Character of a Servant:
(Read 1 Corinthians 4: 1-5)
Paul points out that the Corinthian church was focusing on human wisdom and strength. Their ministry was not Christ centered. Paul modeled his ministry after Christ and never sought human approval or praise. He considered himself a steward of Christ centered truth. A steward is entrusted with property and accountable to the master. He should be found faithful and trustworthy (1 Corinthians 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. Paul recognizes that the Lord is the one who judges 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 Corinthians 4:5). Someone has said "Human nature is such that we could become irrational in self-assessment" (Jeremiah 17:9). We should be less concerned about human praise. It matters very little what others think about us. A servant of God should be faithful to the Lord who has called him to the ministry. There is nothing greater than to be a faithful servant of God. It is a privilege to serve Christ.
Example of Faithfulness:
(Read 1 Corinthians 4: 6-13)
Paul’s ministry was a Christ-centered one and he was an example to Corinthians. He uses the example of himself and Apollos to illustrate it. Paul wanted the Corinthian church to not boast about human accomplishment but pay attention to Christ and the scripture (1 Corinthians 4:6). They should become imitators of Christ by paying attention to the scriptures and do not boast about their blessings. Paul reminds them that they have not accomplished anything on their own strength (1 Corinthian 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 are made spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men (1 Corinthian 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. Meanwhile the apostles endured, beating, shame and homelessness. They worked for a living and proclaimed the gospel freely. They blessed those who cursed them. They were patient with those who abused them (1 Corinthians 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 times 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 Corinthians 4:12-13). The Christian life is not a pursuit of the comfort and pleasures in this world. Paul sets an example worth imitating. Those who serve Christ must learn to walk in the ways of the cross. Paul writes these things to warn the Corinthian church against worldliness.
Paul’s Personal Exhortation:
(Read 1 Corinthians 4: 14-21)
Paul admonishes the Corinthians as his beloved children. He did not want them to be ashamed and discouraged because of him. The Corinthians had many guardians but had 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 Corinthians 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 had taught in all the churches. Timothy was a beloved and faithful child in the Lord (1 Corinthians 4:17). Paul was not afraid to visit Corinth again. He is planning to visit them soon. Meanwhile he sent Timothy to encourage them. Paul 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 does not consist in talk but living in the power of God (1 Corinthians 4:20; Romans 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 Corinthians 4:21). The “rod” is a sign of discipline. Those who are saved by grace will reflect God’s love in their lives and ministry.