"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 faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or 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 the darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God."
Hopefully, if you are believer, you are in regular attendance at a church. How did you choose your church? Have you gone there since you were little? Did you check over the doctrinal statement before you came back? Maybe you like the music, or the kids programs, or the stain glass behind the pulpit. Or is it the potluck after each service? Or the coffee in the lobby before? Maybe you like multiple of these things. But I would bet that you could love all of this, but if you did not approve the pastor, you would be gone. Sometimes we're put off by how he speaks, his style, his language, or the length of his messages. Sometimes it's the things he says. I wouldn't have emphasized that verse. I would have said more not that topic. I wish he hadn't used that term to describe that sin.
I've talked before about being in college and judging the speakers who came to chapel. There were those who were misinformed (to put it nicely) concerning some major biblical truths. But for the most part, I was just judgmental. I thought I had the right to judge whether or not that speaker (usually a local pastor) should be at the pulpit. Maybe I should have studied this passage before I opened my mouth.
Paul makes it clear here that the leaders of the church are accountable for their actions. He calls them "stewards" and calls them to be "faithful". He says that they are "of Christ" which more accurately is "belonging to Christ". They have been called to a task by God to handle wisely the "mysteries of God". Not just the gospel but other things that are hidden to the wisdom of man (for example: the mystery of marriage). These men are servants sent to serve the Church. But I love what Alistair Begg said, these men are servants but the church is not their master. Christ is. and Paul reminds us, "It is the Lord who judges me".
This does not mean that there shouldn't be checks on the pastors of a church. Sin and false doctrine threaten the life of a church and they need to be addressed. But Paul was writing to a church who were divided over teachers. They picked their favorites and raised them up while judging and putting down others. This kind of habitual judging breaks apart the unity God intended for His body. Let's strive to uplift those that Lord has given to us to impart His wisdom.
The last verse of this passage reads "each one will receive his commendation from God." Other translations read "his praise from God." When we think of the judgment seat, many of us picture people (and pastors) we take issue with standing before God and the Lord making everyone aware of all the flaws we've noticed in them for so long. But this verse left me wondering, "what praise will God give to the people I've judged so harshly? before the entirety of creation won't He commend them for being a faithful servant?" Those who love the Lord and seek to shepherd His people will not be perfect, but praise God that they strive to faithfully steward His word our good and His glory.
Some things I loved while studying this week:
Before You Criticize Your Pastor - Post by Josh Reich from Revolution Tucson
The Call of Ministry - Sermon by Alistair Begg from Truth for Life