Friday, 23 May 2014
We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! 1 Corinthians 4:10
Paul again introduces irony into his thoughts as he did in verse 8. He is showing the folly of their boasting and divisions within the church. He, and the other apostles, have done nothing but proclaim Christ, and they have done it with complete and undivided loyalty. But among those in this world (and even among those in the faith) they have been taken as fools, men of weakness, and those who are dishonored. His words are confirmed throughout Acts and the other epistles.
He begins with “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ.” In his statement, he speaks in an ironical tone in order to highlight his words. His message is one which proclaims only Christ; theirs is in divisions within the body. Later, in his second letter to the Corinthians, he will repeat this sentiment –
“I have become a fool in boasting; you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing.” 2 Corinthians 12:11
Two examples from Acts shows that this wasn’t limited to those at Corinth, but was a thought which permeated society at large as well –
1) “Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, ‘What does this babbler want to say?'” 17:18
2) “Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!” 26:24
In opposition to how he is perceived, he ironically states that “you are wise in Christ.” In verse 8, he told them that they were already full, a way of saying they were full of knowledge when in fact they were mere babes in what they knew.
He then shows another irony about being mature in Christ when he says, “We are weak, but you are strong!” Again, in 2 Corinthians, he will explain very carefully how one who is truly weak in the ways of the world can actually be full of strength in Christ –
“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10
This statement came after his explanation that only when relying solely on the Lord can one be truly strong. The paradox is explained in Jesus’ words to Him which said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Because he had to rely on the grace of Christ, he possessed the greatest of all strengths. The Corinthians had failed to understand this and were busy in the art of division of Christ rather than total dependence on Him.
Finally, Paul again introduces a note of irony by stating “You are distinguished, but we are dishonored!” The natural result of division is to feel distinguished. When someone argues with another about their favorite pastor being better than the other person’s pastor, there is a smug feeling of self-confidence. “I follow Pastor Pillowfeathers and he is all I need. I cannot see why you even listen to Preacher Pointypants.”
The attempt is to be distinguished among a crowd, just as Paul noted about the divisions in chapter 1. And yet, it harmed rather than helped; it destroyed rather than developed. But instead of divisions and mis-directions, Paul kept his eyes on one Prize and held fast to one Hope. And that is to be found in Jesus Christ and Him alone. His previous words to the Corinthians show this singleness of mind and attitude –
“For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” 1 Corinthians 2:2-4
Life application: What the world sees as foolish, weak, and dishonorable is the only true Source of sanity, strength, and honor. Jesus Christ is the Source of wisdom. Reliance on Him is the position of highest power and might. And there is no more exalted place for any person in heaven or on earth than to be found in Him, covered with His garments of righteousness. Eyes on Jesus! Hearts on Jesus! Minds on Jesus! Rest in Christ alone!
Glorious and exalted Lord, the sweetest sound of the finest singing bird can’t compare to the beautiful music of Your precious word. The most delicious taste of the choicest pastry is nothing compared to waking up to the savor of You in my life. And the fantastic sensation of the most delightful bubble bath compares not-in-the-least to knowing Your guiding hand is upon me. How wonderfully precious it is to be called, fed, and covered by You, my precious Lord. Amen.