Summary of 1 Corinthians 4:
Believers are servants of Christ and entrusted with the secret things of God. We must be faithful and not judge others including ourselves for that is God’s job. Do not put men above one another for it is God who has made all men equal. Only God should reign above.
The Corinthians have all that they wish. Sarcastically, the apostles who all walk in the Spirit are treated as the scum of the earth, and the Corinthians who lead a nice life but walk in the Earth believe themselves better than the apostles because of these things they do. God has made the apostles so low while the Corinthians believe themselves so high. Paul lists things Greeks would never do: work with their hands, go hungry and thirsty, speak kind words to persecutors, and be homeless. They should be ashamed of this attitude and behavior.
Yet, this is to warn the Corinthians to live a life like Paul’s which Timothy will show you how. A spiritual life and not an earthly one. Paul held the true power of God. The arrogant ones are merely all talk.
BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 21, Day 5: 1 Corinthians 4
12) The Corinthians were judging the apostles and taking pride in who they followed. They were going beyond what is written (elevating the messenger above each other). The differences if any in the apostles (and in themselves) are from God so they should be humble and not prideful. Those who have true spiritual power have everything they want. They are rich! Those inflated with pride put themselves above others.
Look at Paul and his life. He and other apostles are horribly treated everywhere they go–the low of the low — and the Corinthians see themselves as the high of the high. Yet, it is Paul and the apostles who are walking spiritually, not the Corinthians. Paul in reality has everything when it is the Corinthians (who appear to have everything) who have nothing. Paul goes hungry and thirsty, is homeless, wears rags, works hard, and is brutally treated. Yet, he answers with blessings and kindness.
13) Personal Question. My answer: True spiritual power is how you act, not how you talk and how you behave. Do you answer persecution with kindness and blessings? Do you speak kindly? Do you give God all the credit?
14) Personal Question. My answer: Similar to above. How do I act when bad things happen to me? This is true test of character. Also, am I boastful when I shouldn’t be?
Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 21, Day 5: 1 Corinthians 4
I loved that we are entrusted with the “secret things of God.”
I liked how Paul says he doesn’t even judge himself. This is hard for most of us. I judge myself based on what I accomplish in a day and other areas of my life. I must remember not to judge myself. To offer grace to myself just like God does. To not be so hard on myself when something does not get done or I do sin. For God forgives me, and therefore I must forgive myself as well.
And, of course, the over-arching theme of pride. We all must guard against pride and practice humility every chance we get. Put others first. Live for others. Walk daily spiritually and not earthly.
End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 21, Day 5: 1 Corinthians 4
Paul uses the word “hyperetas,” which describes a subordinate servant functioning as a free man. He does not use the more common New Testament word for a servant (doulos) which designated a common slave.
We are almost always too hard or too easy on ourselves.
When Jesus judges, it will be according to the motives of the heart, not only the outward action. This is another reason why human judgment is often wrong, and why Paul feels free to disregard the harsh judgment of the Corinthian Christians towards himself.
When the Corinthian Christians used unbiblical standards to judge the apostles, they could easily like one and hate another based on bad standards. But if they learned to not think beyond what is written, they wouldn’t proudly take sides behind certain apostles as 1 Corinthians 3:4 says they did.
Everything we have has come from God, so there is no reason for pride.
Questions to Ask Yourself Every Day
- Do I truly give God the credit for my salvation?
- Do I live with a spirit of humble gratitude?
- Seeing that I have received from God, what can I give to Him?
The image of 1 Corinthians 4:9 is either from the coliseum or the parade of a conquering Roman general, where he displayed his armies first, the booty second, and at the end of the procession, the defeated captives who would be condemned to die in the arena. Just as before going into the arena, the gladiators said, morituri salutamus (“we who will die salute you”), so Paul now salutes the Corinthian Christians.
ii. The word spectacle is “theatron,” from which we get our word “theater.” When Paul says we have been made a spectacle to the world, he speaks of how the apostles were publicly humiliated. This kind of humiliation was the greatest horror to the pride of the Corinthian Christians.
Problems of the Corinthian Christians
- The Corinthians were proud of their own spirituality
- The Corinthians were embarrassed of Paul because of his “weakness” and humble state.
Paul’s description of his own ministry focuses on deprivation and humiliation. These were things that the Corinthian Christians, in their pride, wanted to avoid at all cost.
The Corinthians, in their love of Greek wisdom, embraced the Greek idea that manual labor was fit only for slaves. It would offend them that one of God’s apostles would actually work with his own hands!
The Greeks thought a man was a wimp if he didn’t fight back when slandered.
Some ancient Greeks had a custom of casting certain worthless people into the sea during a time of plague or famine, while saying “Be our offscouring!” The victims were called “scrapings” in the belief that they would wipe away the communities’ guilt.
Paul, who was regarded as a fool, as weak, as dishonored; who was hungry, thirsty, and poorly clothed, homeless and beaten; who worked hard with manual labor. Imitate that?
In this section of the letter, Paul faced some of the real challenges of ministry: how to confront sin without being too harsh, or implying that you are above sin; how to get people to conform their lives to the gospel when they think too highly of themselves.