17 February 2015

1 Corinthians 4:8-13

“We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ.” (v. 10)

Psalm: Psalm 111


Paul is writing to a divided Corinthian church. Part of their division is over choosing which Christian leader to follow (1 Corinthians 3:3-4), congratulating themselves on their own wisdom in choosing the best leader, and their own spiritual superiority over those who have foolishly chosen another Christian leader.

Paul has established his own credentials for being able to address them - he is an apostle, trusted by God as a 'steward of God's mysteries' (1 Corinthians 4:1), as are all the apostles.

But, Paul tells them, they think they know better than him in their own cleverness. And so in this passage, Paul sarcastically criticises their smugness. He has reminded them (1 Corinthians 4:6-7) that if they are indeed spiritually superior, then it is a gift of God and nothing they themselves should be proud of.

He contrasts the humility and sufferings of the apostles with the Corinthians who feel that they themselves have already become co-rulers with Christ in heaven (verse 8). He piles on the sarcasm: they are so much better than those who are persecuted as the "dregs of all things" (v. 13) - aren't they?

Incidentally, some commentators have noticed that the word used by Paul for 'dregs' is the same word used for the scum swilled off a sacred vessel which is washed and purified for use in worship. Perhaps Paul is also pointing to the way that the Body of Christ is being made pure by the suffering and faithfulness of the apostles.

To Ponder

  • To what extent do people still believe that suffering proves a lack of God's blessing? Do you agree? Why or why not?
  • Is it always best for a church to rely on the vote of the majority? Why?
  • What does this passage say to you about the best people to lead a church, as its 'kings'?

Bible notes author

The Revd Neil Cockling

Neil spent 20 years as a circuit minister before becoming the District Development Enabler for the Newcastle upon Tyne Methodist District. He now works full-time for the NHS as a Consultant Lead Chaplain in mental health, leading a multi-faith team of 14 chaplains working in 10 hospitals in Northumberland and Tyne & Wear.