Respect For Leaders

Hope for Today (English)
Hope for Today (English)
Respect For Leaders
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1 Corinthians 4:10-15

Unredeemed human nature has not improved over the centuries. Even within the body of Christ, unredeemed human nature appears and causes dissensions, sometimes even divisions. It was so in the early days of the church, and the apostle Paul wrestled with it. From his day to this, some in the so-called cause for purity have stirred up the church.

Of course, when truth is threatened, it is required that “men of the cloth” stand for truth. In chapter 11 we referred to I Corinthians 4:2, which reads, “Moreover, it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.”

Jude, when writing his letter, warned his readers with these words in verse 3: “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that you should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”

Jude’s further warning identified his deep concern: “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 4).

Jude urged his readers to be earnest contenders for the once delivered faith. There is, however, a marked contrast between earnestly contending and being contentious. To contend may imply rivalry rather than animosity. In other words, he’s referring to the use of argument rather than physical combat. It means to stand firm with purpose and gentleness. But contentiousness carries the meaning of being hostile with a warlike temper, a wearisome persistence in dispute with an inability or unwillingness to consider any other viewpoint in the argument.

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, I detect that a contentious spirit had arisen in the church, so much so that he felt compelled to attempt correction by some clear-cut admonition. His comments are found in I Corinthians 4:10-15:

10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honorable, but we are despised.

11 Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place;

12 And labor, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:

13 Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, [and are] the offscouring of all things unto this day.

14 I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.

15 For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.

Follow me as we go through the several LEVELS of Paul’s well-crafted admonitions.

The first level is:

THE CONTRADICTORY COMPARISONS

10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honorable, but we are despised.

Paul uses the word we, but his use is not the editorial we, the niceties of the journalistic world. He referred to himself, Apollos, and Peter before, so I believe the “we” includes them. They were the leaders in the congregation.

Paul used biting irony. All knew the apostles were not fools. Yet he said, “We are fools for Christ’s sake.” The word fool is a very graphic word. We use it in English to refer to a person who has difficulty in his mind. We call him a moron. The Bible meaning is “without learning, empty-headed, stupid.” Essentially, the apostle Paul said, “We are stupid for Christ’s sake. You are wise you have it all together! You know what the answers are before the questions are asked.”

Then Paul goes on to say, “We are weak. We have no backbone. We yield when the opposition comes. We are unable to stand, but you are strong.” The word strong used here means “men of great influence, rank, and authority.” You are honorable, which means “highly esteemed.” Whenever you come into the room, everyone gets quiet. You are highly esteemed. We are despised, without honor, base, Paul says.

Now, look at the text. Paul says you are wise, strong, and honorable. We are stupid, weak, and despised. I met a preacher one time who was having some difficulty in his congregation, and he said to me, “I don’t mind if people walk all over me, just so they don’t drag their feet.” The apostle Paul was having some difficulty with the church at Corinth. His first level of discussion had to do with the contradictory comparisons.

I want you to listen to Barnes’s notes on I Corinthians:

The whole design of this irony is to show the folly of their boasted wisdom. That they only should be wise and prudent, and the apostles fools, was in the highest degree absurd; and this absurdity the apostle puts in a strong light by his irony. We are weak. We are timid and feeble, but you are daring, bold, and fearless. This is irony. The very reverse was probably true. Paul was bold, daring, and fearless in declaring the truth, whatever opposition it might encounter; and probably many of them were timid and time-serving, and endeavoring to avoid persecution, and to accommodate themselves to the prejudices and opinions of those who were wise in their own sight; the prejudices and opinions of the world.

So then, level one is the lowest. It is The Contradictory Comparisons.

The second level is:

THE CONTRARY CONDITIONS

11 Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place;

12 And labor, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:

13 Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, [and are] the offscouring of all things unto this day.

First, the apostle Paul takes up the physical. He says we are hungry, thirsty, and naked. Hunger, thirst, and nakedness are needs of the body. His term naked suggests that his clothing was in tatters. He had no adequate wardrobe. He did the best he could, but it was in no way adequate. He says we are “buffeted.” That means “to strike with the fist or the open hand.” The soldiers did this to Jesus just before His crucifixion. They buffeted Him. They struck Him with the open hand, in that culture the highest insult.

Then Paul said he had no fixed residence. He had “no certain dwelling place.” Again, that is like Jesus, who said, “The Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). No fixed residence. We are often quite concerned when we have no sure place to live. So Paul speaks about The Contrary Conditions of his physical condition.

Then there is the work condition. Paul said he labors, working with his own hands. He was a tentmaker. He could take his trade with him. It was not a lofty trade. I understand from what I have read that it was a rather disdainful, distressful work. He worked with camel’s hair or goat’s hair that had been spun to make tent cloth. It was an occupation, though, and a necessary one. So this was his work condition. He labored with his own hands. He was what we call a tent-making missionary.

Then there was the community condition. Paul said, “Being reviled, we bless.” Reviled means “to heap verbal abuse upon.” But he said, “we bless.” That reminds me of what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:11-12 and 44:

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Then verse 44:

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.

Does it not appear that the apostle Paul was following the teaching of Jesus? And then Paul said, “We are persecuted and we suffer.” I am reminded of the words in Hebrews 11:37: “They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented.” Persecuted, reviled.

Then Paul added, “defamed.” This means “to speak ill about, to say all kinds of mean words.” He said, “Being defamed, we entreat.” The word entreat is interesting because in modern Greek it is used to say “Please.” Parakaleo is used in the New Testament for the word “prayer” or “pray” and means “to beseech, to entreat.”

And finally, in this level of his argument, Paul speaks about how the apostles “are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.” The filth of the world, the unwanted, the offscouring that is thrown away.

Was Paul in a state of depression? It sure sounds like it. He aimed to correct the Corinthian believers’ ill concept of themselves and their leaders.

Barnes has some insightful words for us:

We may add here, what a sublime spectacle was here; and what a glorious triumph of the truth. Here was Paul with an impediment in his speech; with a personage small and mean rather than graceful, and in a mean and tattered dress; and often in chains, yet delivering truth before which kings trembled, and which produced everywhere a deep impression on the human mind. Such was the power of the gospel then! And such triumph did the truth then have over men. . . . No fixed or permanent home. They wandered to distant lands; threw themselves on the hospitality of strangers, and even of the enemies of the gospel; when driven from one place they went to another; and thus they led a wandering, uncertain life, amidst strangers and foes. They who know what are the comforts of home; who are surrounded by beloved families; who have a peaceful and happy fireside; and who enjoy the blessings of domestic tranquility, may not be able to appreciate the trials to which the apostles were subjected. All this was for the sake of the gospel; all to purchase the blessings which we so richly enjoy.

So then, friend, the second level of Paul’s argument is The Contrary Conditions. We are on an ascending scale.

The third level is:

THE CONGENIAL CONFIRMATION

14 I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.

15 For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.

Immediately we sense a change in tone because the apostle says, “I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.” The reality is I am not aiming to put you down. I don’t want to make you feel bad, but I want to admonish you. I want to warn you. The word warn can well be translated “admonish,” which means “to correct.” I want to correct your train of thought. I want you to understand better how it is and what to do.

Another said:

No man, no minister, ought to reprove another merely to overwhelm him with shame, but the object should always be to make a brother better; and the admonition should be so administered as to have this end, not sourly or morosely, but in a kind, tender, and affectionate manner.

Rebuke can be more easily taken when it is administered with this tone. Then the apostle goes on to say, “Ye have ten thousand instructors.” The Greek literally is “myriads of instructors.” Paul adds that they have “not many fathers.” He claims his right as their spiritual father.

After Paul had spoken to the elite on Mars Hill, he came to Corinth. Now Corinth was not like Athens. Athens was the elite town, the town of the philosophers. Corinth was not. Paul came and established the church there. So he claims rightfully to be their father, “for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” His fatherhood was in Jesus Christ. What a marvelous man this apostle Paul was! And he helps us greatly to understand where we are. Listen again to Barnes:

(1.) He (Paul) had every prospect of honor and of wealth in his own country. He had been liberally educated and had the confidence of his countrymen. He might have risen to the highest station of trust or influence. He had talents that would have raised him to distinction anywhere (2.) He could not have been mistaken in regard to the events connected with his conversion; Acts ix. The scene, the voice, the light, and the blindness, were all things that could not have been counterfeited. They were open and public. They did not occur “in a corner.” (3.) He had no earthly motive to change his course. Christianity was despised when he embraced it; its friends were few and poor, and it had no prospect of spreading through the world. It conferred no wealth; bestowed no diadem; imparted no honors; gave no ease; conducted to no friendship of the great and the mighty. It subjected its friends to persecution, tears, trials, and death. What should induce such a man to make such a change? Why should Paul have embraced this, but from a conviction of its truth? How could he be convinced of that truth except by some argument that should be so strong as to overcome his hatred to it, make him willing to renounce all his prospects for it; to encounter all that the world could heap upon him, and even death itself, rather than deny it? But such a religion had a higher than any earthly origin and must have been from God.

Oh yes, my friend. So then the third level of Paul’s argument is The Congenial Confirmation.

It is highly essential that members of the church respect their leaders, especially those who walk in truth and teach the truth. Let me review those levels of Paul’s comments as to how to achieve that respect.

THE CONTRADICTORY COMPARISONS

Avoid them

THE CONTRARY CONDITIONS

Evade them

THE CONGENIAL CONFIRMATIONS

Accept them