Paul seemed to answer this question for himself in 1 Corinthians 4:1, which says, “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God”. The Greek word here translated as “servants” is hypēretēs. Strong’s defines this word as “an under-oarsman”. The idea here is that of a galley slave on the lowest tier of a three-tiered ship pulling an oar alongside the other galley slaves. This is not some highly respectable, prestigious job. That is not at all the idea of an “under-oarsman”. Paul seems to be saying that he just wants to be a regarded as a guy who pulled his oar – that is, a guy who just did the job he had been assigned. This certainly sheds a different light on understanding this text.
Todd Bryant is the Lead Elder at Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Northport, AL. He has pastored there since 1998. For more more information on the church and links to audio sermons and apps for electronic devices, visit www.sovereigngrace.net