- Chapter 4 concludes the opening section of the letter. Here Paul has been fixing the Corinthians’ attention on Christ and the cross.
- 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.
- Paul’s concern is the power of the Spirit in the church, not sophisticated rhetoric (vv. 19-20).
- 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).
- He characterizes the Corinthians as full, having all they want; they do not hunger and thirst for righteousness (cf. Matt. 5:6).
- There are no shortcuts to spiritual maturity; we must go the way of the cross.
- Paul rebukes the Corinthian idea of wisdom, strength and honor as coming from worldly motives, striving to impress.
- 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.
- 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).
- Immature Christians think that they are mature, are preoccupied with the opinion of others, and are ungrateful.
- By contrast, mature Christians are marked by faithfulness to God and the way of the cross.
- 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.
- A steward is one who has been entrusted with the resources of another.
- Stewardship applies to preachers in particular, who are called to faithfully present the Word of God, without adding or taking away.
- Stewardship also applies to believers generally; we are all called to minister God’s Word to one another (cf. Col. 3:16).
- Parents are stewards of the mysteries of God in the home. Children should expect that their parents will give them the Word of God.
- 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).
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- A mature Christian is humble, submitting to God’s providence in whatever He wills.
- 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.
- 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).
- What is our spiritual appetite? Do we feel the need to be filled with God’s Word, or our need for pastors and teachers?
- Are you faithfully speaking God’s Word into others’ lives? Are you willing to receive it from others?
- Who are we trying to please, man or God?
- What is the relationship between spiritual maturity and gratitude?
A portrait of the immature Corinthian believers. They thought they were mature but the Apostle Paul shows them that they are mostly talk.