Published on
September 19, 2023

1 Corinthians 4

"For I think God has displayed us, the apostles, in last place, like men condemned to die..."

Author Photo
Steve Wiggins
Author Photo
Steve Wiggins
Read Time
4 minutes
1 Corinthians 4
“For I think God has displayed us, the apostles, in last place, like men condemned to die: We have become a spectacle to the world and to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! Up to the present hour we are both hungry and thirsty; we are poorly clothed, roughly treated, homeless; we labor, working with our own hands. When we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we respond graciously. Even now, we are like the world’s garbage, like the dirt everyone scrapes off their sandals.”  1 Corinthians 4:9-13 (HCSB)

Well, so much for the Word-Faith and Prosperity doctrines. For all the so-called “modern-day apostles,” soliciting faith donations to support their opulent lifestyles, Paul gives insight into the ministries & lifestyles of the actual apostles. And for all those who preach that we should not “speak forth” negative things, lest we curse ourselves, Paul determined to describe things as they truly were: Shimmering blessings against the black backdrop of a martyr’s suffering.

The reason for Paul’s instruction is that some men had already found a way to exploit the Gospel for personal gain by elevating themselves. Once you uplift certain men above others, divisions within the body of Messiah soon follow. Believers become known more for their systematic differences than for their brotherhood by faith in Jesus alone.

Not only do such divisions affect the Church at large, but they also greatly diminish our witness in the world. For me, the Church’s damaged testimony is most evident when I am in Israel. There are hundreds of Christian denominations and divisions that have offices in Israel.   Listening to Jewish non-believers speak of how the Christians fight among themselves is shameful. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Old Jerusalem is a good example. Its ownership and upkeep are shared by various competing strains of Catholicism, each trying to outdo the other.  

It is so contrary to how Jesus prayed for the unity of all believers just hours before He was crucified.

Contra to elevating oneself, Paul tells us that God chose to display the apostles “humbly.”  The mark of greatness for a Christian leader is not how high they elevate themselves but how well they submit to God’s design of lowly humility. This aligns perfectly with the Beatitudes section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5:3-11)

For all who seek the “luxurious life of ministry,” perhaps you should listen to Paul. There are riches to be had and primarily stored up in Heaven.

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