THE JUDGMENT OF THE LORD IS ALL THAT MATTERS WHEN IT COMES TO ULTIMATE ACCOUNTABILITY FOR CHRISTIAN MINISTRY
We all are used to performance reviews at work. We are used to receiving them – might not like them all that much – if we supervise people, we are also used to giving them. We have a set of criteria that we use to measure performance. Some standards might be more objective and easy to evaluate . . . others are more subjective and take into account a variety of intangible attributes. The Corinthian believers had wrongly established themselves as judges over the effectiveness of the gifted preachers in their church. This had caused them to align with particular personalities in a manner that was divisive. Paul settles the issue decisively by pointing to the ultimate accountability of the Lord when He returns to evaluate the job done by His servants. Faithfulness will be the standard. And the scope of judgment will extend to “the things hidden in the darkness” and “the motives of men’s hearts.” There is the prospect of great reward and praise in that day; but let no one usurp the Lord’s prerogative of judging His own servants. Christians have an unhealthy bent towards being judgmental in critiquing those who are publicly ministering the Word of God by preaching and teaching. We are charged to be like the Bereans in making sure that the message is in line with the whole of Scripture. But we are not allowed to judge on the basis of motives or personality preferences.
He is not saying that Christian ministers have no earthly accountability within the governance of the local church. He is not saying that we should not examine our own hearts before the Lord and correct any deficiencies brought to light by our conscience as informed by the Holy Spirit. He is addressing the issue of ultimate accountability. How will one minister stack up against another at the end of the day? Why is it wrong for Christians to take it upon themselves to try to judge the ministry work of others when they have no oversight over those ministers? How can Christian ministers become complacent and overconfident if they put too much stock in their own self-evaluation of their own ministries? The one who examines us is the Lord = the one who knows all about us – even to the motives and hidden thoughts of our hearts. When He returns, He will give out the rewards that are appropriate.
I. (:1) THE ROLE OF THE CHRISTIAN MINISTER – TWOFOLD JOB DESCRIPTION
“Let a man regard us in this manner”
How should Christian ministers want others to view them? What type of job description have the leaders of the church written for themselves? What are they trying to accomplish?
A. SERVANTS OF CHRIST
MacArthur: Paul expresses his humility by using a word lit. meaning “under rowers,” referring to the lowest, most menial, and most despised galley slaves, who rowed on the bottom tier of a ship (9:16; see Luk 1:2; Ac 20:19).
B. STEWARDS OF THE MYSTERIES OF GOD
Goins: Paul has already introduced us to the mysteries of God. In 2:7 he is talking about his teaching ministry in Corinth: “…We speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory….” This mysterious, hidden wisdom isn’t understood by the natural man apart from Jesus Christ. It can be known only through divine revelation. It is the Biblical deposit of truth that contains the secrets of life. So a teacher or a preacher in this household of faith is to take God’s revealed word and dispense it to the household. We’re to administer all of it, to hold nothing back.
Boyer: The word “mystery” in the Bible denotes something which can be known only by revelation. It is not something that can be figured out from reason. It must be told. Christ’s servants have been entrusted with a treasure of great truths, previously not known to men but now made known in the gospel. It is their responsibility to administer these treasures according to the instructions and the will of their giver, God.
II. (:1) THE REQUIREMENT FOR THE CHRISTAIN MINISTER = FAITHFULNESS = THE ONE ESSENTIAL STANDARD OF MEASUREMENT
“In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.”
A steward is responsible for the capable administration of the property of another; hence faithfulness is the primary standard of evaluation.
2 Tim. 2:2
III. (:3-4) THE REVIEW OF THE CHRISTIAN MINISTER:
A. BY OTHER BELIEVERS . . . INCONSEQUENTIAL
“But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you,”
Stedman: Stuart Briscoe says there are three kinds of congregational pressure —
– There is adulation, which swells the head;
– There is manipulation, which ties the hands; and
– There is antagonism, which breaks the heart.
Preacher needs to guard against getting prideful as well as getting discouraged by the comments of others.
B. BY ANY ELEMENT OF SOCIETY . . . INAPPROPRIATE / IRRELEVANT
“or by any human court”
Society can be very unkind in their characterization of preachers.
C. BY SELF . . . INADEQUATE
“in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted”
MacArthur: Paul’s own sincere evaluation of his life did not acquit him of all failures to be faithful.
D. BY THE LORD . . . INDISPENSABLE
“but the one who examines me is the Lord”
IV. (:5) THE REWARD FOR THE CHRISTIAN MINISTER =
COMES ULTIMATELY FROM THE JUDGMENT OF THE LORD
A. Proper Time for Ultimate Accountability
1. Not Now = Premature
“Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time”
2. At Christ’s Return = Judgment Seat for Believers
“but wait until the Lord comes”
B. Pervasive Scope of Ultimate Accountability
1. Examining Private and Unknown Areas (as well as Public Ministry)
“who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness”
MacArthur: Because Paul speaks here of each man’s praise, I do not believe things hidden in the darkness refers to sins or anything evil, but simply to things presently unknown to us. The passage emphasizes that every believers will have praise, no matter what his works and motives, because “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). All Christians will have some reward and some praise. Who will receive much and who will receive little only God knows. But once the wood, hay, and straw are burned away, the gold, silver, and precious stones will remain to be eternally rewarded.
2. Examining Heart Motives
“and disclose the motives of men’s hearts”
C. Personal Praise from the Divine Judge
“and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.”