1 Corinthians 4 (Part II)
Live by the Fruits of the Spirit
There was a lot pride among the people of Corinth, and in verses 10-13, Paul compares how they are living and behaving with how the apostles are living and being treated.
“Our dedication to Christ makes us look like fools, but you claim to be so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are so powerful! You are honored, but we are ridiculed. Even now we go hungry and thirsty, and we don’t have enough clothes to keep warm. We are often beaten and have no home. We work wearily with our own hands to earn our living. We bless those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us. We appeal gently when evil things are said about us. Yet we are treated like the world’s garbage, like everybody’s trash—right up to the present moment.” (1 Corinthians 4:10-13)
The apostles look like fools while the people in Corinth claim to be so wise. The apostles are weak with hunger and mistreatment while the people in Corinth are powerful. The apostles are ridiculed, the Corinthians are honored. Paul says they (the apostles) are treated like the world’s garbage. Have you ever felt that way? The whole world is against you and you are getting dumped on by everyone about everything. You can’t do anything right, you feel like the world’s garbage. This might not be something you expect to read in the Bible, but Paul knows exactly what it’s like to feel like you are treated like the world’s garbage.
“So I urge you to imitate me.” (1 Corinthians 4:16)
Does the attitude Paul describes toward all this reflect your own? Are you imitating Paul as he urges us to do? Do you bless those who curse you? Are you patient with people who abuse/mistreat you? Do you make a gentle appeal when evil things are said about you?
Do you see how the apostles are able to respond this way? Paul is simply saying the apostles are exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit; love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It is not by our own will or power that we can bless those who curse us or be patient in the face of mistreatment or gentle toward hostility. It takes love, patience, peace, and gentleness; it is by the Spirit that we can do these things, not our own power.
“But I will come—and soon—if the Lord lets me, and then I’ll find out whether these arrogant people just give pretentious speeches or whether they really have God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 4:19)
Paul isn’t pulling punches here or mincing words; his authority is still very clear.
“For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 4:20)
Paul seems to identify what might be the problem the people of Corinth had. The people might have just been doing a lot of talking and not actually living by God’s power. Does that describe you? Are you talking more than living by God’s power?
“Which do you choose? Should I come with a rod to punish you, or should I come with love and a gentle spirit?” (1 Corinthians 4:21)
I find myself making this choice daily with my own children. Do they need punishment or a gentle spirit from me? Which do you think the Corinthians chose? I would guess that Paul went the way he always did, with the fruits of the Spirit. When Jesus first came He made it clear that He did not come with the rod to punish but to save (John 3:17)—when He comes again, however, it will be in judgment (Revelation 20, 1 Corinthians 4:5, 2 Corinthians 5:10). Let’s work to grow those fruits daily by watering the Spirit within us with constant prayer, study, and fellowship in the Word of God and then let's work to live by these fruits.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.