can Use"

- read 4:1-7 (explain in verse 6 - "these things" refer to
    the pictures he's used in the previous verses, likening
    he, Appolos, and Cephas to a farmer, to a builder and to
    the pictures we read in verse 1 of this chapter)

- Now, we know that this verse is about pride because Paul
  tells us in verse 6 why he's written these things

INPUT - what reason does he give?  (so that none of you will
        be puffed up)
          - Paul uses that word 7 times
              - some of the newer versions translate it a
                little differently
                  - NASB - arrogant
                  - NIV - be proud
          - but the word does literally means "puffed up" or
            "inflated" or "blown up"

     - Paul says - I don't want you to have that kind of
         pride, that kind of inflated view of yourselves

- now let's think about that together for a minute
    - let's think about how pride rears it's ugly head in
      different settings and situations

- INPUT - what is true when people are "Puffed up" against
          one another in the family?
            - at work?
            - in the church?

- Its obvious that pride and arrogance can be very
  destructive in any setting.

- undoubtedly, that’s why the word of God has such strong
  warnings against it. Consider these verses:

Proverbs 8:13 - "...Pride and arrogance, and the evil way and
        the perverted mouth do I hate."
     11:2 - When pride cometh, then cometh shame
     13:10 - Only by pride comes contention
     14:3 - In the mouth of the foolish is the rod of pride
     16:18 - Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty
             spirit before a fall
     29:23 - A man's pride shall bring him low

- I'd like us to look tonight at three reasons why we must be
  seeking to grow in this important area

I. Be Humble Because God Has Used Humble Servants In The Past

    - Paul says - one of the things that’s wrong about the way
      you're carrying on with this "I'm of Paul" and "I'm of
      Apollos" business is that it’s thoroughly inconsistent
      with the kind of men and women God has used in the past

    - so he says - take us for example

    A. Here's how you should think of us

        - INPUT - what two pictures does he give in verse 1?

        1. ministers

            - now let's be sure to put this back in its context
            - Paul is going after the way they are lifting up
              one person over another - and in so doing
              trying to grab a little glory for themselves
              because they're on the right team with the
              right "leader"
    - Paul says – that’s not the way you should think of us
    - don't put our names on banners and try to convince
      everyone that I was the best or Apollos was the
      smartest

    - Paul says - think of us as ministers or servants
      - in fact, he picks out a word that literally means
        "under-rower"
      - the picture is of the slaves who toiled on a ship
      - of course they didn't have huge engines to move the
        ships
      - they used slaves to row them
      - these ships had tiers of rowers, and if you were
        really low - you were on the bottom
      - you were an "under-rower"

      - no one ever bragged about being an under-rower
      - you never had a parent come in and say - I want to
        show you a picture of my son - he's been promoted to
        an under-rower

      - Paul says – that’s the way you need to think about us
          - myself, Apollos, Cephas, and others in the church
      - we're under-rowers - "ministers of Christ"

      - now sure, its true in other places that Paul
        encourages churches to esteem pastors highly for
        their work's sake
      - that truth needs to factor in here as well

      - but the Corinthians were so far beyond that
      - they were lifting up certain individuals far beyond
        what was right and proper
      - that’s why he said in verse 6 - I've written these
        things so ye might learn "not to think of men above
        that which is written"

      - we're under-rowers - humble servants of God

      - Paul also says, "we're:

        2. stewards

            - now stewardship is great truth in the Bible
            - its a great privilege to be a steward
            - especially since we're stewards "of the
               mysteries of God"
            - but I would present to you that, based on the
              argument of this chapter, Paul isn't telling
              them he and Apollos and anyone else in the
              church are stewards so they can think higher of
              themselves

    - his point here is - "its important - but not as
      important as you're trying to make it"
    - in this sense - "we didn't come up with these things on
        our own"
    - we didn't come up with the gospel, we didn't come up
      with God's Word
    - yes, God used us to teach you truth, but don't fall in
      love with the postman (unless you're Jean Berninger,
      Laura Wright, Pam Rumba, or Lynn Jones)
    - we're stewards, but we're just stewards

    - See, Paul says - you ought to be humble because that’s
        what we are - humble servants of God
    - don't think of us as big-shots or God's gift to the
      church

    - we're under-rowers - and stewards

- Paul says in verse 2:

    B. Here's what's really important

        1. not...

          - what you folks have been bragging about
          - Paul's group has been saying "Paul's really wise"
          - Apollos' group has been saying - "Apollos is a
            great speaker"
          - Cephas group saying things like - "Cephas is
            really dynamic"

    - the point is - no wonder you're struggling with pride
      because you've got all the wrong evaluators for people
    - since we're stewards for God, what's important is:

        2. instead....faithfulness

    - it's required in stewards, that a man be found faithful

   - see, not - that a man be found handsome, wise,
       charismatic, profound
         - or any of these other characteristics that you'd
           like to see so you can boast about them and make
           yourself look smart because you're following that
           person

- Paul says - its required in stewards that a man be found
   faithful
      - which is tremendously important - but not anything
        you can brag about

- see, we ought to be humble - because God has used
  individuals like Paul, Apollos, Cephas, and many
  others throughout history who were humble servants of His
- we're under-rowers and stewards

- you know, when you think about it, there are a number of
  examples in Scripture where the Lord used individuals who
  were humble

    C. Other examples in Scripture

        - INPUT?

        1. Abraham - Gen. 18:27 - "Now, behold, I have
            ventured to speak to the Lord, although I am but
            dust and ashes."
        2. Jacob - Gen. 32:10 - "I am unworthy of all the
            loving kindness and of all the faithfulness which
            thou hast shown to thy servant."

        3. Gideon - Judges 6:15 - "O Lord, how shall I
            deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in
            Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father's
            house."
        4. John the Baptist - Matt. 3:14 - "I have need to be
            baptized by you, and do you come to me?"
        5. Peter - Luke 5:8 - (after witnessing the miracle
            of the great catch of fish) "Depart from me, for
            I am a sinful man, O Lord."
        6. Paul - II Cor. 3:5 - "We are not adequate
            in ourselves to consider anything as coming
            from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God."
        7. Jesus - Phil. 2:6-8 - "Who being in the form of
            God, thought it not robbery to equal with God,
            but made Himself of no reputation..."

- Paul is saying - Corinthians - you need to change
- "that no one of you be puffed up for one against the other"
- their church would always be divisive and it would always
    be ineffective unless they dealt with that sin of pride

- we ought to be growing in humility because God has used
  humble servants in the past
- we're under-rowers and stewards
    - you need to think of us that way, and you need to think
      about yourselves that way

- before we move to the next point - let me ask you - would
   those around say of you that you're seeking to grow in
   humility
- would they say that you understand that pride goes before
   destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall?

- let's brainstorm this for a moment
    - How would you fill in this blank (you can apply it to
      home, work, or church):

    - If we viewed ourselves more as under-rowers, we'd
      _____________. (listen more and talk less)

- now, Paul goes on these next two verses to give us a second
  reason why we must be growing in this area
- let me just say up front that these verses are very
  important
    - and we need to proceed carefully to understand what
      Paul is saying

- let's read them (READ 3-4)

- now I'd like to read them out of the NIV and make some
   comments as we go

    "I care very little if I am judged by you or any human
     court"

    - the word "judged" all through this passage can best be
      understood as the word "evaluated"
    - Paul says - "Its not that important to me how you
      evaluate me or how other humans evaluate me"

 

    - now we don't know if Paul is talking about others
      evaluating him positively or negatively - but I
      propose to you that we're going to find out in just a
      minute

   - "Indeed, I don't even judge myself. (v.4) My conscience
      is clear, but that does not make me innocent."

    - those are very important words
    - Paul says - I even have to be careful of the way I
      judge (evaluate) myself
         - my conscience is clear (I'm not aware of blatant
           unconfessed sin that I'm not working on)
             - but what?  that doesn't make me innocent!

    - see, what's Paul talking about in these verses?
- he's talking about all those folks who are saying "I'm of
   Paul"
- see, how do you stay humble when all that’s going on?
    - how do you call yourself an under-rower and a steward
      when you've got at least one group in the church that’s
      trying to argue that you're the greatest thing going?

- Paul's answer would be - "I don't put too much stock in
  that"
   - "With me, it is a very small thing that I should be
      judged or evaluated of you, even if the evaluation
      turns out to be positive"
        - I'm not going to get all carried away with that
- that keeps a person humble!

- point is:

II. Be Humble By Evaluating Self and Others Properly

    A. Don't overemphasize man's judgment

        - see, the Corinthians were all concerned about what
          this person thought, and what that person thought
            - they were scrambling around trying to get
              approval from this person or that person

        - you'll never be effective for the Lord that way
        - Paul says - "I care very little about that"

        - sure, what someone else thinks needs to be
          considered
        - when someone pays you a compliment, there's nothing
          wrong with being encouraged by that
        - when someone criticizes you, you surely ought to
          consider whether or not what they are saying is
          true

        - but Paul says - it's possible to be overly
          concerned about that

        - you can look at that two ways


        1. positively

             - let's say for example - someone comes up to
               you after the service and says - "Boy, you
               sure are a great parent."

             - that can be an encouragement, and there's
               nothing wrong with that in its place
             - but Paul says he doesn't overemphasize man's
               evaluation

             - see, a person could take a comment like that
               and get very proud
             - any kind of positive evaluation on the part of
               others can lead to pride

- the proper response to a comment like that ought to be -
  "Thank you Lord, for helping me to do some things right-
   thank you for bringing so and so along my path to
   encourage me--but help me not to get proud because I
   surely recognize that there's things about my parenting or
   any other area of life that so and so doesn't know."
- their knowledge is imperfect, therefore their praise is
  imperfect and help me not to make any more of that than you
  would want me to.

- we could talk about this negatively as well, when another
  person is being critical

        2. negatively

            - we always want to listen
            - we always want to think through carefully what
              the person is saying
            - we always want to see if there is a beam in our eye

    - but sometimes there are individuals who are wrong in
      their criticism
    - a believer, while he's not an island unto himself
       - has to be able to be able to put that evaluation in
         its place

- Paul says - don't let that comment sidetrack you
    - especially if it was made by an unbeliever or a person
      who isn't going the right way

- don't be blown out of the water with that

- Paul says - don't overemphasize man's judgment

- he also says this:

    B. Don't overemphasize your own judgment

        - he says - I don't even judge myself!
           - now, we have to be careful with that
           - a significant portion of the NT is directed at
             helping us examine ourselves
           - Paul's going to tell people later in this letter
             that people are dying after the Lord's table
             because they're not examining themselves
    - but he still says - I don't overemphasize the
      importance of the conclusions when I evaluate myself

        - Why is that? Because we all tend to build ourselves
          up in our own minds.

        - You've heard of rose colored glasses - we tend to
           look into rose colored mirrors!

        - education report (feeling good about doing bad)

       - so don't overemphasize man's judgment
         - don't overemphasize your own judgment

    C. The Lord's judgment is the one to be concerned about

       - read v. 5

    - of course he's referring back to the Judgment Seat of
      Christ which he discussed in the previous chapter

    - see, because other's knowledge and understanding of the
      facts is imperfect - their compliments and criticisms
      are imperfect
    - because my knowledge and understanding of the facts is
      imperfect - my evaluation is imperfect

    - both of those sources of evaluation have a way of
      getting out of skew and as a result leading to pride

    - but here's something that will keep us humble
    - thinking about the Judgment seat of Christ
    - thinking about what it will be like when all the secret
        things are revealed
    - thinking about what it will be like when the motives
      are revealed, and the true quality is revealed

    - when the real evaluation is done

    - on that day - no one's going to say
        - boy - that was a cinch!
        - I was over prepared for that one!
        - I knew I'd do great
        - I had a right to boast back then

- see, why do we struggle with the issues of humility and
  pride?
- one very critical reason is that we don't evaluate
  ourselves and others properly
- if we overemphasize the place and importance of man's
  evaluation
- or if we overemphasize the place and importance of our own
  evaluation
    ...to the neglect of the place and importance of God's
       evaluation both now and especially at the judgment
       seat of Christ when the secret things shall be
       revealed
          - then pride is an inevitable result

- now, I think its safe to say that the average person who
  comes to our services has the attitude
     - "I don't want to be told all the things I'm doing
        right
          - I want to be challenged with some ways that I may
            need to change because I'm doing something that
            hinders my ability to please God

  - and while recognizing that may not be all that pleasant
    initially - I want to wrestle with those areas because I
    want to change

- I think this is one of those issues that many of us need to
  take a hard look at
- Question is - Have you overemphasized the importance of the
    judgment and evaluation of others, or the importance of
    the judgment and evaluation of yourself...and in so
    doing underemphasized or neglected the importance of the
    judgment and evaluation of God?

- another way of asking that is - Are there any areas of life
   where that may be happening?

- let's think about some possibilities
    - you'll have to make the specific application to your
      situation - but let me try to give a few examples

1) The teen who has reached some degree of popularity at
   school. Maybe because of you academic achievements, looks,
   abilities in sports--you've got some folks around thinking
   you're pretty great.
     - there's nothing intrinsically wrong with popularity
     - but can you see how that can go sour?

     - (When?) - when you overemphasize the importance of
        that evaluation

     - illus - (Eddie Stewart)
        - came from a good Christian home
        - great baseball player
        - was invited to try out for the pro's and made  it
          into the farm system
        - was at a mall one day - a  woman came up to him -
            you're attractive - how would you like to be a
            model?

- so that’s what he started doing - playing minor league ball
  and modeling blue jeans

- everybody was telling him he was great
- but you know what happened

- he overemphasized the value of what they were saying
- and it made him proud
- pretty soon (and it wasn't long at all)-what God thought of
  his life wasn't important at all

- pretty soon he was cutting corners, going out to the bars
  with the guys, living with another girl

- how'd he get so far off track? He wasn't evaluating himself
  properly
- now the other side is true - some folks have those
   abilities and those gifts - and the applause that comes
   along with it
      - but they can keep it in perspective with God's
        evaluation
      - and they've used those opportunities to grow and have
         an effective testimony

- but those are individuals who have learned to do what we're
  talking about tonight

- see. I wonder how many folks might be here tonight and
  would say - in a certain area of life, I can see myself
  slipping into overemphasizing man's evaluation

- I see it at work where I'm tempted to:
     - laugh at something I shouldn't
     - ignore something I shouldn't
     - or cut corners
        - just so I'll be one of the guys
        - or just so I'll get the praise of the boss

        - all the time ignoring the coming day when those
          acts will be revealed for what they really are

- or maybe you'd say - I see that with my extended family

  - where having daddy's approval is so important
      - that we don't pray when they're around
      - or we don't mention God or the church
      - or we fall back in those same habits, because daddy's
         evaluation is so important

- Paul says - be sure you're placing the right amount of
    emphasis on the right evaluation
       - that will surely keep us humble

- Paul ties this up in verse 7 with these words (READ vs. 7)

III. Be Humble By Recognizing The Source Of All You Have

- it’s possible, that even after taking the steps we've talked
  about there still will be things that could generate pride

- even after emphasizing the things that are important to God
    - that could generate pride unless this step was taken

- you might say - well, God wants me to be a better spouse -
   and I have grown in that area
- or, the Lord wants me to understand his Word more - and I
      have grown in my understanding this year
- God wants me to witness - and I have shared Christ with
     several friends

- in other words - you might say – I have been trying to
   emphasize the importance of God's evaluation and as a
   result I've made some progress in those areas that are
   important to Him
      - that’s great - but this needs to be factored in now
      - while things are going well in those areas – that’s
        not anything for me to get proud about - because I
        don't have anything that I did not receive

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video