We continue our trek through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians in chapter 4. It seems the people of Corinth had a problem with pride. Paul also had to explain his relationship to the church. Paul was obviously loved in most of the churches he started. However, keep in mind that travel in those days was by ship, walking, or if lucky, hitching a ride on a cart. It took a long time to get from one place to another. Hence the reason Paul wrote so many letters. This letter was written early in his mission ministry. He loved and was passionate about all the people in the churches he started or helped. You can see that in what he writes. Let’s dig in….
1 Corinthians 4
So look at Apollos and me as mere servants of Christ who have been put in charge of explaining God’s mysteries. 2 Now, a person who is put in charge as a manager must be faithful. 3 As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. 4 My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.
5 So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.
6 Dear brothers and sisters, I have used Apollos and myself to illustrate what I’ve been saying. If you pay attention to what I have quoted from the Scriptures, you won’t be proud of one of your leaders at the expense of another. 7 For what gives you the right to make such a judgment? What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?
8 You think you already have everything you need. You think you are already rich. You have begun to reign in God’s kingdom without us! I wish you really were reigning already, for then we would be reigning with you. 9 Instead, I sometimes think God has put us apostles on display, like prisoners of war at the end of a victor’s parade, condemned to die. We have become a spectacle to the entire world—to people and angels alike.
10 Our dedication to Christ makes us look like fools, but you claim to be so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are so powerful! You are honored, but we are ridiculed. 11 Even now we go hungry and thirsty, and we don’t have enough clothes to keep warm. We are often beaten and have no home. 12 We work wearily with our own hands to earn our living. We bless those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us. 13 We appeal gently when evil things are said about us. Yet we are treated like the world’s garbage, like everybody’s trash—right up to the present moment.
14 I am not writing these things to shame you, but to warn you as my beloved children. 15 For even if you had ten thousand others to teach you about Christ, you have only one spiritual father. For I became your father in Christ Jesus when I preached the Good News to you. 16 So I urge you to imitate me.
17 That’s why I have sent Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord. He will remind you of how I follow Christ Jesus, just as I teach in all the churches wherever I go.
18 Some of you have become arrogant, thinking I will not visit you again. 19 But I will come—and soon—if the Lord lets me, and then I’ll find out whether these arrogant people just give pretentious speeches or whether they really have God’s power. 20 For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power. 21 Which do you choose? Should I come with a rod to punish you, or should I come with love and a gentle spirit?1 Corinthians 4 NLT
What’s nice about today’s digital media is that you can experience many different preachers without having to travel miles like Paul did. I’ve discovered several new pastors that I like a lot. Interestingly, they are mostly all in California where they are battling with the governor just to be able to meet in person. Then there are some pastors that I’ve watched a few minutes of a YouTube video and rejected them immediately.
What Paul is getting to here is that the person himself or herself is unimportant. It’s the message, the Word of God. Are they preaching the truth? Are you attending a church because they make you feel good? Feeling good is OK as long as the feeling is based on Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
Last week, I witnessed 6 baptisms at my church. It was awesome! That was a great, feel-good experience.
In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, which was written several years later, he describes all he’s been through….
23 …I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. 24 Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. 26 I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not.27 I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.
28 Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches.2 Corinthians 11:23-28 NLT
How does one endure so much?
By focusing on the purpose — Jesus.
“Too much introspection leads to depression. Faith grows when we get our eyes off ourselves and get our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ.”Sandy Adams in ThroughTheWord.org study on 1 Corinthians 4
Paul answered to Jesus — no one else. The Lord is his judge. Don’t concern yourself with what other people think! Seek the will of God in your life and follow that.
Keep in mind also, that the cause of all division is pride. Pastor Sandy made a great point at the end of the lesson…
How can you be proud when everything you have comes from God?
I love the next to the last line in this chapter: “For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.”
Are You Living By God’s Power?
Or are you missing out? If you’re attending a church to be entertained, then you’re going for the wrong reason! If you go to praise and worship God, listen to an enriching message that affects your life, then you’re in the right church. You should come out of the church service with the feeling that you encountered God’s power and love. You may be humbled, or lifted up. Nevertheless, God’s power touched you.
If you’re not being fed spiritually in church, then find another church. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been a Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc. all your life. If you feel like something is missing, it’s probably a true, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Like Pastor Sandy said, “get your eyes fixed on Jesus,” not a church, or priest, or Mary, or the saints. JESUS!
Soli Deo Gloria — To God Alone Be the Glory!