1 Corinthians 4 Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)
Apostles of Christ Jesus
4 You should think of us as servants of Christ, the ones God has trusted to do the work of making known his secret truths. 2 Those who are trusted with such an important work must show that they are worthy of that trust. 3 But I don’t consider your judgment on this point to be worth anything. Even an opinion from a court of law would mean nothing. I don’t even trust my own judgment. 4 I don’t know of any wrong I have done, but that does not make me right. The Lord is the one who must decide if I have done well or not. 5 So don’t judge anyone now. The time for judging will be when the Lord comes. He will shine light on everything that is now hidden in darkness. He will make known the secret purposes of our hearts. Then the praise each person should get will come from God.
6 Brothers and sisters, I have used Apollos and myself as examples for you. I did this so that you could learn from us the meaning of the words, “Follow what the Scriptures say.” Then you will not brag about one person and criticize another. 7 Who do you think you are? Everything you have was given to you. So, if everything you have was given to you, why do you act as if you got it all by your own power?
8 You think you have everything you need. You think you are rich. You think you have become kings without us. I wish you really were kings. Then we could rule together with you. 9 But it seems to me that God has given me and the other apostles the last place. We are like prisoners condemned to die, led in a parade for the whole world to see—not just people but angels too. 10 We are fools for Christ, but you think you are so wise in Christ. We are weak, but you think you are so strong. People give you honor, but they don’t honor us. 11 Even now we still don’t have enough to eat or drink, and we don’t have enough clothes. We often get beatings. We have no homes. 12 We work hard with our own hands to feed ourselves. When people insult us, we ask God to bless them. When people treat us badly, we accept it. 13 When people say bad things about us, we try to say something that will help them. But people still treat us like the world’s garbage—everyone’s trash.
14 I am not trying to make you feel ashamed, but I am writing this to counsel you as my own dear children. 15 You may have ten thousand teachers in Christ, but you don’t have many fathers. Through the Good News I became your father in Christ Jesus. 16 So I beg you to be like me. 17 That is why I am sending Timothy to you. He is my son in the Lord. I love him and trust him. He will help you remember the way I live in Christ Jesus—a way of life that I teach in every meeting of the church wherever I am.
18 Some of you are acting so proud, it seems as though you think I won’t be coming there again. 19 But I will come to you very soon, the Lord willing. Then I will see if these proud talkers have the power to do anything more than talk. 20 God’s kingdom is not seen in talk but in power. 21 Which do you want: that I come to you with punishment, or that I come with love and gentleness?
1 Corinthians 4 New International Version (NIV)
The Nature of True Apostleship
4 This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. 2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
6 Now, brothers and sisters, 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 be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other. 7 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?
8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign—and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you! 9 For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. 10 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! 11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.
Paul’s Appeal and Warning
14 I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. 15 Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 17 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.
18 Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have. 20 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. 21 What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit?