1 Corinthians 3–4: Strife & Arrogance

Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 10: Sunday

For who regards you as superior? 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?
1 Corinthians 4:7

In Sunday’s Bible reading of 1 Corinthians 3–4, Paul continues to address a church that is impressed by all the wrong things. There is jealousy and strife as they compete from an arrogant desire to be superior to one another—hearing the Gospel from the “best” or being one of the “wise” of this world. Paul brings them back to reality with this piercing contrast between the other apostles and the Corinthians:

“For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.”
1 Corinthians 4:9–13 ESV

How would you like to get a letter with these words in it from Paul? Well, we have! The Corinthians needed to pay attention as do we.

As I read this I thought of the last three Saturdays’ readings in Matthew, and Jesus’ frequent contrasts of greatness in the eyes of the world with greatness in the eyes of God. Look back at Matthew 18, Matthew 20 and Matthew 23.

“But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”
Matthew 23:11–12

The Corinthians were taking their values from their culture with disastrous results. We need to make sure we don’t do the same. Paul, in his great love for this petulant group of squabblers, says:

“I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me.”
1 Corinthians 4:14–16

Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
ESV: English Standard Version

Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter

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