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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

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:

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 ~

August 11, 2013 - Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , ,

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