Dr. Lawrence Butler, The Bridge Church, Pembroke.
This correction should have been listed as number 3 since chronologically it is addressed in chapter 4. However, it is now my intention to place it in this location instead.
The need pointed out in this section really affects the hearts of the Corinthian people and lays the foundation for many of their problems. It could have been number 1 on the list.
The problem being presented in chapter 4 is that of a real lack of humility. (Pro 16:18) “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” The problem: Paul points out that the division in the church over preachers was the result of not understanding the Lord and His method of operation. Paul points out that we don’t have a full understanding of people and the working of God so we should not judge things as if we fully knew everything. He states that he did not want them to think more highly of anyone, not even the preachers, than they should. Yet for some reason they believed themselves more capable of passing judgment than they should have.
Paul even accused them of acting as if they were kings. (1Co 4:8) “ Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us…” He reminded them they had nothing that was not received by them. In other words, they had created nothing. They were just humans, and carnal ones at that. The response: Paul pointed out that even the apostles were “set forth last” (4:9), meaning that they were God’s leaders for the church, and yet received the least amount of honor, while suffering more than almost anyone.
Verse 11 says they were “buffeted,” a word normally used for beating a slave. Verse 12 says they were “reviled.” Aristotle said the highest virtue is the quality which will not endure insult. Paul has a totally different point of view. There is nothing greater that a man can do than suffer for the cause of Christ. The Corinthians needed to learn to think less of themselves, and their opinions, and more about the work of the Lord and how He humbled Himself to did on a cross for us.
Our lesson: The point of this rebuke to the church was to show them the importance of following Christ and not debating among themselves. Their arguments only revealed their pride. He urged them to follow his example (v.16). The apostles were treated as filth and offscouring (v. 13), but were happy to be servants of Christ. They sought to please the Lord, not the praise of men.