While we were looking at the 4th chapter of 1 Corinthians, I pointed out that Paul’s understanding of a minister was very different than today’s “executive” or “celebrity” image often assigned to today’s pastors.
1 Corinthians 4:1 gives us the glimpse of ministry being likened unto a 3rd tier rower of a slave ship, something that James pointed out was like the scene in the Ben-Hur movie. The verse says “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (ESV).
I stated that the word used by Paul for “servants” was a word that meant a 3rd tier rower servant. Leaving us to consider that the ministry of a pastor was not the captain of the ship, the whip driver, or a deck hand, but one that is obedient the Lord’s calling and one that is among the sheep (1 Peter 5:1-5).
John MacArthur‘s Study Bible Notes on this passage states:
“Paul wanted everyone to view him and his fellow ministers only as the humble messengers God ordained them to be. servants. Paul expresses his humility by using a word lit. meaning “under rowers,” referring to the lowest, most menial, and most despised galley slaves, who rowed on the bottom tier of a ship.”
David Guzik‘s Enduring Word Bible Commentary states:
“There are several different words in the language of the New Testament to describe a servant. Here, Paul uses the word “hyperetas,” which describes a subordinate servant functioning as a free man. He does not use the more common New Testament word for a servant (doulos) which designated a common slave.
i. The word hyperetas literally means an “under-rower,” in the sense that someone is a rower on a big galley ship. So, though it is not the most lowly word for a servant, it certainly not a prestigious position. Under-rowers serve “Christ the master-pilot, helping forward the ship of the Church toward the haven of heaven.” (Trapp)
ii. Morgan describes this “under-rower” as “one who acts under direction, and asks no questions, one who does the thing he is appointed to do without hesitation, and one who reports only to the One Who is over him.”
In the above copy by David Guzik, the two references are to Bible commentaries written by John Trapp (i) and a commentary by G. Campbell Morgan (ii).
“Huper” is the preposition meaning under and “rete”s has to do with rowing.