“Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” (1 Corinthians 4:1–2, AV)
When I was in college, I worked for six months of the year at the United States Steel Corporation in Fairless Hills Pennsylvania. It was part of the cooperative education program that I as an engineering student participated. One of the jobs I had was working in Refractories Services. This was a department in the mill that oversaw the repair and rebuilding of the Open Hearth Furnaces in the mill.
Among other duties, one of my major responsibilities was to examine and prepare report on the condition of the slag-pockets in each one the furnaces. The work would take several hours. It involved putting on a fire-resistant jacket, asbestos gloves, a face shield, and taking a camera to the furnaces. I had three people assigned to me. Two were laborers to punch a small hole in the side of the furnace flew and a safety person with a radio on the operating floor.
I would take pictures of each slag pocket to see how large the slag build up was. Write the furnace number on the Polaroid picture. Then the laborers would put brick and mortar back in the hole. When finished I would put all the pictures in a book in the office labeled and in order by furnace number for the weekly maintenance meeting. The management would use this report to schedule the furnace overhauls. It was an important job for the mill and I was given full responsibility to do it correctly. I was given stewardship of this particular job.
In this section of Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, he speaks of his God given role as a steward. As an apostle, he was a servant of Christ and a steward of the mysteries of God. His responsibility was to reveal the message of God, the gospel, to others. This he had done in Corinth and worked with them for a year and a half teaching them regarding the things of God. Paul had been a faithful steward.
Here Paul emphasizes two major things in his role as a steward. First, he and the others were servants of Christ. The word Paul uses for “servants” is the plural of huperetes rather others such as diakonos. The word huperetes is interesting as it literally refers to an under-oarsman, one who labors hard under the supervision of another, a subordinate (Strong G5257). Paul wanted to ensure that the church at Corinth understood that he served as a subordinate of Jesus Christ. He wanted them to know that Christ was the head of the church and that he served in doing the work of an apostle.
Second, he stressed the importance of faithful stewardship. Paul was a steward of the mysteries of God. He was to carefully watch over the truths that God had made known to him and faithfully discharge the duty of accurately presenting them to others. In being a faithful steward, Paul would need to serve diligently, laboring to accurately present the whole counsel of God to people. He could not add to what God had revealed. He needed to accurately present the truth of God. He needed to do this with diligent effort. Moreover, he would do this in subordination to Christ, the head of the church.
Every believer in Jesus Christ has also been made a steward of the mystery of the gospel. It is this message that we are to take to the ends of the earth. For all of us, it will mean faithfully sharing this message when God opens the door of opportunity to us. It will also mean diligent effort on our behalf realizing that Christ is the head of the church, and every believer is subordinate to Him.