OWNING THE FUTURE
Gracious Lord, as I read your Word today, may I rejoice and be strengthened to follow you more faithfully.
Read 1 Corinthians 3:18 – 4:5
18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”[a]; 20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”[b] 21 So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas[c] or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.
The Nature of True Apostleship
4 This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. 2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 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.
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.
‘O let me feel thee near me: / the world is ever near; / I see the sights that dazzle, / the tempting sounds I hear.’1
Paul returns to his critique of the world’s wisdom. It is foolishness because it ignores ultimate reality. Today, nothing has changed. The human mind can still be used for good or ill, but ignoring God is ultimately unwise. As the psalmist warns us, it is fatally foolish to ignore God in our hearts,2 to ignore God deep within us in the place where we choose right and wrong, where we orient our purpose in life. Paul labels this self-deception (v 18).
Paul is not accusing the Corinthian church members of godlessness. He is writing to them as Christians. Aware of the risk he is taking and the criticism he may engender, he is confident of his calling and that only God’s judgment finally matters (4:4). Paul’s sadness is that, although they have responded to the gospel and consider themselves followers of Jesus, they remain under the influence of the world’s ways, its values and priorities. Competing factions sprang from minds still shaped by rivalry, jealousy, and pride. Competing for power and prestige, they were bringing the world into the church.
In my youth, the ‘worldliness’ we were warned about always seemed connected with sex, alcohol and entertainment but the worldliness which corrupts the church goes deeper than the mere temptations of youth. The desire for wealth, power, or prestige has always infected the church and diminished its witness in the world – including today the sanctifying of corporate management structures and business methods. To Paul, the irony of this is that we have no need of it: we already own the future (3:22). The temporary concerns of the world should not affect us. We belong to Christ and that should be enough: ‘your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.’3
‘My foes are ever near me, / around me and within; / but, Jesus, draw thou nearer, / and shield my soul from sin.’4
Heavenly Father, I want to please you in all things. Guide me in my decisions and grant me a humble heart.
1 John Ernest Bode, 1816–74, ‘O Jesus, I have promised’ 2 Ps 14:1 3 Luke 12:32 4 See note 1
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