1 Corinthians 4J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)
Trust us, but make no hasty judgments
4 1-4 You should look upon us as ministers of Christ, as trustees of the secrets of God. And it is a prime requisite in a trustee that he should prove worthy of his trust. But, as a matter of fact, it matters very little to me what you, or any man, thinks of me—I don’t even value my opinion of myself—but that doesn’t justify me before God. My only true judge is God himself.
5 The moral of this is that we should make no hasty or premature judgments. When the Lord comes he will bring into the light of day all that at present is hidden in darkness, and he will expose the secret motives of men’s hearts. Then shall God himself give each man his share of praise.
Having your favourite teacher is not only silly but wrong
6-7 I have used myself and Apollos above as an illustration, so that you might learn from what I have said about us not to assess man above his value in God’s sight, and may thus avoid the friction that comes from exalting one teacher against another. For who makes you different from somebody else, and what have you got that was not given to you? And if anything has been given to you, why boast of it as if it were something you had achieved yourself?
Think sometimes of what your happiness has cost us!
8 Oh, I know you are rich and flourishing! You’ve been living like kings, haven’t you, while we’ve been away? I would to God you were really kings in God’s sight so that we might reign with you!
9-13 I sometimes think that God means us, the messengers, to appear last in the procession of mankind, like the men who are to die in the arena. For indeed we are made a public spectacle before the angels of Heaven and the eyes of men. We are looked upon as fools, for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in the Christian faith. We are considered weak, but you have become strong: you have found honour, we little but contempt. Up to this very hour we are hungry and thirsty, ill-clad, knocked about and practically homeless. We still have to work for our living by manual labour. Men curse us, but we return a blessing: they make our lives miserable but we take it patiently. They ruin our reputations but we go on trying to win them for God. We are the world’s rubbish, the scum of the earth, yes, up to this very day.
A personal plea
14-17 I don’t write these things merely to make you feel uncomfortable, but that you may realise facts, as my dear children. After all, you may have had ten thousand teachers in Christian faith, but you cannot have many fathers! For in Jesus Christ I am your spiritual father through the Gospel; that is why I implore you to follow the footsteps of me your father. I have sent Timothy to you to help you in this. For he himself is my much-loved and faithful son in the Lord, and he will remind you of those ways of living in Christ which I teach in every church to which I go.
18-20 Some of you have apparently grown conceited enough to think that I should not visit you. But please God it will not be long before I do come in person. Then I shall be able to see what power, apart from their words, these pretentious ones among you really possess. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of a spate of word but of the power of Christian living.
21 Now it’s up to you to choose! Shall I come to you ready to chastise you, or in love and gentleness?