1 Corinthians 4

The Word Made Fresh

1So, look upon us simply as servants of Christ and managers of God’s wisdom. 2In this case, the thing that is expected of a manager is that they prove to be faithful. 3I don’t care if you judge me, or if I’m judged by any human court. I don’t even judge myself. 4I don’t know of any complaints against me, but that doesn’t mean I’m totally innocent because the Lord is the one who judges me. 5So, don’t judge anything until the Lord comes. Then he will reveal things that were hidden and will expose people’s motives. When that time comes, each of us will be judged by God.

6I’m using Apollos and myself as examples for you, so that you can learn how important it is not to go beyond what is written, and none of you will be arrogant enough to choose one of us against the other. 7Who can say that you are better than others? Do you have anything that wasn’t given to you? And if it was given to you, why boast as if it all comes from you? 8Are you already rich with wisdom? You act like kings when we’re not around. I wish you were kings – then we could be kings, too! 9It would seem that God has put us apostles in the rear, like jailbirds condemned to death because we’ve become such a circus to angels as well as to people. 10Yes, we are fools for Christ. But are you wise in Christ? And yes, we are weak, but are you really strong? We are not honored, but are you truly honored? 11To this day we are hungry and thirsty and dressed in rags and made fun of. And we are homeless. 12We work hard with our own hands, and when someone insults us, we bless them! When people harass us, we shrug it off! 13When our reputation is sullied, we respond with encouragement! To this day we are treated like the scum of the earth.

14I’m not trying to make you ashamed. I’m simply warning you because you are my children and I love you. 15You may have had ten thousand Christian teachers, but you don’t have many fathers. I gave you birth in Christ Jesus through the good news, 16and I am encouraging you to follow my example. 17That’s why I sent Timothy to you. He is a loved and trusted child in the Lord, and he will tell you all about my life in Christ Jesus. He’ll teach the same things I teach everywhere in every church. 18Some among you have become arrogant because they think I won’t come to see you. 19But if the Lord is willing, I’ll be there soon. I won’t concern myself with what those arrogant people are saying, but I will discover what kind of influence they have. 20After all, God’s kingdom isn’t about words; it’s about power. 21So, which do you prefer? Should I come to you carrying a big stick to punish you, or should I be gentle toward you because I love you?


1-7: Therefore, from all that was said in chapter 3, the folks at Corinth should not judge Paul or Apollos — that is, there is no need or reason to choose one over the other. We catch a glimpse in verse 6 of why Paul quotes so much scripture. It is his conviction that everything to be said about Christ can be found in the prophets and other writings in scripture. To go beyond what scripture presents is to set oneself up for either praise or rejection, and that is not the purpose of an apostle. An apostle is to open the scriptures to show that Jesus is the Christ, and that the Christ must suffer and die and then be raised from the dead. There is no need to formulate any other “proof.”

8-13: Paul’s use of sarcasm is on display here. Apparently the folks at Corinth have made a big deal out of the idea that claiming Christ as king makes them all kings. Based on his description of the poverty of apostleship my guess is that they have embraced an early form of what today we call the “prosperity gospel.” Paul insists that such an idea has no place among the followers of Jesus. The followers of Jesus are to be the servants and helpers of others.

14-21: It becomes apparent in these verses that Paul has been referring to certain specific, though yet unnamed, persons who are trying to commandeer the church at Corinth for their own selfish purposes. He asserts that they have been acting arrogantly because they think he, Paul, is not going to return. Out of sight, out of mind, you know. But Paul isn’t about to let them get away with it, and insists that he is indeed going to return to Corinth “if the Lord wills.”

So far as we know, he never does make it back to them.


In nearly every congregation there are a few people who want to be in charge, and will create no end of misery for the leadership of the church. That’s not the church! The church is a gathering of believers who love the Lord and love one another; where every member is heard; where all are encouraged; where each one seeks the best for everyone else.