Study Sheet for I Corinthians 4:6-13 (click here for Study Notes)
Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, "Do not go beyond what is written." Then you will not take pride in one man over against another. For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have become kings-and that without us! How I wish that you really had become kings so that we might be kings with you! For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. 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! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world. (NIV)
1. Paul has been warning the Corinthians not to pass judgment on people's motives. He's been warning them not to align themselves with certain leaders and thereby cause factions among the believers. He has been exhorting them to follow Christ and to become wise in the eyes of God. Here he says, "I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, 'Do not go beyond what is written.' " He holds himself to the same standards he sets before them. What does Paul mean by not going "beyond what is written? What sorts of things does Paul consider "go[ing] beyond what is written"? (see I Cor. 1:9, 31; 3:19-20; Ro 12:3)
2. Paul drives home the point that none of them deserves more or less honor than another, and none has room to boast. "For who makes you different from anyone else?" he asks. "What do you have that you did not receive?" To what is Paul referring in these questions? Against what kinds of boasting or pride is Paul warning them? (see John 3:27; Romans 12:3, 6)
3. Paul suddenly uses heavy irony to make his point. "Already you have become rich! You have become kings-and that without us!" What is he really saying to the Corinthians in this passage from verses 8-11? Why is he comparing them to himself and the other apostles? What does he want them to do? (see Revelation 8:17, 18)
4. Paul uses the metaphor of a Roman triumphal procession to describe his and the other apostles' treatment by "the world". He compares themselves to the captives condemned to death who trailed behind the conquering heroes when they returned from a successful battle. He says even the angels watch as they fight to the death as if in a gladiatorial contest. Is Paul suggesting that all Christ-followers should expect to suffer similar abuse, or do the apostles suffer worse than others? (Romans 8: 28-36; Hebrews 10:32-34) What is his message to the Corinthians in this metaphor?
5. Paul finishes this passage by describing his abject conditions in Ephesus (from where he wrote I Corinthians). He says he suffered weakness, dishonor, hunger and thirst, homelessness, hard manual labor, curses, persecution, and slander. He even says he has become the "scum of the earth, the refuse of the world." (see Lamentations 3:45; Jeremiah 20:18) But he also says he endured and returned blessings and kindness for the curses and slander. Most of us learned to expect that we would be persecuted for our beliefs someday. We also learned that we must "turn the other cheek." Is Paul's experience in Ephesus an example of what we learned to expect? Why or why not? What made it possible for Paul to return blessings for curses and kindness for slander? (see Hebrews 12:7, Matthew 10:19, 20; Luke 12:11; John 14:12-14; John 15:26, 27)
6. Most of us are not generally treated as if we were "the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world." Are there ways in which you are persecuted for the sake of Christ? Do you ever avoid situations in which you would be criticized for your faith? Are you ever tempted to feel proud or superior because of your insight or your new, deeper understanding of freedom in Christ? If so, when and how? How can you tell whether you're being persecuted for Christ or whether you're suffering because you've taken on a problem that wasn't yours to take?
7. Satan is not happy when we find security in Christ and develop a passionate relationship with him. Satan's attacks on us are often subtle and deceptive, and often we don't recognize them as opposition. Instead, we think of them as run-ins with difficult people, too many demands on our time, annoying health problems, chronic bickering, crises, and so forth. What roadblocks do you experience that keep you from resting in Jesus and experiencing intimacy with him? What problem(s) do you need to give to Jesus, asking him to carry them for you and to give you peace in their places?
8. How is Jesus calling you to rest in him today? Are there responsibilities
or problems you've taken on that he's asking you to relinquish? Are there
other responsibilities he might be calling you to carry instead? What do
you need to submit to Jesus? What clarity or guidance do you need from him
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Studio, Redlands, CA USA. All rights reserved. Revised April 23, 2000.