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Wait Until the Lord Comes

Much of the early part of 1Corinthians was written to correct the problem of division in the church at Corinth.  These Christians had divided themselves into factions, saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ” (1Cor. 1:12) as they argued with one another about which teacher was the best.  Paul admonished them in the name of the Lord to have no divisions (1Cor. 1:10), and he reminded them that Christ was not divided, that it was Christ was crucified for them, and that they were baptized into Christ (1Cor. 1:13).  While properly exalting Christ, Paul set to the task of correcting the Corinthians’ views of the men who taught them.  Apollos, Paul, and others like them were merely servants of God, while it was God who caused Christians’ spiritual growth (1Cor. 3:5-7).

As Paul concluded his instructions regarding the Corinthians’ divisions and their improper reverence for men, he wrote the following passage in 1Corinthians 4:1-5:

1Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.  2In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.  3But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself.  4For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.  5Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.

We can decipher this message in four parts: (1) Gospel teachers are merely servants and stewards; (2) Stewards must be trustworthy; (3) The Lord will judge who has been trustworthy; (4) Wait for the Lord’s judgment.

Let us consider the lessons that each part of this message holds for us.  The first part of the message indicates that a proper perspective must be maintained about those who teach the gospel.  As servants of Christ, any glory for their work rightly belongs to their Master, who is the Lord Jesus.  As stewards of God’s mysteries revealed in the gospel, any profit they achieve rightly belongs to the Master of their resources, who is God the Father.  Therefore, it is wholly inappropriate to have an inordinate reverence for such men or to address them as “reverend.”  No man should be exalted by other men for his work of service and stewardship to God.  Only his Master has the right to exalt him.

The second part of the message demonstrates the seriousness of the task of gospel preaching.  A steward who is unfaithful with his charge stands in danger of severe punishment from his master (see Matt. 25:26-30; Luke 16:1-2).  A teacher of the gospel who fails to teach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:18-21, 26-27) or who presents a poor example of God’s service to others (1Tim. 4:6-16) betrays the trust of his Master.  For such betrayal, the penalty is severe.  This is why James wrote, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment” (Jas. 3:1).

The third part of the message teaches us that it is the Lord’s judgment which matters rather than the opinions of men.  Paul’s concern with any human opinion of him was minimal, for no man has power to justify, save, or condemn.  Likewise, Paul also knew that his opinion of himself was of little value, for he could not save himself.  Paul knew that which we must know, which is that all judgment belongs to Christ (Acts 10:42; 2Cor. 5:10).  It is Christ whom we serve, whom we must please, to whom we must prove trustworthy, and to whom we must give an account of our service and stewardship.  We must understand this about ourselves and others, for each person must account to the Lord and not to men.

The fourth and final part of the message instructs us to wait until the Lord comes.  Knowing that it is Christ who will have the final, meaningful judgment, it is foolish for us to pronounce judgments about eternity upon anybody.  To make such judgments about ourselves at this time is like a defendant in a court of law attempting to render his own verdict before the arrival of the judge and the jury.  Such an effort is meaningless.  Let us understand that now is the time for each of us to assemble the evidence by which we will be judged.  When the Lord comes, He will bring that evidence to light, “and then each man’s praise will come to him from God” (1Cor. 4:5).

Therefore, let us wait until the Lord comes.  Everything that we do should be tempered by a memory of the cross and an anticipation of the Lord’s return.  Let us understand that just as Christ departed to heaven, so also He will return (Acts 1:9-11; 1Thess. 4:13-18).  When He comes, there will be a time for judgment, but not until then.  When He pronounces His judgments of us, none of our judgments about one another will matter.  With these things in mind, the right course of action for us is to be the best servants and stewards of Christ that we can be, to disregard the judgments of man, and to wait until the Lord comes.

Stacey E. Durham




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