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Rather than power brokers, think of us as servants of the Anointed One, the Liberating King, caretakers of the mysteries of God. Because we are in this particular role, it is especially important that we are people of fidelity and integrity. It makes little difference to me how you or any human court passes judgment on me. I even resist the temptation to compare myself to the ever-changing human standard. Although I am not aware of any flaw that might exclude me from this divine service, that’s not the reason I stand acquitted—the only supreme judge, our Lord, will examine me in the proper time. So resist the temptation to act as judges before all the evidence is in. When the Lord comes, He will draw our buried motives, thoughts, and deeds (even things we don’t know or admit to ourselves) out of the dark shadows of our hearts into His light. When this happens, the voice of God will speak to each of us the only praise that will ever matter.

Right now, brothers and sisters, the best thing I can do for you is to apply these principles to the situation with Apollos and me. Maybe we can show you the meaning of the saying, “not beyond the things written.” If you learn that, perhaps none of you will swell with pride because you fall into the seductive trap of pitting one against the other. Is there any reason to consider yourselves better than others? What do you have that you didn’t receive? If you received it as a gift, why do you boast like it is something you achieved on your own?

Now let’s see if I have it straight. You suppose that you already have all you need. You already are rich and prosperous. And without us you’ve already begun to reign like kings. To be honest, I wish you did reign so that we could reign with you because it seems to me that God has put His emissaries[a] at the end of the line, like convicts in their final walk to certain death. We have become a spectacle to the rest of the world—to all people and heaven’s messengers. 10 We are nothing but fools for the cause of the Anointed One while you are wise in Him. Am I right? We are feeble and tired while you are mighty and full of life. You are well respected by others while we’re treated as contemptuous creatures by pretty much everyone everywhere. 11 Up to this very minute, we are famished, we are thirsty, and our clothes are shabby, practically rotted to pieces. We are homeless, hapless wanderers. 12 But still we labor, working with our hands to meet our needs because, despite all of this, when a fist is raised against us, we respond with a blessing; when we face violence and persecution, we stay on mission; and 13 when others choose taunts and slander against us, we speak words of encouragement and reconciliation. We’re treated as the scum of the earth—and I am not talking in the past tense; I mean today! We’re the scraps of society, nothing more than the foulest human rubbish.

Paul explains and exemplifies the goals of a mature believer in a way that may be easily contrasted with the desires of an immature believer. He is seeking love and truth more than popularity, embracing suffering rather than comfort. In fact, he disregards popularity and comfort completely so that he isn’t distracted from the love and truth of Jesus. This could be a powerful force in the world if believers embraced this kind of maturity.

14 I am not telling you all this so that you’ll feel guilty or be ashamed of how you have acted. I am only trying to warn you, just as a father would warn his children. 15 You may have 10,000 instructors in the faith of the Anointed One, but you have only one father. In Jesus the Anointed I have become your father through my efforts in spreading the good news. 16 So as your father in the faith, I want to encourage you to live as I have lived. Imitate my life. 17 This is one of the reasons I sent Timothy to be with you. He is my dearly loved and faithful child in the Lord. His mission is to remind you of the way I experience life in the Anointed. In all the churches everywhere I go, I teach the same lessons the same way, and I live out those lessons. 18 But the reality is, some of you have put yourselves on pedestals and live like you are high above the rest—it’s as if you assumed I would not return to confront your misguided pride. 19 But I am coming. Lord willing, I will be with you soon. Then I will know what power is backing those arrogant folks and their words. 20 The kingdom of God is not a realm of grandiose talk; it is a realm of power. 21 So tell me what you want. Should I visit you, rod in hand ready to discipline a crew of self-important people; or should I embrace you, love you, and gently teach you as we celebrate the blessings of God together?


  1. 4:9 Literally, apostles

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