God’s Saving Word: Wisdom
1 Corinthians 4:1-21: Paul describes himself and other apostles as “Christ’s servants,” and he describes the work of apostles as faithful servants of Christ. Paul exhorts the Corinthians not to pass judgment on others and to wait until the Lord returns, at which time final judgment will occur. The passage concludes with Paul stating that he is sending Timonthy, a co-worker in Christ, to visit the Corinthians and to carry on the teachings Paul had begun.
Apostles of Christ
4 You should think of us as Christ’s servants, who have been put in charge of God’s secret truths. 2 The one thing required of such servants is that they be faithful to their master. 3 Now, I am not at all concerned about being judged by you or by any human standard; I don’t even pass judgment on myself. 4 My conscience is clear, but that does not prove that I am really innocent. The Lord is the one who passes judgment on me. 5 So you should not pass judgment on anyone before the right time comes. Final judgment must wait until the Lord comes; he will bring to light the dark secrets and expose the hidden purposes of people’s minds. And then all will receive from God the praise they deserve.
6 For your sake, my friends, I have applied all this to Apollos and me, using the two of us as an example, so that you may learn what the saying means, “Observe the proper rules.” None of you should be proud of one person and despise another. 7 Who made you superior to others? Didn’t God give you everything you have? Well, then, how can you boast, as if what you have were not a gift?
8 Do you already have everything you need? Are you already rich? Have you become kings, even though we are not? Well, I wish you really were kings, so that we could be kings together with you. 9 For it seems to me that God has given the very last place to us apostles, like people condemned to die in public as a spectacle for the whole world of angels and of human beings. 10 For Christ’s sake we are fools; but you are wise in union with Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! We are despised, but you are honored! 11 To this very moment we go hungry and thirsty; we are clothed in rags; we are beaten; we wander from place to place; 12 we wear ourselves out with hard work. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; 13 when we are insulted, we answer back with kind words. We are no more than this world’s garbage; we are the scum of the earth to this very moment!
14 I write this to you, not because I want to make you feel ashamed, but to instruct you as my own dear children. 15 For even if you have ten thousand guardians in your Christian life, you have only one father. For in your life in union with Christ Jesus I have become your father by bringing the Good News to you. 16 I beg you, then, to follow my example. 17 For this purpose I am sending to you Timothy, who is my own dear and faithful son in the Christian life. He will remind you of the principles which I follow in the new life in union with Christ Jesus and which I teach in all the churches everywhere.
18 Some of you have become proud because you have thought that I would not be coming to visit you. 19 If the Lord is willing, however, I will come to you soon, and then I will find out for myself the power which these proud people have, and not just what they say. 20 For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of words but of power. 21 Which do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a whip, or in a spirit of love and gentleness?
Today’s Key Verse: 1 Corinthians 4:20
For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of words but of power.
Paul tells the Corinthians to think of him and the other apostles as “Christ’s servants.” What is required of a servant of Christ (verse 2)? What does being a servant of Christ mean to you? Reread verses 9-13. How does Paul describe the work of apostles? What were your thoughts as you read these verses? What words of encouragement can be gleaned from these verses? Based on verse 20, how might these words have strengthened Paul to continue preaching about Christ given the hardships he endured as “Christ’s servant?” How might these words strengthen you in your faith?
Lord Jesus, teach me to be your servant as I seek to follow the principles of your teachings and live in union with you. In faith I believe that the Kingdom of God is not a matter of words but of power, and I pledge my obedience and loyalty to you. Amen.
Psalm 14: From heaven, the LORD sees human wickedness.