It was a matter of grave concern to Paul to see the church torn by factions because of liking or disliking certain ministers, so he continues his discussion as to the ministry of the Word. Four things are especially prominent:
(Vs. 1.) Let pastors and teachers be looked upon as ministering servants of Christ qualified, called and sent forth by him to preach his gospel. Since they are his servants (his ambassadors), they are to apply themselves to his work, not their own! (2 Cor. 5:18-21.) Since they are servants, they are to be respected, esteemed and heard for his sake. When ministers are treated with contempt, contempt for the Word of God follows; but when they are exalted above measure, they are in danger of abusing the office.
These ministers are stewards (a person put in charge of the affairs of an estate) "of the mysteries", or the secret purposes, "of God". It is their business to dispense and make known the mysteries of divine grace. Through them God communicates to men his Word, his gospel, and the directions for his church (Acts 8:30, 31; Eph. 4:11-15).
(Vs. 2.) It is not enough for a pastor to fill an office, undertake the duties of the ministry, or be a steward, if he is not a good and faithful servant faithful to God's Word, to the gospel to those under his care (Acts 20:18-21,24-27). Everyone knows and preaches the truth is not necessarily faithful, only he who studies, prays, labours and gives his whole life to this glorious calling.
(Vs. 3.) Paul knew his call to the apostleship (1 Tim. 1:12, 13; I Cor. 1:1). He examined his own heart, ways and motives, determined that he had indeed been faithful to his charge (2 Tim. 4:5-8). Therefore, it mattered very little to him personally that these Corinthians should judge him and his ministry. He chose not to stand or fall by their judgement, any other human judgement (even his own).
(Vs. 4.) Staying with the context, which is "faithful in the ministry of the Word", Paul says, "I know nothing against myself; I am free from the blood of all men; I have kept back nothing profitable to you. However, I am not vindicated by my own opinion; it is the Lord himself who examines and judges me as a servant and minister."
(Vs. 5.) "Therefore, be slow in your judgement and be not hasty to pass sentence nor to censure one another, particularly your ministers." There is a time fixed for the judgement of all things, that is, the day of our Lord's return. When he comes, he will bring to light the secret things that are now hidden in darkness and will disclose the aims, motives and purposes of hearts. Then every regenerate soul, every true believer and every faithful minister will hear God say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." However much a true minister is despised and criticized now, in that day he will be exalted.
(Vs. 6.) "I have applied all this discussion about factions and divisions to myself and Apollos (1 Cor. 3:4-7) for your sakes, so that, from what I have said of us, as illustrations, you may learn to think of ministers and all men according to the Scriptures (Rom. 12:3). Learn to appreciate men's gifts and usefulness; yet do not ascribe too much to them lest some be puffed up, inflated with pride and begin to set one against another.
(Vs. 7.) This question and that which follows are addressed to the members of this church who were glorying in and setting one minister against another. "Who distinguished you? Who called you out of darkness into his grace? Who gave you the gift to minister, to hear, or to believe? Therefore, you ought not to glory in yourselves nor in your ministers, but in God!" He is the fountain of all grace and knowledge. To glory in any mercy, favour, or blessing, as if it were owing to human wisdom or power, betrays wretched pride and ignorance (John 3:27; James 1:17).
(Vs. 8.) "In your opinion you are full, you have arrived, you feel no need of growth, instruction and correction. Like the Laodiceans you say, "We are rich and have need of nothing." You think yourselves rich in spiritual gifts and graces. You think you reign as kings, without any need for counsel or instructions from the apostles and ministers. You have ascended your throne and come into your kingdom, I wish the reigning time for the church had come, then we would all reign with Christ and you! But alas, it is evident from your behaviour that you are neither full, rich, nor do you reign, but rather you have need of much teaching and correction. You are but children in understanding, needing milk instead of meat. You are far from being what you think yourselves to be" (1 Cor. 3:1-3).