If we want to have a new start, we can’t just do it on our own. We don’t flip a switch and wipe the slate clean. No, it is done for us. The leaven is cleaned out, the old is gone, and this has happened because of Christ Jesus. He has taken our sin away by sacrificing himself for us. We can be the new creation because Christ is our Passover Lamb.
Whenever I think of the word steward I think of the Lord of the Rings. In Lord of the Rings there is a character whose position is the Steward of Gondor. His job is to be the caretaker of his city, Gondor, in the absence of the true king. What I love about the concept of steward is that it is both, at the same time, a position of great authority and great humility. Paul speaks about his role as a steward of God’s mysteries and as such he has authority among the churches. But his authority is completely foreign to him–it is not his own. He is not there to teach of his own wisdom. He preaches the cross. Paul doesn’t go to the churches as he sees fit, rather he goes where God has called him. So as a steward he has power, yet it is humble through and through, for it is the power of God that he is entrusted with.
This is why Paul goes on in this chapter to say that he isn’t accountable to the church. A steward must be found faithful, but it is a faithfulness to the one who has given the power. Paul is a steward of the mysteries of God, and he is then accountable to God. God is the one who judges faithfulness. The churches do not judge him, Paul himself won’t even judge.
Going back to Lord of the Rings for a moment, the character ends up getting into trouble because he is not respecting the position he has and seeks to claim more power than is due to him. He wants to go beyond the authority he has as steward and rule on his own. He wants to occupy the throne of the king. In doing this he is not found faithful.
This is just what Paul is seeking to avoid. In verse six as he writes, “I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.” A steward that goes beyond what is written is going beyond the role of steward. It is dangerous territory of pride and ego. That is the downfall of the steward in the Lord of the Rings.
Paul’s intent should be ours, as well. We’ve been blessed with God’s word and what he has given us in it is sufficient. We veer toward sin when we step beyond Scripture and begin to speculate, innovate, or even delete. This quote from John Calvin from his commentary on the book of Romans says it well,
Let this then be our sacred rule, to seek to know nothing concerning it, except what Scripture teaches us: when the Lord closes his holy mouth, let us also stop the way, that we may not go farther.
God has entrusted us with much. He has given us his word but has also given each of us the life we live. To be found faithful we must seek to be good stewards, humbling acknowledging that all we have is truly God’s. We must also as stewards humbly accept what God has shown us and how he directs us, and make it our aim to trust his will, not looking to go beyond his perfect wisdom. After all, as we’ve learned in 1 Corinthians, our wisdom cannot compare to his own. God’s wisdom in the cross of Christ may seem foolish, but it is the power of God; it is our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
I always enjoy posting music that fits our readings so enjoy this wonderful song describing our God’s great love for us. The following lines especially fit with our repeated theme of boasting, and not doing so about ourselves, but only in Jesus Christ.
From How Deep the Father’s Love for Us:
I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom.
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Before we get into more of the reflection of this great chapter in 1 Corinthians, I wanted to give you all the memory verse visualization. It’s already Wednesday so you may be getting a late start trying to study this one small part of the chapter. For future reference, if you are reading this on the website rather than getting these posts via email, the site has a handy sidebar that says: read, study, memorize. Under the study part you can click and get the Bible study and under the memorize heading is this visualization.
This week is a simple statement that fits well with what Paul has been arguing throughout. He stands firmly against boasting in ourselves, and makes his point in yet another way here in 1 Corinthians 4:7b.
I’ve been spending this weekend away on a retreat and have been blessed by some great teaching. But I am further blessed to know that the Holy Spirit is my teacher and I have been able to see the ways in which scripture has been called to mind. The teachers here have made several direct or indirect references to 1 Corinthians or topics contained in these last few weeks of reading and I love that given our study of that book, the references just pop out. When someone referred to 1 Corinthians 2 the one verse quoted had greater impact for I knew the whole chapter so much better now than I did months ago.
The retreat is almost done but I’ve already heard echoes of the following themes of 1 Corinthians (and I’m sure I’ve missed one, too):
- Eloquent speech
- Receiving by the Spirit
- Mind of Christ
- Not about me, but pointing to Christ
- Mysteries of God
Thanks to the Spirit for calling God’s Word to mind. How I look forward to having read all of this letter and having more for God to teach me!
As you read this week, try asking yourself a few simple questions. These may help encourage some deeper reflections.
- what is something new I learned?
- which part stood out among the rest?
- what good news is in this text?
- what didn’t I understand completely?
- how can I understand it?
- how can I apply this to my life?