V88You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us; and indeed, [I] wish that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you.. The believers in Corinth made themselves comfortable. Corinth was in those days a prosperous trade city. Also the believers took advantage of that prosperity. They were full and rich. They lacked for nothing. They even had exerted political influences, because Paul says that they had become kings, which means that they had reigned. It seems logical to have a profit when you have a vote in the city government. Then you are at least able to defend your own concern and your own prosperity.
‘But’, Paul says, ‘you have reigned “without us”‘. By that he means that they were too early with reigning. It was not the time yet. The believers will be able to reign when the Lord Jesus returns to establish the Millennial Kingdom. Paul was looking forward to that. He would have been very happy if that was already a reality. Then he and the other apostles, together with the Corinthians, would be able to reign with the Lord Jesus.
V99For, 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.. That had not happened yet. The Lord Jesus is still a rejected Savior. To everyone who belongs to Him it means that they too are rejected. He has said it: “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (Jn 15:2020Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.). Paul and the other apostles were consistent. They wanted to reign with Christ soon, but they were also ready to suffer with Christ on earth (see also Rom 8:1717and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with [Him] so that we may also be glorified with [Him].). That may not be pleasant, but that goes hand in hand with being a Christian.
You can run away from it, as the Corinthians did. You can make yourself comfortable by not showing too clearly that you belong to the Lord Jesus, but then you do not walk in the footsteps of Paul who walked right behind the Lord Jesus. He and the other apostles had chosen for Christ. That meant shame and rejection for life on earth. God gave to those, who had received such a high position in the church – the apostleship was after all the highest gift – the lowest position in the world. In this world they had nothing to be expected anymore in their lives; they were as condemned to death. They accepted this place because God gave them that place.
They “have become a spectacle to the world”. Just imagine that for a while. A spectacle is for the entertainment of spectators. In former days thousands of people filled the tribunes of the Roman arenas to see how those who were condemned to death, tasted their defeat in an unequal battle. In the days of Emperor Nero, Christians were thrown in the arena where hungry lions tore them up, while the tribunes were full of people who were eager for sensationalism.
In the Old Testament we find a history that is an example of a spectacle. It is about the history of Samson. Maybe you have once heard about him; that gigantic strong fellow. Many times he had defeated the arch-enemies of Israel, the Philistines. Unfortunately he gave away the secret of his power, which caused him to lose his power and therefore could be captured (Jdg 16:15-2115Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have deceived me these three times and have not told me where your great strength is.”16It came about when she pressed him daily with her words and urged him, that his soul was annoyed to death.17So he told her all [that was] in his heart and said to her, “A razor has never come on my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaved, then my strength will leave me and I will become weak and be like any [other] man.”18When Delilah saw that he had told her all [that was] in his heart, she sent and called the lords of the Philistines, saying, “Come up once more, for he has told me all [that is] in his heart.” Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought the money in their hands.19She made him sleep on her knees, and called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his hair. Then she began to afflict him, and his strength left him.20She said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him.21Then the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes; and they brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze chains, and he was a grinder in the prison.). Then he had to be present on a celebration party of the Philistines to entertain them (Jdg 16:2525It so happened when they were in high spirits, that they said, “Call for Samson, that he may amuse us.” So they called for Samson from the prison, and he entertained them. And they made him stand between the pillars.). In this way they could ridicule him as much as they wanted, for their pleasure.
It is true that Samson had been made a spectacle through his own mistake, but nevertheless it indicates of how little account someone is, who belongs to God’s people. I once heard about a young Christian from another country, who was called to come forward in the classroom at school. The fellow classmates were encouraged by the teacher to call him names, because of his faith. Such a boy was made a spectacle that others watched with malicious delight. Have you ever been in such a situation that you experienced to be a spectacle?
V1010We 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 be a fool for Christ’s sake is not easy. It certainly is not, when you see other Christians dealing very easily with certain things. Paul makes a comparison between the lives of the apostles and the lives of the Corinthians. He does this to make them feel and become aware of them taking a distance from the true Christian life. He calls himself a fool for Christ’s sake. He calls them wise and strong. After all they had reigned, hadn’t they? When you reign you take the place of someone who is strong, a place above other people. They also had received honor from people. The apostles were despised, however. The apostles wanted very much to stay close to the Lord Jesus. How and Who He was in this world you can read in Isaiah 53 (Isa 53:1-121Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no [stately] form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
3He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
4Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
5But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being [fell] upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
6All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.
7He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.
8By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off out of the land of the living
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke [was due]?
9His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
10But the LORD was pleased
To crush Him, putting [Him] to grief;
If He would render Himself [as] a guilt offering,
He will see [His] offspring,
He will prolong [His] days,
And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.
11As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see [it and] be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.
12Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors.).
V1111To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless;. To explain to them what it really means to be a Christian, he describes something about the hardships the apostles had gone through. What he tells them and you and me is not something that would immediately make us envious. It did not happen just only once, just accidentally. No, he writes that they were experiencing those things “to this present hour”. Through their whole life they had to deal with these things.
They had been without food, drink and clothes. This must have made the Corinthians, who were well-fed and well dressed, reflect on that. They were in good condition and the servants of the Lord were in bad condition. Why? Did they supply others, who had much less, out of their prosperity? We may also ask ourselves: Is it possible that a servant of God, who surely has a caring and loving Father in heaven, has to go through such things? Yes! When you live close to the Lord Jesus, that doesn’t mean that you will have a life in which you can live luxuriously. Sometimes you experience the opposite. The care of our Father becomes apparent exactly in the darkest hour. At His time He gives precisely what we need. Such experiences make you express your gratitude even more to the Giver.
Also physical hardships belonged to being a Christian in the view of the apostles. He knew from experience how it felt to be beaten up. In his second letter to the Corinthians he summarizes in the eleventh chapter all kinds of hardships he went through. There he says that he was “beaten times without number” or “beaten more abundant”. For that you must really love your Lord and Savior very much!
They did not have a permanent residence. They were literarily pilgrims, transmigrates. We may have a literal residence, but let’s realize that we do not belong on earth.
V12-1312and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure;13when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, [even] until now.. They were neither unwilling nor too spiritual to work, and not just a bit. They worked so hard that they became very tired. In following Christ we should also be zealous in our daily work. In your daily activities you can expose what it is to be a Christian.
Look at the attitude of the apostles towards the dishonor and evil people did to them. Don’t you see a striking accordance with the reaction of the Lord Jesus towards the dishonor and evil that was done to Him? We often react otherwise. That’s because we are not yet well aware of which position we have in the world. It is a position of “scum” and “dregs”. Worthless material, nothing you can do with, it’s better to throw it away. It can be quite devastating to admit that if you want to reach the high ideals to become somebody in the world. Yes, but Whom do you belong to actually?
Now read 1 Corinthians 4:8-13 again.
Reflection: What is the difference in the spectacle as Samson was and as the apostles were? See also 1Pet 4:14-1614If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.15Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler;16but if [anyone suffers] as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name..