The Silly Spectacle
1 Cor. 4:6-13
We have talked many times about the problem regarding division in the church at Corinth. They
choose one leader more than the other, and it has become a source of pride for those belonging to a
particular group which to their judgment were “better” if not the “best”. The Corinthians failed to
realize the truth that Paul and Apollos, were not competitors but co-workers in the kingdom of God.
They were stewards in the household of God. Paul has to correct them in their judgmental attitude.
Another problem which we will see here is that they have “departed from the Scriptures”.
I. Just Servants of the Lord (1 Cor. 4:6)
A. The term “these things” are everything that has been said about the problems on
factions and division, the pride and arrogance of the Corinthian believers.
B. “I have in a figure transferred to myself, and to Apollos”, means that he had spoken
particularly of himself and of Apollos.
C. He is doing this because the Corinthians departed from the Scriptures, and in so
doing, proudly boasted of their attachment to a certain leader and their dislike for
others. In verses 1-4 of chapter 3, Paul exposes the carnality of the Corinthians and
makes this as an evidence of their condition in their weakness in handling the Word
of God and their attachment to men. Paul indicates that carnal Christians attach
themselves to men because they have gone beyond the Scriptures to find truth and
D. The logic here is, Paul is trying to teach them is that he and Apollos were just
servants of the Lord and none of the Corinthian believers have the right to lift one
above the other. They were not to be lifted above their scriptural worth or roles as
they were just servants chosen by Christ. Also, by this, Paul is teaching the church in
Corinth a lesson about humility.
Illustration 1: The Test of a Truly Great Man
It was John Riskin who said, “I believe the first test of a truly great man is his humility. I do not mean
by humility, doubt of his own power, or hesitation in speaking his opinion. But really great men have
a … feeling that the greatness is not in them but through them; that they could not do or be
anything else than God made them.” Andrew Murray said, “The humble man feels no jealousy or
envy. He can praise God when others are preferred and blessed before him. He can bear to hear
others praised while he is forgotten because … he has received the spirit of Jesus, who pleased not
Himself, and who sought not His own honor. Therefore, in putting on the Lord Jesus Christ he has
put on the heart of compassion, kindness, meekness, longsuffering, and humility.”
M. R. De Haan used to say, “Humility is something we should constantly pray for, yet never thank
God that we have.” Source unknown
II. Misplaced Superiority (1 Cor. 4:7)
A. Three questions from Paul.
1. Who maketh thee to differ from another? Who is their judge? If the Corinthians
are so superior, who thinks this? Is it the unbelievers? God is their judge, not the
unbelieving Corinthians of that day.
2. What has thou that thou didst not receive? Do the Corinthians boast in their
abilities? Where did these abilities come from? If they were given, and they
were, then they were given by God. If the Corinthians are boasting in their Godgiven
gifts, then they are boasting in God ‘s place. They have the wrong judge,
and they have the wrong object of praise. Men have taken the place of God.
3. “Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received
it? If all that the Corinthians possess is a God-given gift, then how can they
boast, as if it were not a gift? The Corinthians think themselves so wise. They are
arrogant and boastful. Yet, if they are so wise, how can they be so foolish as to
take credit for something they were given, as though they were not the
recipients of a gift? They have forgotten—or worse yet, they have forsaken—
grace. These all-wise Corinthians are self-deceived.
B. Paul tells them that every man’s spiritual ministry is from God, so it is foolish to glory
in one over another.
Illustration 2: Charles Spurgeon
The great British preacher Charles Spurgeon was keenly aware of the dangers of pride. After his
sermon one Sunday, Spurgeon was met by a woman who exclaimed, “Oh, Mr. Spurgeon, that was
“Yes, madam,” Spurgeon replied, “so the devil whispered in my ear as I came down the steps of the
Spurgeon had it right. Genuine compliments are no sin, but he knew that puffing God’s people up
with pride is one of Satan’s favorite tactics. One reason the enemy uses this trick so often is that it is
so successful. Today in the Word, February 27, 1997, p. 34
Illustration 3: Edinburgh Castle Tower
Anyone who travels to Edinburgh, Scotland will find Edinburgh castle a tower of seemingly
insurmountable strength. But the truth is that the castle was once actually captured. The fortress
had an obvious weak spot which defenders guarded—but because another spot was apparently
protected by its steepness and impregnability, no sentries were posted there. At an opportune time,
an attacking army sent a small band up that unguarded slope and surprised the garrison into
surrender. Where the castle was strong, there it was weak.
Today in the Word, February, 1989, p. 36
III. Holy Sarcasm (1 Cor. 4:8-10).
A. The word “now” was repeated twice here. In the minds of the Corinthians, “now”
they are full and “now” have become rich, and have reigned as kings.
B. This is a reproof to the Corinthians for acting like kings in this world, thinking of
themselves as wise, strong, and honorable.
C. He uses the apostles as examples of true Christianity in this present world. The
apostles were not ruling as kings; they were not looked upon by the world as wise
and honorable. To the contrary, they were looked upon as fools, as weaklings. They
were despised. They were poor and homeless and persecuted and defamed and
were considered the very offscouring of all things.
D. Paul told the Corinthians, “I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with
you” (1 Cor. 4:8), meaning that he would be happy if the Corinthian believers were
truly reigning with Christ because that would mean that Christ had returned and the
E. In verse 9 Paul says that he wishes this were true and that he could arrive, because it
seemed as if the apostles were chosen to come in lastly in the kingdom. It was as if
God had placed them in the public arena for all to witness their fight and their
battle. Paul implies that nothing they were doing was in secret or hidden from the
world, the angels, or from mankind. The word “spectacle” means “a theater, a public
arena, a public show, or a man who is exhibited to be gazed at and made sport of”.
This was the life of the apostles and while the Corinth Christians were all smug in
their superiority, the apostles were being made sport of and literally dying for the
cause of Christianity
F. In verse 10, Paul rebukes the folly of the Corinthians by this contrast:
1. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ
2. We are weak, but ye are strong;
3. Ye are honourable, but we are despised
G. It’s a very sad thing that the Corinthians missed the fact that if we identify with
Christ in this age, we will suffer rejection, persecution, and affliction. What we only
have now are the reliable promises and the assurance of entering into the blessings
of His kingdom when He comes.
IV. Hardships of the Apostles (1 Cor. 4:11-13)
A. Paul describes the great suffering that he endured for Christ’s sake (1 Cor. 4:11-13).
If the world treated Christ and His apostles in this manner, if they suffered in this
present world, how can believers today expect to escape affliction? “Yea, and all
that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12).
B. Paul and his fellow apostles’ response to the abusive treatment of the world, and
even some in the church is unbelievable. This response is described in verses 12 and
13. Rather than living like kings off of the saints, Paul labors with his own hands. He
is not supported by those whom he serves; rather, he supports them (Acts 18:3;
20:33-35; 1 Cor. 9:1-23; 2 Cor. 11:7-9; 2 Thess. 2:9).
C. When the apostles are reviled, they give a blessing in return. When persecuted, they
endure. When slandered, they seek to conciliate. In spite of this or perhaps, because
of this they are regarded as the scum of the world, the trash of the society.
Illustration 4: God Has Promised Strength for the Day
God has not promised skies always blue, Flower-strewn pathways all our life through; God has not
promised sun without rain, Joy without sorrow, peace without pain. But God has promised strength
for the day, Rest for the labor, light for the way; Grace for the trials, help from above, Unfailing
sympathy, undying love. Source Unknown
Paul used his life and Apollos as an example to teach the Corinthians humility and to
correct them from their erroneous divisions and factions due to their pride. Though
the apostles become a spectacle to the world and to them, it’s the life which the Lord
Jesus Christ experienced when He was here. If the Lord and the Apostles suffered
hardships, afflictions persecutions, so are they in the church of Corinth and of us as