Paul continues his thought from chapter three and exhorts the believers to think biblically, truthfully, when they regard the apostle’s status:
“Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. 3 But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. 4 For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.”
Like the Corinthians, many of us tend to label and decipher a person’s value based on their status in life. To assist them in their view of the apostle, Paul says; “regard us as servants of Christ…stewards of God’s mysteries.” Note the gravity and humility of this statement.
On the one hand, the gravity of being put in charge to steward, care for and appropriately handle the mysteries of God (i.e., to unfold the meaning of the incarnation and work of Christ on Calvary’s cross) as revealed to the apostle by Christ himself.
On the other hand, consider Paul’s humility recognizing that he’s Christ’s servant not a “superstar apostle” celebrity. Contrary to the Corinthian blunder of comparing themselves among each other, Paul compares himself to no mere man, but recognizes his status before the risen Lord as a servant. All who are in ministerial work are just that, servants and nothing more.
They are servants who have received mercy and God’s kindnesses. That’s why any boasting that’s not Christ centered is truly in vain. The Creator has given all things which the creature enjoys (i.e., salvation and gifts which accompany God’s people) freely, these are not earned. Thus, to boast in that which you have not accomplished and posing as if you did is indeed delusional.
After describing his position as servant and steward, Paul accentuates that not just anyone can be a steward, only he who is “trustworthy” which implies that many are not and as a result, can’t be stewards (i.e., the Corinthians). This is emphasized because the Corinthian’s seem to have questioned Paul’s legitimacy as an authority to heed.
Paul explains to these believers that their view of him and especially his apostleship is insignificant because he knows that God the Judge will have the last word on such matters and will rightly approve or disapprove of his work on the final day. Do we realize the weight of this understanding? Can we appreciate the profundity of this reality that we will all stand before the judgment seat of God and be rewarded for our service and receive our praise from God?
Paul thus commands these believers to withhold their judgment because the day approaches when our works and motives fueling said works will be exposed by the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good, all-just, all-wise God who perfectly and without bias judges.
We all long for praise, it seems, especially when we do something well because of our skill set. This brings a measure of satisfaction, nevertheless, longing for the creatures praise is too short sighted, since they too only see our actions through the “key-hole” of life. Paul is wisely pointing the Corinthians and us to look for God’s approval, praise and reward for its’ worth has an infinite texture to it that our creaturely praise can’t compare.