Reading for Thursday, Aug 30: 1 Cor 4
In our human weakness, we are incapable of realizing the “mysteries” of God (v1), but this is where the Gospel intersects our lives. The Gospel is completely God’s initiative, His revelation of the mystery of salvation on our behalf through Christ. Paul is an apostle and steward of this mystery, sharing it in fullness with the Corinthians, in the hopes they will flourish into maturity.
“Do not go beyond what is written,” (v6). Paul knows that the Scripture reveals Gospel to us because the Scriptures reveal Jesus. He holds up the Word as the normative template for receiving Gospel and warns of the dangers of moving beyond God’s Word. To that end, he has already quoted Isa. 29:14 (1 Cor. 1:19); Jer. 9:22–23 (1 Cor. 1:31); Isa. 64:4 (1 Cor. 2:9); Job 5:13 (1 Cor. 3:19); and Ps. 94:11 (1 Cor. 3:20). Paul’s preaching and teaching models that which he desires for the Corinthians.
But haughtiness is plaguing these believers. To counter this, Paul engages in rhetorical questions, bringing to light their arrogance (v8-13). Paul’s experience in following Jesus is much riskier and far less “blissful”, at least according to Corinthian standards. “We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored!” (v10). (Nobody ever said Paul couldn’t drop some sarcasm from time to time in order to prove his point!)
But then Paul speaks in tenderness: “I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children,” (v14). He continues: “Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church,” (v16-17). Paul’s role as spiritual father to these believers leads him to act redemptively on their behalf, sending Timothy as a teacher and instructor. And what is held up is not just the way of Paul, but the way of Jesus that Paul is imitating. This is the key to spiritual mentorship and discipleship: we follow our examples as they follow Christ.