1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 32
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998|
|We are going to see the contrast between the conceited and the approved. Over here the arrogant, Corinthian believer is putting himself on a pedestal and exalting himself. But over here we are going to have the apostles, those men God singled out, approved and used to give us the New Testament. We are going to see the humility of those apostles. We are going to see a profile of those who have been approved.|
1 Corinthians 4:913
We are going to see the contrast between the conceited and the approved. I told you this was coming. Now we are going to see the other side of the equation. Over here the arrogant, Corinthian believer is putting himself on a pedestal and exalting himself. But over here we are going to have the apostles, those precious men who God singled out, approved and used to give us the New Testament, the ones who had to bear all kinds of things, brought the message to the Corinthians. We are going to see the humility of those apostles. We are going to see a profile of those who have been approved.
Let’s read the verses together then we will come back and look at them. Verses 9-13 say, “For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.”
Just reading those verses you can already see the different attitude, can’t you? On one side, arrogance, flesh; on the other side, humility. See, the very word humble, tapeinos, has the idea of just getting flat down as far as you can to where nobody can see you, they can only see Christ. That is the whole attitude. Here are the apostles living that way. And here is the church of Corinth, rich, self-satisfied, arrogant, little babies with pacifiers in their mouth, attaching themselves to preachers instead of attaching themselves to Christ.
The apostles are last in the sight of men
Look at the difference. What are the two characteristics of those who have been approved? First of all, the apostles are last in the sight of men. The Corinthians? They want to be first. Look at verse 9. He says, “For, I think,…” That word has the idea “as I look at it, divinely inspired by God’s Spirit, here is the observation I need to make.” He says, “For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death.” Now, the emphasis here is not that we have exhibited ourselves, but that God has exhibited us as apostles. The whole emphasis is on what God is doing here. The word “exhibit” there has the idea of setting something forth, putting it on display. You go to a trade show and you see these different exhibits, things that are set forth, things that are put forth so people can see. The idea is you don’t exhibit anything unless it has been approved. You don’t put something out for people to see unless it has been approved.
Paul says, “We have been approved, therefore, we are put on exhibit.” Now if you stopped right there, the Christians in Corinth would say, “Yes, I like that. Now where did you put me? How can I be on exhibit? How can I be on display for God?” In their arrogance that is what they would say. But what is coming next popped their bubble. Look what it says. He says, “For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles [in first place. Is that what he said? No, no. He says,] last of all.” The apostles? Now wait a minute; who are we talking about here? We are talking about the apostles, the ones through whom we get the New Testament, the ones who were sent forth to take the Word of God to the uttermost parts of the world, the witnesses of Christ, the ones who were commissioned by Him, the ones who were witnesses of His resurrection. And they are put as last of all?
Now when you think of yourself in Christianity and you want to put yourself on levels, remember, the apostles were pretty surrendered people. They had been approved. And it says that God has put them on exhibit as last of all. Now we know that Matthew tells us the apostles, the 12, are going to one day sit on 12 thrones. It says in Matthew 19:28, “And Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I say to you that you have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” That is then. That is one day. But right now in this world you are going to be last of all.
The word for “last” there is the word eschatos. Yes, it means last in a line perhaps, but it also means more than that. In the context, as you look it, it has the idea of the lowest. Socially, they were on the lowest rung of the list, on the lowest rank of all people who were there. They were looked upon as last. Now think. God did this. You see, that is the whole idea of John the Baptist in the New Testament. He says, “I must decrease that He must increase.” You see, the height of pride is saying “I must increase.” But the height of humility, or the depth of it, is to say “I must decrease,” you see.
God saw to it that these approved men were put on exhibit as being last, not as being first. He says, “For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death.” Now you couldn’t find a worse position than that. Men condemned to death. The word is epithanatios. It has to do with people who were put on trial, found guilty and were then condemned to death. They were the lowest dregs of society.
The illustration there is when a Roman general would go out into battle, he would bring back his captives. He would bring back the generals whom he had captured, chained to his chariot. Then they would have the prisoners behind him. These men would be condemned to death, to be put into an arena where they were slaughtered and the people would all come and rejoice and enjoy what was going on. That was the lowest of the low, to be condemned unto death.
He goes on to say “because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.” This all builds together. The thought just continues to frame itself. The word for “spectacle” is the word we get the word theater from. You go into a theater, and you have a crowd of witnesses there. He tells you who the witnesses are. It is the world, but he defines the word “world.” There are two groups. He says, “both to angels and to men.” Now the angels would be those who are intensely interested in what is going on. Why would that be so? In Hebrews 1:14 it says, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to render service for the sake of those who inherit salvation?” I mean, these angels consistently watch over us, and they are amazed at being redeemed. So they are intensely interested at how we are being condemned to death. The apostles are put at the last of the social ranks.
There was another group of people there – the spectators; and they would be the men themselves. I think he would probably be talking about the lost men, the cold, mechanical, indifferent men of the world. They could care less about Christians, but they are all in this arena watching those apostles who have been put forth as an exhibition for all to see. God caused it that way. These were approved men. But they were put, not in first place, but in last place.
Can’t you hear the wise of this world laughing at those apostles? They did. They did. They had a great time laughing at them, “Huh, look at him. These people call themselves believers. They haven’t got the sense to get in out of the rain.” That was their whole attitude. What an enigma! Those who were last in this world’s eyes, foolish as far as the world was concerned, are going to be first in the kingdom of God. That is what God said.
The apostles were least in the sight of men
Look at the contradiction – the conceit of the Corinthians and the humility of the apostles. They were last among men. Not only were they last among men, but they were least in the sight of men. Have you ever heard the expression, “I am last and I am least?” Well, they were last and they were least in the sight of all men. I wish sometimes I could speak to ministers before anybody had gone out yet and we could preach this word to them. What are you looking for in the ministry? Are you looking to be put first place and be respected by the world? Well, let me just help you to understand, the apostles were put forth by the God as last, not first.
Listen, it gets better. It continues to illustrate itself as we go on in the text. Look at verse 10 of chapter 4. He says, “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.”
The only way you are going to be able to see this, I think, is to remember verse 8. Let me read it to you again. He says, “You are already filled [Ah, who could fed you? You are so spiritual?], you have already become rich, you have become kings without us; and I would indeed that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you.” See, that is what you have got to compare it with. The arrogance, the conceit of people who won’t stoop to obey God’s Word. Humility is surrender. But conceit and arrogance comes from a person who says I will do it my way. I will exalt myself. That is what the church of Corinth had done.
Let’s begin to look at it. The contrast stares at you as we go through this. First of all, he says, “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ.” Now we have looked at that word “fools for Christ’s sake.” Now remember, this is in light of how the world sees them. The word is moros. We get the word “moron” from it. The word “moron,” you remember, was a person who did not have the mental capacity above 8 or 12 years old. He was never capable unless under extreme supervision. He does not have the sense to act sensibly. That is what a fool is. That is why it was such an indictment to call somebody a fool in that day.
Therefore, Paul says, “We are fools. The world looks at us and the message we preach and the lives we live as fools. Everything we do is contrary to the way the world lives. We are called fools. God put us in this position.” Why? Because God has got a message. Remember back in chapter 2 we learned that He only uses the foolish to confound the wise. He chooses the things that aren’t noble. You see, God uses that as a backdrop so that He can exemplify His glory within him.
But he also says, “but you are prudent in Christ.” Now the word for “prudent” here is the word phronimos, the result of having a mind that appears to be sensible. He says, “You have the ability to think and act sensibly. You know how to relate with others in the world.” The Corinthians had learned, you see, the means of the flesh and how to relate to the world. And so the world would look at them and say, “Ah, now they are prudent. Those apostles, they are foolish.” The difference was the apostles were obeying Christ. The Corinthians were living after the flesh, but they wanted the world to look at them this way. Therefore, he says, “The world desires you and how you think, but they don’t desire us. We are the scum. We are the dregs of society.”
The little phrase “prudent in Christ” may throw you. What I believe he is saying there is, “It means you are wise in your dealings with the world because you have adopted their ways. You have left God’s Word. However, at the same time you still use Christ’s name as if you are connected to Him.” You have come up with this so-called wisdom, and the world thinks, “Hey, that is great. I love that ole boy. He relates to me.” But the ones who hold to the Word of God are going to be the ones who are looked at as the fools of this world.
Well, he goes on in verse 10. He says, “we are weak, but you are strong.” You see the irony in what he is doing here? He is just nailing their conceit and their arrogance right to the wall. “Here we are as apostles,” Paul is saying, “and look how you are living, as if you don’t even need us. Who do you think you are?” He says, “We are weak.” The apostles in the world’s eyes looked weak, and I guess that is right. As a matter of fact, the apostle Paul, as I understand it from 1 Corinthians, wasn’t really much of a figure of a man: little short, bowlegged, hook nose, bald-headed Jewish guy. He wasn’t much to look at. He said, “When I am with you, I look weak but my boldness is from the Lord.”
But in another sense, they look in appearance to the world as being weak, anemic, not able to do anything. You can hear the laughter of the world when the apostles chose only the power of Christ. Paul was one of the most intelligent men in the whole New Testament, but he says, “When I was with you, I chose not to woo and wow you with the eloquent words of the world, but I chose to be coming to you in the power and demonstration of the Spirit of God.” “That is the way the world sees us,” he says. “And God has put us in this of exhibit. But you are strong. You have chosen to apply the world’s ways and wisdom in order to make an impression.”
Then he goes on in verse 10, “you are distinguished, but we are without honor.” The word “distinguished,” endoxos, is from two words, en, which means in, and doxa, which means glory. You are in your glory. Man, you are in your glory. All recognition goes to you. That is what the word glory means. You already have your crowns. Men bow before you. You have a big bank account. You are successful in the world. What do you need? Hey, man, you are doing great! But we, the very apostles who give the New Testament of God’s Word, the ones who are approved by God Himself, commissioned by God Himself, are without honor.
The word “without honor” comes from two words, a, without, and time, which means honor. Paul says the apostles are dishonored. Why are they dishonored? Because they have one attachment in their life, only one, and that is Jesus Christ. And the humility of their life is their surrender to Him and surrender to the Word. He said, “But you Corinthians, you are rich. You have got it all together. The world looks at you and says, ‘Wow, that is what I want in my Christianity.’”
In Luke Jesus says, “Woe be unto you when all the world think well of you.” A man who points in all directions, points in no direction. Human wisdom is exalted before the world and those who cling to it are those who are going to be exalted by the world also. Oh, they will be in great shape. Oh, you can attach Christianity to it. You can hang on to it with one hand. They will like that. But those who cling only to God and His Word are going to be looked upon by this world as foolish people.
Paul gets very graphic now and is going to start describing the lifestyle they lead compared to the lifestyle the Corinthians want to lead. You can see all the difference in the world, in conceit and humility, two big differences. It is all attitude, isn’t it? It doesn’t necessarily mean these things are going on. It has all to do with the attitude of a person’s heart.
The apostles had to endure physical poverty
There are three groups here with three in each group. First of all, the physical poverty that the disciples themselves have had to endure. Verse 11 of chapter 4 says, “To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty.” The words “to this present hour” mean at this very moment. I mean, right now as I am speaking to you, this is the way it is. And what is that, Paul? He says, “We are both hungry and thirsty.”
You know, in the travels that God would put upon the apostles, the mission journeys, etc., that they would do, we have no clue as to the times they were in hunger and thirst. Nobody would feed them. We have no idea of the pain and the poverty that they had to endure. In verse 11 it says, “and are poorly clothed.” The word “poorly clothed” actually means naked, but in the context seems to have more of the idea of just poorly clothed.
You know, again I want to come back to this question, “What is it you are expecting in this world?” I mean, what is it? There are so many people who have an agenda. They have everything attached to an agenda and they say, “Oh, God, we will serve you, if….” Turn on the television and just by a person’s very presentation itself it tells you where people are coming from.
Listen to the apostle Paul, to me one of the greatest apostles. In 2 Timothy 4 I want you to see what happens. He was in a pit. Have you ever studied about his imprisonment? The first imprisonment was in a place where he could entertain guests and write his letters. He wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. But in the second imprisonment, the one right before he died, it wasn’t that way. I have wanted to go there so badly. One of these days, prayerfully, the Lord is going to get me there. People who have been there tell me that you walk into this place and there is a hole in the floor. Now this hole in the floor is like a manhole cover. You take this lid off and that is where they would lower them down into this dungeon. If you went there today, there is about an inch of slimy wet stuff all over the walls and all over the floor. That is what it was like. It was total pitch dark inside that thing and all you could see was out that little hole up there. That is where they would lower them into it and bring them out.
Now Paul is in that place right before they martyr him for the faith. Now remember something, this is right before he died. I can hear somebody going in the ministry saying, “Hey, man, I can’t wait for my retirement program. And I have been working hard on it and I can’t wait. One day I am going to get me a motor home and I am going to see America. That is what I am looking forward to in my future.” Well, I want you to know something, folks, the apostle Paul never understood anything about that. He had absolutely nothing, no piece of real estate that he could put his hands on. And here he was in prison, poorly clothed, freezing to death, bored to death and he writes Timothy. This is right before he dies now. This is the end of his life. One of the greatest apostles who ever lived. He says in verse 9, “Make every effort to come to me soon, Timothy.” In other words, “I am lonely. Man, I am lonely. Just to see your face would just bless me.” He says, “For Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.”
By the way, Corinth was a city that took after Demas, in that sense of the word. They probably never knew him but that is exactly what Corinth had done. They had loved this present world.
In verse 13 look at what he says. “When you come, bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus.” I am cold. I am cold. The person who had been to that prison told me that the moment they got down inside of it, they sang the song, “Amazing Grace.” They said they stood there and felt the chill inside that prison and it hit them right here that this was the end of one of the greatest apostle’s lives who had ever been lived, and the Corinthians acting as if they were too good for this kind of thing. He says, “Bring me my cloak, I am cold.” And he said, “And the books; oh, Timothy, bring me the books. I am bored stiff. Especially the parchments.” You know, even with not much light he still wanted the books, just something to have. That is the last days of his life.
Somebody said that a bunch of students one day asked Dr. W. A. Criswell, “Dr. Criswell, what can you tell us about the ministry and the pastorate?” He said, “Son, if you can do anything else, do it. But make up your mind. If you are called and you cannot do anything else, understand, you have to cut your agenda for what you think you are going to get out of it. It is only for God and what God wants to do in your life.”
The apostles had to endure physical pain
The second grouping involves not the physical poverty but the physical pain. He goes on in verse 11, “and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands.” Now the word “roughly treated” there is the Greek word that means to deliver a physical blow, either to the face or to the body. He is talking about somebody actually hitting you, like slaves were beaten constantly. They were looked upon as slaves. The same terminology is given to describe the apostles. Now, look who we are talking about folks, the apostles, Peter and Paul and all the different ones, martyred for their faith, every one of them as tradition tells us. To be struck with a blow.
In 1 Corinthians 11:26 Paul sort of gives a little insight into some of the difficulties he had like that. He said, “I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren.” Do you remember that time? We studied that in Acts. He goes into this little town and they beat him and throw him outside the city as if he is dead. The apostle Paul gets up, staggers around, gets both eyes back open and goes right back in the city. I want to jump inside the text and say, “No, Paul! Don’t go in there. They are going to beat you up.” But he would go right back in there.
If you wanted to find the apostle Paul in those days, go to the local jail and if he wasn’t there, find you a ditch outside the city and look for a bruised body. That is usually where you would find the apostle Paul. One of the greatest apostles in all of the New Testament. And he is saying to these Corinthian, rich, comfortable believers, “You have so bought into the world, they even like your kind of Christianity. What in the world is this! You are so conceited. Look at the difference of the ones God has approved. He puts them last. Last, not first, but last.”
Verse 11 says, “are homeless.” The word comes from two Greek words, a, without, and histemi, which means a set place. We have no set place, no abode, no place to go. Have you ever thought about this? The apostles, when they would go into a land to evangelize, were not Gentiles, so they were turned away. The Jews who might be there looked at them as Christians, so they automatically turned them away. They had no place to lay their head, no place. Does that remind you of the One who sent them? “The foxes have their holes and the birds have their nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” You see, those who are approved embracing Him and His Word may end up this way. They may not, but the apostles did.
In verse 12 it says, “and we toil, working with our own hands.” The word for “toil” is the word that means to work until you are fatigued at working. He is not saying there is anything wrong with that. He was a tentmaker. That is how the church of Corinth came about. He went over and met Priscilla and Aquila and made tents, getting ready for those Isthmian games. That is how the church got started over there while he was there. Timothy and Silas came over and met him, in Acts 18, and the little church began there. He is not saying there is anything wrong with that, but I think you have got to see the irony of what he is saying. “You people are proud, conceited and act as if you got there on your own. We are over here homeless, without anything to wear, and we are working with our own hands for you.” That is kind of the irony that he is using here. He is not doing it in a mean way. He is trying to help them understand, “Who do you think you are trying to live this way when the very apostles of God were put in last place.”
The apostles had to endure physical persecution
Well, the third grouping is the physical persecution. We have the physical poverty, the physical pain (some of that is emotional) and the physical persecution. He says, “when we are reviled [that is a persecution word, by the way], we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure [there is the word]; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate.”
Now let’s look at that. First of all, “when we are reviled.” The apostle Paul is showing again the stark contrast. They love the Corinthians because they are prudent and are distinguished. “We like you Christians. We don’t like these Christians.” “We are reviled,” he said. The word “reviled” has the meaning of somebody coming against you saying things, threatening you, talking about you in an unkind manner.
I remember back in my own life back when I first came to Chattanooga, the church of Satan wrote me letters. They put blood on the bottom of the page. They were going to kill me and my family for preaching the Word. I just started posting the letters out in the foyer, in case anybody recognized the handwriting. They would send people to our church and they would sit in the church and pray to Satan while we would be having our services. Do you know what? They left. Do you know why? Because we never bothered with them. We just kept preaching Jesus and they couldn’t stand it, they had to go.
I am not putting myself in this group. Good grief, these are the apostles. But I am telling you, I can understand. You can, too. You can relate to this.
Think about the apostles, man. It was much more serious in their life. Here is the contrast. It is not so much that they are reviled. Yes, that is part of it, but I think the response is the voluntary humility of these men. That is the key. He says, “when we are reviled, we bless.” The word “bless,” eulogeo, means to speak well of them.
Now wait a minute, they don’t go around saying, “Aren’t they nice people for trying to kill me.” No, no, no. You have to go to Romans 12 and some other places to realize, when you bless, it is in the opposition to cursing. Cursing is when you wish evil upon somebody. So the opposite of wishing evil on them is wishing good for them. That is what he means by blessing them. You don’t walk around saying, “Oh, I like that person. They are so sweet. They just cussed me out on the phone.” That is not what he is saying. He just doesn’t wish evil upon them.
And then it goes on. He says, “when we are persecuted, we endure.” The word “persecuted” has the idea of that old hound dog on your trail. It is somebody on your trail all the time. It is a word that means hound you all the time, always on your trail, never gets off your trail.
Now, the word “endure” is not the word you think it is. It is not the word that means to bear up under. It is the word that means we don’t retaliate. We refrain from responding to persecution. I like that. I like what Billy Graham said one day. They asked him, “How do you handle criticism?” He said, “I don’t acknowledge it.” I had a lady tell me one time, “Wayne, if you ever recognize it, you dignify it.” Do you hear that, Wayne? You said that. Are you listening?
“When we are slandered,” he says, “we try to conciliate.” The word “slandered” is blasphemeo. It is a stronger word that the normal word for slander. It means to hurt one’s reputation by what you say about them. The word “conciliate” is the word parakaleo. It normally means a comforting word, but it has the idea of entreating somebody to do something. I think that is how he means it. When you are blasphemed, usually that is to your face, but it can be behind your back when you hurt somebody’s reputation. I think what he is saying is, “When we are blasphemed we try to entreat in kindness and ask the person, ‘Don’t do that, don’t do that, but let me share with you something that is helpful to your life.’” I think that is the idea of how he brings this out. Paul continues to show the voluntary humility of these apostles. The world thinks of this kind of humility as cowardice and despicable.
Let me give you an example of that, and I want you to think on it. How do they respond when they are treated this way? Alright, we know already. How does the world think of that? Stupid, foolish, that is what they think about it. I want you to hang on to something. I have not worked it all out in my mind, so don’t accuse me too quickly.
We were counseling months ago with a person. The situation that she was dealing with was in her marriage. Her marriage had been bad. She got good counsel. I was talking with her and I said, “You know, do you understand the Christlife?” She said, “No, I don’t think I know what you mean.” “About you dying to self and letting Jesus be Jesus in your life, decreasing so He might increase?” The more I talked with her, the more I had to say things that she didn’t want to hear. The more I talked with her about the Christlife, the more she hardened on the inside.
Here was her final statement, “I can’t buy this.” I said, “Why?” She said, “For the first time in my life I have learned to stand up for myself.” I didn’t understand what was going on inside of me until I studied this passage. I think what I heard her say is this, “The world tells me because I pay them enough money to counsel me, they tell me that I have got to stand up for myself.” But the Word tells her that she must die daily at the cross. She had a choice to make, humble herself and trust God and His Word or grasp what the world says; because after all, Christians are the ones saying it. Try to hold on to Jesus at the same time and make it look like it is all Christian.
The apostles held to the Word, and the world spit on them and said, “You are stupid and you are foolish.” The Corinthians said, “Ah, we have found a better way. We can be Christians connected to Christ and still be connected to the flesh.” Interesting thinking, isn’t it?
To sum it all up look at verse 13, “we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.” Let me tell you what “scum” and “dregs” is all about. When my wife is gone, I have to cook. Look out! I have done some interesting things with food and pots. I guess if I would go on and wash them after I use them, that would be part of the solution. But you know, about two weeks later when you go back in there and this stuff is all over the inside of the pot and it stinks and it is slimy and you have to take a knife and start cutting that stuff around. Ugh. You almost have to scrape it off. That stuff which you have scraped off, that filthy stuff, in cleansing the pot, is what Paul says scum and dregs.
In fact, in Athens every year they would give a sacrifice to the god Poseidon, the same one that is up in Corinth. They would take a criminal, the lowest of society and kill him by throwing him into the sea. That was an offering to appease the gods so that the town could have less evil in it for the next year. That is the very word they would use of this man they threw into the sea.
Isn’t it interesting that these apostles became as scum and dregs in order that God might use them, so that you and I could have what we have? Paul says to the Corinthian church, “Who do you think you are? Who do you think you are?” I think it echoes through the centuries. Who do we think we are?