“READ THROUGH THE NEW TESTAMENT + ISAIAH” (RTNTI) PROJECT
Today’s Reading: 1 Corinthians 4 (NIV) | (NLT) [click version to read]
[You can read/download the reading plan here.]
Date: 25 May 2013
Written By: Dr Conrade Yap
This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other. For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign—and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you! For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.(1 Corinthians 4:1-13)
The tone of Paul’s letter shows how challenging the Corinthian Church has become. It seems like Paul’s authority has not only been questioned, it has also been challenged. Rather than defending himself, Paul humbles himself to being called the “scum of the earth.” He begins by highlighting the seriousness of the call to be an apostle. It is not mere title. Neither is it something to boast about having. No. It comes with tremendous responsibility. If it comes to judging, it is the Lord who judges. Man can retreat into hiding but God does the exposing. Paul is prepared to be fools for Christ, dishonoured for people, shamed and bullied, opposing the worldviews of this age in order to lift up the Name of Christ.
The chapter hones in a warning rather than something to shame the people about. That is the call of an apostle. He speaks out the truth in a prophetic manner, saying that if people continue to sin, they will be punished. If they refuse to repent, they will face judgment. Should Paul retreat from these challenges? No. Paul is too loving to do that. In fact, speaking out against wrong doing may not be nice. But it is a good deed, especially when it is able to prevent one from falling into deeper sin.
Time for Reflection: “The only way it is possible to have one mind is to have the mind of God derived from the unity of the Spirit of God, a unity which comes only when believers find the will of God and give themselves unselfishly and unstintingly to its fulfillment.” (John F. Walvoord)
This “Read Through the New Testament” project and commentary is sent to you from Theology@Work, a ministry that helps apply theology in our daily lives, and seeks to inculcate, faith, hope and love in our heads, hearts and hands. If you find this meditation helpful, forward it to friends or encourage them to subscribe here. You can contact me (conrade) at firstname.lastname@example.org.