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Series Theme: FRAMEWORKS: Paul's FIRST letter to the Corinthians

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 FRAMEWORKS: 1 Corinthians 4

In this ‘Framework' we use our usual text PLUS comment style to enable you, as simply as possible, to catch the sense of his writing.

FRAMEWORKS: 1 Corinthians 4: Importance of Right Assessments


v.1-6 Beware making merely human assessments

v.7-13 The Realities of Apostolic Lives

v.14-21 Paul's Appeal and Warning


[Chapter Synopsis: In this final chapter in this first part, Paul appeals to the church to understand these things and simply view of them as servants of God who are directly answerable to God. He came with a father's heart for them, as he hoped Timothy would confirm when he came. The reality of the apostolic life was that they only came with what God gave them but from a human standpoint their ministry was often one of human weakness, oppositions and misunderstandings. He understood some had been outspoken against him but the reality would be seen when he hoped to return to them soon.]



v.1-6 Beware making merely human assessments


v.1 (I'll say it again, just see us as trusted servants) This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.

v.2 (such trusted ones must prove their worth and be faithful to their calling) Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.

v.3 (I'm not bothered by human assessments of me) I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.

v.4 (I'm in the clear and God judges me) My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.

v.5 (don't judge others; let God do that on Judgment Day when He will bring everything into the light) Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.

v.6 (I've spoken of myself and Apollos as I have so you won't make us more than we are) Now, brothers and sisters, 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 be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other.


[Passage Synopsis: God is the one who weighs up and assesses each one so don't judge anyone, leave it to God on Judgment Day. He's only spoken this way that they might learn.]



v.7-13 The Realities of Apostolic Lives


v.7 (each of us only has what God gives us) 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?

v.8 (for example, you have received so much from the Lord, although you've still got a long way to go!) Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign—and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you!

v.9  (I think we apostles mostly are displayed by God in our weakness) For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings.

v.10 (we aren't thought of us wise – like you! – and are mostly spoken against by many) We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonoured!

v.11 (we often live like beggars, we're so poor) To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless.

v.12,13 (we work hard to provide for ourselves and have to come up with Christlike responses when we are opposed and persecuted, we're nobodies!) 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. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.


[Passage Synopsis: The realities of being an apostle are displayed here: just God's servants who minister only what God gives them, often appearing as nobodies, spoken against, with lives full of uncertainties and oppositions, often hungry and thirsty and poor, having to be Christlike in the face of opposition.]



v.14-21 Paul's Appeal and Warning


v.14 (I'm writing like this simply to give you an inside view so you won't be judged by God) I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children.

v.15  (I come to you as a spiritual father) Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.

v.16  (please follow the example of my life) Therefore I urge you to imitate me.

v.17  (I'm sending Timothy to you and he'll tell you what I'm really like) For this reason I have sent 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.

v.18  (some are speaking haughtily while I'm not there) Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you.

v.19  (but I'm hoping to come soon, so we'll see how you are then) 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.

v.20  (this kingdom isn't about words but about God's power) For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.

v.21  (how would you like me to come to you?) What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit?


[Passage Synopsis: As Paul draws this first part to a close and gets ready to deal with various other items on his ‘agenda', he appeals to them to not think badly of him [implied] but to realise he speaks with the loving concerned heart of a father. Timothy will be coming soon and verify that this is how he feels for them. In the meantime he counsels them not to speak arrogantly about him because he is hoping to come again to them soon.]



RECAP-SUMMARY of Chapters 1 to 4


Because there is a unity within these first four chapters, it may be helpful to provide a review of what we have read:


1 Corinthians 1: Greetings & Warnings about Divisiveness & Spirit power

After greetings and thanksgiving for the church (both of which with hints at things to come in the letter) Paul chides the church for the reports he has been receiving of divisions in the church. The truth is that we are what we are because of the gospel which starts and finishes with the Cross, which in the eyes of the world may be foolish but in God's eyes is the way for salvation to be received.


1 Corinthians 2: Weakness and Wisdom in the Spirit

Picking up the thread of the foolishness and weakness of the Cross, Paul shares how he had come to them in great weakness and so it was only the power of the Spirit through his preaching that brought conviction and salvation. We thus live by the Spirit who brings us an understanding that the unbelieving world cannot receive.  


1 Corinthians 3: Leadership Favouritism Banned

Again, picking up the thread of division and disunity, Paul says this reveals their immaturity, in the way it so often focused on ‘celebrity following' favouritism. If they only realised the truth: the apostles were merely servants of God who ministered only with what God gave them and their lives were full of hardship, shortages, and misunderstandings. They were accountable to God as they ministered to build up the church, the temple of the Holy Spirit, and would be answerable to God for their results.


1 Corinthians 4: Importance of Right Assessments

To finalise this part he appeals to them to make right judgments about them. He came as their spiritual father with a caring heart which Timothy would confirm when he came. He was aware that some were brashly outspoken about him in his absence but warned he hoped to return soon so the difference between words and the power of the Spirit might be seen.



Continue to Chapter 5