Thursday, 22 May 2014
For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. 1 Corinthians 4:9
“For” begins this verse and explains this statement made in the previous verse – “I could wish you did reign, that we also might reign with you!” Paul was rebuking those in Corinth for their attitude of feeling full, rich, and reigning as kings when no such thing was the case. In those comments he added that he wished it was in fact true because if it were, then the apostles would also be right there with them. However, it was painfully apparent that this wasn’t the case.
Rather, Paul felt that they (meaning the apostles) had been on display by God in several notable ways –
1) last – the is a reference to the custom of the times where those who were to fight in the amphitheaters of the Roman Empire were brought in last, after all the other spectacles were finished, in order to fight to the death. They were the condemned about to die. Which is exactly what he then refers to.
2) as men condemned to death – those who first went into the amphitheaters may be orators or actors, and maybe animal shows as well. Only after their displays were finished would those who fought to the death be brought in. Those condemned to die had but one chance which would be to fight so well that they would be pardoned. In this they were made….
3) a spectacle to the whole world – the Roman Empire was the known world at the time. Amphitheaters were found throughout its borders and the condemned would be paraded through the streets to any and all of them as a sign of power of the empire and as a gory sport for those who watched.
Like these people, Paul found that the apostles were in a similar situation. In fact, all but John were actually killed for their faith and even John suffered greatly. For the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they lived their difficult lives as a “spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.” In the sight of both those on earth and those in the heavenly realms, they went about their business of witnessing to the splendor of the gospel, unafraid of even death for the sake of Christ.
Life application: Far too many see Christianity as a means to wealth, prosperity, ease, and a fist-bumping relationship with the Creator. In this, they see their faults as easily dismissed and feel they possess a guarantee of protection and safety. But this is because of the prosperous circumstances which surround them. In most of the world and for most of history, Christians have been the brunt of hatred, torture, and death. Our pleasant surroundings are bound to end. How firm will we be in our faith at that time? Be prepared to serve the Lord through any and every trial.
Heavenly Father, I admit my life has been one of ease and prosperity. You have blessed me with so much in the time, place, and circumstance in which I find myself. But I know that those things may end someday. Should they not be found nearby, I would ask for nothing more than the strength to continue to praise You. If all else is taken from me, don’t take this desire and ability away. With this I will be pleased. Amen.