Character of a Servant: 4:1-5.
(Read 1 Cor 4: 1-5)
The Corinthian church focused on human wisdom and strength. Their ministry was not Christ centered. Paul modeled his ministry after Christ and never sought human evaluation and praise. He considered himself a steward. A steward is entrusted with property and accountable to the master. He should be faithful (1 Cor 4:2-3). Paul thinks very little about what others think about him and his ministry. He had a clear conscience but that does not mean he was perfect. He recognizes that judgment belongs to the Lord and he should wait until Christ shed light on the hidden things. Christ will disclose the purpose and motive of our hearts and each one will receive praise from God for their faithful service (1 Cor 4:5). The human nature is such that we could become irrational in self-assessment (Jer 17:9). We should be less concerned about human praise. A servant of God should be faithfulness to the Lord who has called him to the ministry. It is a privilege to serve Christ.
Example of Faithfulness: 4:6-13.
(Read 1 Cor 4: 6-13)
Paul’s Christ-centered life was an example to Corinthians. He uses the example of Himself and Apollos to illustrate it. Paul wanted that Corinthian church should not boast about human accomplishment at the expense of others (1 Cor 4:6). They should become imitators of Christ by paying attention to the scriptures. They were boasting about their blessings. Paul reminds them that they have not accomplished anything on their own strength (1 Cor 4:7). There is no room for personal pride when it comes to serving God. We owe all things to God. Paul wants them to know that God has put the apostles on display, like prisoners of war at the end of the victory parade. They were made spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men (1 Cor 4:9). The apostles were considered fools for Christ because they preached nothing but Christ. On the other hand, the Corinthians used their Christian faith to extend their reputation in the world. Mean while the apostles endured, beating and homelessness. They worked for living and proclaimed the gospel freely. They blessed those who cursed them. They were patient with those who abused them (1 Cor 4:12). When they were slandered they responded gently. They are treated like scum of the world. Scholars suggest that it may be the reference to the ancient Greek custom of throwing worthless persons into sea in case of plague or famine to wash away the nation’s guilt. Paul endured hardship with Christ-like compassion and prayed for those who treated him like garbage
(1 Cor 4:12-13). He walked in the ways of the cross. The Christian life is not a pursuit of the comfort and pleasures in this world. Paul sets an example worth imitating.
Paul’s Personal Exhortation: 4:14-21.
(Read 1 Cor 4: 14-21)
Paul admonishes the Corinthians as his beloved children. He did not want them to be ashamed and discouraged. The Corinthians had many guardians but have only one spiritual father. The guardians were to assist children in their early years. Paul became their spiritual father in Christ through the gospel. He alone was responsible for the beginning of the Corinthian church. It was Paul who laid the foundation through the gospel (1 Cor 3:10). Paul asks them to follow his example in doctrine and life. Paul sent Timothy to remind them of his ways in Christ and teach them. Paul was consistent in what he taught in all churches. Timothy was a beloved and faithful child in the Lord (1 Cor 4:17). Paul was not afraid to visit Corinth again. He is planning to visit them soon. Meanwhile he sent Timothy to encourage them. He wanted to confront those who were proud in their wisdom rather than in God’s power. But Paul was willing to wait for God’s timing. The kingdom of God is not in word but in power (1 Cor 4:20; Rom 14:17). In some sense the kingdom of God has already arrived in Jesus and is now working through the gospel (Luke 17:20-21; John 3:3-5). Paul asks the Corinthians whether he should visit them with rode or in love and in the spirit of gentleness (1 Cor 4:21). The “rod” is a sign of discipline. Those who are saved by the grace will reflect God’s love in their lives and ministry.