In our study of 1 Corinthians chapter four, we look at the power and responsibility that each of us has because of our relationship with Jesus Christ. We will also look at the judgement of believers as well as what it means to be an apostle.
"So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God." NIV translation
In chapter 3, Paul talked about our position in Christ and the fact that we, along with Him, own everything. Now, he tells us that, because we own all things, we should be known as good servants (stewards) of God. The word servants here means ministers or stewards and each of them describe a person that has been put in a position to give out the things of the master. Paul goes on to say that we are stewards over not only the physical things but also of the great spiritual truths of God. The "secret things" refers to the mysteries of God which are things that had not been revealed before and cannot be understood by the flesh but only through the Spirit.
"Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful." NIV translation
A servant answers to the master in how he takes care of the things that are put under his control. A very good example of this is the Parable of the Talents as told by Jesus (see Matthew 25).
We, as Christians, have been given control over everything from food to clothing to money as well as the very Word of God. We must prove faithful in that trust not for our salvation but because of what Jesus has done for us.
"I care very little if I am judged by you or any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me." NIV translation
Paul introduces us to the three "courts" that we answer to. The first is the court of public opinion and for many people the most important thing to them is how others see them and their opinion about what is right. The thing about this court is that it is always changing and is not based on facts but on feelings. Paul tells us that, although he heard the opinions of others, their feelings about him meant very little to him. The second court is the conscience and each of us is given this from birth by our Creator. Although we can become good at ignoring it, we all have this voice inside that lets us know the basics of right and wrong. Paul tells us that our own assessment of our actions is not the final court. The final court is the judgment seat of Jesus Christ and Paul tells us that this is the court that truly matters. We are all (even Christians) going to answer to God for our actions.