Commentary by Walter Albritton

June 25, 2006


Authentic Christians Are Privileged to Serve Responsibly


1 Corinthians 4:1-13


Key Verse: Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries. – 1 Corinthians 4:1

          Our churches would have a stronger witness to the world if we took Paul’s attitude more seriously. Paul thought of himself as a servant of Christ and a steward of God. He spent his life making Christ known and inviting people to embrace him as Lord. His will was subservient to the will of Christ.

Like his Lord Jesus, Paul’s first concern was the Kingdom of God, not the Kingdom of Paul. He never asked for a dime to erect anything that would perpetuate his own name. On the contrary he did everything within his power to make known the name of his precious Savior.

          Paul not only talked servanthood, he practiced it. Jesus was his Boss, his Lord, from whom he received his marching orders. Paul’s response to the Great Commission of Jesus was the greatest response made by any person in the first century. For Paul nothing was more important than to take up the cross and “go make disciples of all nations” – even if it cost him his life.

          Many of us have glamorized the word “servant.” We have added the word “leader” to it because we want to be known as “leaders” of the church. This distinction makes us feel more important than the common people. We crave recognition and praise for our hard work in the church. Some of us have even quit the church because we did not receive the recognition we thought we deserved.

          Older translations of the Bible have Paul describing himself not as a servant but rather as a “slave” of Christ. Servant sounds much better than slave. We are too proud to think of ourselves as slaves of anyone.

But in choosing the word “slave” Paul showed us his heart. He thought it a high privilege to serve as a slave of Jesus Christ. He was willing to surrender entirely to the total mastery of Christ. Christ was everything; Paul was content to be Christ’s slave and to do what he was told to do. After all, to Paul Christ was the visible expression of the invisible God, the One before whom “every knee will bow” one day.

We who serve Christ today are prone to think of ourselves “as more highly than we ought to think.” We think Christ should be mighty proud to have us on his team, as gifted as we are. But this is not a new problem. It was the problem Paul addressed when he spoke of being “puffed up in favor of one against another.” We get puffed up when we begin comparing ourselves with others. Slaves, on the other hand, are less likely to become puffed up about anything.

Instead of foolishly comparing ourselves to others, and stimulating resentment in the fellowship, we should remember our calling – to live as servants and stewards under the Lordship of Christ. Stewards are expected to be trustworthy, to care well for the responsibilities we are given. Whatever we have is not actually ours but a gift on loan from God. He expects us to be good and faithful stewards, serving responsibly with gratitude for the mercy God has shown us.

Puffed up people have a gift for dodging true servanthood. They want control so they can have their own way. They desire power more than an opportunity to serve. They want to be in a position to tell other Christians what to do rather that bowing constantly to the will of Christ in their own lives. Their attitude weakens the witness of the church in the community.

Mother Teresa showed us how to be a slave of Christ. After receiving the Nobel Prize for Peace, she declined many other invitations to be wined and dined and honored for her work with the poor. She realized that her service to the poor was more important than attending banquets to be recognized for her achievements. She thanked the people who sought to honor her but remained at her post so she could help the poor and dying know they were loved.

Harry Denman was a slave of Christ and desired no other image. When he retired from serving as head of evangelism for the Methodist Church, his friends held a great reception in his honor. Several hundred people were present and enjoyed delicious food and drink. Harry was not there. He was away preaching about his friend Jesus in a little country church.

We have many others who model for us what it means to serve as a faithful steward and humble servant of Christ. With God’s help we can model that kind of winsome discipleship for others. At least we can try. It all begins with our willingness to think of ourselves as servants and stewards of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul did. We can too.

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