Wednesday, 21 May 2014
You are already full! You are already rich! You have reigned as kings without us—and indeed I could wish you did reign, that we also might reign with you! 1 Corinthians 4:8
Paul makes a sudden transition from his words concerning the boasting of the Corinthians. In this verse his pen shouts out the irony of a man who sees their true state. And he does so in an a way which shows his breaking heart over their childish behavior (something he will note directly in 1 Corinthians 14:20). In this then, he makes three statements which ascend in their tone and force.
In each of these thoughts, the emphasis is on the completed action indicated by the adverb or verb. As they are analyzed, stressing those words shows his intent. “You are already full!” You are already rich! You have reigned as kings.” Likewise, he has changed his wording from the previous verses which were singular to plural here. He is redirecting from the personal singular to the impersonal group to correspond with the emotion of his words.
And so he begins with “You are already full!” The idea here is one who is fully sated. The only other time this phrase is used is in Acts 27:38 –
“So when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship and threw out the wheat into the sea.”
Those in Corinth acted as if they had all they needed of the word and instruction in order to continue on in faith and practice, but Paul is just beginning. He will write another 12 chapters to them in this letter and a second letter comprising 13 chapters. Adding in his other letters and those of the other apostles, it is quite apparent that they were far less than full; they were lacking in the extreme. As he noted to them earlier, they were still babes, not yet able to move from milk to solid food (1 Corinthians 3:1, 2).
Continuing with his thoughts, he next says “You are already rich!” Not only did they assume they were full and had enough to sustain them, they felt so comfortable that they were rich. The idea of richness is that of having taken the food that they had consumed and processed it into grand knowledge and understanding. So much so that they could rest easy in what they possessed. This is similar to Jesus’ words to those is Laodicea in Revelation 3:17 –
“Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.”
However, Paul’s continued instruction to them will show that they are in fact poor beggars needing a handout of spiritual doctrine. And finally, he takes them to the highest level of irony by telling that that “You have reigned as kings without us…”
The idea of a king is one who is elevated to the highest position of all. They sit at the throne and direct others rather than taking orders. In this, he is literally mocking them over their boastings because what they have came from Cephas, Paul, and Apollos, to whom they had broken into warring divisions. So how could they be kings if they were claiming allegiance to mere messengers! Their thinking is utterly nonsensical and they have only made themselves look like fools in the royal court rather than the king on the throne.
With these thoughts now stated, he lessens his charge against them to show them grace by saying “and indeed I could wish that you did reign, that we might also reign with you.” They have assumed that they were kings with crowns and he has charged them otherwise, but his hope is that they will in fact be there to reign with him. He spoke in a similar manner to those in Thessalonica when he wrote to them –
“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.” 1 Thessalonians 2:19, 20
Paul wasn’t looking for divisions, but for a united heart and attitude directed solely toward Jesus Christ. He is where the prize is. He is where the throne is. He is where the crown of rejoicing is. Their attitude about Paul is that they had entered the kingdom apart from him when he in fact was the one who had planted what they now possessed.
Life application: Running ahead in spiritual development without understanding the basics inevitably leads to unsound theology, prideful demonstrations which harm the fellowship, and leaders being exalted in an unhealthy way. One cannot be sound in their theology without much study and a complete focus on Jesus Christ.
Lord God, a thousand prayer requests I could lay before You this morning – friends with trials, troubles, tribulations, and temptations. But what I would pray for them above all else is that You would impress upon them the need to study Your word. If they make the effort, those other things will find their proper place; many will disappear completely. Your word is a treasure of immeasurable worth. Open hearts to long for it, minds to understand it, and lives to rejoice in it. To Your glory I pray. Amen.