17 April, 2024

March 10 Lesson | Servant Leadership

by | 4 March, 2024 | 0 comments

Unit: 1 Corinthians (Part 1) 
Theme: The Living Church 
Lesson Text: 1 Corinthians 3:5-15; 4:1-5 
Supplemental Texts: 1 Kings 12:1-16; Matthew 20:20-28; 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, 16-23 
Aim: Lead by being a good servant of Christ and a faithful steward of the opportunities God has given you. 

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Download a PDF of this week’s lesson material (the study by Mark Scott, the Application by David Faust, and Discovery Questions): LOOKOUT_Mar10_2024

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By Mark Scott

Servant leadership is always admired. The boss who gets in the ditch and digs with the workers, the teacher who stays late to help the student with the science project, and the running back who lets the lineman spike the football after a touchdown all give evidence of servant leadership.  

The divisions in the church at Corinth were mostly caused by pride, which ran counter to servant leadership. After acknowledging the church’s divisions (1 Corinthians 1:10-17), Paul led the Corinthians back to the gospel which united them in the first place (1:18–2:16). In chapters 3–4, Paul returned to the church’s divisions based on how the church was lining up behind their chosen leaders. The problem was not with the servant leaders, but with how divided the people had become based on their undue loyalty to certain leaders. Paul reminded the church the correct way to think about leadership.  

Servants Who Lead 
1 Corinthians 3:5-15 

Paul did not want the church to have an inflated view of Apollos or himself. He said the two of them were just servants through whom you came to believe. The word for servants is the normal word for “slave.” God gave Apollos and Paul jobs to do. God assigned to each his task, so boasting was pointless. 

Paul used the analogies of gardening (or farming) and building to drive home his point. 

In the first analogy, Paul said he planted the seed, meaning the church at Corinth (Acts 18:1-11). Apollos came along later and watered the seed that Paul planted (Acts 18:27-28). But God is really who made it grow. Think of this as parents who give their children money to purchase birthday gifts for the parents. Paul and Apollos were simply discharging their duties as co-workers in the gospel. The church is God’s field, and God is the real gardener. The best servant leadership conveys humility and “self-forgetfulness.” Paul referred to the church in Corinth metaphorically as God’s building

In the second analogy, Paul underlined God’s grace as the power source for his building of the church. Paul laid the foundation (which the apostle said is Christ himself) and Apollos built upon it. Builders in God’s kingdom must build with care though. The church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, but Christ alone is the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20).  

The strength of a structure is contingent upon the materials the builders use. Paul acknowledged there are materials such as gold, silver, and costly stones. Then there are other, less durable materials such as wood, hay or straw. Not all materials (i.e., works) are created equal. When the Day of Judgment takes place, works will be judged (purified) through fire. The servant leader’s salvation is not in jeopardy, but his or her works will be short-lived or long-lasting. This emphasis is advanced in the next section. 

God Who Judges 
1 Corinthians 4:1-5 

All people will appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). But teachers and leaders will be judged more stringently (James 3:1). The Corinthian correspondence includes what is referred to as the “apostolic we/us.” Context reveals when Paul was addressing himself and the other apostles and when the “we/us” referred to the church at large. In chapter 4, it seems the “we/us” referred to the apostles. The Corinthians must think properly about the apostles or they would be in danger of dividing over those same leaders. 

The apostles were servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries God revealed. The key quality of a leader in the church is servanthood. But the key quality of stewards in the church is faithfulness. They must be faithful to the God who entrusted to them his revealed secrets. 

The Corinthians were making judgments based on who they elevated as leaders (i.e., Paul, Cephas, Apollos, etc.). Paul refused to allow those judgments from the church to have emotional ownership over him. Paul sided with the apostle John who wrote that even when his heart condemned him God did not condemn him (1 John 3:20). God is the ultimate judge—not the Corinthians or some human court or even Paul’s self-condemnation. Paul’s conscience (his moral umpire) was clear. When Christ, our coming judge, returns then what is hidden in darkness will be revealed and motives of the heart will be exposed. Since God will punish or reward at the Judgment, humble servant leadership is the best posture for leading the church. 


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