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Home Expository Sermons 1 Corinthians 1 Corinthians 4:1-18

1 Corinthians 4:1-18

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God is our perfect Father. Our perfect Father has ordained a perfect father-figure for us to imitate. That figure is the apostle Paul. Yes, this really means that you are exhorted to imitate Paul and his ways which are in Christ.

The Necessity of Judging Myself Properly In Spiritual Humility Through Paul's Example, Keeps Me From Judging Others Wrongly In Spiritual Pride
1 Corinthians 4:1-18
(Children's Sheet for Sermon Interaction is at bottom. Notes for young children to answer are throughout sermon)
Pastor Kerry Kinchen, Bridgeway Bible Church

Turn to 1 Corinthians 4:1-18. 1 Corinthians 4:1-18 is our primary text under study this morning. As you are turning there, I want us to think about someone we would consider to be the perfect father kind of a figure. Think for a moment about how solid that person would be. Think about how caring that person would be. Think about how wise that person would be. Think about how spiritually mature that person would be. When we think about these attributes, we recognize that they are more important than physical-material kinds of riches; don't we? We know that they are more important for the ideal father-figure than the popularity that comes from being a famous celebrity. Think about how the perfect father-figure manifests the virtues of humble love and stability. It is the maturity of someone who is manifesting deep spiritual growth in an exemplary manner. In the spiritual realm, God has ordained such a father-figure for us to learn from in respect to our Christian walk. That father-figure is Paul the apostle. Please read our passage with me now to explore more about what this means,

"1 Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. 3 But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. 4 For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. 5 Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God. 6 Now these things, brothers, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other. 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? 8 You are already filled, you have already become rich, apart from us you have come to reign; and indeed, I wish that you did reign so that we also would reign with you. 9 For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. 11 To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; 12 and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; 13 when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now. 14 I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the good news. 16 Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me. 17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church. 18 Now some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord determines, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power. 20 For the [reign] kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power. 21 What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness?" 1 Corinthians 4

Please prepare your heart to learn, along with me, in this sermon titled,

The Necessity of Judging Myself Properly In Spiritual Humility Through Paul's Example, Keeps Me From Judging Others Wrongly In Spiritual Pride
[pray]

Coming into our passage, we find that Paul is still addressing the problem of comparing ministers to one another. The Corinthians are holding some ministers in high esteem while diminishing the importance of others. But Paul makes it clear that all the apostles should be considered equal in a certain sense--they are all servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. This is the way we should consider them too. And of course, Stewards of God need to be found trustworthy. But Paul isn’t worried about being examined by the Corinthians to be found trustworthy. Their examination of him is worthy of his concern, but he is not worried about it. Paul knows his calling. He knows he is preaching the grace gospel of Christ. He laid the foundation. He has been building upon it with gold and precious stones. Paul knows that the real examiner is the Lord. So Paul essentially exhorts the Corinthians,

“Do not pass judgement on the motives of Apollos and me before ‘the time.’"

What is "the time?" Paul is talking about judgment from the Lord which is a day that Paul mentions in 1:8, 3:13, 5:5, of which he alludes to in 7:29-31. When the false message, and false religion, of the apostates who reject the Messiah is judged, what Paul planted in the field, and all the materials he built on the foundation of the living temple, will be shown to be authentic revelation. At that time God will make it all known; and then each man's praise will come from God. Paul uses he and Apollos as examples so that the Corinthians will not go beyond what Paul has written. Becoming arrogant of one apostle against another is a concern of Paul. So, Paul says they should regard Apollos and Paul as "one" 3:7. They are both equal co-laborers; they are equal servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God, 3:5. We need to keep all of this in mind as we move forward in gleaning life changing principles from the Spirit.

/1/
The first principle has to do with the mandate toward the necessity. In other words; Is there really a mandate from God to judge myself properly in spiritual humility through Paul's example? Is Paul truly a father-figure reference point to keep me from judging others wrongly in spiritual pride? Look at verse 14. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:14-17

"14 I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the good news. 16 Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me. 17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church." 1 Corinthians 4:14-17

Though Paul is being judged by fleshly, immature, arrogant Corinthians, he still knows what he is. He knows that God has placed him to be like a guiding father over the church. So no matter what controversy is going on through divisive attitudes in Corinth, Paul is still going to approach them as their apostolic father. He is the called out and appointed apostle that was confronted on the road to Damascus. He is the patriarch that brought the gospel to Corinth. It does not matter whether the Corinthians have an army of tutors building upon the foundation, they still need tutoring from God's appointed father-figure. But there is even more to what Paul is. Paul is the one that God has chosen to be followed in his examples. Now think about what I am saying.

Doesn’t God want us to follow the Scriptures?

Yes.

Doesn’t God want us to follow the God-man that the Scriptures point to which is Christ Jesus the Lord?

Yes.

Knowing this, we can easily wonder;

How can anyone have the gall to think that they should be imitated for spiritual maturity?

How could the Spirit urge us to do such a thing?


We find the reason in chapter 11. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:1,

"1 Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ." 1 Corinthians 11:1

The reason is mentioned by Paul here in chapter 4 like this,

“Timothy, ... will remind you of my ways which are in Christ,” 1 Corinthians 4:17

Now it makes more sense. It is more about Christ than about Paul, isn’t it? This is the vital point. Paul is like a father who reflects the image of Christ. In doing so, Paul sees a need to layer his credentials. A strong one is that he is a trustworthy steward who does not need to examine himself for wrong motives. Paul knows he was radically changed from being a Christ hating Christian killer. He was recreated by God to be a Christ loving Christian lover. He knows his motives are pure. But the big concern is not Paul. The big concern is the judgmental men who are concerned with Paul. To be an imitator of Paul who is the same one who is being scrutinized according to arrogant, fleshly, immature hearts, is to turn the tables upon the prideful judgmentalism of men who regard themselves, and other ministers, as better than Paul. But remember, Paul always defers to Christ and His way. The way of Christ is light years from what was being emulated in the church of Corinth. The Christ-attitude pierces all of us who have one ounce of pride hiding in our hearts. The father-figure explains it in Philippians 2:3-8,

"3 ... with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." Philippians 2:3-8

@1 God says that He wants Christians to regard one another as ___________________ important than their selves. Philippians 2:3-8

What the Spirit is urging is simple--If you think you are superior enough to judge God's ministers, then think again; but think with the humility of mind where you regard one another as more important than yourselves. This is the essence of Paul's tutelage. It flows from his personal example as a loving father as He imitates the Lord whom he serves. So, the first principle is real. And it is not only for those Corinthians. It is for you and me too. Notice 1 Corinthians 4:17

"he [Timothy] will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church." 1 Corinthians 4:17

The Spirit is talking to us in our church too. We should all look at our selves while looking toward Paul. And then what? We look through Paul to Christ. The way of Christ is what we are looking for in the ways of Paul.

/2/
This leads to the next principle. It has to do with what Paul is wanting to be focused upon in his example. No matter how talented you think you are, or how much you think you have, all of it is from God to equip you in this life to be His servant and steward of His riches. He is the one who gets all the glory as we serve Him together. Paul’s life reflects how Christ emptied Himself and took the form of a bond servant. We need to consider ourselves emptied to be Christ's bond servants too. This is how Paul considered himself. It’s how he wanted others to consider him. He knew that he did not attain his gifting, apostolic authority, and message by his own talents. Paul's ministry, in all its shapes, had been entrusted to him as a stewardship from God. Now let’s think about ourselves. All of us should consider ourselves to be servants of Christ. We must think of ourselves in the humble sense of what the word truly means. You are a servant. As God’s servants, we should consider that everything we have is a stewardship from the God we serve. All of it has been given to us by God as a privilege. Contextually, the cultural reference point was that a servant in Paul's day was considered chattel property. All his gifts, talents, and accomplishments were meant to glorify his master. The steward-servant of Paul's day had the greatest responsibility for accomplishing the goals of the master concerning the master’s household. The point is that our Christian service is all about our master and his will. It is not about the servant. Another thing to consider as we glean from father-figure Paul is to ask ourselves a very profound question. It is the same question Paul asks,

"7 For who regards you as superior?" 1 Corinthians 4:7

There are only a few directions that we can go in answering that question. Either people are regarding you as superior and so you are starting to believe it. Or, you are being impressed with your own abilities, accomplishments, and status, in such a way that you think you are superior in pride. There is another way, but right now let's think about those two for a moment;

Either the high view of others is beginning to get to your head, or the high view of yourself has expanded your head.

Paul battles this by explaining something that we really need to embrace. It is oneness. It’s more than an interesting metaphor when Paul says that he and Apollos are one. Paul is stating a principle that should drive you. Let me put it this way;

When you think of someone who is a great minister, are you recognizing that you are truly a part of what they have done in the Lord?

You need to. Likewise, if you have a great ministry talent, then everyone else is sharing in it as “one” with you too. If you have a lot of money, and you give some of it toward the work of the Lord, doing so doesn’t make you special. Your provision is one with everyone else. The Spirit wants us to recognize that we are lowly servants because that is what we really are. Everything we do is to be done in a state of humble appreciation that we are even alive in Christ. But more needs to be said. What if God thinks that you are superior in some talent, or gifting? Have you ever thought about that? What if God has made some people to be superior teachers whereas others are inferior, and God knows it? You say, "What is your point?" My point is that even if this is true, then you are still one with those folks. This is why Paul asks next in 4:7,

“7 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?” 1 Corinthians 4:7

The answer is that there is nothing that you or I have that we have not received from the grace determination of God. So then, How can we boast as if we have attained it by our own superior abilities? Another thing to consider is that maybe we have been blessed with a rich abundance of gifts too numerous to count. You may have so many gifts that you can hardly list them all. Would this fact put us in a position to reign in the body of Christ in some superior manner to judge others? Notice that Paul says in 4:8,

"8 You are already filled. You have already become rich apart from us [apostles who have left Corinth]. You have come to reign; and indeed, I wish that you did reign so that we also would reign with you." 1 Corinthians 4:8

Notice that Paul says that the scrutinizing Corinthians are rich. They have come to reign apart from the apostles. But then Paul makes that odd statement; He wishes that they did reign. What does Paul mean when he says, “You are already filled. You are already rich apart from us?” And how could Paul wish that they did reign when he already says that they have come to reign? In 1:4-5, Paul already described the spiritual richness that they have attained, and Who gave it,

"4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were made rich in Him, in all speech and all knowledge," 1 Corinthians 1:4-5

In other words, they were made rich with spiritual riches by God. But there is something that the arrogant Corinthians have become without God's help. They have become it without the help of the apostles they scrutinize. They regard themselves as superior. So they regard themselves to be in the place to be arrogant to the extent that in a sense, they do what only God should do. This is Paul’s point. When they judge, they are trying to share God's judging throne to make indictments and preferences in God's kingdom concerning God's apostolic ministers. The sad truth, though, is that they are not really in the reigning position that they posture themselves to be in. Nobody is. So, yes they really are rich in speech and knowledge concerning the gospel. But, in sarcasm, Paul points out that their personal reigning arrogance is fleshly; therefor Paul immediately comes back, and in a seeming contradiction he expresses that they really are not reigning according to the way they are acting. In fact, Paul presses the point by using further sarcastic irony in saying that he wishes that they did reign so that the apostles might reign with them. In other words, it would be nice if they really were in such a spiritually superior position. Why? Because the apostles would like to be able to share in it too if it were true, and truly possible; but it is not. Instead, the apostles are servants and stewards, and the Corinthians, though servants and stewards too, are acting like mere non-spiritual men, as men of flesh, as infants in Christ, who are still fleshly according to 1 Corinthians 3:1-6. The true judge of the motives of each of God's true apostles' hearts is the One who truly reigns in such a position to do so. This is why Paul says in in this same epistle, in 1 Corinthians 15:25, that Jesus is the One Who,

"must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet." 1 Corinthians 15:25

In the meantime, Paul knows that though God has graced the Corinthians in every way in being made rich in Christ in all speech and all knowledge, Paul

"19 ... shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power. 20 For the [true] kingdom [reign] of God does not consist in words but in power." 1 Corinthians 4:19

And of course Paul and Apollos who represent Christ the reigning King, came in demonstration of the Holy Spirit and of power,

"4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, ... 10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; ... 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words." 1 Corinthians 2:4, 10, 13

@2 The spiritual truths that Paul taught did not come by human wisdom, but were ____________________ by the Holy Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. 1 Corinthians 2:13

This is the point in asking the question; "Who regards you as superior?" But the Corinthians are rich. They have all kinds of gifts. They have people prophesying personal prophecies of the intentions of men's hearts. They have speaking with unknown tongues in their midst. They have men who are eloquent in their oratory presentations. They have money and material wealth. So when they reflect upon themselves, they can easily and quickly regard themselves as superior enough to reign on the judgement throne as little emperors and examine God's apostles. Folks we must be careful. Listen to me. Today, we may not have the exact same set of circumstances, but we can, and often do, have pockets in our lives that we can look at the ministers of the body and then think we have a superiority there that propels us into positions to judge others accordingly. It can be comparison. Or it can be simple criticism. People act like they have the clout to be film critics when it comes to ministers and their methods. They scrutinize other members of the body like an opposing team with the authority to do so. The fact of the matter is that God wants us to look at this from another angle. He wants us to recognize that the critic needs to be criticized and rebuked for his judgmentalism. But Paul wants to be more than someone who is rebuking right now. He wants to bring out the principle concerning his own self which includes the other apostles. Remember the principle? No matter how talented we think we are, or how much we perceive we have, or how wonderful we think we happen to be, all of it is from God to equip us in this life as His servants and stewards of His riches. All of it is so that God gets all the glory in His sovereign determination of our state as we serve Him together as one. Listen to 4:9,

"9 For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men." 1 Corinthians 4:9

When Paul says, "I think" Paul is saying that he has the right perspective concerning God's sovereignty. In the fleshly outlook, men can easily think that someone who is especially called by God to be an apostle, would be someone that God would exhibit as being superior in many physical manifestations. But this is not the case. In comparison to the affluent Corinthians who are safely embedded in a city that puts up with dozens of religions on every street, and who have so much in terms of mystical spiritual manifestations going on among the body and plus all the material riches, God in His sovereign upward call, exhibits the apostles in the background of the display as last of all. Notice how God decided to do it. It is not by displaying them on the level of reigning kings who have the power to condemn others to death; but by displaying them as the very men who are condemned to death. This is the spectacle that God desires; but what is the point? The point is that it takes a right understanding and spiritual perspective, and who has it? Father-figure Paul. No matter how talented you think you are, or how much you perceive you have, or have done, or are doing, or how wonderful you think you happen to be in God's plan, like Paul, all of it is from God to equip you in this life as His servant and steward of His riches. God is the one who gets all the glory in His sovereign determination of our state (like Paul’s state) as we serve Him in togetherness. This is why it is so necessary for you to Judge yourself, and for me to judge myself, properly in real spiritual humility through father-figure Paul's example. It keeps us from judging others wrongly in childish spiritual pride.

/3/
This leads to the next principle. It is the ongoing example of Paul that Paul describes as what God determined for him to display,

"... in Christ Jesus I became your father through the good news. 16 Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me. 17 For this reason ... Timothy ... will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church." 1 Corinthians 4:15-17

In father-figure Paul's example we see that he first points out a contrast to learn from in 4:10,

"10 We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are prudent in Christ;" 1 Corinthians 4:10

In a sense, Paul is showing some agreement with the Corinthians. The agreement points out the contrast. But as Paul proceeds to unwrap his life according to God's ordination of his servanthood and stewardship, more contrast is going to come out. Though the Corinthians could have had confidence in it before, it will turn out to be to their own humiliation. In the meantime, the apostles take the risky chances on a moment to moment basis. They are the ones who go out on the limb. They are the ones who walk by faith and not by sight. They proclaim the words that get them persecuted, beat, and chased down. Human prudence avoids these things. After all, it is supposed to be wise strategy. It is supposed to be superior to come across as reserved, tolerant, socially classy, and all the kind of stuff that impresses the world. But the apostles aren’t out to do what the world thinks is prudent. Remember, Paul just proclaimed that the foolishness of God is wiser than men. With this kind of foolishness, the apostles are not out to win friends and influence enemies. They are out to repel those who remain perishing in their sins, and they are out to enlighten those who are elect so that they will follow the effectual call into spiritual salvation.

So what is it about the father-figure that we need to imitate here?

If you are not already a fool for Christ, then you need to be one.


Step out of your comfort zone, and you will be truly wise in the foolishness of God which is wiser than mere men. Walk by faith and not by sight and you will be the truly wise one. Love Christ by loving everyone in the body and consider yourself to be one with everyone (even those you don't like) and you will be truly wise. But there is more. Then Paul says,

"we are weak, but you are strong;" 1 Corinthians 4:10

Paul is describing the contrast that has lot to do with trust--trusting in the arm of the flesh versus trusting in the Lord. Paul had no physical, political, or monetary strength to rely upon in respect to advancing the good news. Once Paul had power as a Pharisee of Pharisees. That was when he was lost and hating Christ. But then that same Christ saved Paul and Paul became completely dependent upon the strength that God supplies to go on with the arduous task of apostolic ministry in which the world hates Paul and walks all over him. All of us need to look at ourselves and ask,

"Am I putting confidence in the strength of the arm of the flesh?"

Whenever we put confidence in the strength of the flesh we can become prideful in respect to those who are weak yet strong spiritually because they walk by faith and not by sight. It is so easy to be blind to our own weakness when we are looking at what we think are the weaknesses of others. The main weakness we have is our own self deceit in our supposed self sufficiency. The point is that it does not matter how strong you are, we must recognize ourselves as being weak in which Christ is our strength. Paul knew it as a principle. In 2 Corinthians he says that when he is weak he is strong spiritually. It takes the walk of faith to see this truth and embrace it as our own. Then Paul says,

"you are distinguished, but we are without honor." 4:10

The same kind of thing is going on. The apostles did not have an honorable name among society. They weren’t known to be the local rulers of the synagogue which were the first converts in Corinth. They weren't famous celebrities of the arts and entertainment. They weren't the well known successful businessmen. They weren't war heros that had fought for Caesar. They weren't distinguished like the popular poets, politicians, social climbers, and merchants. How many humble loving servants are overlooked in our day because they are not dynamic enough to flesh oriented eyes? You may be one of them. When Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:11,

"I am nothing." 2 Corinthians 12:11

He was really speaking volumes concerning how honorable and distinguished he was in God' service. And this is the point. You need to be nothing to truly be something.

@3 Paul the apostle’s example of humbleness is seen in describing himself as _____________________. 2 Corinthians 12:11

Then Paul says here,

"11 To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, ... and are homeless;"

As I consider what Paul is saying, I think of the old cliche,

"Familiarity breeds contempt"

The reason I think about that cliche is because I can easily see how it can be tweaked a little bit to describe something that is closely related. Think about this,

"Familiarity breeds blindness to the blessings we enjoy every day."

Think about it; Being in a position to have meals each day, and being able to drink life sustaining water as a matter of the normal course of your life, is treasure that can easily lose its value because of familiarity. But in the case of Paul, he is ministering the wisdom of God for the Lord. He is ministering the true riches, yet he is hungry, thirsty, poorly clothed, and is homeless. Think about this and think about how a lot of Christian teachers in our day fall into all kinds of mystical philosophies about what God "must" do for you because of your faith that you supposedly generate. If you were to say to them,

"At this present hour I am both hungry and thirsty, and am poorly clothed, and I am even homeless."

They would say,

"Well, you’re not applying enough of your faith to the situation. If you had seed-faith, and really prayed the real 'prayer of faith' then you would not be hungry and thirsty and poorly clothed at this present hour. You would have a mansion like the prosperity preacher on TV."

Yet God says we need the faith of Paul the apostle who is rebuking people because they regard themselves as superior in their faulty judgements concerning the truth.

If I have faith like Paul the apostle, who is, in fact, exhorting us to follow his father-figure example, then how would that help me to not be hungry and thirsty and poorly clothed at this present hour?

How would that get me my mansion like the TV prosperity peddler has?

The issue is not whether we have abundance or sparsity. The issue is,

Are you recognizing that what you have in your lot in life is ultimately in God's hands?

Are we really recognizing that His hands are really there in the matter?


Paul knows he’ll eat and drink and even get better clothes if and when God wants to bless him with those things. God will provide a roof for him to lay down under at night if and when God so desires to provide it. God will provide for all of Paul’s needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Why? Because Paul really does have all the faith in God he needs to get all that he needs to get. The heartbeat of what this means is that Paul recognizes that all those things ultimately come from God in God’s determination. The Corinthians, you, and me--we all need to recognize this too. Paul also knows that God uses people, like the Corinthians, like you, and like me, to provide for missionaries and other pastoral ministers. God knows that while He does this, it is still His hands at work in which the body of Christ becomes His hands in the process. But there is more. Paul also recognizes that he and the other apostles have been provided by God to the Corinthians. But, in his state of hunger, thirst, and physical lack in hardship, instead of being commended and prayed for as a treasured apostle who should be distinguished and honored, he is being judged by those who posture themselves on a superior throne. They can look at their latest clothing styles, or their home, or their income, and they can look at Paul and the other apostles, and they can make a fleshly comparison. They can say,

"Look at how God provides for me. Hallelujah. But look at how God is providing for that minister. You know, there must be something wrong. He must have secret sins in his life. He must be out of God's favor. After all, he is a minister of God, but at this present hour he is both hungry and thirsty, and he is poorly clothed, and shame above all shames--he has no home."

Now be careful. It is easy to make indictments against the Corinthians who are acting in a fleshly manner, but this way of judging is easy for any of us to do. Remember, our remedy is to abide in spiritual humility. We want to learn to keep from judging others wrongly in a spiritualized kind of pride. To progress, we need to have compassion on those ministers of God who do not have as much as we take for granted every moment. We need to look at everything that we have as a privilege that God, in His own determination, can give or take away at any moment. My opinion on this, is that the Spirit is not urging us to be thirsty, hungry, or poorly clothed as an ambition. Follow what I am saying; God is not telling you through this passage, to sell your house and live without a home and food. Rather, the Spirit is urging us not to equate lacking those things as something which diminishes our importance, faithfulness, and true value by God. God wants us to recognize that all those earthly things are privileges that He enables people to have for His own good reasons. This will keep you judging yourself properly in spiritual humility through Paul's example as a reference point to keep from judging others wrongly in spiritual pride. Paul goes on and explains,

"and [we] are roughly treated,"

The Greek here literally means to be struck with the fist. It is not so much the rough treatment of the world that is the issue because rough treatment can happen to anyone. Of course it is a rarity for Corinthians who live in the city and lead fairly productive lives as law abiding citizens. Nevertheless, Paul is talking about being hit by people in being persecuted for Christ. The Corinthians are not being roughly treated for Christ exactly because they are not on the streets telling everyone that they are perishing in their sins unless they receive the promised Messiah who was crucified and resurrected as the Lord and Savior. But even if they were, would this make them superior to others who are not being roughly treated for Christ? No. There is never, ever, a reason to try and posture ourselves as superior to the brothers and sisters that God is using. Whenever we do, we are the ones who end up roughly treating our own brothers and sisters. Then Paul says,

"12 and we toil, working with our own hands;"

What Paul means is closely related to what he argues in chapter 9. There he says that he and the other ministers have a right to eat and drink from the provision of the church, 1 Corinthians 9:4. This was Paul's relationship with the church at Philippi. The Philippians gave to support Paul throughout his ministry. Paul knows that he has God's backing in this kind of provision and so he said in 1 Corinthians 9:11 to the immature, arrogant, Corinthians who think they are superior,

"11 If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the good news of Christ." 1 Corinthians 9:11

Though Paul had every “right” to be provided for by the Corinthians, which is the way of providing for ministers that Paul teaches that God has ordained, he and Barnabas decided to work with their hands to provide. Why? Because Paul knew he was dealing with immature people in misunderstand money issues in respect to providing for ministers to live. So, instead of doing what God has ordained as good and right to do, Paul opts for something that is also good and right for he and Barnabas in light of the immaturity and fleshliness of the Corinthians. In other words, Paul is trying to conciliate in love for the body which leads to what Paul says next in 4:12-13,

"when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; 13 when we are slandered, we try to conciliate;"

What Paul is talking about is operating according to the law of love by manifesting the love of God that has been put in his heart. Actually, this is what Paul is doing with the Corinthians all through this letter. It is turn-the-other-cheek-theology, and Paul lived it. Paul knew that the good news is foolishness to the perishing, and he knows that it divides families; but Paul also knows that he has done nothing wrong. Instead of returning evil for evil, Paul blesses others instead. He endures the persecution by keeping focused upon Christ and the mission that the Lord has ordained for Paul to bless his persecutors with. Instead of returning slander as a weapon, Paul seeks to make peace and bring diplomatic healing to the situation. Apparently, from what we know of the Corinthians, returning blessing for being reviled, and conciliation for being slandered, was not their typical mode of operation. But what is our typical mode of operation? Do you approach these kinds of things in spiritual humility? This is what the Spirit is pressing this morning. But Paul goes on in verse 13. He says that

"we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now."

Paul is saying that the bottom line is that we have nothing to boast in. We are servants of the God of the universe. The world has rejected us like scum to be scraped off the surface and cast aside. We are like the dregs at the bottom of the barrel. And yet Paul is the man that God specially called and commissioned to bring the good news to the gentiles. He might be the scum and the dregs, but he is setting the Corinthians straight as the father-figure. Is Paul trying to shame the Corinthians? No. Paul is giving a master class in a proper perspective of how God works in the physical realm according to the spiritual realm. So, he lists all these things, and says in 14-16,

"14 I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the good news. 16 Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me. ... Timothy ... will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church." 1 Corinthians 4:14-16

@4 Paul the apostle exhorted Christians to be imitators of himself. Paul meant to imitate his ways which are in ____________________. 1 Corinthians 4:16

The summation this morning is that, as the apostolic father, Paul has the spiritual fiber. His example has been forged by the Spirit for us to look at as a direct reflection of Christ in Paul. When we look at Paul's life we need to ask,

"Am I really having the right mind in my assessment of myself spiritually?"

"How am I looking at others?"

"Am I comparing them to what I think is God's favor?"

"Am I comparing them to my own ideas of what they should be?"


These are the questions to ask as we seek to follow the humble example of the one who imitates Christ. Amen

@1 God says that He wants Christians to regard one another as ___________________ important than their selves. Philippians 2:3-8

@2 The spiritual truths that Paul taught did not come by human wisdom, but were ____________________ by the Holy Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. 1 Corinthians 2:13

@3 Paul the apostle’s example of humbleness is seen in describing himself as _____________________. 2 Corinthians 12:11

@4 Paul the apostle exhorted Christians to be imitators of himself. Paul meant to imitate his ways which are in ____________________. 1 Corinthians 4:16
 

ONLINE BOOK: Biblically Defending Salvation

OSAS, which is the acrostic for being Once Saved Always Saved, is an issue of Eternal Security in Christ--also called Perseverance of the Saints. This book defends and promotes the Biblical doctrine of being Once Saved In Eternal Spiritual Salvation (OSIESS) by exegeting the key texts that are improperly used by adherents to the false philosophy of Insecurity in Christ. Conditional Security, which suggest that you can fall from grace and lose salvation is refuted in a verse by verse manner. BDF is a helpful tool for defending the faith once for all delivered.

—Pastor K Kinchen

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