1 Corinthians 4
-Paul begins this last section on the power of God verses the wisdom of man with a comment about how the Corinthians should regard him and Apollos as servants (helpers, assistants) of Christ and stewards (managers, administrators) of the mysteries of God. First of all, Paul states that as apostles and stewards they must be found faithful. *Application* Faithfulness is key to any endeavor in life. If God has called you to do something, stick with it until He tells you that you are complete. Don’t go ahead of God and give up on something He is wanting you to finish. By His Spirit you will get a sense of completion when the task is done that He has assigned. Until that time remain faithful, and don’t burn any bridges on your way to another place. Paul shows us here that although he moved from place to place as a called apostle, he never forgot those he had labored over in Christ and loved them very much, even enough to correct their misbehavior as we see venturing further into the chapter.
-Paul goes on to say, in the context of how they are to regard him, that he is judged by the Lord alone. It becomes apparent from the text here that some hard things had been said of Paul either in a brought letter or by word of mouth from Chloe’s people (1 Corinthians 1:11). He is basically saying that he pays no attention to that judgment, or even his own judgment, because it is the Lord (His commands and precepts) that judges his heart. Christ is coming and will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose all of the purposes of each person’s heart (1 Corinthians 4:5). *Application* Your motives need to be pure. The day of judgment is approaching every man when all will be laid bare before Him. He is the righteous Judge and will expose everything, so make your confession of sin prompt and powerful. This produces no need to worry about what others will say or think about you. Take Paul’s advice and don’t even listen to your own opinion. Base your standards of right and wrong on the sole Word of God.
-So Paul has applied all these things that he has spoken on so far to himself and Apollos under the oversight of the Lord so that his flock of believers can benefit and not go beyond what is written (in other words the commands of Scripture). His message could not be any more profound and clear at this point. He wants none of the Corinthians to be arrogantly puffed up in pride favoring one person against another (1 Corinthians 4:6). He then offers a beneficial set of rhetorical questions about how everything they have is by receiving, not earning (1 Corinthians 4:7).
-In the next paragraph the author penetrates deep into their conscience with some poignant sarcasm intended to wake them up out of their prideful stupor of back biting and fighting over trivial matters, which are causing division. He compares their arrogant attitudes to the way that he and the apostles have presented themselves to them and the self-sacrificing manner in which they live to the present hour (1 Corinthians 4:9-13). *Application* God in His wisdom lowers us as His disciples from a cocky and haughty state of mind to the abased and lowly regions in order to conform us to His image (remember, He left everything in Heaven and its glory to come and give Himself up for us on this cursed earth). This is the cost of discipleship and the reason many will walk on the wide road to destruction based on self-appetite. Paul’s list of things that he endured would not get worldly acclaim, but in the eyes of God he was a pearl of great price. How are our lives in comparison to this list?
-Paul dishes out some love finally in his admonishment in the last paragraph of this chapter before he starts to answer their questions and lay out his instructions in chapter 5. He considers himself their father in the faith through the Lord Jesus Christ. Then he sternly warns them to straighten up because there is a good chance he will come personally to them for possible rebuke. He is looking for power in the wisdom and Kingdom of God over conceited talking (1 Corinthians 4:19-20). Thus he poses an almost comical question in the last verse of the chapter as their spiritual father. “What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness (1 Corinthians 4:21)?” *Application* O that we had mentors and spiritual fathers in our lives that would take this sort of authority over us in love. Fortunate is the person that has this kind of physical, emotional, and spiritual manifestation of accountability to the things we do in this life. Paul took his role seriously as we can see here in the text, and so should we if we have oversight in our home or ministry. Be a good leader. Be someone you can tell people to imitate (1 Corinthians 4:16).
Verses to Memorize- 1 Corinthians 4:2, 5