The Attitude in Corinth Toward Apostles 1 Cor 4:3-21

The Attitude in Corinth Toward Apostles 1 Cor 4: 3-21 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO

Following Paul and Apollos’ work in Corinth, the congregation became puffed up and their attitude toward the apostles changed.  They favored one apostle above another and preachers who had come behind the apostles to the apostles, themselves.  Paul dealt with their attitude in 1 Cor 4:3-21.  

They had a judgmental attitude – 1 Cor 4:3-5 – the Corinthians had judged Paul, either as better or worse than the other men whom they were following [1 Cor 1:12].  Paul said that it’s a “small thing” to be judged of man’s judgment.  However, many preachers are much more worried about how others judge them than they are about how the Lord will judge them.  Thus, they try to impress men.

Paul didn’t even judge himself, but that’s because he could find nothing to judge.  When he said, “For I know nothing by myself,” he was saying that his conscience was clear [Acts 23:1].  However, he didn’t justify himself, knowing that he must give account of himself to the Lord [Rom 14:10-12].  At the time of the Lord’s judgment [1 Cor 3:11-15], two things will be judged that the Corinthians couldn’t judge.  The Lord “will bring to light the hidden things of darkness.”  That is, he will judge things that men can’t see [Jn 7:24].  And the Lord “will make manifest the counsels of the heart.”  That is, he will also judge the motives behind the things that were done.  When the hidden things are for the Lord [Matt 6:1-18] and when the motive is to please God [Col 3:23-25], “then shall every man have praise of God.”  The praise of God is far greater than the praise of men [Jn 12:43].

They had a haughty attitude – 1 Cor 4:6-8 – they were “puffed up for one against another.”  Paul wanted them to realize that they were not better than each other.  According to verse 7, they were different because God made them “differ from (one) another.”  Whatever they had, God had given them.  Therefore, they had no room to “glory.”  

When Paul wrote, “And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written…” here’s what he was saying. Paul and Apollos were ministers of Christ [1 Cor 4:1; 3:5].  “These things… in a figure” are that Paul compared his ministry to a planter, and Apollos’ ministry to a waterer.  He said, as such, “neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth,” [1 Cor 3:7-8].  Therefore, the Corinthians were “not to think of men above that which is written.”  In other words, I don’t think of myself as more than a planter and Apollos doesn’t think of himself as more than a waterer.  We don’t think of ourselves as better than others or as one better than the other.  Therefore, don’t think of yourselves as better than others or as better than each other, just because you do something different than others do.

The Corinthians had become so puffed up that they thought of themselves as “full,” “rich,” and reigning as “kings.”  They sound like the Laodiceans in Rev 3:17.  Of course, they will reign one day, during the millennial reign of Christ, and Paul was ready to reign with them [Rev 1:6, 5:10].

They had a disdainful attitude – 1 Cor 4:9-13 – Paul said, “we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.”  The attitude of the Corinthians was similar to the world’s attitude.  They looked down on the apostles.  Paul said, that they were:

  • Last
  • Appointed to death
  • A spectacle
  • Fools, the Corinthians thought of themselves as wise by comparison
  • Weak, the Corinthians thought of themselves as strong by comparison
  • Despised, the Corinthians thought of themselves as honorable by comparison
  • Hungry, thirsty and naked
  • Buffeted 
  • Homeless
  • Self-supported
  • Reviled, yet they blessed those that reviled them
  • Persecuted, yet they suffered it
  • Defamed, yet they prayed for those who defamed them
  • Filth of the word
  • Offscouring of all things

They had an unfaithful attitude – 1 Cor 4:14-17 – Paul said that he didn’t write all those things about the apostles to shame the Corinthians, but rather to warn them.  That is, he warned them not to turn their backs on him after all that God had done for them through his ministry.  He was the one who had “begotten (them) through the gospel.”  As a result, he commanded them to be “followers of me.”  It wouldn’t have been easy for them to follow Paul, since he wasn’t popular.  But they owed him their loyalty for all he had done for them.  Therefore, he sent Timothy to remind them of his “ways which be in Christ.”  These were the same principles he taught “every where and in every church.”  In other words, he didn’t come up with something special just for the Corinthians.

They had a boastful attitude – 1 Cor 4:18-20 – Some of the folks in Corinth didn’t think Paul would come back to see them.  But Paul assured them he would come back, if the Lord was willing, and he knew they wouldn’t be so puffed up if he was around.  He wasn’t interested in their speech [1 Cor 2:1].  He was interested in their power [1 Cor 2:4-5].  And that power derived from preaching “the cross,” [1 Cor 1:18], “Christ crucified,” [1 Cor 1:23-24], and “the gospel,” [Rom 1:16].  That’s how people get into the “kingdom of God.”

Conclusion: 1 Cor 4:21, Paul was ready to deal with them either way, depending on how they responded to his admonition.  He would come with a rod, or he would come in meekness and love.