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.
Help us, O God, to see your redeemed people throughout the world as you see them and to love them as you love them, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Nothing is more basic to the gospel than equality in God’s sight. No matter what our differences – class, race, gender, education, or experience – there is no place for divisiveness, judgment, or pride. Disunity and discord wound the church as the body of Christ on earth. This is the elementary babies’ milk of the gospel.1 God’s grace is unmerited and we have all received it.
Shifting into irony, Paul caricatures the Corinthian Christians as would-be royalty, obsessed with their wisdom and ability, consumed by their desire for honor and prestige. He pictures the apostles as people whom the world despises – ragged and hungry, struggling in chains at the rear of the procession of humanity, the least of all people, staggering to their death. The Corinthians should be following the ‘way of life in Christ Jesus’ (v 17) which Paul himself tries to demonstrate in his own life. There is no basis for disunity among people who should boast only of the grace which God has shown them. Discrimination, however, has always been the way of the world. As I write, the desperate inequality of race and class is plain to see. The Covid-19 pandemic disproportionately kills more poor people than rich. Against this stark background of inequality and injustice, does the church truly proclaim in word and deed the equality of all humankind? What does the world understand by the ‘Christian’ label? Do they see our oneness in Christ? Or do they see division and disharmony? We are children of the Father, elect from the beginning of time, redeemed by his grace. This alone must shape who we are and how we live.
‘Elect from every nation / yet one o’er all the earth, / her charter of salvation / one Lord, one faith, one birth; / one holy name she blesses, / partakes one holy food’.2
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.
1 1 Cor 3:2 2 Samuel Stone, 1839–1900, ‘The church’s one foundation’
Click here to sign up to receive the EXTRAs via email each quarter.
© 2023 Scripture Union U.S.A. All rights reserved. Reproduction of the whole or any part of the contents without written permission is prohibited.
Encounter with God is published in the USA under license from Scripture Union England and Wales, Trinity House, Opal Court, Opal Drive, Fox Milne, Milton Keynes, MK15 0DF.