1 Corinthians, Lesson 5: The Role of Pastors and the Congregation

Shepherd and Flock2 (610x351)Being God’s Temple

Read 1 Corinthians 3:16

Scriptures teaches us that the body of an individual Christian is God’s Temple (1 Corinthians 6:19), the congregation when it gathers for worship is God’s Temple (1 Corinthians 3:17), as well as the entire Church (Ephesians 2:19-22).

In these verses, the “you” is plural, referring not to the individual but to the congregation. The word for “Temple” in the Greek is naos, which referred to the innermost part of that building: the Holy of Holies.

  • What has replaced (or better, fulfilled) the Temple in the New Covenant?


  • How did God come to the Israelites in the Holy of Holies in the Old Covenant? (Exodus 25:22, Numbers 7:89, Isaiah 37:16, 2 Maccabees 14:35, to name a few)


  • How does God come to His people in His New-Covenant Holy of Holies?


  • Discuss the implications of this in church architecture and frequency of celebrating holy communion.


Read 1 Corinthians 3:17

  • Discuss: How does one destroy God’s Temple (the congregation) in the New Covenant?


  • What is the penalty for doing that?


  • What warning is this to us when it comes to Church doctrine and practice?


God’s Wisdom vs. Human Wisdom

Earlier, Paul and Sosthenes pointed to true wisdom to counter the so-called “wisdom” of the Corinthians, which manifested itself by focusing on the pastor instead of Jesus, whom the pastor delivers in his role as a servant. Such worldly “wisdom” was anything but wise. Such similar instruction continues.

Read 1 Corinthians 3:18-20

Verse 19 quotes Job 5:13, where Eliphaz tells Job that God lifts up humble, but also frustrates the proud and ensures that their arrogant schemes come to nothing. (Note: what Eliphaz said was true from an eternal perspective. However, he wrongly assumed that that Job suffered from such arrogance and, thus, God was punishing him. Eliphaz took a truth of God and improperly applied it to Job.)

Verse 20 quotes Psalm 94:11, which is a plea for God to discipline the proud who think that their wickedness goes unnoticed by Him.

  • What does becoming wise in God’s ways of thinking require?


Read 1 Corinthians 3:21-23

Here again, these verses use the plural “you.”

  • What does God’s wisdom not do when it comes liking one pastor over another?


  • What does “all things” refer to?


  • How are “all things” ours as God’s people?


Pastors of the Church

Moving from pitting one pastor against another, the text moves to show how those in a congregation (the plural “you” in 1 Corinthians 3:23) should individually (the singular “one” in1 Corinthians 4:1) understand the role of pastors (the “us” in1 Corinthians 4:1).

Hyperetas: literally, “under-rower”; a servant, assistant, helper

Okoinomos: steward, manager of the house

Read 1 Corinthians 4:1

  • Whom does the pastor serve?


  • What does he manage (or oversee as a steward)?


  • What are the mysteries of God?


  • How then does a pastor serve by managing the mysteries of God?


5 Stewards of the Mysteries of God


Read 1 Corinthians 4:2-4

  • What is most important for a steward?


  • How does this apply to what a pastor does?


  • To whom must a pastor answer concerning his trustworthiness when it comes to being a steward of the mysteries of God?


Read 1 Corinthians 4:5-6 

  • Since Christ judges the pastor, how is this to shape how the congregation judges its pastor?


  • In verse 5, Paul gives us a hint why the congregation is not fit to pronounce judgment. In what area is the congregation unfit to judge?


  • To what event does Paul point the congregation


  • Why? How can someone be that patient?


Excursus: Beware of Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

What is someone to do if the pastor is destroying God’s Temple (1 Corinthians 3:17)? This does not refer to people not liking him or meeting their personal expectations. This refers to the pastor destroying the Temple (a congregation, remember the plural “you”) by being unfaithful and not being a trustworthy steward based on what Christ has given him to do.

Yet, Paul says a few verses later that the congregation should not judge the pastor but wait for Christ’s judgment on the Last Day (1 Corinthians 4:5a). Does this mean that a congregation is to endure false teaching from a false shepherd, a false pastor?

Jesus gives us insight into this dilemma. In Matthew 7:1, He said, “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.” A few verses later, Jesus said: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves” (Matthew 7:15). Jesus tells us not to judge; then He tells us to judge! For how else can someone “watch out for false prophets” if he doesn’t judge in some way?

Does Jesus contradict Himself? No. What He does do is forbid us to judge what is hidden from our sight. We are not to judge the hearts and motives of others. He tells us not to attempt to look beneath what we can observe and play God by judging what only He can see. He tells us to judge, not by appearances, but by the words that we hear!

Jesus’ warning to “watch out for false prophets” teaches us that all Christians have the responsibility to judge the teaching and preaching that they hear. After all, Jesus spoke those words of warning to all those gathered to hear Him on the mountainside.

No preacher, no church body, not even the Pope, has the authority to deny the Christian the right to judge the doctrine he hears, whether it is true or false.

Where the Christian often goes astray is that he judges based on his experiences and expectations, making that the norm by which he judges. This is a false way to “watch out for false prophets.” For then the person becomes the standard instead of Christ and what He has made known to us.

There may be many aspects of the Faith that you don’t know. There may be some aspects of the Faith that you may have learned incorrectly. And so you don’t judge a pastor based on what you think the content of the Faith is, but on what it actually is!

This drives us back to what God has revealed to us in His written Word, where that is used to judge what a pastor preaches and teaches. All else is left to God, “who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart” (1 Corinthians 4:5b).


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