“So then, no more boasting about men!”
1 Corinthians 4:1-21
What is the measure of a person? I had a professor in
college to tell his class that it wasn’t always the brightest student
academic student that was the most successful preacher. The standards by
which we measure ourselves are not always accurate. We may want to measure
others by their past. We are like those in the first century that
questioned, “What good thing can come out of Nazareth?”
We tend to measure others by their accomplishments,
achievements, success, prosperity, social status, by their past and by our
opinions of them. We measure others by our preferences and prejudices.
These types of measurement lead to boasting. This was the problem in
Corinth as they sought to judge others by the wisdom of this world. The
wisdom of this world leads to worldly boasting. Paul concludes chapter 3
saying, “So then, no more boasting about men!” Paul’s
discussion of boasting continues in chapter 4. In these verses Paul
reveals how to judge and how not to judge.
1 Corinthians 4:1-5
“So then, men ought
to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret
things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust
must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any
human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear,
but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.
Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord
comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose
the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise
from God” (NIV).
We Are to Be Regarded As Servants
We tend to judge others by what we see with our
eyes. However, things are not always as they appear to be. How
often do we take credit for something that others deserve the credit for?
Paul wasn’t about to take credit for what Christ had done. He wanted the
Corinthians to know that the wisdom he preached came from God and that he
was only a servant entrusted with the message. It was his duty to be
faithful with the message entrusted to him. He made no boast of superior
knowledge or wisdom. He was simply a servant of Christ. Paul was
constantly introducing himself as a servant of Christ. This kept his focus
Servant hood in the ancient world was much different
than in the days of the caste system. An example of the kind of servant
Paul was to Christ is illustrated by Abraham’s relationship to his
“Abraham was now old and well advanced in years, and
the LORD had blessed him in every way. He said to the chief servant in his
household, the one in charge of all that he had, ‘Put your hand under my
thigh. I want you to swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of
earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the
Canaanites, among whom I am living, but will go to my country and my own
relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac" (NIV).
Then the servant took
ten of his master's camels and left, taking with him all kinds of good
things from his master. He set out for Aram Naharaim and made his way to
the town of Nahor. He had the camels kneel down near the well outside the
town; it was toward evening, the time the women go out to draw water.
“Then he prayed, ‘O
LORD, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness
to my master Abraham. See, I am standing beside this spring, and the
daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. May it be that
when I say to a girl, 'Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,'
and she says, 'Drink, and I'll water your camels too'--let her be the one
you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have
shown kindness to my master" (NIV).
In Genesis 15 we learn that the name of Abraham’s
servant was Eliezer of Damascus. There we also begin to realize the
prestige of such a faithful servant in the eyes of his master. In parts of
the world where servant hood is reduced to being little more than an
animal, it is hard to understand the prestige of servant hood. In the
ancient world the servant would have the rights of inheritance.
“But Abram said, ‘O
Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one
who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘You
have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir’"
This brief account of Abraham and his servant gives
us a touching account of a faithful servant seeking to carry out his
master’s will. He understood the need to be faithful to his master. He
sought the Lord’s help to carry out the will of his master. I believe this
exemplifies how Paul saw himself in relation to Christ.
Paul writes, “Now it is required that those who
have been given a trust must prove faithful.” We are not to be
judged by our popularity but by our faithfulness to God’s word. The
servant of Abraham owned nothing, but he was judged by how faithful he was
to his master. So it is with each Christian.
“‘Whoever can be
trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is
dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you
have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you
with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's
property, who will give you property of your own?
"’No servant can
serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he
will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both
God and Money.’
The Pharisees, who
loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them,
‘You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows
your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's
We live in an age of corporate corruption. Enron has
just collapsed leaving its shareholder’s pockets empty. Those chief
executives may feel high and might in their ivory tower offices, but they
fail to remember that they are the servants of those whose pockets they
emptied. They are realizing this, but it is too late for those they
Be very careful,
then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every
opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but
understand what the Lord's will is (NIV).
Joseph understood what the will of the Lord
was as he was faithful to the little things and because of this he was
entrusted with much. His faithfulness to his trust proved valuable
to the survival of his family. Joseph as a servant of Potiphar, the
Pharaoh of Egypt, was entrusted with all the treasures of Egypt.
Initially, there was no glory for Joseph as a prisoner and slave, but
being faithful in every circumstance made it possible for God to place him
in a powerful position to save God’s people and to bring about the promise
God made to Abraham.
A wise servant may not please those of his own
household, he may not please his fellow servants; but if he/she pleases
their own master, this is a good servant.
We Are To Be Judged As God’s Servants
It doesn’t matter how faithful you are or how
hard you are working you are constantly being judged. Paul handled
criticism better than most of us. Paul considered the source of the
criticism. Did it come from a human perspective or was it unjustified.
Consider the source. Is it from someone that has a bad attitude? Is it
from someone who is qualified to pass judgment? Does it originate from the
mature or immature?
Passing harsh judgment upon anyone is forbidden
because there are so many things that make up a person’s character.
There are so many secret failures and motives, which are concealed from us
that it is impossible to do so accurately.
Our judgment is always flawed by who we are.
"’Do not judge, or
you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be
judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
"’Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your
brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can
you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all
the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the
plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the
speck from your brother's eye.
“’Do not give dogs
what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may
trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces’” (NIV).
Our judgment is always flawed because of our
ability to truly know ourselves. We may be blinded by our own
strengths or weaknesses. Paul didn’t feel adequate to fully know and judge
1 Corinthians 4:2-4
I care very little if
I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge
myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is
the Lord who judges me” (NIV).
rest assured that God’s judgment will bring the hidden motives of others
“For the word of God
is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates
even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the
thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden
from God's sight Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of
him to whom we must give account” (NIV).
1 Timothy 5:24-25
“The sins of some men
are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of
others trail behind them. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and
even those that are not cannot be hidden” (NIV).
So much human judgment revolves around tearing
others down while trying to build ourselves up. This is how our
modern world promotes itself. Many in the church tear preachers down to
build their favorite preachers up. The key test is has the person been
faithful to the Word of God. Not just faithful in preaching but also
faithful in practicing it as well. Remember just because a person gives
their body to be burned doesn’t always prove that it came from a sincere
heart (1 Corinthians 13).
1 Corinthians 4:5-7
nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring
to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's
hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.
“Now, brothers, I
have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that
you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, ‘Do not go beyond what is
written.’ Then you will not take pride in one man over against another.
For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you
did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you
did not?” (NIV).
Refusing to think soberly about others and
ourselves always blinds us to our God given potential as a church.
It is evident in the
following verses that our potential is given to us by God.
“For by the grace given me I say to
every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but
rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the
measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one
body with many members, and these members do not all have the same
function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member
belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace
given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to
his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him
teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to
the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him
govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully” (NIV).
recognized that what he had came from the Father.
"All things have been committed to
me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows
the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him”
We Are God’s
Spectacle in Procession
make a spectacle of yourself; you are God’s spectacle.
My dad used to say; “I wish I could buy him for what he is worth and then
sell him for what he thinks he is worth. I would be a rich man.” Paul was
writing to those who had made themselves kings in their own minds.
Sarcastically, he says, “I wish we could become kings with you.”
1 Corinthians 4:8-13
Already you have all you want!
Already you have become rich! You have become kings-and that without us!
How I wish that you really had become kings so that we might be kings with
you! For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end
of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been
made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. We
are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you
are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go
hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are
homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless;
when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer
kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse
of the world” (NIV)
In loving sarcasm Paul writes, “How I wish that
you really had become kings so that we might be kings with you!”
Those who love exalted places in the hierarchy of things, usually look
down on others. However, Paul was grateful that in the eyes of the world
he was considered scum, so that the world could catch a glimpse God’s
possibility for those considered the scum of the earth. Paul’s
encouragement came from knowing God was using Paul’s personal weaknesses
to display Divine wisdom and power. His focus was upon what God was doing
through him to reveal his glory to the universe as men and angels beheld
the spread of the gospel.
Too often, our assets become our liabilities.
This is especially true if we fail to see our assets as something given to
us by God. What do you have that you haven’t received from God.
1 Corinthians 4:6-7
“For who makes you different from
anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did
receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (NIV).
When we seek the honor that comes from others we are forced to do
what others expect us to do in order to fit their idea of greatness.
This forces us to use what God has given to us for our own glory.
The factions in the church at Corinth were proud of their
spiritual achievements. They were proud of their human leaders and
How often do we take pride in who we know? It is a way we
try to share in the glory others have achieved for themselves. I call it
vicariously Living. This is
when we seek to take part in the experience or feelings of others without
having the experiences ourselves. We may read about mountain climbing and
experience the vicarious thrills. We undergo the thrills as if we were
taking part in and experiencing the feelings of victory or defeat. It ends
up a fantasy world.
Paul sought to model the kind of life each of us must live. His model was
based upon God’s vindication rather than human exaltation.
1 Corinthians 4:10-13
“We are fools for Christ, but you
are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored,
we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in
rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own
hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it;
when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become
the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world” (NIV)
Paul is describing how the world treated him. His greatness came from his
willingness to suffer the reproach of the world. Very few are willing to
do this today. We get our feelings hurt and we are gone. We look for
another church. This type of Christianity is no Christianity at all. When
Paul was persecuted he did not seek to retaliate.
Paul was willing to work with his own hands to support himself; this
proved his willingness to suffer for others. He defended a preacher’s
right to be paid, but he chose not to exercise his rights. He suffered his
hardships without placing them upon others.
2 Corinthians 4:1-7
“Therefore, since through God's mercy we
have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret
and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of
God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend
ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our
gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this
age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the
light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For
we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as
your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, "Let light shine out of
darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the
knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
“But we have this treasure in jars of
clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (NIV).
A sign of a faithful teacher is one who puts the needs of those
taught ahead of their own. Samuel serves as an example as one who
served faithfully but was willing to step aside at God’s command. He
understood his place as a servant. In fact God told Samuel that Israel had
not rejected Samuel leadership as Judge of Israel, but they had rejected
God (1 Samuel 8:7). When the Corinthians rejected Paul, in essence they
were rejecting God, for Paul was God’s messenger.
1 Samuel 12:1-5
“Samuel said to all Israel, ‘I have
listened to everything you said to me and have set a king over you. Now
you have a king as your leader. As for me, I am old and gray, and my sons
are here with you. I have been your leader from my youth until this day.
Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the LORD and his
anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I
cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to
make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these, I will make it right.’
"’You have not cheated or oppressed us,’
they replied. ‘You have not taken anything from anyone's hand.’
Samuel said to them, ‘The LORD is witness
against you, and also his anointed is witness this day, that you have not
found anything in my hand.’
"’He is witness,’ they said.” (NIV).
We see that Samuel and Paul refused to take their rejection personal. They
knew that it was a matter of rejecting God. This made it much easier for
them to face the problem boldly as they sought resolution. The thing that
made the solution much easier was knowing that they had not taken
advantage of the situation they found themselves in.
Many of the teachers at Corinth had become arrogant, but not so with Paul.
Paul was like their father. What father doesn’t want his children to do
better than he has done? What a loving way to seek to overcome their
1 Corinthians 4:14-21
“I am not writing this to shame you, but
to warn you, as my dear children. Even though you have ten thousand
guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I
became your father through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you to imitate
me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who
is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ
Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.
“Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were
not coming to you. But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is
willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are
talking, but what power they have. For the kingdom of God is not a matter
of talk but of power. What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a whip,
or in love and with a gentle spirit?” (NIV).
There was a spiritual pride in Corinth preventing the church from
experiencing the power of God. The kingdom of God does not come in talk
but in the power of God. We receive the enabling power of God when we come
before him in humility rather than arrogance.
When in arrogance we refuse to accept the message of the Lord through
rejection of the messenger of the Lord, we must look forward to the day
God will come in judgment upon us.
Have you ever noticed the attitude of adolescence youngsters who are
experiencing newfound freedoms? They often become haughty. It is the kind
of pride that often accompanies newfound freedom. Their newfound freedoms
are often flaunted before others.
It is possible in the spiritual realm to flaunt our newly acquired
knowledge as we look down our noses at others. We do this as we place one
teacher over another.
An adolescent church was in danger of suffering discipline God.