About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Chapters 4 and 5

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ch. 4:1-21     ch.5:1-13


Apostles Of Christ (ch. 4:1-21)


Paul 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. 


Paul 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. 


Paul 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. 


Paul 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. 


In 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. 


The 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.   


Paul 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.


At 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. 


In 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. 


Paul 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”. 


If 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.


In 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.


Paul 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 and gifts.


It 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.


Because 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. 


Acting 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.  


Yet 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.


Some 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 said. 


My 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."

The 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.

Heb. 1:14 says that "angels are ministering spirits".  Many people believe that angels are thus spirits, and when they appear to man, they appear in human likeness so man can see them.  I tend to believe this.

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.


He 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. 


Paul 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. 


It seemed that the Christians in Corinth had the best of both worlds.  They had the benefits of their faith yet at the same time many of them were not viewed as fools as Paul was.  Maybe they were still too much like the world and the world considered them as one of themselves. 


Paul 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)


You 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.  


Look 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. 


In 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…” (ch. 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.


Paul 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.  


In 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”. 


I 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.


For 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 Corinth and “remind” them of Paul’s ”way of life in Christ Jesus that agrees with what I teach everywhere…” (ch. 4:17)  Timothy’s job was to remind the Corinthians what Paul taught and lived.  There is an old saying that says, “a sample is better than a sermon”.  Yet in Paul’s case, as should be in our case, you saw the sample and you also heard a sermon.  The two need to work together.


In 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 their lives.


In verse 21 Paul says, “for the Kingdom of God is not in talk, but in power”. All of the lofty and  highly educated or arrogant talk means nothing.  It is the power of God that changes a life.  It seems to me that most of our Christianity is in word only.  We have little power. Maybe part of the reason why we have little power is that our talk is arrogant.  We are boasting in our own knowledge.  Talk without power is not part of God’s Kingdom. 


Paul 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 individualistic church.


Expel The Immoral Brother  (ch. 5:1-13)


In 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. 


The 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.  


Such 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. 


I 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. 


In 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.


When 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.


Paul 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 such sin. 


There 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 church.


Verse 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.


Then 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. 


We 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.


Paul 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.


This 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”. 


Another 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.  


You 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.      


Paul 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 boasting.


Paul 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. 


Paul 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) 


Paul 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.


In 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.


At 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.     


The 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. 


In 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) 


These 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.


When 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 in mind.


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