1 Corinthians 4
Paul spent the previous chapter basically saying to the Corinthians don’t put me, or Apollos, or Peter on a pedestal. In this chapter he is basically saying look on us as servants of Christ, or better yet as stewards.
“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” (1 Corinthians 4:1-2)
A steward would be the master servant of the house. Think Mr. Carson on Downton Abbey. He was the master servant of the house. He was the one who knew all about the house, knew what the master of the house would want. Yet his purpose and his role was still to serve the Master of the house. Paul is saying I am a servant to God. My purpose is to fulfill service that God chooses for me. He goes on in verses 3 – 5 saying to them, “don’t pass judgment on me, that is for God alone.” Paul is saying here that he is doing the best he can to live rightly in the eyes of God and it will be up to God to judge him.
In verses 6 – 13, Paul is being somewhat sarcastic to the Corinthians. He is letting them know that he and Apollos do not intend to be “puffed up” against each other. He asks them 3 questions.
“For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)
In other words, who makes us different from each other? God is the one who has made us all different from each other and called us to different tasks. What do you have that you did not receive? Everything you have, everything you are, is a gift from God. Why do you boast as if you did not receive it? If everything you are and everything you have is a gift from God why are you boasting as if you are self made? You have no glory in it. The glory is God’s. We’ve already talked about the Corinthians being a very worldly people. They were apparently struggling with pride too. And while they were in one breath putting the men in front of them on a pedestal they were also looking down their spiritual noses at them. Maybe because of the way they lived. The didn’t have a home, they didn’t have a lot of material possessions. They were missionaries living place to place.
“We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless, when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.” (1 Corinthians 4:10-13)
Be sure to note the sarcasm in Paul’s text. He is telling them, I know some of you think I am “scum”. Lowly and that you are better than me. Some of the people had been talking and while some were putting them on a pedestal apparently there were also those who were talking down about them and Paul is pointing it out.
In what I am beginning to see as a pattern though Paul is leaving them in this chapter with a positive.
“I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.” (1 Corinthians 4:14)
Just like as parents we will correct our children if we see something in their character that we do not like, Paul wants them to know, I am correcting you out of love. He is recognizing that they may have many teachers in front of them, but he, Paul looks on them as a Father. Which means he comes at them lovingly. He tells them that this is why he sent Timothy ahead to correct and teach in love not as a judge. That their correction, his and Timothy’s is not just talk.
“For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?” (1 Corinthians 4:20-21)
Don’t we all want to be corrected in love and not just with rules and regulations?
Oh Lord, may we always come at each other in love and gentleness and not with the list of rules in our hands and our minds. May we not look down our spiritual noses at those we deem as less than, nor put on a pedestal the teachers we have in front of us. Oh Lord show us your love that we may show it to others.