The Apostle Paul is getting frustrated with the Corinthians. He is at the point where his correction might be more severe than they expect. He is asking them,
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!…
…they think they Have Already Arrived
Paul writes 1 Corinthians 4 to Clarify some of the Beliefs that the Corinthians are falling into which make them think that have it all together and are all set!!!!
In 1 Corinthians 4:1-21, God is going to lovingly discipline through the pen of the Apostle Paul.
In the passage that follows Paul will unpack three challenging truths about spiritual maturity. They should be course correcting for all of us!!
I. SPIRITUAL MATURITY REQUIRES CLARITY AND FAITHFULNESS (4:1-5)
1 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.
- Clarity – Paul is saying that God has put Apollos and himself in charge of teaching the Word with Clarity. They have been called to explain ‘God’s mysteries’
- Faithfulness – Paul and Apollos have been ‘put in charge’ so they will remain faithful.
- 1. Faithful to the Lord, even under ‘Human Authority!’
- 2. Faithful to the Lord, even under the “Lord’s Examine!”
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.
Paul and Apollos are saying you are judging us and we are striving to be faithful…therefore you need to know we will remain faithful to the Lord no matter who judges us. They were Clear that they were following Jesus and they were Faithful to that Mission.
II. SPIRITUAL MATURITY REQUIRES HUMILITY AND SUFFERING (4:6-13)
In this section, Paul explains that for the Corinthians to make spiritual headway they must learn to humble themselves before God and others. Additionally, they must prepare themselves to Suffer like the Apostles.
In 4:6, Paul writes,
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.
- Paul informs the Corinthians that they have Arrogant Attitudes and Actions that stem from what we Believe!!
- They are playing games of spiritual “one-upmanship” and being arrogant against each other because their not obeying the Bible
- As always, our attitudes and actions stem from what we believe or perceive. They think their Awesome!!
- The phrase “what I have quoted from the Scriptures” (4:6) refers to the 5 Old Testament Scriptures that Paul has quoted in the previous three chapters. These passages place a strict limit on human pride and call for trusting God alone.
- When we ignore reading the Scriptures or listening to God’s Word, we can become proud. We need to increase our familiarity with the Bible in all of our lives and in our children’s, youth, and adult ministries. We must know and apply the New Testament and the Old.
- Paul asks 3 Convicting questions, but 1 is Superior:
Look at 4:7… “For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”
Verse 7…What do you have that you did not receive?
Paul reminds the Corinthians that they are not superior to anyone else. 3 times Paul uses the word “receive” to remind the Corinthians that God is the one who gave them everything they have.
- They have Already Arrived and were All Set!
In 4:8, Paul shifts tone abruptly and unleashes a bitter challenge:
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!
2. They Speak of the illusion that they need Nothing More.
- They are so full they couldn’t eat another bite. They have everything they need.
- They have arrived in their Christian Lives .
- The Corinthians believe that they have it all. This describes their spiritual self-appraisal.
- We can Face the Same Danger of Religious Arrogance — believing ourselves to be spiritually filled and rich because we attend church, go to a small group or youth group, listen to Christian music, give money to the church, etc. We have to pay attention to this Issue!!
- As well-fed Christians, we can become puffed up with our own knowledge.
- Watch out for those signs of self-satisfied spirituality. We need to be aware of this so that we can humble our hearts before God and others.
3. Paul’s resume of suffering
- Paul now begins to outline what his life is really like. It is a resume of suffering. If anything characterizes how he lives, it is suffering.
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.
- Apostles: Christ dedication makes them look like: Fools, Weak & Ridiculed? He explains that the apostles are a public spectacle to everyone. Furthermore, their lives will result in death. From the world’s perspective the apostles are “fools,” “weak,” and “without honor.” To make matters worse, they are hungry, thirsty, poorly clothed, roughly treated, homeless, and hard working. “we are treated like the world’s garbage, like everybody’s trash—right up to the present moment.” v.13
- Corinthians: You claim to be Wise, Powerful & Honored!
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.
3. Are you willing to Follow the Apostles in their suffering? Will you take on ridicule and rejection for Christ? How will you respond when your family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, or acquaintances doubt your faith…challenge your beliefs? Will you be gracious? Will you be respectful? Will you Stand for Jesus
III. SPIRITUAL MATURITY REQUIRES MIMICKING AND MENTORING (4:14-21)
Paul informs us that if we are to grow spiritually we must follow an example and be an example. He writes,
14 I am not writing these things to shame you, but to warn you as my beloved children.
- By using the term “beloved” Paul is expressing respect as much as affection. The reason that Paul writes the way he does is because he is their spiritual father.
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.
- Paul states that the Corinthians have “ten thousand others to teach you” but only one Spiritual Father.
- Paul is saying, “I’m not your tutor, I’m your father! I have a personal, relational, family interest in you.”
- Paul could make this claim because God used him to lead many of the Corinthians to faith in Christ.
A. Paul Urges His Children to Mimic His Life
1. His desire isn’t to Criticize & Punish but to Admonish & Encourage.
2. Paul writes the way he does is because he is their “Spiritual Father”
As your Father in faith: “I urge you to imitate me.” (v16)
There is gentleness here. “Would you consider this? Can we talk about this?” That’s the appeal that Paul is making. However, Paul is confident in the Holy Spirit’s work in his life so he can declare, “Imitate me.”
A young boy looked up at his grandfather and wondered aloud, “Grandpa, how do you live for Jesus?” The respected grandfather stooped down and quietly told the boy, “Just watch.” As the years went by the grandfather was an example to the boy of how to follow Jesus. He stayed rock-steady in living for Him. Yet the grandson often lived in a way that was not pleasing to God. One day the young man visited his grandfather for what both knew would be the last time. As the older man lay dying, his grandson leaned over the bed and heard his grandpa whisper, “Did you watch?” That was the turning point in the boy’s life. He understood that when his grandpa had said, “Just watch,” he meant, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” He vowed that from then on he would live as his grandfather did—striving to please Jesus. He had watched, and now he knew how to live.
B. Paul Mentors His Beloved Corinthians by Sending Timothy
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.
1. Timothy is a gift of growth for the Corinthians.
- •It is a manner of life or pattern of life, and is characterized as “how I follow Christ Jesus”. It is not a mere list of doctrines that we nod our heads to. It is a revolutionary way of life, or one that is intended to transform us.
In 4:18-20, Paul hunkers down and talks some good old-fashioned trash! Take a look at these words:
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.
- The arrogance of the Corinthians is not in open rebellion against Paul’s authority.
- Arrogance will always misrepresent the truth, and arrogance will always fail in the end.
3. Paul Leaves them with Two Options : Paul closes this section in 4:21 with these challenging words:
21 Which do you choose? Should I come with a rod to punish you, or should I come with love and a gentle spirit?
Paul may be small but he carries a big stick.CHe leaves the Corinthians with two options: the rod or a spirit of gentleness. He loves the Corinthians like his children, but he knows they need discipline to grow!! What about us…where to we need to grow?