1 Cor.4:1 – This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.
In today’s verse Paul gives us an interesting, contrasting glimpse into the life and ministry of an apostle. His first image is painted by his word servant. This is a powerful description invoking the picture of the slaves who rowed the Roman ships. Here is a description from the Passion Notes.
“Paul uses an unusual Greek word, huperetes, which means “subordinate” or “personal assistant.” The compound word huperetes literally means “under-rowers,” and it is used in classical Greek to describe those who sit on benches in the lower parts of the ship rowing. Apostolic ministry does not mean that an apostle is seen as important and in first place, but as one who will often be in a hidden role of moving a church and region forward as a subordinate of our captain, Jesus Christ.”
Paul sees his ministry as an apostle as the hidden force advancing the kingdom of God. The other word Paul used to describe his apostolic ministry is the word steward. Here is Barclay’s description of this term.
“Then Paul uses another picture. He thinks of himself and his fellow preachers as stewards of the secrets which God desires to reveal to his own people. The steward (oikonomos) was the major domo. He was in charge of the whole administration of the house or the estate; he controlled the staff; he issued the supplies; but, however much he controlled the household staff, he himself was still a slave where the master was concerned. Whatever be a man’s position in the Church, and whatever power he may yield there or whatever prestige he may enjoy, be still remains the servant of Christ.”
Paul saw an apostle as a steward of the mysteries of God. He saw himself as a steward of the most valuable resources of all, the very revelation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Let’s take these two words and apply them to our daily Christian life. First, we are servants of the Lord. We are hidden away in Christ. Our purpose is to present Him, not to exalt or advance ourselves. We are the under-rowers of God. We are also the stewards of God’s revelation. Seeing the gospel as our most valuable asset changes our lives. Our purpose is to advance Him and His kingdom. The wealth and kingdoms of this world have to take a back seat.