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"Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen.
Revelation 22:20

This is a Home Bible study. It exists to promote the Word of God as it's written, which means nothing added or taken away, and minus opinions.

The Bible is the only source of Divine Truth in the world today. Although it is helpful and informative in many ways, the Bible might not tell us everything we want to know but the Bible does tell us everything we need to know.

My role is to guide you through the Scriptures; to explain what this book says and in some cases what it does not say because this is just as important.

Ultimately, you have a decision to make concerning your salvation - no one can make it for you. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator God, has given everyone the ability to make choices - this is is called "Free Will." I pray you consider your choice wisely.

II Timothy 2:15

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

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Friday, March 25, 2016

1 Corinthians (Lesson 17)

Home Bible Study©                                                                  Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
Established November 2008                                  (2 Timothy 2:15)
 www.2Tim215.Net                                                  {Published weekly on Friday}
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1Timothy 2:3-4

1 Corinthians                                                             (Lesson 17)

Welcome back.  I’m thankful that you are here and participating today.

Our Apostle Paul has been addressing the problem of factious leaders in the Corinthian church.  The people were advocating different leaders and were divided over leadership types and personalities.  Let’s not lose sight of the fact that they had also rejected Paul’s doctrine and his apostleship for this is going to be an ongoing problem.

He closes the first and most important section of his letter to the Corinthians by reasserting his apostolic authority (1:10 – 4:21).  At verse 14 Paul changes metaphors again appealing to the saints in Corinth as a loving father would to his children.  He ends chapter 4 with a word of warning saying; it’s their choice whether he visits them in the future with a rod of chastisement or a spirit of love and gentleness(Proverbs 3:11-12; Hebrews 12:6-11)                  


Please open your Bible at 1 Corinthians 4:14 and I’ll meet you there. 

1 Corinthians 4

14: I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 

Paul used sarcasm in verses 7-13 to show how vain these factious leaders were and to contrast them with the self-denying apostles.  Paul’s changes his approach at verse 14; we note that his use of the word beloved (v14) expresses both affection and respect for these same Corinthian saints.  It’s another way of saying it’s their worldly values, views, and their wrongful behavior that he finds undesirable and not them.

Paul uses the metaphor of child training to encourage them.  The Greek word for admonish is Noutheteo (pronounced:  noo-thet-eh’-o), a verb, and means: to warn; to give instruction.  Paul isn’t trying to humiliate them; far from it.  Paul is actually warning them, as a loving father would in hope that his children will see the error of their ways and make the necessary changes, a.k.a repent.

The definition of the word admonish also implies appeal and counseling and not punishment.  Paul is an encourager as most parents are and He writes to them as such. Paul is using the pen and not the paddle in appealing to their good judgment, after reprimanding them and instructing them in the way that they should go; and this conveys the confidence that not only can they change but they have the desire to do so. 

Let’s go to verse 15.

1 Corinthians 4

15: For if you were to have countless tutors (guides; supervisors, teachers) in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I (Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles) became your father through the gospel. 

The Greek word for tutors is Paidagogos (pronounced:  pahee-dag-o-gos’), a noun masculine, and it means – a guardian and a guide of boys; in the Greek and Roman culture, a trustworthy slave was charged with the duty of supervising the life and morals of boys belonging to the higher social class.  The boys were not permitted to step outdoors without them before arriving at the age of manhood. 

Here Paul uses the term tutors to express the idea that Apollos and Cephas are their tutors in Christ Jesus, while he is their spiritual father, (meaning he begot them spiritually) through the gospel… not a gospel; as if any gospel will do, but the one and only gospel by which you are saved today (Romans 2:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  The Corinthians had received it from Paul.  He delivered the good news to them.  So, in verse 15, Paul is actually saying, “I was the one God chose to bring you the gospel, in which you believed, and in that sense you’re my spiritual children.    

The Corinthians were on a precarious path, yet Paul was interacting with them as a loving father would.  He had already been a loving spiritual father to them as he had been to many others, for their sake.  Paul wrote these words to the Thessalonians:  just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12). 

The Corinthians had many tutors to be sure and each person was proud of their own and judged the others.  But Paul said you would not have many fathers.  Then he reminds them, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.  The King James Bible translator uses the phrase - I have begotten you through the gospel.  Both translations express the same meaning.

Some of these Corinthians came to believe the gospel through other tutors but it was Paul who brought the gospel to Corinth (Acts 18; 1 Corinthians 3:10).  All those who had heard Paul preach God’s good news and received it on faith, whatever city, town, or village that might have been, were especially dear to him, such as Onesimus, whom he calls his child:  I appeal to you my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment… (Philemon 10).

Let’s press on to verse 16.

1 Corinthians 4

16: Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me.

The word exhort doesn’t mean to threaten (do this or else) and it doesn’t mean to wag the accusing finger of shame at.  The Greek word is Parakaleo (pronounced:  Par-ak-al-eh’-o), a verb, and it means – to call to one’s side, to summon; to address, which may be done in a comforting manner; to entreaty.  Paul is being gentle; he’s not laying down the law.  With his pen, Paul’s taking them aside and saying, “Let’s talk about this, my child…” 
He’s also giving them a choice, when he entreaties them, the balls in their court, as they say.
He’s encouraging these folks to be imitators of him; it’s a choice.  It’s not Paul’s way or the highway.

So, what does Paul mean when he says, “be imitators of me?  I’m glad you asked.

Paul encourages Believers to imitate him several times in his letters to the churches.  No other writer of Scripture issues such a request.  Moses didn’t do it.  Not one of the major or minor prophets in the O.T. ever came close to saying it.  The only place you’ll see this exhortation is in Paul’s letters.  

The Lord Jesus Christ issued the command “Follow Me” (Matthew 19:21, 28; John 8:12, 12:26).  The Greek word for Follow is Akoloutheo (pronounced:  ak-ol-oo-theh’o), a verb, and it means – to follow one who precedes; accompany him.  This is the word Jesus Christ used most frequently.  Another word Jesus used was “come” (Matthew 4:19, 11:28; Mark 1:17).  But Paul doesn’t use either of these words because there’s a difference. 

To truly “follow” Jesus Christ means He has become everything to us; He’s our all in all.  Let me put it this way.  Everyone follows something:  family, friends, popular culture, selfish desires, or hopefully Jesus Christ.  But we can only follow one thing at a time (Matthew 6:24).  I liken this to a child’s game we used to play long ago called “Follow the Leader.”  There was one leader and the rest of us had to follow them doing whatever they did, hop, jump, skip, sing a song; whatever.  Get the picture?

God instructs us that we are to have no other Gods before Him (Exodus 20:3).  To truly follow Jesus Christ means we choose not to follow anything else.  Jesus said:  “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me (Luke 9:23).
One of the things this means is no half-hearted person can truly follow Christ Jesus. 
Jesus said you are to love God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind… (Luke 10:27).  One example not to follow would be the Pharisees.  They were trying to obey God in their own strength, meaning they lacked faith in what God had (said) written in the Scriptures.  Their self-effort led to arrogance and a total distortion and purpose of God’s perfect Law. (Matthew 15:8, 23:24; Luke 11:39)

During His ministry on earth, the Lord frequently encountered people with spiritual questions.  They wanted to know how to live their lives more fully, they wanted to know about death and eternal life, they wanted to know how to pray, how to worship God, how to understand the Scriptures, they wanted to experience God’s forgiveness for their sins; in short they wanted to connect with God.  Jesus said, “Follow Me.” 

This was an invitation from the Creator God Himself.  It was offered as an opportunity to learn from Jesus how to live a faith-filled life.  It was an opportunity to learn from the Master Himself; the author of the Scriptures.  Throughout His earthly ministry Jesus Christ demonstrated a passionate love for God the Father, He demonstrated empathy and mercy for the people, He was forgiving, and He was the consummate humble servant.  The altruistic life He lived stands as an example for us all. 

The characteristics He exhibited daily are qualities we should all cultivate.  But here’s the thing.  If you want to be the best at something or do something well, whether it’s a skill or a craft, what should you do?  You become someone’s apprentice, right?  You find a “master” or a professional, and you let them instruct you, and correct you, and then you basically “follow” in their footsteps.  This is how artists, athletes, craftsmen, and the like perfect their skills.  For example John Gruden, ESPN Sports Analyst, and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach and Super Bowl XXXVII winner in 2002, holds a quarterback camp annually in Tampa, Florida.  Last year he tutored Marcus Mariota, former Ducks QB, and Jameis Winston, former FS Seminoles QB.  The purpose:  to hone their football skills; to get them prepared for the scouting combine and the NFL draft.  They put their future careers in his knowledgeable hands; they became his apprentices.

But no one can truly follow Jesus on their willpower alone.  One more important element is needed.  Jesus gave His disciples the secret to faithfully following Him, but they didn’t recognize it at the time (John 6:63-65). 

Paul didn’t say, “Follow me;” he said, imitate me.  The Greek word for imitate is Mimetes (pronounced:  mim-ay-tace’), a noun masculine, and it means – an imitator.  We get our English word mimeograph (to copy something) from this Greek word.  Paul used the same term in his letter to the Ephesians at 5:1:  Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; while exhorting the Believers in Ephesus to be followers of God.  We find similar examples at: Philippians 3:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:9; 1 Corinthians 11:1; Galatians 4:12).

As I’ve been saying, Paul’s letters indicate he had to defend his apostleship constantly.  He was not one of the 12 original apostles.  No one made a mistake by not selecting him to fill Judas’ position, the one Matthias filled (Acts 1:21-2:26), so he wasn’t the 13th apostle.  He wasn’t even a follower of Jesus Christ in His earthly ministry.  Paul was called by the risen, glorified and ascended, Lord Jesus Christ, outside the borders of Israel, and commissioned as the apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9; Romans 11:13).  The other apostles were called by Jesus Christ within the borders of Israel to serve His lost sheep; the Jew only (Matthew 10; Acts 11:19; Romans 15:8), with a few Gentile exceptions, and that’s exactly what they were – exceptions (Rahab – Joshua 2; the citizens of Nineveh - Jonah 1-3; Matthew 8:5-13, 15:21-28, etc.). 

God separated Paul from the twelve (Galatians 1:12, 16-19) after his salvation.  Why?  God had a special plan for Paul.  The Lord Jesus Christ revealed secrets to Paul that had been kept hidden in the mind of God since before the foundations of the earth.  We took at look at these secrets (the Bible translators chose the word mysteries much to their chagrin) in lesson 15.  But because he was not one of the twelve and because Paul’s doctrines were completely unknown (downright foreign) to their ears (2 Peter 3:15-16), some Believers regarded him with contempt while others viewed him with suspicion. 

For example, in regard to salvation, concern and controversy arose over Paul’s gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  This finally came to a head in 51 AD at the Council in Jerusalem.
Believing Jews rejected Paul’s gospel to the Gentiles outright declaring that they had to be saved as the Jews were, meaning the Gentiles must be circumcised and they must keep the Mosaic Law (Acts 15:1, 5).  Paul rejected their arguments and all their objections.  Why?  Paul had received his gospel and doctrine directly from the Lord (Galatians 1:1, 11-12).  He wasn’t about to give in to the demands of the apostles and elders in Jerusalem.  He wasn’t going to let them overturn the teachings and commands of Christ Jesus, and we should give thanks daily that he had the courage to stand up to these prominent men.  During the meeting the Holy Spirit moved Peter to recall his encounter with Cornelius (Acts 10), and this permitted Paul to carry the day.  Because of Peter’s remark at this meeting this became a significant church event:  But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they (they meaning the Gentiles) also are (Acts 15:11).

The idea that Gentiles would be saved at all, let alone in the same manner as the Jews, was unthinkable at this time.  After that decision, Paul wrote the Galatian church:  But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! (Galatians 1:8-9)

In 1 Corinthians 4 Paul wrote that he should be regarded as a servant of Christ and a steward of the mysteries (secrets) of God.  He also defended his work as an apostle and reminded the Corinthians that while they may have countless tutors in Christ, you would not have many fathers.  They had one spiritual father in Christ Jesus and that was Paul.  Paul became their spiritual father through his proclamation of the gospel to them and their believing it (v15).  Because of this Paul exhorted them to imitate him. 

Many of you are parents, and you are aware that you’re children emulate (copy) your mannerisms and your speech.  For instance, the first word they learn is usually “no” and they learn it from you.  However, when Paul says, “be imitators of me” he’s not saying “Do as I do.”  He’s not holding his life and walk with the Lord up for all to see and saying, “See me and be me;” although this wouldn’t be a terrible thing, all things considered…  What he’s actually saying is they should follow his doctrine (1 Corinthians 3:10; Ephesians 3:2-7; Colossians 1:24-27). 

Now, I want to show you where we find this Truth, so please turn to 1 Corinthians 11:1-2 with me:  Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.  Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and (do what) hold firmly to the traditions (doctrines or teachings), just as I delivered them to you. 

Paul did ask the Believers to straighten up and “fly right” in his letters.  His command to the church in Thessalonica is an example of this (2 Thessalonians 3:7-9).  However, Paul’s primary concern was that every Believer hold firmly to the doctrine they had received from him because he received it from the Lord Jesus Christ.  The secrets Paul revealed to us are an exact copy of those Jesus Christ revealed to him.  This is what he means by stating he is an imitator of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).   

Let’s go to verse 17.

1 Corinthians 4

17: For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I (do what) teach everywhere in every church.

Timothy was converted on Paul’s first missionary journey and recruited as a helper on his second.  He became Paul’s trusted friend, companion, co-worker, and apostolic representative.  Sending Timothy to Corinth was a clear demonstration of Paul’s love and his deep concern for this church.  But he was concerned about how they would treat Timothy when he arrived there (1 Corinthians 16:10-11). 

When Paul speaks of his ways, he’s referring to his doctrines which he taught everywhere in every church.  Paul meant to emphasize that the Corinthian church had been given the same doctrine/teachings as all the other churches (14:33). They weren’t neglected and they weren’t special.  They didn’t have the right to be different, or start something totally fresh (1:2; 3:10). 

*There’s no biblical information which indicates that Timothy ever made this trip.

Let’s move on to verses 18-20.

1 Corinthians 4

18: Now some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you.

Paul has uses the word arrogant 3 times in this chapter (4:6, 18, 19) and continues to use it in his letters to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 5:2, 8:1, 13:4; 2 Corinthians 12:20).  Pride was a special problem for this church.  Some people were saying that Paul’s prolonged absence meant he had no intention of coming to Corinth because he didn’t care about this church.  However, Paul said:

19: But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power.

Paul returned to the churches he planted again and again (1 Corinthians 11:34, 16:6) and he wanted to visit Corinth soon, but his life was not his own and whose life is for that matter.  We can all add this phrase to our remarks just as he did:  if the Lord wills.  Paul had to seek and follow the Holy Spirit’s direction (Acts 18:21; 1 Corinthians 16:6-7; Romans 1:10, 15:32). 

20: For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power.

The false teachers were eloquent speakers but powerless in their results (Matthew 7).

Our Apostle Paul doesn’t use the phrase the kingdom of God as often as Jesus Christ did.  It refers to God’s reign in human hearts now that the Spirit of God dwells within them:  None of us lives for himself (or herself) only, none of us dies for himself (or herself) only (Romans 14:7); which will one day be consummated over all the earth as it is in heaven: may your kingdom come; may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).  Paul uses this phrase more in 1 Corinthians than any of his other letters (4:20, 6:9, 15:24, 50).  Paul did this because these Believers needed to know that they were part of a much larger Church agenda. 

does not consist in words but in power – Another way of saying this is:  Actions speak louder than words,” or “The proof’s in the pudding.”  The false teachers in this church are “puffed-up” (arrogant).  They are educated and they speak eloquently but there are crucial elements missing from their lives such as “humility” and “good deeds,” done in the spirit, and this makes them powerless.

I need to show you what this book says because I don’t want people saying this is Gary’s opinion or it’s my interpretation of Scripture.  Please turn with me to 1 Corinthians 8:1-3:  Now, concerning what you wrote about food offered to idols.  It is true, of course, that “all of us have (what) knowledge”, as they say.  Such knowledge, however, (does what) puffs a person up with pride, but love builds up.  Those who think they know something really don’t know as they ought to know.  But the person who loves God is known by Him.

In Corinth certain teachers were influencing the church by what they were saying.  We’ve seen in some of the previous Bible texts how this activity led to discord, disunity, and division.  But here’s the thing, just because you’re a gifted speaker, able to influence people with your words, doesn’t necessarily mean that you carry any real influence with God.  The kingdom of God is not merely knowledge and words.  The Apostle James writes in 1:22:  But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude (to persuade somebody to believe something that is untrue or unreal) themselves. 

Obedience should always be the net result of biblical preaching or Bible study.  To hear someone talk (or preach) without applying the teaching to our lives, to only fill our heads with knowledge, short-circuits God’s purpose in giving it. 

Paul said:  But the person who loves God is known by Him.

The Holy Spirit at Work

The Holy Spirit functions as the fruit-producer in the Believer’s life.  When He indwells us, He begins the work of harvesting His fruit in our lives – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). 
On our own we couldn’t produce fruit such as this; they are the products of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives.

This is the power Paul seeks on his return to Corinth:  is there evidence of power in the individual’s life to overcome sin; pride being one of these?  Is there power in the individual’s life to forgive others?  Is there power in the individual’s life to control anger, bitterness, envy, gossiping, and strife?  Just because an individual is talking the talk doesn’t mean he or she is walking the walk, which is the case here.  That is why Paul said when he comes to you soon, if the Lord wills, he will find out if these people, who refer themselves as leaders, are the right kind of leaders (Titus1:7-9). 

Let’s go to verse 21.

1 Corinthians 4

21: What do you desire?  Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness?

A loving father disciplines his children (Hebrews 12:6). 

The rod Paul speaks of here is a tutor’s stick (4:15).  When I was in Catholic school, the nun’s used a ruler.  One quick slap across the knuckles was all that was needed to get a student’s attention back on track.  Paul’s point is straightforward.  The church needed to decide whether he was to come to them as a disciplining father or a forgiving father.

(To be continued)

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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
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Friday, March 18, 2016

1 Corinthians (16)

Home Bible Study ©
Established November 2008
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
(2 Timothy 2:15)

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1Timothy 2:3-4

1 Corinthians                                                                 (Lesson 16)

Verses 6-13 contrast the proud Corinthian leaders and God’s true apostles


Please turn with me in your Bible to 1 Corinthians 4:6.

1 Corinthians 4

6: Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.

In verse 6 “these things refer back to Paul’s statements (2:5-6, 2:12, and 4:1-5) that there should be no groups formed in the church in their names.      

Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos - Paul applied two metaphors, regarding these things, to himself in chapter 3.

Figure #1:  God’s Field - I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth (3:6)

Figure #2:  God’s Building - like a wise master builder I laid a foundation and another  is building on it (3:10-11). 

Paul had brought the gospel, a.k.a. the good news of Jesus Christ crucified to Corinth (Acts 18).  He taught them only that which the risen Lord had given him as His apostle.  It was this gospel that the people of Corinth had heard and believed.  Later, Apollos came to Corinth and watered or continued building on the Foundation Paul had lain.  But now, the Corinthians were deviating from the purity of Paul’s gospel and laying other foundations – not of Jesus Christ.  This behavior would serve only to destroy God’s temple. 

Paul said, and I’m paraphrasing here, I did thisfor your sakes.”  Paul was genuinely concerned about their spiritual well-being.  After his figurative writing, he warned these carnal Corinthians about their conduct within the church:  each man (or woman) must be careful how he (or she) builds on it (the Foundation which Paul had laid) – (3:10), For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ (3:11), “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you (3:16)?,  To this Paul added, If any man (or woman) destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him (or her) (3:17). 

The Corinthian leaders were introducing their own doctrines, opinions, and personal philosophies into the church and encouraging division.  They weren’t building on the one true Foundation, and were destroying God’s temple.  They weren’t in danger of losing their salvation.  But we know God doesn’t ignore sinful behavior.  God isn’t going to sit back and watch people destroy His temple (the church).  God destroys them.  He does this by excommunicating the troublemaker from the body, causing them to become sickly, weak, or even die.  Then at the Judgment Seat of Christ they suffer loss of rewards. 

Paul was giving them a “heads-up:”  so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.

Paul called the Corinthians arrogant because of their attitude concerning what God had said or as he put it, “what is written.”  Paul quoted 5 Old Testament Scriptures in the previous 3 chapters because these Bible passages speak of limiting human pride and for trusting in God alone.  These folks are arrogant because instead of trusting in God and what had been written they put their trust in certain men and their words.    

Paul wanted the brethren at Corinth to know that they were not to exceed what is written.  The things written refer to the revelation of God.  All the Truths contained in His Word that He wanted us to know, understand, and obey.  As soon as these inspired truths or messages were written down they were trustworthy and viewed as Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16).  To live by faith was to live according to the revealed message of God, whether by the spoken words of God’s apostles or by their written teachings (letters). 

A verse just came to mind, so you know we’re going to track it down.  Please follow me to Matthew 15.  What we’ll find is something similar to the situation in Corinth.  To set the scene for you, the Pharisee’s had invented their own religious system of law.  Their characteristic teachings included belief in oral as well as the written Law; expanding on the Law of Moses, putting themselves in his seat if you will.  Their laws became priority over the Law written in Scripture, or God’s commandments, and they considered themselves as righteous because of their obedience to their own man-made laws.  Of course Jesus rebuked this behavior saying, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? (Matthew 15:1-9)  Jesus explained that they had replaced Moses Law (God’s commandments) by their traditions enforcing people to obey the traditions of men, specifically the elders (Mark 7).

Our Apostle Paul explains in Romans 9:30-32 that even the Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness, attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law.   Why not?  Because they did not seek it by believing in what God had said – they sought it through the works of the law instead (Romans 10:3-4). 

In so doing, They stumbled over the stumbling stone (v32).  Just as it is written, “BEHOLD, I LAW IN ZION A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” (v33)  Jesus came to fulfill all righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).  As Believers, our righteousness comes from Jesus Christ; it is imputed to us by what He accomplished on the cross. 

To exceed what is written demonstrates faithless arrogance in light of the truths God has caused to be written i.e. Scripture (Hebrews 11:6).

A phrase well worth remembering is this, “We speak where the Bible speaks, and we are silent where the Bible is silent.  In short, this means we say and teach only those things authorized by the Scriptures.  We accept the Bible as accurate, complete, and true.  We do not add to it and we do not remove anything from it (2 Timothy 3:16-17). 

So that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.  The prideful Corinthians disrespected Paul’s apostleship and his doctrine.  Paul wanted them to know, if they would only “keep it between the lines,” i.e. God’s predetermined boundaries, and discard the human wisdom which they loved, reign in their run-a-way pride, and fully embrace his teachings the divisions would no longer exist; there would be true unity in Christ Jesus, and God’s Church would be built according to His design. 

Let’s go to verse 7.

These Corinthian Believers “felt” puffed-up because they had chosen to follow a particular leader, Apollos, Paul, or Cephas, whichever the case may be, and because of their choice this marked them as particularly intellectual or more spiritual than someone else in the church.  Paul’s response to this behavior was: who regards you as superior?

1 Corinthians 4

7: For who regards you as superior (to another)?  What do you have that you did not receive?  And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? 

Here Paul asks three rhetorical questions which contain the word receive; all three questions are intended to shrink their elevated egos.  In effect Paul is saying all that they are, all that they possess, is God-given.  So, Paul says, and again I’m paraphrasing, “You obviously feel that your brains are superior as are your powers of perception.  But, who made your brain and keeps it healthy?  Who gave you these powers of perception?  Everything you boast about you received from the Creator God.  Why then are you robbing God of His glory?” 

Paul wants these folks to understand that the reason why one person differs from another can be traced to God’s good Grace; He is the source of all blessings. 

Let’s go to verse 8.   

1 Corinthians 4

8: You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us; and indeed, I wish (the word wish expresses doubt that the following comment is true; Paul knows these folks need to make some changes) that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you. 

You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us - Paul drives his point home with more than a little bit of sarcasm.  Sarcasm appears in Scripture and shows us that there may be occasions when irony is proper and useful, but it is rare.  One example comes quickly to mind concerning the priests of Baal (1 Kings 18:27).  In contrasting the factious leaders with God’s apostles, Paul is saying you have all you need, and are great leaders.  You don’t need our advice. You alone are capable of managing the affairs of the Corinthian Church… not!

But then his attitude changes abruptly and he addresses them in a sincere manner:  and indeed, I wish that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you.  Here Paul is saying, “I wish you were as noble and as righteous as you imagine yourselves to be.  I wish you had matured so much spiritually that you could truly be represented as full, as rich, and as princes in God’s kingdom, that we might share this joy with you.” 

Paul had a heart for every Believer in every church he planted.

Let’s move on to verses 9-10.

1 Corinthians 4

9: For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.

Our Apostle Paul was evidently alluding to the great Roman victory marches in which the conquering general returned victorious from a war, entering the city of Rome leading a triumphant procession.  His soldiers came carrying the riches and wealth of the conquered kingdom, the captives followed after for the public witnesses to gawk at, and trailing far behind, paraded in chains before the entire city, came the criminals who had been condemned to death - to indulge the brutal passions of the populace in the Coliseum.  They would be a spectacle to the world.  Thus, he, Apollos, and Cephas were made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. 

10: We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor.

Verse 10 is meant to be ironical.  The Corinthian Church (or the world) considered Apollos, Cephas, and Paul as fools, weak, and without honor; while it viewed their leaders as prudent, strong, and distinguished. 

Paul was used to being rejected, ridiculed, and stereotyped.  If you’ll turn with me to Acts chapter 17, I’ll show you an example of this behavior.  This is the account of Paul’s visit to Athens, Greece during his second missionary journey.  This scene takes place on Mars Hill, an important meeting place where philosophy, religion and the law were discussed by prominent men.  Let’s begin at verse 16:  Now while Paul was waiting for them (Silas and Timothy) at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols.  (Read verses 17-21 on your own; for the sake of time we’re going to drop down to verse 22).  So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus (Mars Hill) and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects.  For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’  Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you…

Paul goes on to present one of his most important gospel presentations in the N.T.  It is a classic example of apologetics in action.  Paul began his message by addressing the false beliefs of those gathered there that day and then used those beliefs as a way of presenting God’s Gospel to them.  Paul received varied responses from those in attendance.  Some believed and were saved.  Many mocked him, called him a “babbler,” and rejected both him and his message, while others were open-minded desiring to hear more (v23-34).

The faithful followers of Jesus Christ will often bear dishonor, while the unfaithful and the unbelieving shine as stars in the heavens, before the unthinking multitudes…

Let’s move on to verses 11-13 where Paul continues to contrast himself and the other apostles with the Corinthians who were so filled with pride that they had lost sight of what it really meant to be a follower of Jesus Christ. 

1 Corinthians 4

11: To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless;

12: and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure;

13: when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.

Looking at verses 11-12a first of all, Paul reminds these Corinthians, “Do you not remember the days when I first came to you and the persecution was great; that I labored among you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, my life in jeopardy daily (1 Corinthians 2:3); and that I worked at making tentswith my own handsto make ends meet (Acts 18)?  The Corinthians should have supported him financially out of love and respect during that time period.  But to their shame, while he labored and suffered for the gospel, they boasted.  While he was roughly treated and considered the scum of the earth by far too many, even until now, the Corinthians lived the life of the privileged and were not the least bit ashamed, in fact they boasted.    

Paul wanted them to remember because the life of a servant of Christ is not that of the privileged class; far be it.  In the world’s eyes, God’s servants are the lowest of the low, i.e. scum.  There is a reason for this of course.  To be counted as a servant of Christ or a Believer for that matter “goes against the grain;” it runs contrary to all that which the world holds desirable.  The world honors those who are independent, noble, and strong.  But this book says that God honors the foolish, the nobodies, and the weak things of the world – all those who trust in Him. 

Paul’s motivation for presenting himself and the others in such a lowly manner was to expose the manner in which the Corinthians had lifted themselves up or their boasting.  Because of this, Paul gets right to the root of the problem, which is pride.  Conceit is the root of most spiritual problems in the church and in the world.  It was pride that caused sin to enter God’s perfect Garden of Eden.  It caused Cain to murder his brother Abel.  It was evident in Saul’s persecution of David.  It was also discernible in the Pharisees’ hatred and rejection of Jesus Christ… the Bible is filled with parallel examples.    

In verses 12b-13, Paul is saying one of the ways you can know that you are a true servant of Christ, a Believer,  is how you respond when you are treated like one:  when we are reviled (despised), we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate (make peace)

The apostles were treated as scum, the refuse that remained after a black pot was thoroughly cleansed, and like filth (KJV) by this world (this is the same thing your vacuum cleaner picks up or your broom sweeps into the dust bin and then is thrown away).   But they didn’t mimic their attackers or the world.  They rose above the situation, remembering who they were, His servants, stewards of the mysteries (secrets) of God; and ultimately they were serving Him.  (Colossians 3:23)    

(To be continued)

[Published weekly on Friday]

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