About Jesus Steve Sweetman
Chapters 4 and 5
begins this chapter with the words “so then”, meaning, “because of
all that I have just said, I now conclude”.
So what was Paul’s conclusion?
Remember he has spent quite amount of words on the subject of
unhealthy alliances to particular leaders resulting in divisions.
He therefore concludes by saying, “men ought to regard us as
servants of Christ and as those who have been entrusted with the secret
things of God”. Paul
re-enforces what he says in the beginning of each of his letters.
He calls himself a servant, a bond servant, meaning, a slave by
choice. This is how he views
himself and this is how he wants others to view him and the other apostles
of the Lord.
says that he has been entrusted with “the secret things of God”.
Paul is not being spooky here.
Neither is he being super spiritual.
There always seems to be an element within the church in every
generation that likes to view themselves as mystics, having some special
and secret connection to God, receiving all sorts of new and secret
revelations. This is not the
case with Paul, although he certainly could have some claim to this
thinking if he so desired. Paul
did have many supernatural visions from the Lord.
He is more of an exception to the rule, and not the norm, at least
in my thinking. We need to
remember that the secrets Paul is speaking about is simply salvation, the
Holy Spirit coming to live in both Jew and Gentile alike.
This is clearly seen in his other letters.
is speaking concerning leadership and the qualities that they should
possess. He says in verse 2,
“that those who have been given a trust must prove themselves
faithful”. Paul and the
other apostles have been entrusted with the gospel.
They have been given a trust by God.
As a result they need to be faithful in the duties that they have
been given to do. This is
Paul’s foundational point concerning leaders.
Leaders, must be faithful in every aspect of their lives.
believed himself to be faithful to the call of the Lord and therefore he
was secure in his ministry. This
is why he can say that he “cares very little if he is judged by anyone,
whether the Corinthians, or any court of law”.
He knows in himself that his conscience is clear and that he is
carrying out the responsibilities of the gospel as
best he can. He even
goes as far to say that “he doesn’t even judge himself”.
And why should he. Besides
doing the best he can, he knows that all of his best attempts are still
far from God’s perfect work and that he relies solely on what Jesus has
done for his acceptance with God. Paul
has given his life to Jesus, yet in the giving of his life alone salvation
is not found.
verse 4 he says that “my conscience is clean, but that does not make me
innocent”. Just because
Paul’s conscience was clean, or just because he felt right about his
life, did not make him innocent. “It
is the Lord that will judge me”, he says. And the Lord will judge by
what Paul has done with Jesus. Paul’s
acceptance with God depends on his trust in Jesus.
Yet beyond this acceptance, each man’s work will be judged.
Paul’s work, along with our work will all be judged by God who
will judge our motives behind our work.
Paul feels that his motives have been pure.
He does not get concerned by anything people say concerning why he
is preaching the good news.
fact that Paul had a clean conscience but that did not make him right
before God is important. The
world would say that if we have a clean conscience than we are in fact
clean and God views us in this light.
This is not so. Whether
we have a clean conscience or not, we are all sinners, and the only thing
that changes this in the eyes of God is the blood of Jesus.
encourages these people not to make judgment concerning people’s
motives for doing the work of the Lord.
God Himself will judge these things some day. Paul is not saying
that we should not make other kinds of judgments.
For example, he is not saying that we shouldn’t judge people for
overt sins that they commit. Paul
himself makes a judgment of a case in the next few chapters.
He is speaking about “motives” only in these verses.
It is not always easy to determine a person’s heart motives or
reasons for what they do, and therefore it is not worth trying.
some future point the Lord will bring judgment on all mankind and “will
bring to light what is hidden in darkness…”. (ch.4:5)
It will be at that time that God will “expose the motives of
men’s hearts”. It is at
that time that we will reap our reward.
Our works will either be burned, as with fire, or we will be
“praised by God” for what we have done in His service.
verse 6 Paul says that “he has applied these things to himself and
Apollos”. Concerning being a
servant, Paul has applied this principle to himself, yet not himself
alone. He has also applied
this to Apollos. Paul is
saying that Apollos is in total agreement with himself in this respect.
Note that Paul did not say that he had applied these things to
Cephus (Peter). Paul had a
closer working relationship with Apollos than he did with Peter.
has applied these principles of servanthood for the Corinthian’s
benefit, so they could learn what the saying, “do not go beyond what is
written”, really means. (ch.4:6) I
think what Paul is saying here is that we must not esteem our leaders
beyond “what it is written in Scripture”.
The Bible teaches a healthy submission to leadership.
It seems that throughout the ages the Biblical form has been tested
and manipulated to one degree or another.
On one extreme you have groups with dictators, and on the other
extreme you have churches with no or little respect for there leaders.
Both extremes are not “as it is written”.
you go by the Biblical thinking, “you will not take pride in one man
over another”. (ch. 4:6) This
is exactly what they were doing by making unhealthy alliances with certain
men. They were boasting about
the man they were following. I
have seen this in action. I
have attended conferences where when you meet a new brother in the Lord,
one of the first questions you ask is, “who are you under”.
Some would take great pride if they could say they were under a
popular man's leadership. Paul is speaking against such pride.
verse 7 he says, “who makes you different than anyone else”?
The answer is obvious. It
is the Lord God that makes us different from others.
He has made us all with different flavors.
We all come from a different perspective on issues of life. We all
bring our individual flavor to the table.
This is the way God has designed things to be, therefore don’t
glory in your different flavors, but glory in the Lord who has made
us the way we are.
continues with another question. “What
do you have that you did not receive”?
All good gifts come from God. Our
talents and gifts are all from God. We
did not create these things in our lives so why act as if we did.
Why boast about our talents and abilities?
We should boast in the Lord who has given us these various talents
appears that the Corinthian boasting may have gone farther than simply
boasting about gifts and talents. They
obviously boasted about who they followed, resulting in a boasting of who
they really were. For example,
those who followed Peter would think that they were very special because
they had Peter as their leader. They
most likely looked down on the other groups.
The other groups would do the same, resulting in the quarrels.
Therefore there was a general sense of pride among these Corinthian
Christians that penetrated into all areas of life.
of this pride Paul spends some time in a fairly lengthy paragraph
concerning this pride. In
verse 8 he says, “already you have all you want.
Already you have become rich! You
have become kings – and that without us”.
I can not say for sure what kind of riches Paul is speaking about
here, whether material or spiritual. My
guess is that he is using this word in a general sense which would include
both. Although in context, I
think he may be using a little sarcasm at this point.
These people in their pride and boasting appear to be well off, and
so Paul is going along with their boasting by saying they are rich and
they are kings. Yet in
reality, in Paul’s thinking they weren’t kings.
He continues by saying, “how I wish you really had become
kings”. So they weren’t
really kings. They just acted
as if they were.
as though one is a king and boasting about such things is far from the
character of Christ that Paul wanted to see in these people.
If these people had really become kings, if they had really become
successful as they boasted, Paul would have been happy, because he would
most likely have benefited from their wealth, whether this wealth was
material or spiritual. But
this really wasn’t the case. These
people weren‘t as well off as they thought they were.
As we have already seen. Paul
said that there weren’t many rich or noble among them. (ch. 1:26-27)
Also in chapter 3 verses 1 through 4 we see that these people were viewed
as baby Christians by Paul. Therefore,
on both counts, these people were not kings.
at the same time, the Corinthians were much better off than what Paul
himself was. In verse 9 Paul
says, “it seems to me that God has put us apostles at the end of the
procession, like men condemned to die in the arena”.
Paul is comparing himself to those men who were killed in the Roman
coliseum, where those who watched from the stands viewed such an event as
a sport. This was the reality of Paul’s life, quite different than the
Corinthian Christians. No,
these people weren’t kings, but they were rich when compared to Paul.
In verse 9 Paul goes on to say that “they have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men”. So Paul takes his analogy of the Roman sport of killing men one step farther. Not only were the apostles made a spectacle in front of a crowd of people, but they had been made a spectacle in front of everyone in the universe.
people question the idea that there are two universes, as in a spiritual
universe and a material universe.
They use this verse to support their thinking.
They say Paul is suggesting that both men and angels are a part of
the same universe. I'm not sure Paul is saying that.
I can understand how and why one might think this from what he
interlinear reads; "I think God us the apostles last showed forth as
deemed to death, because a spectacle we became to the world both to angels
and to men."
NIV says the apostles have been made a spectacle to the whole
"universe". KJV uses the word "world", as does
the interlinear. The Greek word is "kosmos", meaning an
orderly arrangement, adornment, or ornament. "Kosmos" is translated
as both universe and world, depending on the context.
1 Cor. 4:9 in my thinking, doesn't clearly suggest that angels and men are in the same universe, although I can see how one might get that impression. That being said, it might be possible that there is just one universe of which spirits are a part of. Maybe it's all semantics. In God's eyes, there's probably not two or more universes. It's all one creation for Him, and maybe a progressive creation at that. Maybe the idea of multiple universes is a product of man's thinking to help him understand spiritual things better. Creation is creation. We may not have to sub-divide as we do.
continues by saying that “we are fools for Christ”.
Indeed, in the eyes of the world, Paul and his company were
considered to be foolish men.
compares himself to the Corinthians .
He says, “we are fools in Christ, you are so wise in Christ.
We are weak but you are strong!
You are honoured, we are dishonoured”. (ch. 4:10)
What is Paul really saying here?
Was Paul really a fool. In
the eyes of the world he was, yet in the eyes of God he wasn’t.
Was he really weak? He
himself was weak, yet God made this weakness a strength.
Paul certainly withstood the pressures of his ministry.
Was Paul dishonored. Once
again, in the eyes of the world he did not have much honor, yet in the
eyes of God he was greatly honored.
seemed that the Christians in
relates to his readers the condition that he and his company were
presently in. Paul is not
complaining. He is simply stating the facts when he says, “to this very
hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we
are homeless. We work hard
with our own hands. When we
are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are
slandered, we answer kindly. Up
to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the
world” (ch. 4:11-13)
certainly can see the position Paul found himself in while serving the
Lord. He was all of the above
in order that the Corinthians, and others, could reap a good life based on
the love of God. Not all men were called as Paul was.
Not all men found themselves in Paul’s poverty.
Yet these Corinthians who lived a good and reasonable life did not
seem thankful for it. The new
life in Christ that they were living was a result of men like Paul, who
gave up everything for the sake of the gospel.
at Paul’s life as he describes it in verses 10 through 13.
He says that he is a fool for Christ, he is weak and dishonored,
hungry and thirsty, in rags, brutally treated, homeless, cursed,
persecuted, slandered, and the scum and refuse of the earth. Along with
this, he and his friends provide their own income.
This is quite a list. It certainly doesn’t sound all that
appealing. It's certainly not
the way many ministries operate today.
verse 14 Paul tells his readers that he is not telling them these things
“to shame them”. Just
because he had experienced these things in his life, he was not suggesting
that they should be experiencing the same in their lives.
He was living his life the way he was in order to devote himself to
the Lord and to the church. Not
everyone had the same calling as Paul.
The reason why Paul was writing these things was to show these
people that he had great concern for them as a father has for his
children. He says “though
you have ten thousand guardians…”
4:15) The Greek word
“paidagogos” is the word that is translated as “guardian”.
It basically means “a child trainer”.
Paul is telling these people that they may have many trainers,
instructors or men helping them in the Lord, yet they have only one
father, meaning himself.
4:15) The Greek word
“paidagogos” is the word that is translated as “guardian”.
It basically means “a child trainer”.
Paul is telling these people that they may have many trainers,
instructors or men helping them in the Lord, yet they have only one
father, meaning himself.
is using the analogy of a father here.
He is saying that these children of God became children because of
the seed he planted. Children
growing up may have many teachers at school
or at church, but they only have one father, and father is always
special. Paul was instrumental
in these people becoming Christians and as a result they should view him
as special. Paul was not
suggesting they esteem him beyond what they should.
He is telling them that they need to listen to him as if they would
listen to a father.
verse 16 Paul says, because I am your father in the Lord, “I urge you to
imitate me”. You might call
this discipleship. What does
Paul mean by this? Is he
suggesting that they become poor and persecuted like he is?
I don’t think so. In
Acts 26:29 Paul says that I wish that all “would become like I am,
except for these chains”.
don’t see Paul hoping his lifestyle on anyone.
Yet I do see Paul asking people to imitate him in his faith, his
trust in Jesus, and the Godly lifestyle he lives.
He does realize that everyone has a calling from the Lord, and not
all callings are the same with the same results.
He is basically pleading with these people to follow Jesus as he
himself is following Jesus and stop the worldliness.
this reason Paul was sending Timothy to them,
He calls Timothy "a son”.
Timothy was not a biological son to Paul.
He was a spiritual son. Timothy
would come to
verse 18 Paul says that “some of you have become arrogant as if I were
not coming to you”. Remember,
Paul is speaking as a father in the Lord.
These people were becoming arrogant because Paul was not around to
see them acting as they did. They
were acting as if Paul would never be back and never see their arrogant
worldliness. But Paul said
that he was coming back, if the Lord permitted.
Then when he would see these people in person, he would see just
how much power was behind their arrogant words.
Of course, by saying this Paul expected to see no power at all from
verse 21 Paul says, “for the
closes this chapter by asking whether they would prefer him “coming with
a whip, or with love and gentleness”.
If I were a Corinthian, I would prefer the love and gentleness.
But this shows us what kind of man Paul was, and how
he viewed the authority of his ministry to the Corinthians. Paul,
as an apostle, and even more so, as a father in the Lord felt he could
come “with a whip” and discipline these people.
I don’t believe that would go over very well in today’s
verse 1 of chapter 5 Paul believes a report that there is “sexual
immorality” among the Corinthians. This report may have come from
Cloe’s household, (ch. 1:11) or it may have been another report that had
come to Paul’s attention.
disgusting thing is that the immorality that was reported
to Paul “does not occur even among pagans”.
This particular case of immorality was that “a man had his
father’s wife”. (ch. 5:1) We
must note that the woman involved was the man’s step mother, not his
mother. Even in Corinth, a sexually liberated city, this kind of sexual activity was not common. Our
modern church today in some respects is not much different from this
church. We often do the same
immoral things and maybe worse than those in the world.
activity among church members could not be tolerated, but this was only
half of the problem. The other
half of the problem was that the church
was proud of there church. (ch. 5:2)
It may be hard for us to imagine that a church could be proud of
itself with such problems of immorality, but these are Paul’s words.
This church was not only an infant in their understanding, but
infants in their character qualities.
dare say that we are proud of our churches today. Yet in my thinking, this
pride is based on ignorance, that is, ignorance of God's will.
I don't believe our churches are fashioned after New Testament
thinking, and if this is the case, we should not be proud of them.
verse 2 Paul tells these people that their response should have been one
of “grief”, not pride. They
should have also put him out of fellowship. This man should have been
expelled from the church. Paul is making a judgment concerning this man.
It is a severe judgment, but something has to be done with someone
involved in such activity. In
our day of “love at any cost”, this may be hard to take.
Yet we should not weaken holiness in the church by what we might
call love, which is merely license, or ignoring truth. This situation
should have been dealt with.
Paul says in verse 3 that he is “with these people in spirit”, I
don’t think he is being super-spiritual or spooky.
I believe that he is saying, that his heart is with these people.
His thoughts and prayers are with them.
Even though he is far from them, in his heart he feels close to
them. We should not read any
mysticism into this comment. I
don't believe Paul's spirit left his body to visit these people.
That idea does not fit into the rest of Scripture.
says that he “has already passed judgment” on this man.
This tells us something about judging.
Many feel that we as Christians are not to judge.
This is not true. In
Mat. 7:1 Jesus basically tells us that when we judge, we should be willing
to be judged back in like fashion. Paul
is very willing to be judged on this matter, because he is not committing
is a place for passing judgment within the church.
When someone is clearly in a major sin, something needs to be done
for the sanctity of the
5 is very important. Paul
tells these people that when they get together, and when the Lord is
present, that they “should give this man over to Satan, so that the
sinful nature may be destroyed, and his spirit saved on the day of the
Lord”. First of all, note
that the power of the Lord should be present in their gathering.
This should always be the case when the church comes together, and
especially so when such a pronouncement is made.
once they are together in the presence of the Lord they should expel this
man from the church and let him go. They
should let him go and let him sin as much as he wants, knowing that sin
leads to death. The road that
this man is on will only lead to a horrible pit.
In so doing, Satan will have his way with this man.
By letting this man go, they are actually giving him to Satan.
We know that anyone who continues in this kind of lifestyle only
gets worse and worse, and the results of their choices bring all sorts of
calamity to their lives.
must note that Satan is the prince of this world. (John 7:31)
He is out to attack our “fleshly nature”, our “old man” as
Paul sometimes calls it. By
handing this man over to Satan, Paul is saying that Satan will have his
way with this man’s fleshly nature, and in the process destroy this man.
himself has also done this to others.
In 1 Tim. 1:20 he handed a couple of men over to Satan himself so
they would be taught not to blaspheme.
So this was not knew to Paul.
man was either a real Christian, spiraling downwards towards unbelief, or
he was one who “called himself a brother” as Paul states in verse 11.
Whatever the case, Paul wanted this man handed over to Satan so his
fleshly nature would be destroyed. Most
suggest that when this man gets low enough he will see the folly of his
ways and repent. As he
repents, even though the ravages of sin would have destroyed himself, his
“spirit will be saved on the day of the Lord”.
point that might be made here is that this man might well have been a
Christian living in sin. Paul
might be saying, "let satan kill him off, so his body will die but
his spirit will be saved". This
presents a number of questions. I
know that. But here is a
sinning Christian that will have his sprit saved in the end, after satan
has destroyed his body. We
need to come to grips to just what this means.
might wonder why Paul did not address the woman involved in this sin.
We cannot answer this question for sure because Paul doesn’t tell
us. It could be that the woman
herself was not part of the church, or wasn’t a Christian and therefore
Paul has no reason to judge her as he says in verse 12.
begins verse 6 by saying “your boasting is not good”.
The Corinthian church
could boast all it wants about how good it is, about all the gifts of the
Spirit, and anything else they wanted to boast about, but their boasting
is in vain. When they allow
such immoral activity by its members, they should be grieved and not
relates sin to making bread. You
only need a little bit of yeast in order to make a flat piece of
dough rise into a loaf of bread.
Paul tells them to get rid of this yeast, this sin.
One sin, one sinful person can spread into an epidemic
and spoil the whole church.
tells these people that the church is like unleavened bread, bread that
hasn’t risen due to yeast. The
use of these terms makes Paul think of the Passover Feasts where unleaven
bread was eaten. He says
“Christ, our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed”.
“Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the
yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of
sincerity and truth”. (ch. 5:8)
is not necessarily promoting the Old Testament feast here, since it is
only a picture of the reality of Christ.
Each day we as Christians are living the feast of Passover.
Therefore since Christ is the Passover Lamb
we should be people without yeast, without malice and wickedness.
We should be sincere and true in our Christian life, something
these people struggled with.
verses 9 to 12 Paul makes a clarification.
He is telling them not to associate with immoral people, with
swindlers, with drunkards, with idolaters, and slanderers.
These are just examples of particular sinners.
The list could go on. The
natural question then arises, “well, if this is the case, how can we
live in the world, because these people are all around us”?
Paul is not talking about people in the world or else “you would
have to leave the world”, he says. Paul
says to stay away from the one “who calls himself a brother” and
participates in such activity. That
is why he is telling these people to hand this man over to Satan, and to
expel him from the church. People
of the world are only doing what comes natural to them.
They do not claim to be Christian.
Yet when Christians do these things, they are living a double
standard. For this reason, we
should stay away from such people.
this point we need to distinguish between a lifestyle of sin and an
individual sin that someone might commit once or twice.
For example, Paul tells the Corinthians to stop fellowshipping with
drunkards. By using the word
“drunkard”, Paul is talking about a lifestyle of being drunk.
He is not talking about a person who has been drunk one or two
times. A drunkard is someone
who is always drunk. It is a
lifestyle. It is this
so-called brother we need to
stay away from, not the brother who just got drunk once last week. If we
were to stay away from the latter then we’d be staying away from a lot
of people, because at one time
or another we have all committed some kind of sin.
So we need to be careful who we hand over to Satan.
use of the words “who calls himself a brother” may (I say may) suggest
that Paul believes that not everyone who calls himself a brother is a
brother. It may be possible
that Paul and James may have some common ground in their thinking on this
point. If you read and
understand the letter of James, I think that James might say concerning
this man that he had a false faith. This
false faith cannot save him. Paul
might have believed that this man was a false brother.
His prayer would be that he would come to true repentance and faith
after being devastated by Satan.
verse 12 Paul says that it is no business to him to judge people
“outside the church”. That
only makes since. People
outside of the church are not his responsibility.
His responsibility is for the church. Therefore he asks, :”are
you not to judge those inside” the church.
You can see clearly at this point that we are to make righteous judgment
concerning people in overt sin within the church.
Such sin causes disgrace, not only to the church, but to the Lord.
Don’t worry about those outside the church, “God will judge
them”. Just “expel the
wicked man among you”. (ch. 5:13)
are strong actions Paul is telling these people, something we do not see
much of today in our modern church. Yet
the church is weaker as a result. We
have watered down the holiness of the church by allowing anything and
everything into our midst. In
so doing, we have lost our witness to the world.
We are not much different than any other worldly organization.
Therefore the world does not see Jesus in us.
It only sees what it sees in itself, and that is not attractive
enough for them to come to us.
Paul talks about expelling this man from the church, and not to even eat
with him, he is not simply saying to kick him out of their church
meetings. He is telling these
people to disassociate themselves with him.
They are not to be his friend.
They are to cut off their fellowship with him.
Once again, this is a strong action, but Paul has a particular goal