1 Corinthians 4
Paul tells the Corinthians it is right that they should look at him and the other apostles as servants of Christ and faithful stewards of the mysteries of God. They have a high calling from Jesus Himself, but they are merely workers for the mission of God; they are managers of the resources and gifts that are on loan to them.
But Paul knows this isn’t how Corinthians are viewing things; they are looking down at him, smug in their self-assessed spiritual superiority based on weak theology.
You see, Paul described himself as a spectacle to the world, subject to public ridicule, a humiliation, hungry, homeless, humbly dressed, laboring with his own hands, defamed, despised, accused, persecuted. The Corinthians certainly didn’t look up to or aspire to be Paul. They were not only prideful of their spirituality, but they were also embarrassed by Paul’s weak and humble state.
Paul admonishes this thinking. Everything good we have and do is from God alone. Judgment and reward are from God alone. And God sees the heart…what is hidden from man.
It isn’t smooth words, appearance, huge followings, entertainment factor, or marketing skills that count for the kingdom. It is God alone. Faithfulness to His Word. Everything we need to know is contained in the Scriptures. Paul reminds us to not go beyond what is written. How often do we see this to fit in, make the Word more culturally appealing, or try to increase followings? But God’s word is powerful. It leads to our growth. It is meant to be read and studied and discussed. And, it needs no adding to or subtracting from.
Are we embarrassed to be or follow one who doesn’t have a polished image with worldly success and power? Would we look down at one such as Paul – tattered clothes, drifter, hungry, working with his hands and ridiculed – even though they are anointed by God to carry His message? Paul is essentially telling the Corinthians, “Look at me…imitate me. Do you want to know how to follow Jesus? Look at how I am living my life. Sold out for Jesus. Utterly reliant on His power. Completely surrendered to His will. Unwaveringly devoted to sharing His message. Seeking approval from Him alone, regardless of man’s opinion. Committed to a life of obedience.” This is the life of a disciple.
When we forget to look to God’s Word and instead look inward or use the world as our standard of assessment, we take steps backward on the goal of conforming to the Gospel. The path we are on shifts in a wrong direction. The goal post gets moved. Being held in high honor and revered by man is not the end game. Adding to or subtracting from God’s Word is not our wheelhouse or authority. It only intensifies pride – the thing that keeps us and others from a deeper dependence on Jesus.
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