Ever-attentive Father, help me to pay attention to the whisper of the Spirit as you speak to me though your Word.
Read 1 Corinthians 4:6–21
6 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. 7 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?
8 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! 9 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. 10 We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 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.
Paul’s Appeal and Warning
14 I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. 15 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. 16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 17 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.
18 Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you. 19 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. 20 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. 21 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?
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectAsk the Holy Spirit to help you understand and respond whole-heartedly to what God says to you and your church through the tricky chapters 5 to 8. Beware! The Holy Spirit is gentle, but he challenges too!
How’s your church? Good? Does it have brilliant leadership? Is it doing a great job in the community? Is there excellent mission activity and gracious pastoral care? If not, keep praying. If so, fantastic – thank God for it, but pray that your church won’t become too comfortable or even arrogant about it.
Everything is a gift from God (v 7), says Paul to the Corinthian Christians and to us. But, as you see from my experience, he says, Jesus’ way is also about suffering, rejection, and sacrifice (vs 9–13). We stay humble, with a recognition of how dependent we are on the Lord, and we’re ready to give things up and give things away.
Remember, these Christians aren’t living like the people Jesus made them to be (1:2). In contrast, notice how Paul describes his own life (v 17). Through this chapter, perhaps Paul is preparing them, in a ‘fatherly’ way (v 15), for the tough challenges coming up in chapters 5 and onward – ‘There’s a whole lot of stuff you’ll need to give up!’ When he revisits them, he wants all these issues resolved already (v 21).
Consider the need for you and your church to depend more on the Lord, and to welcome suffering and hardship as an opportunity for spiritual strength and growth.
Mighty God, I know receiving correction is never easy. If I am corrected by you, or by a Christian brother or sister, I pray for an openness to learn and grow.
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