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Servants of Christ

1 Cor 4 (ESV):

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. 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. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me. That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church. Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

This text gives us great insight into the characteristics of a servant of Christ. Anyone can claim to serve Christ, but to know who a true servant of Christ is we must measure them against what the bible clearly defines as characteristics of His servants.

A servant of Christ is to be a steward of the mysteries of God (v1)
A steward is someone who takes care of the affairs of his masters house. The steward himself owns nothing, but manages the estate of his master. As a steward we are to manage the message and the resources that God has entrusted to us.

A servant of Christ must be found faithful (v2)
Right after Paul tells us that faithfulness is a requirement, he makes sure we understand that this can only be judged by God and not by man (vv3-5). It is not the judgment/praise of others or even ourselves that we should be seeking – but the judgment of God. A good steward understands that what his master thinks is the important thing.

A servant of Christ learns by good examples (vv6-7)
Paul tells us to use him as an example so that we will not go beyond what is written. When we start going beyond the message that we have been entrusted with we stop being a good steward.

A good steward would not pour a cup of wine for his master from the masters choice wine and add his own cheap wine to it. That would cheapen the entire glass of wine! So we should not add our teachings to God’s.

Paul tells us that doing so puffs us up against each other. It is a sure sign of pride to think that we can add to what God has said. And this pride sets brother against brother.

He goes on to tell us the foolishness of pride. Paul reminds us that God has given us all that we have. We have received, not earned our salvation. And because we received it, we cannot boast of it. All glory goes to God.

As we see humble Christians serving the Lord, we should learn from their example and be prompted to follow in the footsteps of those who follow Christ.

A servant of Christ is poor in this world. (vv8-13)
Many people think that the Christian life is a life of material wealth. I have even heard some say that if someone is poor it is because they lack faith. This kind of thinking is in direct contradiction of God’s word.

God’s word tells us that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get to Heaven.

In the story of the rich man and poor Lazarus, it was Lazarus who went on to Heaven while the rich man suffered in the fires of Hell.

The word of God clearly teaches throughout that we should not focus on material wealth which corrodes and decays, but on the riches that have eternal weight – those that are found in Christ alone and are of great spiritual value.

Paul points to the wealth and power the Corinthians had without him. Then Paul contrasts this state of the Corinthians before they had Christ to the state of a servant of God.

When Paul describes the Christian he uses such terms as – condemned, a spectacle, fools, weak, dishonored, hungry, thirsty, poorly clothed, beaten, homeless, filth of the world. This is a description of their condition.

He then goes on to describe the Christian character in these conditions – they work, bless, endure, entreat.

This is because our focus and satisfaction are not found in our condition, but in our relationship with Jesus Christ. And this relationship is on a very intimate level.

So from a worldly perspective we are poor indeed. But from a spiritual perspective we are blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ (Eph 1:3).

A servant of Christ has paternal care for his disciples. (vv14-21)
Paul concludes by telling them why he is writing these things to them – he cares for them as a father cares for his children. As a servant of Christ, Paul is motivated out of a paternal love that he has for the Corinthians. Any other motivation outside of Godly love is illegitimate.

A true Christian will never condemn others for sin because it makes them feel superior, they will not treat others with contempt.

A true Christian will interact with people out of the overflowing love that comes from Christ within him. This love of Christ is so great that it compelled Him to go to the cross and die for our sins. And as the scripture says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”( Jn 15:13).

There is no greater love than the love of Christ. And a true Christian will be compelled by this love.

Conclusion:
Let us consider the hope that God has called us to. It is an eternal hope, not a hope focused on the temporal things of this fallen world. We are called to a living faith in Jesus Christ who is at the right hand of the Father. Let us focus on those things that make us good servants of God, and dismiss those things that are self-centered and have no eternal weight. Some of you have already been called to the salvation that God has given us in His Son, Jesus Christ. Perhaps the Lord is calling others today to that same salvation. He sent His Son as a sacrifice for your sins. As we put our faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we will be conformed into the image of a blessed servant of Christ.

Favorite Quotes

Here are some of my favorite quotes…

From: The Westminster Confession of Faith for Study Classes; by: G.I. Williamson; pg. 15.

“Man needs no knowledge of God’s will which is not either “expressly set down in Scripture” or deducible from Scripture “by good and necessary consequence”.”

Other miscellaneous quotes…

“A man may be theologically knowing and spiritually ignorant” – Stephen Charnock

“This life was not intended to be the place of our perfection, but the preparation for it.” – Richard Baxter

“Good works do not make a good man, but a good man does good works.” – Martin Luther

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” – Jim Elliot

“The only thing Christianity can not be…is moderately important.” – C.S. Lewis

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” – C.S. Lewis

“Sainthood lies in the habit of referring the smallest actions to God.” – C.S. Lewis

“My dear Jesus, my Savior, is so deeply written in my heart, that I feel confident, that if my heart were to be cut open and chopped to pieces, the name of Jesus would be found written on every piece.” – Ignatius

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said wouldn’t be a great moral teacher. He’d be either a lunatic on a level with a man who says he’s a poached egg or else he’d be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.” – C. S. LEWIS

“What is needed to-day is a Scriptural setting forth of the character of God – His absolute sovereignty, His ineffable holiness, His Inflexible justice, His unchanging veracity. What is needed today is a scriptural setting forth of the condition of the natural man – his total depravity, his spiritual insensibility, his inveterate hostility to God, the fact that he is “condemned already” and that the wrath of a sin-hating God is even now abiding upon him – the alarming danger in which sinners are – the indescribably awful doom which awaits them, the fact that if they follow only a little further their present course they shall most certainly suffer the due reward of their iniquities – a setting forth of the nature of that punishment which awaits the lost – the awfulness of it, the hopelessness of it, the un-endurableness of it, the endlessness of it. It is because of these convictions that, by pen as well as by voice, we are seeking to raise the alarm.” – A.W. PINK

“If the Lord should bring a wicked man to heaven, heaven would be hell to him; for he who loves not grace upon earth will never love it in heaven.” – CHRISTOPHER LOVE

“It is an undoubted truth that every doctrine that comes from God, leads to God; and that which doth not tend to promote holiness is not of God.” – GEORGE WHITEFIELD

“This is the doctrine which of all others is the mightiest engine for pulling down the kingdom of Satan. Men may preach salvation by the sacraments, exalt the Church above Christ, and keep back the doctrine of the atonement, and the devil cares little: his goods are at peace. But preach a full Christ and a free pardon, and then Satan will have great wrath, for he knows he has but a short time. This is the only doctrine which will ever bring peace to an uneasy conscience, and rest to a troubled soul. A man may get on pretty well without it, so long as he is asleep about his spiritual condition; but once let him awake from his slumber, and nothing will ever calm him but the blood of atonement, and the peace of Christ.” – J. C. RYLE

“If ever there should come a wretched day when all our pulpits be full of modern thought, and the old doctrine of substitutionary sacrifice shall be exploded, then there will remain no word of comfort for the guilty or hope for the despairing.” – C. H. SPURGEON

“Some of you have truly been brought by God to believe in Jesus. Yet you have no abiding peace, and very little growth in holiness. Why is this? It is because your eye is fixed anywhere but on Christ. You are so busy looking at books, or looking at men, or looking at the world, that you have no time, no heart, for looking at Christ. No wonder you have little peace and joy in believing. No wonder you live so inconsistent and unholy a life. Change your plan. Consider the greatness and glory of Christ, who has undertaken all in the stead of sinners, and you would find it quite impossible to walk in darkness, or to walk in sin. Oh, what low, despicable thoughts you have of the glorious Immanuel! Lift your eyes from your own bosom, downcast believer – look upon Jesus. It is good to consider your ways, but it is far better to consider Jesus. Oh, believer, consider Jesus. Meditate on these things. Look and look again, until your peace flows like a river.” – ROBERT MURRAY M’CHEYNE

“The theologian’s task is not to divert the ears with chatter, but to strengthen consciences by teaching things true, sure, and profitable” – (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 1.14.4)

“Every act of sin is a fruit of being weary of God.” – John Owen, Indwelling Sin, chapter 4

“For every one look at your sins, take ten looks at Christ.” –Robert Murray McCheyne, (1813-1843), Minister of St. Peter’s Church, Dundee, Scotland.

What are your thoughts on these comments by Daniel Botkin?

If a person has a fair amount of exposure to Mainstream Christianity, and a familiarity with the Bible, he may notice that Mainstream Christianity often de-emphasizes the Old Testament and puts a disproportionate amount of emphasis on Paul’s epistles. I would hesitate to say that any part of the Scriptures can be overemphasized. However, if we give uncalled-for weight and emphasis to certain parts of the Bible, and neglect what the rest of the Scriptures teaches about an issue, we will probably develop and imbalanced view of that particular issue.

By volume, Paul’s epistles make up approximately 5% of the Bible. Paul’s writings are holy Scripture, but neither Paul nor the Holy Spirit expected us to give more weight and authority to these epistles than we do to the Old Testament or to the rest of the New Testament.

By putting a disproportionate amount of emphasis on these letters that Paul sent to various churches, we fail to follow the example of Paul, who told the Ephesians, “I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Ac.20:27). By neglecting certain parts of the Bible, we ignore Paul’s declaration that “all Scripture is inspired and is useful.” (2 Tim. 3:16).

Christianity’s strong emphasis on Paul’s writings, and lack of emphasis on so much of the rest of the Bible, is puzzling. It is especially puzzling when we consider Peter’s warning about Paul’s writings: “His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Pet. 3:16).

This is a topic that every Christian should consider. If we are to be “church-goers” then we must know the answer to the question, “what are the marks of a true church?”

There are 3 generally accepted marks in Reformed circles…

  • 1. Right preaching of the Word of God and sound doctrine (John 8:31, 47; 14:23; Gal. 1:8-9; 2 Thess. 2:15; 2 Tim. 3:16-4:4; 1 John 4:1-3; 2 John 9-11)
  • 2. Right administration of the sacraments (1 Cor. 10:14-17, 21; 11:23-30)
  • 3. Right exercise of discipline (Matthew 18:17; Acts 20:28-31a; Rom. 16:17-18a; 1 Cor. 5:1-5, 13; 14:33, 40; Gal. 6:1; Eph. 5:6, 11; 2 Thess. 3:14-15; 1 Tim. 1:20; 5:20; Titus 1:10-11; 3:10; Rev. 2:14-16a; 2:20)

Mark #1 – A church that does not have the Word of God as its authority rejects God’s prescriptive (revealed) will, and therefore rejects God.

Mark #2 – The right administration of sacraments has a direct view of the congregation’s application of God’s Word in worship. It is a sign of rightly practicing what is preached. An overflow of mark #1.

Mark #3 – Discipline keeps the glory of God and preserves the health of the church. This is designed to be a corrective measure when the church or its members goes astray in rightly applying God’s Word in their lives. This mark also reaches outside of the particular worship service and into every facet of an individual’s life.

When considering this matter it is important to remember that there is no perfectly pure church. As the Westminster Confession of Faith declares (25:5) – “The purest churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error.”

I thought i would post a few of the various textual critical methods…

Metzger’s Criteria

1. External Evidence

* Date of the witness/type of text
* Geographical distribution of the witnesses that agree in supporting a variant
* Genealogical relationship of texts and families of witnesses – Witnesses should be weighed, not counted

2. Internal Evidence

a. Transcriptional Probabilities depend upon considerations of palaeographical details and the habits of scribes

* In general the more difficult reading is to be preferred
* In general the shorter reading is to be preferred
* That reading is to be preferred which stands in verbal dissidence with the other

b. Intrinsic Probabilities depend upon considerations of what the author was more likely to have written, taking into account:

* The style and vocabular of the author
* The immediate context
* Harmony with the usage of the author elsewhere
* The Aramaic background of the teaching of Jesus
* The priority of the Gospel according to Mark
* The influence of the Christian community upon the formulation and transmission of the passage in quesiton

Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, pg. 209-210

Hill’s Principles of Consistent Christian Criticism

Principle One: The Old Testament text was preserved by the Old Testament priesthood and the scribes and scholars that grouped themselves around that priesthood.

Principle Two: When Christ died upon the cross, the Old Testament priesthood was abolished. In the New Testament dispensation every believer is a priest under Christ the great High Priest. Hence the New Testament text has been preserved by the universal priesthood of believers, by faithful Christians in every walk of life.

Principle Three: The Traditional Text, found in the vast majority of the Greek New Testament manuscripts, is the True Text because it represents the God-guided usage of this universal priesthood of believers.

Principle Four: The first printed text of the Greek New Testament represents a forward step in the providential preservation of the New Testament. In it the few errors of any consequence occurring in the Traditional Greek Text were corrected by the providence of God operating through the usage of the Latin-speaking Church of Western Europe. In other words, the editors and printers who produced this first printed Greek New Testament text were providentially guided by the usage of the Latin-speaking Church to follow the Latin Vulgate in those few places in which the Latin Church usage rather than the Greek Church usage had preserved the genuine reading.

Principle Five: Through the usage of Bible-believing Protestants God placed the stamp of His approval on this first printed text, and it became the Textus Receptus (Received Text). It is the printed form of the Traditional Text found in the vast majority of the Greek New Testament manuscripts.

Principle Six: The King James (Authorized) Version is an accurate translation of the Textus Receptus. On it God has placed the stamp of His approval through the long continued usage of English-speaking believers. Hence it should be used and defended today by Bible-believing Christians.

Edward F. Hills, The King James Version Defended

Aland’s Critical Text Rules

1. Only one reading can be original, however many variant readings there may be.
2. Only the readings which best satisfies the requirements of both external and internal criteria can be original.
3. Criticism of the text must always begin from the evidence of the manuscript tradition and only afterward turn to a consideration of internal criteria.
4. Internal criteria (the context of the passage, its style and vocabulary, the theological environment of the author, etc.) can never be the sole basis for a critical decision, especially when they stand in opposition to the external evidence.
5. The primary authority for a critical textual decision lies with the Greek manuscript tradition, with the version and Fathers serving no more than a supplementary and corroborative function, particularly in passages where their underlying Greek text cannot be reconstructed with absolute certainty.
6. Furthermore, manuscripts should be weighed, not counted, and the peculiar traits of each manuscript should be duly considered. However important the early papyri, or a particular uncial, or a minuscule may be, there is no single manuscript or group or manuscripts that can be followed mechanically, even though certain combinations of witnesses may deserve a greater degree of confidence than others. Rather, decisions in textual criticism must be worked out afresh, passage by passage (the local principle).
7. The principle that the original reading may be found in any single manuscript or version when it stands alone or nearly alone is only a theoretical possibility. Any form of eclecticism which accepts this principle will hardly succeed in establishing the original text of the New Testament; it will only confirm the view of the text which it presupposes.
8. The reconstruction of a stemma of readings for each variant (the genealogical principle) is an extremely important device, because the reading which can most easily explain the derivation of the other forms is itself most likely the original.
9. Variants must never be treated in isolation, but always considered in the context of the tradition. Otherwise there is too great a danger of reconstructing a “test tube text” which never existed at any time or place.
10. There is truth in the maxim: lectio difficilior lectio potior (”the more difficult reading is the more probable reading”). But this principle must not be taken too mechanically, with the most difficult reading (lectio difficilima) adopted as original simply because of its degree of difficulty.
11. The venerable maxim lectio brevior lectio potior (”the shorter reading is the more probable reading”) is certainly right in many instances. But here again the principle cannot be applied mechanically.
12. A constantly maintained familiarity with New Testament manuscripts themselves is the best training for textual criticism. In textual criticism the pure theoretician has often done more harm than good.

Kurt Aland and Barbara Aland, The Text of the New Testament, pp. 275-276.

Book: A Student’s Guide to Textual Criticism of the Bible
Author: Paul D. Wegner
Link

It is a very good book. On a scale of 1-5 i would give it a 4. I liked it better than Metzger’s book “Text of the New Testament.”

It was chock full of actual manuscript examples and variants. It discussed how to use the textual apparatus in the NA and UBS.  It also had application parts where you could practice choosing the best text for a particular passage.

The cool thing about this book is that it contained both OT and NT criticism in one volume. The downside to this approach is that some of the material was repetitive.

The book definitely takes the side of promoting the Critical Text above and against the Received and Byzantine/Majority Text. I think it is a good idea to get a balanced approach, so i would suggest reading some pro-Received Text and pro-Majority Text materials as well.

Equipping Saints

What do you see as the singles biggest obstacle to equipping saints in churches today?