Are You For Real?

A portrait of the immature Corinthian believers. They thought they were mature but the Apostle Paul shows them that they are mostly talk.

Sermon Notes:

  1. Chapter 4 concludes the opening section of the letter. Here Paul has been fixing the Corinthians’ attention on Christ and the cross.
  2. He effectively says that the Corinthians talk a big game, but think of power in human terms, showing little evidence of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.
  3. Paul’s concern is the power of the Spirit in the church, not sophisticated rhetoric (vv. 19-20).
  4. The apostle holds up a mirror to the Corinthians to show them their immaturity and contrasts them with the apostles as a portrait of true maturity (vv. 14-17).
  5. He characterizes the Corinthians as full, having all they want; they do not hunger and thirst for righteousness (cf. Matt. 5:6).
  6. There are no shortcuts to spiritual maturity; we must go the way of the cross.
  7. Paul rebukes the Corinthian idea of wisdom, strength and honor as coming from worldly motives, striving to impress.
  8. Christian intellectuals are often embarrassed by the claims of Scripture, wanting to be respected by the world, and so they put undue qualifications around the Bible’s clear teaching.
  9. Someone who is puffed up is full of hot air, a lightweight without any substance. One result of this is ingratitude, forgetting that all they have is a gift (v. 7).
  10. Immature Christians think that they are mature, are preoccupied with the opinion of others, and are ungrateful.
  11. By contrast, mature Christians are marked by faithfulness to God and the way of the cross.
  12. Paul calls himself a steward of the mysteries of God (v. 1), by which he means the revealed words of God in Scripture and in Jesus Christ.
  13. A steward is one who has been entrusted with the resources of another.
  14. Stewardship applies to preachers in particular, who are called to faithfully present the Word of God, without adding or taking away.
  15. Stewardship also applies to believers generally; we are all called to minister God’s Word to one another (cf. Col. 3:16).
  16. Parents are stewards of the mysteries of God in the home. Children should expect that their parents will give them the Word of God.
  17. Paul speaks of himself and the apostles as being exhibited as men sentenced to death – an image of an imperial Roman victory procession, where the conquered prisoners destined for the arena were last in the parade (v. 9).
  18. He contrasts the Corinthians’ supposed richness and fullness with the hunger and homelessness of the apostles as the “scum of the world,” a vivid picture of how the world views them as servants of Christ (cf. Jn. 15:20; 1 Pt. 2:20-23).
  19. Most of us have never experienced this level of suffering; we should not go looking for ways to suffer, but look for ways to be a servant of Christ, regardless of the social cost.
  20. A mature Christian is fearful: one day God will expose the hidden things of the heart; a life of godly fear is a life of repentance.
  21. A mature Christian is humble, submitting to God’s providence in whatever He wills.
  22. A mature Christian is faithful: the Corinthians wanted to be approved by both God and men (cf. Gal. 1:10); we are not Christians if we care more for the approval of others than for that of God.
  23. A mature Christ is hopeful, knowing that God is pleased by our faithful service and we will hear his commendation on the Last Day: “Well done good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:21, 23).

Application Questions:

  1. What is our spiritual appetite? Do we feel the need to be filled with God’s Word, or our need for pastors and teachers?
  2. Are you faithfully speaking God’s Word into others’ lives? Are you willing to receive it from others?
  3. Who are we trying to please, man or God?
  4. What is the relationship between spiritual maturity and gratitude?