1 Corinthians 4:8-13 ~ 20130825 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
08/25 1 Corinthians 4:8-13 The Cross Before the Crown! Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130825_1cor4_8-13.mp3
8 Ἤδη κεκορεσμένοι ἐστέ, ἤδη ἐπλουτήσατε, χωρὶς ἡμῶν ἐβασιλεύσατε· καὶ ὄφελόν γε ἐβασιλεύσατε, ἵνα καὶ ἡμεῖς ὑμῖν συμβασιλεύσωμεν. 9 δοκῶ γάρ, ὁ θεὸς ἡμᾶς τοὺς ἀποστόλους ἐσχάτους ἀπέδειξεν ὡς ἐπιθανατίους, ὅτι θέατρον ἐγενήθημεν τῷ κόσμῳ καὶ ἀγγέλοις καὶ ἀνθρώποις. 10 ἡμεῖς μωροὶ διὰ Χριστόν, ὑμεῖς δὲ φρόνιμοι ἐν Χριστῷ· ἡμεῖς ἀσθενεῖς, ὑμεῖς δὲ ἰσχυροί· ὑμεῖς ἔνδοξοι, ἡμεῖς δὲ ἄτιμοι. 11 ἄχρι τῆς ἄρτι ὥρας καὶ πεινῶμεν καὶ διψῶμεν καὶ γυμνιτεύομεν καὶ κολαφιζόμεθα καὶ ἀστατοῦμεν 12 καὶ κοπιῶμεν ἐργαζόμενοι ταῖς ἰδίαις χερσίν· λοιδορούμενοι εὐλογοῦμεν, διωκόμενοι ἀνεχόμεθα, 13 δυσφημούμενοι παρακαλοῦμεν· ὡς περικαθάρματα τοῦ κόσμου ἐγενήθημεν, πάντων περίψημα ἕως ἄρτι.
1Cor 4 [ESV2011]
6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?
8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! 9 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. 10 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. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.
Paul has brought the Corinthians back to the simple message of the gospel, the foolish message of the cross, the message of Jesus Christ and him crucified for sinners.
He is addressing spiritual pride. He is calling them back to gospel centered humility.
Paul has held himself up as an example of what Christian leadership should look like; he is a field-hand planting and watering seed; a builder constructing a building on the one foundation, an under-rower, propelling the ship forward under the direction of the one Captain. He has used the Scripture to warn them not to go beyond what is written, because all of Scripture demonstrates the folly of human pride. God promises to destroy the wisdom of the wise (1:19; Is.29:14). The only boasting that is appropriate is boasting in the Lord (1:31; Jer.9:24). God's salvation is beyond what the heart of man could possibly imagine (2:9; Is.64:4). No one understands the mind of the Lord (2:16; Is.40:13). The wisdom of this world is folly with God (3:19-20; Job5:13; Ps.94:11). He invites them to consider what they have that they did not receive. Everything, absolutely everything, every singe thing that they have is a gift, by grace, and it is totally inappropriate, arrogant, ungrateful, and rude to boast in something you have received as if you did not receive it.
Now he uses sharp sarcasm and irony to drive his point home. We might be surprised to see the apostle using sarcasm. Many of us have been taught that sarcasm is sin. Here we find biting sarcasm in God's inspired Scripture. So when is sarcasm appropriate, and when is sarcasm sin? Charles Hodge, principal of Princeton Theological Seminary from 1851 to 1878, has some very helpful comments on this subject.
In this instance, the quarreling and boasting of the Corinthians was both wicked and foolish, and the desire of the apostle was not to crush, but to bring repentance and restoration, so he employs the most biting sarcasm to wake them from their foolishness and bring about a repentant humility.
Three inappropriate attitudes for the present age
First, he sarcastically lists three attitudes that are inappropriate for the present age.
The Corinthians act as if they are already satisfied, rich and reigning. These are not bad things for a believer to look forward to, but the fact that the Corinthians felt they already possessed them revealed a deep flaw in their understanding of Christian doctrine and what it means to follow Jesus. Many Christians today share their misunderstanding. Jesus came proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, that he is the King. Jesus paid for our sins, defeated the devil, rose from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of his Father on high. He is the rightful King of the universe. We as his followers are adopted into his family, so that means that we are co-heirs with Christ, the King's kids, royalty, and so, many conclude, we should live and act like royalty. We should drive the nicest cars, live in the nicest houses, eat the richest foods, have all the toys and the comforts and the pleasures that this world offers. After all, everything in this world, the cattle on a thousand hills, the wealth in every mine, belong to our Daddy, and he loves to give good gifts to his children. The Corinthians, and so many of us, are enjoying the good life.
Already you have all you want! Already we are satisfied, satiated, glutted. The idea is that our stomach, or our life, is crammed so full that we have no room for anything else. It's that feeling you have after thanksgiving dinner when you've eaten so much that those delicious pies which earlier looked so appealing now no longer hold much interest for you. All you want to do is go lay down somewhere and digest. This is not what the Christian life was meant to be. You should not already be satisfied. Your best life is absolutely not now! The best is yet to come, when we will see our King face to face, and we should be hungering, longing, yearning, aching to be with him. Our heart should resonate with the heart of the Psalmist:
Already you have become rich! We have increased in goods. We have a lot of stuff. We live in nice houses, we drive nice cars, we have enough to eat, we spend money on things we don't need. You might argue, no, we are just barely scraping by. Take a look at this chart by the World Bank's Branco Milanovic. According to the New York Times, this tells us that “the typical person in the bottom 5 percent of the American income distribution is still richer than 68 percent of the world’s inhabitants” (http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/31/the-haves-and-the-have-nots/?_r=0 ). That means that everyone here today would be considered rich by global standards. America's 70 million pet dogs are probably better fed and medically cared for than the world's 870 million people who suffer from chronic undernourishment. Jesus' instructions to a rich man who came to him were
Jesus told a story about a rich man in Luke 12.
“One's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Lk.12:15). God calls anyone who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God a fool. Those are strong words, and they probably apply to everyone in this room. If God has blessed us with prosperity, he has blessed us so that we can share what we have and give to those in need. Some of us need to simplify our lives so that we can free up resources to give away. Resources in God's church are like blood in the body, meant to flow and bring life, rather than pool and bring sickness and death.
Already you have become kings! Already you are exercising authority and rule over others. All of us have an opinion. We all think we know what everybody else should be doing. If we are given the opportunity, if we have the power, we leverage our opinion on others.
We are eager to pronounce judgment, but none of us have all the information or insight with which to render an accurate judgment. All our ruling is premature and partial.
The Corinthians were satisfied, rich, and reigning, three attitudes that are inappropriate for this present age. Paul says 'I wish it were true!' I wish we were already reigning with Christ, but this is simply not true. Here are some of Jesus' instructions to his followers found in Luke 6.
According to Jesus, the appropriate state of his followers now is poor, hungry, weeping, hated, excluded, reviled, and spurned. Jesus says woe to you if you are rich, full, laughing, and well spoken of. The church in Laodicea was similarly blind to their own true condition. Jesus says to them:
The Apostolic Example
Paul holds Jesus' apostles up as examples for the church to follow. Actually, he says that God has put them on public display.
Tradition tells us that Peter was crucified head down in Rome, Andrew was scourged and tied to an X shaped cross in Greece, James was beheaded in Jerusalem, John was thrown in boiling oil but was unharmed so spent the rest of his days in exile in Turkey, Philip was crucified in Syria, Bartholomew (or Nathaniel) was beaten, flayed, and crucified in India or Armenia, Thomas was lanced and burned in an oven in Greece, Matthew was axed to death in Ethiopia, James was thrown down from the temple tower in Jerusalem and then clubbed to death, Judas (or Thaddaeus) was crucified in Greece, and Paul was beheaded in Rome.
God put the disciples on display as the very last and least. In a Roman triumph, the victorious military commander would lead his troops on parade through the city, displaying the spoils of war, dragging along the most important captives, and last of all the captive slaves, destined to die in the Colosseum at the hands of gladiators or wild beasts for the entertainment of the crowds. Paul puts himself and the other apostles at the end of the procession, on public display to the universe, both men and angels.
We should learn a lesson from the apostles. A frequent argument among them was 'who will be the greatest in the kingdom?'
Jesus taught his followers that they must be humble, they must serve others, even giving their lives. The cross must come before the crown, both for Jesus and for his followers.
Paul continues his scathing sarcasm with three contrasts between the apostles and the Corinthians, and he holds up six snapshots of the current condition of the life of an apostle.
The first contrast is between fools for Christ and the wise in Christ. This should remind them of the first two chapters of this book where God's true wisdom is displayed in the foolishness of the cross. You want to be thought wise in Christ, we are willing to become fools for Christ. The true wisdom of God that is wiser than men is the crass and base message of a bloody Messiah.
The second contrast is between weakness and strength. This again should bring them back to the first chapters of this letter, where the hidden power of God is unleashed through the seemingly weak proclamation of the gospel of the cross. In wanting to come across as forceful and strong, you have abandoned the power of the simple gospel.
The third contrast is between disrepute and honor. The Corinthians are seeking honor and glory, the apostles are seeking to give all glory to Jesus. They are willing to be humiliated for the sake of Christ. What the Corinthians don't understand is that the way down is the way up. In 2:8, Paul describes Jesus as the Lord of glory, and in 2:7 he says that this hidden wisdom of Christ crucified was decreed by God for our glory. We will be glorified later because in humility we received the message that we were so bad that we deserved death, and that God became flesh so that he could die in our place.
Paul gives six snapshots of what the current apostolic lifestyle looks like in contrast to the already satisfied, rich and reigning attitude of the Corinthians. Rather than already experiencing the blessings of Christ's kingdom, the apostles right up to the present hour are craving and thirsting and naked and beaten and homeless and exhausted in the demeaning role of laboring with our own hands.
Three Appropriate Responses to Hardship
Seeing that the Christian life follows Jesus' example of the cross before the crown, and that Jesus promises his followers much difficulty (Jn.16:33), Paul gives three appropriate ways to respond to hardship.
This is the hard stuff of practical application. When someone condemns, blames or criticizes you, what do you do? What is your emotional reaction, and what is your immediate response? Retaliate, vindicate, defend, explain, justify, exonerate. Can you let it go? Can you be silent? Can you go one step beyond and bless that person that trashed you? The word literally means 'to speak well of'. If someone speaks evil of you, can you speak well of them? Only with the strength that God supplies!
What do you do when you are pursued, persecuted, afflicted, injured, harassed? I am shocked and offended. It's not right! I want justice to be done! I want it to stop! Can you endure? Can you bear with it? Can you wait? Can you simply hold on in the middle of it? Only by the power of the Holy Spirit at work within you!
How do you respond when someone slanders you, vilifies you, drags your name through the mud? Must you clear your name? Can you live with the fact that others might think something about you that may not be true? Can you pray for the person who slandered you? And I don't mean the imprecatory prayers of the Psalms; 'O Lord slay the evildoers in thy great wrath!' Can you implore God for mercy and help for them? Can you bring comfort and encouragement to them? This is exactly what Jesus instructed his followers to do.
Paul concludes with two synonymous summary descriptions of the apostolic ministry.
The present is not the time for fullness, riches and authority, not if we are going to listen to Jesus or follow the example of the apostles. This is an offensive picture. This is the stuff that gets scraped off the plate and goes down the garbage disposal. This is the stuff that gets scraped off your boots after you walk through the farm field. This is the reputation of the followers of Jesus. Are you willing to have this be what people think of you?
The Valley of Vision
Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine;
let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death,
Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin,
Thy riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley.
(Arthur Bennett, 1915-1994)