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1 Corinthians 4:8-13; The Cross Before the Crown

08/25 1 Corinthians 4:8-13 The Cross Before the Crown; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130825_1cor4_8-13.mp3

1Cor 4 [SBLGNT]

8 Ἤδη κεκορεσμένοι ἐστέ, ἤδη ἐπλουτήσατε, χωρὶς ἡμῶν ἐβασιλεύσατε· καὶ ὄφελόν γε ἐβασιλεύσατε, ἵνα καὶ ἡμεῖς ὑμῖν συμβασιλεύσωμεν. 9 δοκῶ γάρ, ὁ θεὸς ἡμᾶς τοὺς ἀποστόλους ἐσχάτους ἀπέδειξεν ὡς ἐπιθανατίους, ὅτι θέατρον ἐγενήθημεν τῷ κόσμῳ καὶ ἀγγέλοις καὶ ἀνθρώποις. 10 ἡμεῖς μωροὶ διὰ Χριστόν, ὑμεῖς δὲ φρόνιμοι ἐν Χριστῷ· ἡμεῖς ἀσθενεῖς, ὑμεῖς δὲ ἰσχυροί· ὑμεῖς ἔνδοξοι, ἡμεῖς δὲ ἄτιμοι. 11 ἄχρι τῆς ἄρτι ὥρας καὶ πεινῶμεν καὶ διψῶμεν καὶ γυμνιτεύομεν καὶ κολαφιζόμεθα καὶ ἀστατοῦμεν 12 καὶ κοπιῶμεν ἐργαζόμενοι ταῖς ἰδίαις χερσίν· λοιδορούμενοι εὐλογοῦμεν, διωκόμενοι ἀνεχόμεθα, 13 δυσφημούμενοι παρακαλοῦμεν· ὡς περικαθάρματα τοῦ κόσμου ἐγενήθημεν, πάντων περίψημα ἕως ἄρτι.

1Cor 4 [ESV2011]

6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! 9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

Paul has brought the Corinthians back to the simple message of the gospel, the foolish message of the cross, the message of Jesus Christ and him crucified for sinners.

He is addressing spiritual pride. He is calling them back to gospel centered humility.

Paul has held himself up as an example of what Christian leadership should look like; he is a field-hand planting and watering seed; a builder constructing a building on the one foundation, an under-rower, propelling the ship forward under the direction of the one Captain. He has used the Scripture to warn them not to go beyond what is written, because all of Scripture demonstrates the folly of human pride. God promises to destroy the wisdom of the wise (1:19; Is.29:14). The only boasting that is appropriate is boasting in the Lord (1:31; Jer.9:24). God’s salvation is beyond what the heart of man could possibly imagine (2:9; Is.64:4). No one understands the mind of the Lord (2:16; Is.40:13). The wisdom of this world is folly with God (3:19-20; Job5:13; Ps.94:11). He invites them to consider what they have that they did not receive. Everything, absolutely everything, every singe thing that they have is a gift, by grace, and it is totally inappropriate, arrogant, ungrateful, and rude to boast in something you have received as if you did not receive it.

Now he uses sharp sarcasm and irony to drive his point home. We might be surprised to see the apostle using sarcasm. Many of us have been taught that sarcasm is sin. Here we find biting sarcasm in God’s inspired Scripture. So when is sarcasm appropriate, and when is sarcasm sin? Charles Hodge, principal of Princeton Theological Seminary from 1851 to 1878, has some very helpful comments on this subject.

That the passage is ironical, and even sarcastic, cannot be denied. This is not the only instance in which these weapons are used by the inspired writers. The prophets especially employ them freely in their endeavors to convince the people of the folly of trusting to idols. The propriety of the use of weapons so dangerous depends on the occasion and the motive. If the thing assailed be both wicked and foolish, and if the motive be, not the desire to give pain, but to convince and to convert, their use is justified by Scriptural examples.” (C.Hodge on 1Cor.4:8).

In this instance, the quarreling and boasting of the Corinthians was both wicked and foolish, and the desire of the apostle was not to crush, but to bring repentance and restoration, so he employs the most biting sarcasm to wake them from their foolishness and bring about a repentant humility.

Three inappropriate attitudes for the present age

First, he sarcastically lists three attitudes that are inappropriate for the present age.

1 Corinthians 4:8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you!

The Corinthians act as if they are already satisfied, rich and reigning. These are not bad things for a believer to look forward to, but the fact that the Corinthians felt they already possessed them revealed a deep flaw in their understanding of Christian doctrine and what it means to follow Jesus. Many Christians today share their misunderstanding. Jesus came proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, that he is the King. Jesus paid for our sins, defeated the devil, rose from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of his Father on high. He is the rightful King of the universe. We as his followers are adopted into his family, so that means that we are co-heirs with Christ, the King’s kids, royalty, and so, many conclude, we should live and act like royalty. We should drive the nicest cars, live in the nicest houses, eat the richest foods, have all the toys and the comforts and the pleasures that this world offers. After all, everything in this world, the cattle on a thousand hills, the wealth in every mine, belong to our Daddy, and he loves to give good gifts to his children. The Corinthians, and so many of us, are enjoying the good life.

Already you have all you want! Already we are satisfied, satiated, glutted. The idea is that our stomach, or our life, is crammed so full that we have no room for anything else. It’s that feeling you have after thanksgiving dinner when you’ve eaten so much that those delicious pies which earlier looked so appealing now no longer hold much interest for you. All you want to do is go lay down somewhere and digest. This is not what the Christian life was meant to be. You should not already be satisfied. Your best life is absolutely not now! The best is yet to come, when we will see our King face to face, and we should be hungering, longing, yearning, aching to be with him. Our heart should resonate with the heart of the Psalmist:

Psalms 42:1 As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?

Already you have become rich! We have increased in goods. We have a lot of stuff. We live in nice houses, we drive nice cars, we have enough to eat, we spend money on things we don’t need. You might argue, no, we are just barely scraping by. Take a look at this chart by the World Bank’s Branco Milanovic. According to the New York Times, this tells us that “the typical person in the bottom 5 percent of the American income distribution is still richer than 68 percent of the world’s inhabitants” (http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/31/the-haves-and-the-have-nots/?_r=0 ). That means that everyone here today would be considered rich by global standards. America’s 70 million pet dogs are probably better fed and medically cared for than the world’s 870 million people who suffer from chronic undernourishment. Jesus’ instructions to a rich man who came to him were

Mark 10:21 “…go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Jesus told a story about a rich man in Luke 12.

Luke 12:16 …“The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

“One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Lk.12:15). God calls anyone who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God a fool. Those are strong words, and they probably apply to everyone in this room. If God has blessed us with prosperity, he has blessed us so that we can share what we have and give to those in need. Some of us need to simplify our lives so that we can free up resources to give away. Resources in God’s church are like blood in the body, meant to flow and bring life, rather than pool and bring sickness and death.

Already you have become kings! Already you are exercising authority and rule over others. All of us have an opinion. We all think we know what everybody else should be doing. If we are given the opportunity, if we have the power, we leverage our opinion on others.

Romans 14:4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

We are eager to pronounce judgment, but none of us have all the information or insight with which to render an accurate judgment. All our ruling is premature and partial.

1 Corinthians 4:5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

The Corinthians were satisfied, rich, and reigning, three attitudes that are inappropriate for this present age. Paul says ‘I wish it were true!’ I wish we were already reigning with Christ, but this is simply not true. Here are some of Jesus’ instructions to his followers found in Luke 6.

Luke 6:20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. 22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. 24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. 26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

According to Jesus, the appropriate state of his followers now is poor, hungry, weeping, hated, excluded, reviled, and spurned. Jesus says woe to you if you are rich, full, laughing, and well spoken of. The church in Laodicea was similarly blind to their own true condition. Jesus says to them:

Revelation 3:17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

The Apostolic Example

Paul holds Jesus’ apostles up as examples for the church to follow. Actually, he says that God has put them on public display.

1 Corinthians 4:9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men.

Tradition tells us that Peter was crucified head down in Rome, Andrew was scourged and tied to an X shaped cross in Greece, James was beheaded in Jerusalem, John was thrown in boiling oil but was unharmed so spent the rest of his days in exile in Turkey, Philip was crucified in Syria, Bartholomew (or Nathaniel) was beaten, flayed, and crucified in India or Armenia, Thomas was lanced and burned in an oven in Greece, Matthew was axed to death in Ethiopia, James was thrown down from the temple tower in Jerusalem and then clubbed to death, Judas (or Thaddaeus) was crucified in Greece, and Paul was beheaded in Rome.

God put the disciples on display as the very last and least. In a Roman triumph, the victorious military commander would lead his troops on parade through the city, displaying the spoils of war, dragging along the most important captives, and last of all the captive slaves, destined to die in the Colosseum at the hands of gladiators or wild beasts for the entertainment of the crowds. Paul puts himself and the other apostles at the end of the procession, on public display to the universe, both men and angels.

We should learn a lesson from the apostles. A frequent argument among them was ‘who will be the greatest in the kingdom?’

Mark 9:35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

Mark 10:42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Matthew 18:2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus taught his followers that they must be humble, they must serve others, even giving their lives. The cross must come before the crown, both for Jesus and for his followers.

Three Contrasts

Paul continues his scathing sarcasm with three contrasts between the apostles and the Corinthians, and he holds up six snapshots of the current condition of the life of an apostle.

1 Corinthians 4:10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands…

The first contrast is between fools for Christ and the wise in Christ. This should remind them of the first two chapters of this book where God’s true wisdom is displayed in the foolishness of the cross. You want to be thought wise in Christ, we are willing to become fools for Christ. The true wisdom of God that is wiser than men is the crass and base message of a bloody Messiah.

The second contrast is between weakness and strength. This again should bring them back to the first chapters of this letter, where the hidden power of God is unleashed through the seemingly weak proclamation of the gospel of the cross. In wanting to come across as forceful and strong, you have abandoned the power of the simple gospel.

The third contrast is between disrepute and honor. The Corinthians are seeking honor and glory, the apostles are seeking to give all glory to Jesus. They are willing to be humiliated for the sake of Christ. What the Corinthians don’t understand is that the way down is the way up. In 2:8, Paul describes Jesus as the Lord of glory, and in 2:7 he says that this hidden wisdom of Christ crucified was decreed by God for our glory. We will be glorified later because in humility we received the message that we were so bad that we deserved death, and that God became flesh so that he could die in our place.

Paul gives six snapshots of what the current apostolic lifestyle looks like in contrast to the already satisfied, rich and reigning attitude of the Corinthians. Rather than already experiencing the blessings of Christ’s kingdom, the apostles right up to the present hour are craving and thirsting and naked and beaten and homeless and exhausted in the demeaning role of laboring with our own hands.

Three Appropriate Responses to Hardship

Seeing that the Christian life follows Jesus’ example of the cross before the crown, and that Jesus promises his followers much difficulty (Jn.16:33), Paul gives three appropriate ways to respond to hardship.

1 Corinthians 4: 12 …When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat.

This is the hard stuff of practical application. When someone condemns, blames or criticizes you, what do you do? What is your emotional reaction, and what is your immediate response? Retaliate, vindicate, defend, explain, justify, exonerate. Can you let it go? Can you be silent? Can you go one step beyond and bless that person that trashed you? The word literally means ‘to speak well of’. If someone speaks evil of you, can you speak well of them? Only with the strength that God supplies!

What do you do when you are pursued, persecuted, afflicted, injured, harassed? I am shocked and offended. It’s not right! I want justice to be done! I want it to stop! Can you endure? Can you bear with it? Can you wait? Can you simply hold on in the middle of it? Only by the power of the Holy Spirit at work within you!

How do you respond when someone slanders you, vilifies you, drags your name through the mud? Must you clear your name? Can you live with the fact that others might think something about you that may not be true? Can you pray for the person who slandered you? And I don’t mean the imprecatory prayers of the Psalms; ‘O Lord slay the evildoers in thy great wrath!’ Can you implore God for mercy and help for them? Can you bring comfort and encouragement to them? This is exactly what Jesus instructed his followers to do.

Luke 6:27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

Paul concludes with two synonymous summary descriptions of the apostolic ministry.

1Corinthians 4:13 …We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

The present is not the time for fullness, riches and authority, not if we are going to listen to Jesus or follow the example of the apostles. This is an offensive picture. This is the stuff that gets scraped off the plate and goes down the garbage disposal. This is the stuff that gets scraped off your boots after you walk through the farm field. This is the reputation of the followers of Jesus. Are you willing to have this be what people think of you?

The Valley of Vision

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,

Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,

where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights;

hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up,

that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart,

that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,

that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,

that to have nothing is to possess all,

that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,

that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,

and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine;

let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death,

Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin,

Thy riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley.

(Arthur Bennett, 1915-1994)

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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August 25, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 4:6-7; Not Beyond What is Written and No Boasting in Grace!

08/11 1 Corinthians 4:6-7 Not Beyond What is Written and No Boasting in Grace! Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130811_1cor4_6-7.mp3

1Cor 4 [SBLGNT]

6 Ταῦτα δέ, ἀδελφοί, μετεσχημάτισα εἰς ἐμαυτὸν καὶ Ἀπολλῶν δι’ ὑμᾶς, ἵνα ἐν ἡμῖν μάθητε τό· Μὴ ὑπὲρ ἃ γέγραπται, ἵνα μὴ εἷς ὑπὲρ τοῦ ἑνὸς φυσιοῦσθε κατὰ τοῦ ἑτέρου. 7 τίς γάρ σε διακρίνει; τί δὲ ἔχεις ὃ οὐκ ἔλαβες; εἰ δὲ καὶ ἔλαβες, τί καυχᾶσαι ὡς μὴ λαβών;

1Cor 4 [ESV2011]

1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. 6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

Today we look at a passage where Paul deals head on with the sin of pride, and gives us some helpful teaching about the proper use of the Scriptures.

1 Corinthians 4:6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

That You May Learn By Us

Paul is re-framing the concept of Christian leadership in the Corinthian church. They had a rock star celebrity mentality, finding their identity in their favorite leader or teacher, boasting in who they belonged to, causing quarreling, division, jealousy and strife within the church, critiquing and criticizing other leaders, boasting that they were wise to follow the superior leader. They felt they had become true connoisseurs of Christian teaching. Paul reshapes their thinking around several illustrations of what true leadership should look like, and he uses himself and Apollos as examples. He says we are servants, field-hands in God’s garden, one planting and another watering, with all the growth coming from God. He says that he acted as a skilled master architect, having laid the only possible foundation for the church, which is Jesus Christ. Others are continuing to build upon it, and each will be held accountable for his workmanship. He says that leaders are servants, under-rowers, bottom deckers, laboring in unison with others under the direction of the Captain, propelling the ship forward. Teachers are stewards, estate managers, custodians entrusted with the preservation and propagation of the gospel message. They are ultimately accountable to the one and only Master, our Lord Jesus Christ, and each will be examined by him on that day. Paul now says that he transferred these things to himself and Apollos for your benefit. He held himself up as an example so they could look in the mirror and see where they stood. Paul addresses them again as brothers, a term of affection. He truly wants the best for them. He approaches the issues carefully, applying the lessons first to himself, so they will more readily receive his correction. All this is ultimately for your benefit.

Not Beyond What is Written

In verse 6, Paul lays out a principle that is familiar to the Corinthians. The grammar here is awkward, it could literally read ‘the not above what is written’. Apparently, this was a catch phrase that was common currency with them. He is modeling this maxim ‘not above what is written’. This verb ‘γέγραπται‘, it is written, is used by Paul 30 other times in the New Testament, every one of them introducing a citation from the Old Testament. In the first three chapters of this letter, Paul has already quoted six biblical passages, five of those being introduced by ‘it is written’. Paul is continually punctuating his teaching with Scripture. He is careful to demonstrate that what he teaches is not new and different, but in perfect harmony with the Scriptures already received. He is modeling for us the absolute authority and sufficiency of the Scriptures. We are never to go beyond what is written.

He said in:

Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

1 Corinthians 10:11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

The second question in the historic Westminster Shorter Catechism reads like this:

Q. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
A. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

Article 6 of the Westminster Confession (1646) says:

VI. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.

One of the five ‘Solas’ of the reformation was ‘sola scriptura’; the authority of scripture alone.

Deuteronomy 4:2 says:

Deuteronomy 4:2You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.

Paul is teaching this principle ‘not beyond what is written’ to the church, to guard them from danger, to keep them within the bounds of God’s revealed truth, to prevent them from wandering into the error of speculation. It is a great danger to move beyond what the Bible clearly teaches.

That None of You May Be Puffed Up

Specifically, in this passage, Paul is warning them not to go beyond what is written by being puffed up in favor of one against another. Here he gets at the root of the problem in the church in Corinth. Pride, being puffed up or inflated, haughty, arrogant. Six out of seven times this word puffed up is used in the New Testament are right here in 1 Corinthians. They were going beyond what is written by thinking more highly of themselves than they ought to think. All the problems he mentions, quarreling, division, jealousy and strife are rooted in pride. Self-focus, self-centeredness, a preoccupation with my own reputation and identity leads to all kinds of problems in the church. And Paul is saying that being puffed up one against another is a violation of the teaching of Scripture.

It Is Written

Let’s look back over the six quotations from Scripture that Paul has made so far in 1 Corinthians to see how this addresses the issue of pride.

In 1:19, he quotes Isaiah 29:14 to support his statement that the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.

1 Corinthians 1:19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” (Isaiah 29:14)

God sets himself against the proud who think themselves wise. After declaring that God is the one who calls and chooses and gives life in order to eliminate all human boasting, he quotes Jeremiah 9:24.

1 Corinthians 1:31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:24)

There is no legitimate grounds for boasting outside the Lord. To defend his point that the gospel message, that God would become man and die on a cross in our place, was totally unexpected by the wise and powerful of this world, he quotes Isaiah 64:4.

1 Corinthians 2:9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— (Isaiah 64:4)

Then in 2:16 he quotes Isaiah 40:13 to show that no one understands the gospel unless God reveals it to him.

1 Corinthians 2:16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (Isaiah 40:13)

In 3:19 and 20 he returns to the issue of the futility and utter worthlessness of so-called human wisdom. He quotes Job 5:13

1 Corinthians 3:19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” (Job 5:13)

And then Psalm 94:11

1 Corinthians 3:20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” (Psalm 94:11)

And then he concludes:

1 Corinthians 3:21 So let no one boast in men…

Boasting in men, whether ourselves or someone else, is contrary to the consistent teaching of Scripture. Man’s wisdom is folly. God’s grace is so far beyond our wisdom that we could never figure it out unless he revealed it to us. The only appropriate boasting is boasting in the Lord, the source and giver of every good thing. Quarreling, division, jealousy, strife, being puffed up one against another has no place among those who claim to be people of the Book. The Scripture leaves no place for human pride. Not unless we stray beyond what is written.

Who? What? Why?

Paul now asks three rhetorical questions of his readers to bring this point home to them. Who, what, and why?

1 Corinthians 4:6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

Who sees anything different in you? Who makes a distinction between you and others? Who puts you on a different plane than anyone else? The answer is that you are puffing yourself up, so it is only so much hot air. There is no substance to your over-inflated ego. The apostles are servants, farm-hands, custodians, under-rowers. Just who do you think you are?

What do you have that you did not receive? This is the second rhetorical question. We could look many places for the answer.

Job 2:10 …Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Ecclesiastes 5:19 Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God.

Matthew 5:45 …your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

John 3:27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.

Acts 17:24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

What do you have that you did not receive? Can you think of anything? Anything at all? The only thing I can take credit for is my sin.

So if everything that you have is a gift, then why are you boasting in grace? How can you take credit for any good that has come to you? How can you possibly act as if you have earned anything? If you can get a hold of this truth, it will be a powerful pride leveling force in your life. You have nothing, nothing, nothing good that you can take credit for. Everything good that you receive you don’t deserve. Any bad you will ever experience is infinitely less than you deserve. Every breath you breathe is a free and undeserved gift. Every drop of rain, every ray of sun is a lavish gift that you have no right to enjoy. The fact that you exist is not your own doing. And if you have experienced the abundant grace of God expressed in the gospel, if you have experienced the forgiveness of sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, if you have experienced sweet fellowship with a holy God, you have experienced grace upon grace. Every bit is all grace.

If we get this, and I pray that we can receive it, it will produce in us a radically humble gratitude. This truth tears pride out by its roots and leaves us wrecked in humble worshipful adoration of an awesomely gracious God who is extravagantly over the top in the riches of his grace which he lavishes on us in Christ Jesus. 

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

August 11, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 4:3-5; Stop Judging!

08/04 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 Stop Judging!; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130804_1cor4_3-5.mp3

1Cor 4 [SBLGNT]

1 Οὕτως ἡμᾶς λογιζέσθω ἄνθρωπος ὡς ὑπηρέτας Χριστοῦ καὶ οἰκονόμους μυστηρίων θεοῦ.2 ὧδε λοιπὸν ζητεῖται ἐν τοῖς οἰκονόμοις ἵνα πιστός τις εὑρεθῇ.3 ἐμοὶ δὲ εἰς ἐλάχιστόν ἐστιν, ἵνα ὑφ’ ὑμῶν ἀνακριθῶ ἢ ὑπὸ ἀνθρωπίνης ἡμέρας· ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ ἐμαυτὸν ἀνακρίνω·4 οὐδὲν γὰρ ἐμαυτῷ σύνοιδα, ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐν τούτῳ δεδικαίωμαι, ὁ δὲ ἀνακρίνων με κύριός ἐστιν.5 ὥστε μὴ πρὸ καιροῦ τι κρίνετε, ἕως ἂν ἔλθῃ ὁ κύριος, ὃς καὶ φωτίσει τὰ κρυπτὰ τοῦ σκότους καὶ φανερώσει τὰς βουλὰς τῶν καρδιῶν, καὶ τότε ὁ ἔπαινος γενήσεται ἑκάστῳ ἀπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ.

1Cor 4 [ESV2011]

1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself.4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

The Corinthian believers are involved in quarreling, division, jealousy and strife, much of it centered in groups formed around a favorite teacher or leader. Paul is addressing the true nature of Christian leaders. He describes himself and other leaders as under-rowers, those who labor in unison alongside others on the lowest deck, propelling the ship forward, following the orders of the one Captain, Christ. He describes himself as a steward, or household manager, a custodian of the mysteries of God. He was a slave under the authority of his one Master, given a responsibility, entrusted with the good news of a crucified Messiah, and having been entrusted with this great responsibility, he must prove trustworthy. Faithfulness is a requirement for leaders. The question is, who is qualified to judge faithfulness? The Corinthians are eager to pass judgment on their leaders, choosing one over against another.

Judging is a hot issue today. It seems that none of us want to be judged by anyone else. What I do in my own private life is no one’s business but mine. In many circles, Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that you be not judged” are better known and more often quoted than John 3:16. Just try this: when one of your Christian friends posts something foolish on facebook, gently, humbly, in love, post a reproof. See what kinds of comments are generated. (For that reason, I would recommend getting together for lunch, dropping by their house, calling them on the phone to come along side them and address the issue, rather than commenting on facebook or by e-mail).

And yet, ironically, it seems that everyone has their own opinion about everybody else. Can you believe what so-and-so is doing? The media thrives on digging up the dirt about a public figure. Whole organizations and websites are devoted to exposing and discrediting leaders. Criticism of people in leadership is the common currency of so many of our own conversations.

It is to this issue of judging that Paul turns his attention in verses 3-5, and gives some much needed perspective on this hot topic. He addresses issue of judging others and being judged, of self-examination and issues of conscience, and whose judgment ultimately matters.

Judged by the Church

Paul says that it it a very small thing for him to be judged by the people in the church he planted. He says it is the least. The smallest. He doesn’t say it is nothing, or completely without significance, but only one tiny step up from that. What they think of him means next to nothing to him. He simply doesn’t care very much about people’s opinions of him.

Judged by Human Courts

Then he says that it is a very small thing to be judged by any human court. Paul would stand before many human rulers in his day. He would stand before Jewish authorities and Roman rulers. He would even stand trial before the emperor himself. And he considered this next to nothing. When he stood before the Christian leaders in the Jerusalem church, he refers to them as “those who seemed influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality) (Gal.2:6). He spent time under arrest, in prison, and ultimately surrendered his life as a witness to Jesus. What any human authority decided about him meant next to nothing to him.

Self-Examination and Conscience

Paul says “I do not even judge myself.” Paul knew that it is futile to spend too much energy on introspective self-examination. The word he has been using in this passage for ‘judge’ means a critical examination, a condemning, scrutinizing investigation or examination, an interrogation. Quite honestly, too much introspection is downright discouraging and depressing. How much better to ‘fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith’ (Heb.12:2)

The Failure of Conscience

The conscience can be a helpful guide, but my conscience may be inaccurately calibrated. The Bible says that our conscience can be seared (1Tim4:2) which means that it can be made numb to things it ought to be sensitive to. The conscience of some can be weak, easier to ignore than others with a more robust conscience. The conscience can be wounded by violating it (1Cor.8:7-12). Some may have a hyper-sensitive conscience, that troubles them even when God clearly says that they are in the right (1Jn.3:20)

Your conscience should continually be being shaped and adjusted and corrected by the word of God, but it is never wise to go against your conscience.

The limitations of Self-examination

Paul says ‘I am not aware of anything against myself.’ Not being aware of anything does not mean that there is nothing to be aware of. Paul spoke of his own experience as a Pharisee and said “as to righteousness under the law, blameless” (Phil.3:6), but when Jesus met him and opened his eyes to the truth, he saw himself as foremost of sinners (1Tim1:15), and his own self-righteousness he saw as rubbish (Phil.3:7-8), offensive to the God he was trying to impress. The Psalmist, aware of the limitations of his own self-examination, cried out:

Psalm 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Even if my conscience is clear and I can think of nothing against myself (and most often that is not the case) that does not justify me. I cannot declare myself righteous based on my own clear conscience. To have a healthy self-image is not the primary goal. There is something greater than my own estimation of my self-worth. Justification, the legal standing of righteousness before the Judge of all the earth, comes not through our own efforts, but only through faith in the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 3:28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

The Lord is My Judge

1 Corinthians 4:3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

The Lord Jesus is the Judge. The reason Paul puts little stock in what others think of him or even what he thinks of himself is that he has only one Master and only one Judge. There is only one to whom he is ultimately accountable. When you get that – when you really get that in your bones, it will set you free. When you get that in the core of your being that only what Jesus thinks of you matters, it will free you from the slavery of what others think of you. It really doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of me; it only matters what Jesus thinks of me. When you most care about what Jesus thinks of you, you are free to be who you were created to be, free to be the real ‘you’. “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (Jn.8:36). When you know who your Master is, and you know who your Judge is, you no longer have to waste time and energy worrying about what other people think of you. You can focus all your resources on pleasing that one Master.

Stop Judging!

So Paul tells the Corinthians to stop judging! Apparently they were already hard at it, forming opinions about who was more godly than whom, who was the better communicator, who was more right, who was more effective, who had less flaws, who was more worthy to be followed. Paul says ‘stop it! Stop judging!’ And he gives several good reasons why they should not become expert at judging others.

All Human Judgments are Presumptive

The main reason all human judgments are fundamentally flawed is that we are not given that responsibility. We were not appointed as final judges of one another. Paul says in Romans 14

Romans 14:4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Romans 14:10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

God is the judge. God is the one to whom we will all give account.

All Human Judgments are Premature

The second reason Paul gives for not judging each other is that it’s not yet time. It’s not over yet; the time to judge has not yet come. It’s not over ’till it’s over. Some may start this race very slow and falteringly, but end strong. Others who start strong and seem promising may crash and burn somewhere along the path. Faithfulness cannot be judged mid-race. The Lord is coming, and he will judge at the proper time. That time is not yet.

All Human Judgments are Partial

Another reason Paul gives for not judging each other is that we don’t know everything and we don’t see everything. Some things are hidden. Nobody knows everything. Nobody sees everything. Even if someone could see everything, they could not always accurately determine the motives of the heart. God does see everything and he knows everything, and he can without fail determine the hidden purposes of the heart. His is the only judgment that is absolutely accurate and true.

We do not have the right to be constantly critical, critiquing and condemning godly Christian leaders.

It is Our Responsibility to Judge

Does this mean we have no biblical room for judging anyone ever? Keep in mind that the word for judging in this chapter is a critical examination, a condemning, scrutinizing investigation or examination, and the context is weighing one leader against another to see who is more worthy to be followed.

In the very next chapter, Paul hits the issue of someone who claims to be a believer who is persisting in sin. He says ‘I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing’ and it is your responsibility to judge those inside the church. Someone who refuses to listen to correction and persists in sin is a corrupting influence, and they should be removed. So clearly Paul is not saying that we can never pass judgment on a brother or sister in Christ. Rather he says that it is our responsibility, and it is to be done with the goal of repentance and restoration always in view.

But does this mean we can never judge a leader in the church? In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul expresses concern that a teacher who comes preaching a different Jesus or a different gospel might be welcomed by the church. He calls these satanic deceivers disguised as apostles of Christ. So it is clear that he expects the church to be discerning about doctrine and careful to judge between true and false teachers.

Paul even called Peter out publicly when he was acting hypocritically and the truth of the gospel was at stake.

Galatians 2:11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all,…

In 1 Timothy, Paul commends elders who rule well as worthy of double honor, and then he cautions against receiving an accusation against a leader too quickly.

1 Timothy 5:19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. 21 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.

So even church leadership is to be held accountable by the church, but it is to be done cautiously and carefully.

What about judging ourselves? Paul says he does not scrutinize himself. But in chapter 11, he warns about selfishness and division in the celebration of the Lord’s supper.

1 Corinthians 11:28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.

So we are encouraged to do some self-examination and self-judging, not to see who is better than whom, but to make sure we are really remembering Jesus and his death together with our blood-bought brothers and sisters in Christ.

At the end of 2 Corinthians, Paul is warning those who are persisting in sin and resisting his correction. He says

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

For someone who is willfully persisting in sin, it is appropriate for them to question the reality of their relationship with Jesus.

Jesus did say ‘judge not, that you be not judged’ (Mt.7:1) in the context of hypocrites who are attempting to take a speck out of their brother’s eye when they have a log jammed into their own eye. A few verses later he tells us to

Matthew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?

He also said

John 7:24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

Each One Will Receive His Praise From God

God is the one who brings to light things hidden in darkness and discloses the purposes of the heart. With that sobering reality in mind, it is amazing to see how this passage ends.

1 Corinthians 4:3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

We might expect it to say ‘each one will receive his condemnation from God’, because that is what we all deserve. But it says that each one will receive his commendation, each one will receive praise from God! Jesus said that “whoever believes in him is not condemned” (Jn.3:18) and whoever believes …does not come into judgment” (Jn.5:24).

All who have been justified by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ will receive not judgment or condemnation, but praise, much praise, applause, a loud and clear acclaim of commendation; we will hear our Master say to us:

Matthew 25:21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

This is not what I deserve, but by God’s grace, this is what he promises to me!

Jude 1:24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. 

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

August 4, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , | Leave a comment