Tuesday, 20 May 2014
For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? 1 Corinthians 4:7
“For” explains the thought in the previous verse which said, “that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other.” Why should one be puffed up against another? If we think it through, it should never happen. To help us consider logically, Paul asks a series of questions to mull over.
First he asks, “Who makes you differ from another?” Paul and Apollos certainly differed from one another, as do all teachers. But who is it that made them different? Of course it is the Lord. If Paul differs from Apollos and they are both proclaiming the same message, then obviously the Lord should get the credit for the difference because He gave them that ability or grace. As this is so, then why should those in Corinth boast about their superiority over one another in their allegiance to Paul or Apollos? Rather they should be boasting in the Lord who made each according to His own wisdom and purpose.
If a potter made two pots, one beautiful and one simple, each still has a particular purpose. The beautiful one can be put on a shelf to admire, but it may not be as good for transporting olive oil. However, we need olive oil for cooking. So which is more important? And because the same potter made them both, do we praise the individual pot, or the potter who made them for various uses? Paul asks them to think.
He next asks, “And what do you have that you did not receive?” What predominate gift does Paul have? He was the one to plant. What predominate gift does Apollos have? He watered. Who gave them these gifts? Likewise, he would have them look to themselves as well. What do each of you have? And if you have it, you received it from elsewhere. Was it from Paul? Was it from Apollos? No! It was from God. So why then are you puffed up? Why are there such divisions?
If a group goes into a royal palace and the one on the throne has gifts prepared for each of them. Who will they thank, the attendant who brings them the gift, or the one on the throne who offered it? The answer is obvious. Paul asks them to think.
Finally, he asks a follow-up question to get them to consider their actions, “Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” His words make it clear that what they have, they received. There can be no arguing against it and so his question is like a sharp knife, intended to cut away their pride. In essence, “Of course you have received all that you have, so why would you boast as if you had earned it?”
In the end, this is true for all things. If you have a big house and lots of money, it is because God gave you the time, place, intelligence, strength, etc. to earn these things. So do you say how great you are, or do you thank God for His grace upon your life? If you understand properly, it is God who must be given the credit. Paul asks them to think.
Life application. No matter what you have, it ultimately came from God. Illogical divisions which fail to recognize this are sinful. If we in the US boast about our strength, but fail to give God the credit for it, we sin. If those in Japan boast about their technological prowess, but fail to give God the credit for it, they sin. In all things, “To God be the glory.”
Lord, I have a great family – you chose who I would be born to. I have a super job – you gave me this particular ability. My wife is tops – you chose my time and place of life and she came as a result of that. The people counted as my friends like me because You made me the person that I am. How can I boast in a single thing? In the end, it all came from You. Thank You for every good and gracious blessing that has adorned my life. Amen.