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 1 Corinthians Chapter Four

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PostSubject: 1 Corinthians Chapter Four   Wed Nov 28, 2012 1:06 am

1 Corinthians Chapter 4

1 Corinthians 4:1

It follows then that all who minister for Christ are responsible to Him. The word translated servants (hypēretas) differs from that used in 1Co_3:5 (diakonoi) and stresses subordination and responsibility to a superior. The secret thing of God refers to God’s wisdom, the message of the Cross known only by the Spirit’s revelation (1Co_2:7-10). Minister used here means servant. In the verse above Paul expresses his humility by using a word literally meaning under-oarsman or assistant. In the case here, they are ambassadors, or assistants of Christ. Paul wanted everyone to view him and his fellow ministers only as the humble messengers God ordained them to be.
Stewards: means a house distributor or an overseer. In the most extended form, it means a fiscal agent, or preacher of the gospel. Paul defines his responsibilities as an apostle by using a word originally referring to a person entrusted with and responsible for his master’s entire household such as buildings, fields, finances, food, other servants and sometimes even children of the owner.
The mystery of God is used in the New Testament to refer to divine revelation previously hidden. It was all that truth which Paul had to oversee and dispense as God’s servant and steward.
Jesus came and revealed to His followers the mystery of God. We are no longer closed off from the Father, but can go boldly to the throne by the name of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the door that leads to close fellowship with God. Look with me at the following Scripture on the mystery of God.
Luke 8:10 "And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand." The mystery of God is the Truth in the Bible. The Holy Spirit reveals to all, who are truly believers, this mystery.
ASK THE CLASS: Why do you think that is about Luke’s verse 10? Why are some not allowed to understand the mysteries of God? ANSWER: Unless the Holy Spirit draws a person who is truly repentant and seeking a relationship with Jesus, they are unable to understand that which is the truth written in the bible. To them it is nonsense. Secondly, it is the Holy Spirit who reveals the truth to them.

1 Corinthians 4:2

Paul was concerned that he and ministers like him proclaim this message faithfully in the interests of their Master. Remember, we said that in the most extended form, steward meant minister of the gospel. Notice, that the main ingredient of a minister is faithfulness to God and His Truth. Man, in the verse above, does not mean someone of the male gender. The word man was translated from means any person, young or old. The requirement then is not even that you be of a special gender. It is just required that you be totally sold out to God.
The most essential quality of a servant or steward is obedient loyalty to his master.

1 Corinthians 4:3-4

He was not deflected from this ministry because the worldly wise rejected it. From a human point of view he was not competent to judge even his own motives, much less the quality of his service. There seems to be a group, here, that is questioning Paul. Paul is reminding them that he will not be judged of these people. He says he cannot even examine himself, but he reminds them that all are judged of God. I do not know why they were questioning Paul, perhaps, because some of them had known him before he became a Christian. We must remember through all of the laws in the temple at this time were not even similar to the laws God had given Moses. Jesus even called them man's laws. The priesthood had greatly deteriorated, and they were making up laws as they went along, so that they could have greater control of the people. The priesthood was being bought and sold instead of coming through the Levitical tribe.
Here Paul is not being arrogant or saying that he is above fellow ministers, other Christians, or even certain unbelievers. He is saying that a human verdict on his life is not the one that matters, even if it was his own.
How then could others decide these matters? Justified, as we have explained before, means just as if I had never sinned. Paul in this, however, is saying he ministers what the Holy Spirit of God gives him. He is not ministering what he believes, but what God knows, and there could be nothing wrong with that. The Lord will judge Paul the same as He does all of His ministers, as to whether they were faithful in their messages.
Paul was not aware of any un-confessed or habitual sin in his own life, but his limited understanding assumed that his was not the final verdict. Paul’s own sincere evaluation of his life did not acquit him of all failures to be faithful.
The Lord is the ultimate and only qualified Judge of any man’s obedience and faithfulness.

1 Corinthians 4:5

Therefore premature judgment, whether it led to the exaltation of some ministers (1Co_3:21) or to the humiliation of others (1Co_4:10), was wrong. Only at the divine bar would all the facts be known and even there grace will be displayed — each faithful minister will receive… praise. “Hidden things of darkness”: This refers to the inner motives, thoughts, and attitudes which only God can know.
Our judgment, on this earth, is warped, because we only judge what we see with our eyes and hear with our ears. God judges the heart of man. You may hide a sin you have committed from the world, but you will not be able to hide it from God. Since we are not able to judge justly, being human, we should not judge at all. Leave judgment up to Jesus who looks into the heart and judges. His judgment is perfect. Jesus is the Light. There is no darkness where He dwells. No sin can hide from His Light.
“Counsels of the hearts”: Since final rewards will be based, not just on outward service, but on inward devotion, only God can give the praise each deserves.

1 Corinthians 4:6

The cure of division (1Co_4:6-21)
Paul concluded his address to the problem of division in the church by putting his finger unambiguously on their problem: pride (1Co_4:6). He then suggested a practical cure — imitation of him (1Co_4:16).
Throughout this discussion Paul avoided singling out guilty persons by name. Instead he applied the problem cases to Apollos and himself (and Peter and Christ; cf. 1Co_1:12; 1Co_3:4-6, 1Co_3:22-23). Now Paul and Apollos would serve as curative examples of men under authority who did not go beyond what was written. They obeyed the Word of God, not their own inclinations or worldly opinions. From the example of their lives Paul hoped the Corinthians would learn the lesson of humility. (The verb “learn” is mathēte, and the related noun mathētēs is translated “disciple,” or “one who practices what he is taught.”) This was a difficult lesson, for the Greeks believed humility was a despicable trait of a slave, a sign of weakness, not a characteristic of great men.

1 Corinthians 4:7

But humility is the only acceptable posture of a person in relation to the God who gives a wide variety of gifts (1Co_4:7) on the basis of grace (1Co_4:7) and therefore alone is deserving of praise (1Co_4:7; cf. 1Co_1:4-9). Paul underscored these truths in this series of rhetorical questions. Paul is correct in the statement that we are what we are, because God made us that. I happen to be a Caucasian, because God chose that I be born to Caucasian parents. We have nothing to do with our nationality or our I.Q. We are not even male or female because we wanted to be, but because that is what God made us. Our Creator made us what He wanted us to be for the furtherance of the kingdom of God.
Even where we minister is chosen by Him. We are equipped by the Holy Spirit in the area we are to function most effectively in. We really have very little to do with this either. It seems, in the verse above, that some of the people in the church have received gifts of ministry from God, and now they are trying to control Paul and his ministry. This is the wrong thing to do with the gift we receive. God did not give them their gift so that they might glory over someone else.
Pride is deception, since everything a person possesses is from God’s providential hand.

1 Corinthians 4:8

The posture of humility should be taken by all Christians. Paul set forth the pattern of Christ’s life to the Philippians (Php_2:5-11). It was marked first by humiliation and then crowned by exaltation. The Corinthians had apparently dispensed with the first half. They wanted their exaltation immediately — no more sickness, no more suffering, no more pain. This is no more possible today than it was when Paul wrote to these self-deluded Corinthians, but nonetheless many follow in their train.
The Corinthians thought they had all they wanted (1Co_4:Cool, but they should have been hungering and thirsting for the practical righteousness they so desperately needed (Mat_5:6). They thought of themselves as kings in need of nothing when in fact they were as needy as the foolish king in the children’s tale of the emperor’s new clothes, who blithely paraded nakedly before his subjects (cf. Rev_3:17-18). We must remember that the life style of these Corinthians had been that of a very affluent society. Many of them had ruled over servants, and they still had the desire to rule. Paul is saying this in somewhat of a reprimand to them. We see this same situation in the following Scripture.
Revelation 3:17 "Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:"
This was the church who had brought the world into the church.
Paul sarcastically, in a severe rebuke, heaps on false praise, sarcastically suggesting that those Corinthians who were self satisfied had already achieved spiritual greatness. They were similar to the Laodiceans.
“Reign”: Yet, Paul genuinely wished it really were the coronation time of the Millennium, so that they all might share in the glory of the Lord.

1 Corinthians 4:9-13

Paul was no fool. He did not like suffering. He wished they were right. But they weren’t. The apostles followed the path of Christ’s humiliation. As He marched a parade route to His death, so did they (cf. 2Co_2:14). There is a great deal of sacrifice in this world required of those who minister God's Word. It is required that we sacrifice our flesh that our spirit might rein in our body. The fate of most of the apostles was very much like their leader, Jesus. John was an exception of that. He suffered much on this earth, even being banished to the Isle of Patmos for speaking the Word of God so boldly. Paul died in Rome after knowing much persecution on this earth.
The imagery of this verse is of condemned prisoners brought into a Roman arena to fight and die; the last ones brought out for slaughter were the grand finale. In His sovereign wisdom and for His ultimate glory, God chose to display the apostles figuratively before men and angels during the present age as just such worthless and condemned spectacles. Like doomed gladiators, they were ridiculed, spit on, imprisoned and beaten. Yet God glorified His name thought them as He used them to build His kingdom.

As Christ had suffered deprivation and defamation, so did His servants, and in His Spirit they endured and responded with grace (Luk_23:34). “Fools…Wise”: Again Paul is using sarcasm. This time on himself as if mimicking the attitude of the proud Corinthians toward him, Paul rebukes them.
Paul is saying that he is willing to be thought of as a fool for the furtherance of the ministry of Christ. He jumps right in and tells them that it would be wise for them to accept Christ as their Savior. These people Paul was speaking to had undoubtedly been highly thought of in their community. It is almost as if he is saying, why we are thought of so poorly, if you believe it is wise to come to Christ. We are the messenger that Christ sent to make you wise unto Christ.
The apostles lived out the message of the Cross. But the Corinthian were complacent and secure with their “theology of the palace” (cf. Amo_6:1-7). In the last lesson, Paul was explaining about the sacrifices that a minister has to be willing to make to work for the Lord. Verse 11 above is just going into detail about what some of these sacrifices are. The apostles went where the Lord sent them. They were not in one place long enough to establish a dwelling place. They did not have a guaranteed salary. They ate and drank what was provided for them wherever they ministered. They were not dressed in fine apparel. Many of them wore skins of animals. The world actually looked down on them. They were several times even called mad men. They were actually repulsive to those who were not seeking God.
Philippians 4:11 "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, [therewith] to be content." Paul had learned to be content when he had much and when he had little. We know that Paul worked as a tentmaker part of the time that he was ministering. Paul did not want to be burdened by obligation to the people he ministered to. He met Aquilla and Priscilla and made tents with them for a while. This is probably what he meant by laboring with his own hands. Paul knew more rejection than most, because he would not give up on his Jewish brothers coming into the kingdom.

Paul was not resentful about any necessary labor needed to support gospel preaching.
He was stoned and left for dead, as well. It seemed that someone was out to kill him most of the time he ministered. I am sure we would have to say that he ministered under great adversity. In fact, he thought it all joy to be persecuted for the sake of the gospel. Paul was never popular with the Jews or with the people of the world, after he received Jesus and began to minister. They called him many evil names. They actually thought of him as being so evil that he needed to not only be stopped, but destroyed, as well.
“Filth …. Off scouring: The scum and dregs scraped from a dirty dish or garbage pot, figuratively used of the lowest, most degraded criminals who were often sacrificed in pagan ceremonies. Not in God’s sight, but in the world’s, Paul and his fellow preachers were so designated. What a rebuke of the proud, carnal Corinthians who saw themselves at the top, while the humble apostle considered himself at the bottom.

1 Corinthians 4:14-17

Prompted by love, Paul issued a warning. His purpose in writing the biting irony of the preceding verses was not simply to shame the Corinthians. But if it did not shame them, they were calloused indeed. Paul would go to any amount of suffering and humiliation to get them into the kingdom of God. Paul is not complaining about the suffering. He is, also, warning those who come to the Lord that they might experience the very same problems. Paul had no physical sons, so this is speaking of those who came to Christ by his ministry. Paul counts them as his spiritual sons.
Despite their carnal, even sometimes hateful immaturity, Paul always looked on the Corinthian believers with affection. Paul is saying, here, that these are those who were saved through his ministry. Others may teach them more fully the Word of God, but they began by Paul's ministry. He counts himself as their father. We will find in all of these letters that Paul wrote that he feels responsible for them, even after he is not preaching there anymore. In fact, this very letter was to straighten out some problems they had in their church.

“Ten thousand instructors”: The term actually says “countless tutors,” referring by hyperbole to an unlimited number of moral guardians used with children. Only Paul was their spiritual father, hence, no one cared like him.
His goal was to bring about a change of heart and manner of life in them. His motivation was love like that of a father for his children. Many ministers might address, advise, and instruct the Corinthians, but only one had planted the seed that brought them life. More than any guardian (Gal_3:24) Paul had their interests at heart. For that reason he urged them to imitate him (1Co_4:16; cf. 1Co_4:9-13). Some people then, and many people of today, took this Scripture literally and could even be called Paulites. It is a very dangerous thing to choose one penman of the Bible and study just his works. We must read the entire Bible to get a full picture of what it is saying. This was not what Paul wanted at all, as we will see in the next verses. Paul was saying that he had tried to live before them the Christian life, and if he would follow the pattern he had set they would be fine. He was not asking them to worship him.
A bold but justified exhortation. Spiritual leaders must set an example of Christ likeness to follow.
He had one spiritual child who did just that, namely, Timothy (Php_2:20). Timothy could remind them by precept and example of Paul’s way of life in Christ Jesus, which was in turn an imitation of their Lord. Timothy had been an understudy of Paul. Timothy had been instructed {tutored} in the teachings of Paul about Christ and would perfectly represent him. Timothy, in that sense, was an extension of Paul. Notice, it was Paul's ways that Timothy would remind them of. Timothy had been faithful to Paul's teachings.

Paul could not be in all of the churches at once that he had started. There was no one better to carry on the work that Paul had begun here than Timothy. Paul knew that he could trust Timothy to do it his way, and this is why he sent him.

1 Corinthians 4:18-21

Paul anticipated that not all would be moved by his appeal. It seems that some of the Corinthians thought that Paul just did not want to come there and minister and they were pouting about it. Paul could not come. Some, probably the unnamed party leaders (1Co_4:5) or guardians (1Co_4:15), were arrogant, which was the cause of the Corinthians’ division problem. Notice "if the Lord will". We are warned against saying that we will do a certain thing. We do not even know whether we will be living tomorrow, so we cannot say for sure that we will do something tomorrow. You can see from this that Paul did want to come back and minister to them as often as he could. He, in fact, came back to Corinth not long after he wrote the second letter to them.
They were arrogant, thinking they would never have to face Paul again. But, if God allowed, he was planning to see them soon. He would not let their proud sinning go unchallenged, for their own sake as well as the gospels. The reality of how much real spiritual power they had would become clear in that confrontation.
This is the first church Paul established, and he was very fond of the people. More than that, he felt responsible for their spiritual growth. He wanted to be sure that they were established on solid doctrine.

They might not be swayed by exhortation. They required action. And that, Paul knew he was capable of meting out in the power of the Spirit (Act_13:9-11). When he had preached to the Corinthians, he had not depended on his own ability but on the power of the Spirit (1Co_2:4-5). For a person to just say they are a Christian is not enough. The Christianity within us must bring results. If we are really a Christian, then we will be fruit bearers. Of course, the real power comes with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The reason for the Holy Spirit within a person is so that they might have the power to minister effectively. This is not the person's power, but the power of God working within them. He would rely on this same power for discipline (2Co_10:4-6). This was the authority of God’s rule (cf. Act_5:3-11). Though Paul loved the Corinthians he knew that a loving father did not shy away from discipline (cf. Heb_12:7). Paul is saying that he loves them very much as a parent does a child. Parents do not want to punish children, but sometimes it is necessary to help in their training. Paul is saying, here, that he prefers to teach them in a loving manner, but he will train them with force if it is necessary. Paul would rather teach them by example, and through his meekness, to turn them back to God.
Spiritual leaders need to use the rod of correction if people persist in sin. The pattern for that correction is illustrated and explained in chapter 5.
The message in this entire lesson seems to be one where a parent {in the spirit} is trying to save his child from much heartache. Paul loves them and wants them to know Christ in the way he knows Him.

If it were needed, he would wield a whip (rabdos, a “rod”). From the Greco-Roman point of view this “rod” was a symbol of discipline executed by one in authority. Paul himself had been punished by rods more than once (Act_16:22-23; 2Co_11:25). But he preferred a visit characterized by love and… a gentle spirit.
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