“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 Cor. 4:1-2).
Earlier in this letter Paul wrote, “God is faithful, by Whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9). God is always faithful in His nature and actions (Deut. 7:9; Lam. 3:22-23).
The instructions in God’s Word for us to be faithful is a call to be like Him, to be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1). Mankind, however, in the weakness of the flesh, is prone to wavering, being changeable, unstable, and disloyal. Therefore, faithfulness is a fruit that God works out through our lives as we walk in the Spirit.
Paul stated, “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ.” The Greek word translated “ministers” means a servant, but literally an under-rower. It refers to one who was an oarsman on a large, ancient galley ship. This brings to my mind the 1959 classic movie, Ben-Hur, and how Judah, the character played by Charlton Heston, was a galley slave and oarsman unjustly condemned to the flagship of the Roman Consul Quintus Arrius. Under-rowers were slaves under the authority of a man who coordinated their individual efforts to row and propel the ship forward.
An under-rower was a servant under authority, much as each believer is a servant under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, except that we gladly and willingly serve Christ, our Lord and Master. We are Christ’s servants and, by His grace, He uses us to row and move the ship of His church and His cause forward in this world.
First Corinthians 4:1 teaches that believers are both servants and stewards, “stewards of the mysteries of God.” In Luke 12:42, “the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise STEWARD, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?”
A steward is a servant who is the manager of a household. The Greek word translated as steward is oikonomos and is related to the Greek word for “dispensation,” oikonomia, meaning the administration or management of a household. Sometimes in your Bible, the Greek word for dispensation is translated as “stewardship” (Luke 16:2-4).
A steward was in charge of the administration of his master’s property. He devoted his time, talents, and energy to looking after his master’s interests rather than his own. A steward supervised the master’s property, fields, vineyards, clothing, finances, food, and the other servants. And he would dispense and give out things to the household as they were needed. He would also protect the assets and possessions of his master. All this shows that much responsibility was placed on a steward.
Likewise, to us, there is given much spiritual responsibility. As stewards of the mysteries of God, we are to dispense the revelation of the mystery to those of the “household of God” (Eph. 2:19). Paul wrote earlier in 1 Corinthians, “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory” (1 Cor. 2:7). As stewards, we dispense; we give out the truth to others and faithfully make known the wisdom of God in a mystery.
Stewards in Paul’s day were put in charge of the master’s precious belongings, and likewise, we have been put in charge of a treasure: “the glorious gospel of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4,7) and the riches of God’s grace revealed to and through the Apostle Paul in the mystery. Stewards faithfully protected their master’s treasure, and so we must keep and guard the truth of the mystery. As Paul challenged Timothy, “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing [treasure] which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us” (2 Tim. 1:13-14).
In 1 Corinthians 4:1, Paul refers to the “mysteries of God,” speaking of the previously unrevealed truths embodied in “the mystery,” the body of truth revealed to Paul for this present dispensation of grace. In other words, we are to be standing for and making known the many facets of the mystery (Rom. 11:25; 16:25; 1 Cor. 15:51-53; Eph. 1:9; 3:3-5,9; 5:32; 6:19; 1 Tim. 3:16).
Great responsibility was entrusted to a steward in Paul’s day, and the most important quality of a good steward was faithfulness. This was “required in stewards.” And, likewise, along with the great responsibility we have been given as stewards of God’s truth, we are required to be faithful and trustworthy. We are called to be faithful to the Lord and His revelation of the mystery, unwavering and refusing to compromise the message, teaching it consistently without apology, standing for it, and rising up to defend and protect it.
To the Reader:
Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:
"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."
To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.