The Responsibility of a Spiritual Father

1 Corinthians 4

Jerry A Collins




*        What are the characteristics of a ministry rewarded by God?

*        Why should we not judge each others motives?

*        What things should I not add to Gods written Word?


Last nite I watched a presentation on C-Span by Philip Short about his book Pol Pot: An anatomy of a nightmare. Pol Pot the leader of the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia in the late 1970s was responsible for the killing of 1-2 million Cambodians during his communist reign. One of the things Short kept emphasizing was the perspective we needed to have about the times in SE Asia that contributed to this horrible crime against humanity. Historically cultural issues, the bombing of Cambodia, the Vietnam war, the personal, educational, relational, reading of French revolution, reading of communist works and this communistic influence upon Pol Pot unnderstood together, Short explained, can attempt to better comprehend something nearly unexplainable. Putting things in perspective is also something we must do if we expect to have a life and ministry worth rewarding by Christ. This passage will teach us how to do that for our lives and for those we want to influence in a godly direction.


The first 5 verses begin to put things in perspective. It is ridiculous to cause divisions in body of Christ over who is most honored servant.

A. Regard as trustworthy servants and stewards 1-2. Dont ever view one as more important than another but all as servantscommon rank--all under direction of Christ. Ministry is a stewardship not an ownership. It is in the interests of Christ and God. The mysteries of God are those things which have been hidden in the past and are only known thru divine revelation. Pauls job was to take Gods revelation to him and dispense it to Gods household. He is not in competition with Apollos or Cephas and we should not think of them as such. And God does not require brilliance or cleverness or creativeness or popularityall having to do with wisdom of world as Corinthians were judgingbut His stewards to be trustworthy. Dependable to manage the interests of God.

B. Only Lord can examine our ministry 3-5 He was not deflected from his ministry because worldly-wise rejected it vs 3. Their knowledge and understanding of all the facts imperfect. From human viewpoint he even unable to judge his own motives in ministry. Even though he is unaware of a serious sin or deficiency in his own life he still knew he could be wrong about that vs 4. Ultimately their examination and his did not matter. God alone is the judge of true nature of our service. So premature judgment vs 5 leading to exalting one leader over another is establishes a distorted view. All of this must wait until the rapture when attitudes and motives only God can see will be determined. Then each individual person will receive his or her own individual praise from God. That is when the praise will be significant not now! So motives are off-limits for judging. We can only judge one anothers actions and compare that to Gods Word. Learn what Gods interests are from His Word and then determine to make those interests the object of your life and ministry.

2. DO ALL YOU CAN TO SUPPLANT PRIDE BASED SERVICE WITH SELF-ABASING SERVICE Here is a contrast between Corinthian believers conceit and Apostles humility. A Ministry, the Word & pride 6-8 Paul and Apollos are given by Paul as illustrations of what true servants and stewards were to be and that included not exceeding what is written. Whatever ministry you have do not exceed the Word of God. Dont add sacred tradition, or culture outside of the Bible, or a liberal or conservative agenda or decision of church councils, doctrinal prejudices, personal preferences because when you do that you can boast about either yourself or one you are following. This is pride-based and divides us. To drive home point of supplanting pride with humility service he asks 3 rhetorical questions to make an assertion rather than elicit a reply in vs 7. Answer: Humble self-abased service is only acceptable posture in relation to Gods gifts to us and ministry thru us. Sarcastically Paul says they thot they had it all without apostles help vs 8. Like the foolish king in childs story the emperors new clothes happily parading nakedly before his subjects. But there will be a time when they all will reign as kings but not like this based in pride. B Character of self-abasing service 9-13 The way to serve God which ends in eternal rewards is by self-abasing service described in 4 ways. (1) Spectacles: They were scorned ridiculed, mocked, treated as criminals before the universe including both the spiritual and earthly realms. (2) Fools: This would be foolish by worldly-wise standards. (3) Sufferers: Low lifes who looked like galley slaves doing manual labor in order to survive and roughly treated. (4) Scum: The scrapings cleaned from dirty dishes thrown away. This is the way the apostles looked to the world. They were marching a parade route Jesus had taken. The Corinthians seem complacent and secure in their own perspective of things. It will not be easy supplanting our pride-based service with self-abasing service but that is the service of reward.


This is what a spiritual father does:

A Help people to correct their ways not punish them 14-15 The point of the preceding sarcasm was not to cause shame, to embarrass them or view them as unworthy. It was to plead with them to change their ways with a change of heart. This is the heart of ministry. We must never punish people but to discipline them for purpose of getting them back onto the correct path. They may have other teachers but Paul had their interests at heart. He says, my beloved children in vs 14 and your father in the gospel in vs 15. B Live so people can imitate your ways which are in Christ 16-17 What he teaches he teaches everywhere. He does not teach different things in different situations. Set the example and do not accept any excuses. Home can be hardest place to disciple. Outside family we are seen in ideal situations. In homes seen in all moods, attitudes and actions. Timothy was sent as example of Paul for them. This is whole idea of discipleshipthat they are able to be sent to work in our place! C Give opportunity to change 18-21 Paul giving them opportunity to change before arriving there. If not he will come with strong painful discipline, dealing with their pride. If responding will treat gently. Your choice he says. Goal is always correction by discipline.

(1) As servants of God we should remain faithful to the ministry (gifts, situation & opportunities) God has given us 1-2.

(2) We should discipline ourselves but not proclaim ourselves to be good simply because our actions are good. Goodness is determined by motives and we should not think we know what those are 3-4.

(3) Dont boast, brag or be proud of your gifts or abilities. You are what you are only because God gave you what He gave you 7-8.