1 Corinthians 4:1-21 Commended or Convicted

Pride is born out of judgement

Paul focuses on the haughtiness of his readers. I’m curious to know if this is directed at the leaders, the lay people or the whole church body. Would my cheeks be burning with shame if this letter was signally addressed to me?

Something that got my attention while reading this chapter is Paul’s statement regarding God’s final judgement. “It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgement 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” (verses 4b-5).

Paul did not say God’s condemnation or God’s conviction in this passage. He specifically used a positive phrase; commendation. He is speaking to fellow believers and therefore knows that God has already accepted these people, faults and all. But accepting the new believer as he/she is does not mean that is where the process ends. Now the work begins. And that work often starts with the conviction  of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit used Paul to convict the believer’s hearts through this letter. The believers Paul was addressing were struggling with pride. Pride in who they sat under. Pride in the Spiritual gifts operating in their lives. Even pride in their “superiority” over their fellow believers.

Any time there is pride there is also judgement. They go hand in hand because you cannot elevate yourself without first devaluing another. When the Lord is the judge pride is absent.

Paul addresses first their pride in who they followed. We saw earlier in Paul’s letter that cliques had developed and lines drawn over who was the best teacher to follow. Paul reminds them that each of their teachers is in fact a follower of Christ and responsible to Him for their conduct and message. All the messages should be flowing straight out of the scriptures.

There was also a warning involved in choosing who to follow. If the leader took you outside or beyond the scriptures already given, RUN AWAY. Follow no one who does not follow Christ. Nothing Jesus ever said contradicted scripture that had already been given by the prophets. He explained it and expounded upon it but never contradicted it.

Next came the “ownership” of Spiritual gifts. This church apparently had many such gifts in operation. But those were gifts from God NOT some supreme power developed independently by an individual. They, and we, can claim no origination of the gift. These gifts are not man made. They are not for sale. They cannot be stolen or appropriated. They are gifts from God. No man holds ownership of these gifts or the power behind them. It ALL belongs to God and HE gives it to those whom He chooses.

I believe that pride actually gets in the way of the operation of Spiritual gifts. God doesn’t share the glory. If I try and use His gifts for my glory He removes His power behind them. And since I have no power to put in its place my efforts fall flat. The gift is only operable when plugged into the Source.

Paul also addresses this group’s pride in their superiority. Paul mockingly calls them kings and says he would like to rule with them. They believed themselves to be Super Christians. That term reminds me of the way the Pharisees believed themselves to be far above the common man in holiness. Neither group’s conduct reflected their claim.

Paul calls them to look at his life with an honest heart. He didn’t claim to be perfect but he did claim to be living fully for Jesus. His life was one of sacrifice. He served wherever he went. He had no riches. He had no real home. He was beaten and persecuted. Yet he counted everything he endured as another opportunity to share Jesus. It didn’t matter where he was or who was with him, he lived for the opportunity to minister to others. He asks his readers to do the same. He wants them to accept the calling of Jesus; to be the servant of all.

Father God, this is where I believe I’m at today. You just spoke to my heart in this matter. You reminded me that my calling is to serve, not to be served or to be pointed out for my service. If I am serving well it will be noticed but that is NOT the goal for my actions. The only one I desire to impress with my service is You. But even my best service is so much less than Jesus did. I can’t hold a candle to all He has done for me. I pray that I honor You by serving those You love and call in the ways You call me to. Please forgive me for trying to take some of Your glory. Help me live a life pleasing unto You. Not prideful,  boastful or judgemental.

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