Click here for the reading: 1 Corinthians 4:1-5.
Paul addresses the divisions among the Corinthians with authority, but also as their spiritual father. Many regarded him as an inferior teacher and thus as someone whose teachings could also be ignored. How does the spirit of division show itself today? Why is factionalism a threat to the Gospel? How should we approach such division, and how should we not approach it? What is at the root of such division in the body of Christ? Why does Paul list divisions among the works of the flesh in Galatians 6?
The primary issue in this passage is how some of the Corinthians regarded Paul. Since he was not as impressive as some of the other teachers, some turned away from what he had taught them. After all, these other teachers were much more compelling! However, Paul reminds them that it doesn’t matter what they think about him. What matters is that he is a servant of God. Since the world constantly pressures us to conform, what does it look like to care more about what God thinks about us? On the other hand, how can this reality be used to justify bad practices or attitudes? Consider the example of the Hebrew midwives in Exodus 1 and how they show what it means to fear God above all things.
The value of a steward is not dependent on his skill or his knowledge, but rather on his conduct. Should he prove unfaithful or negligent, then even the most talented steward is worthless to his master. Paul is therefore not a people-pleaser, because they are not his master! What are specific ways that show we care most about what others think? What are specific ways that show we care most about remaining faithful? How does 1 Peter 2-3 address the question of faithful conduct?
Even if Paul were to stand before the judgment of men, he is not aware of anything against him. This does not acquit him before the judgment of God, but Paul is blameless before the world. What is the difference between being blameless and being sinless? Why is blamelessness a requirement of those who desire to be pastors? Why ought all Christians be blameless before the judgment of the world? What else do we learn about being blameless in passages like Psalm 15?
Just as Advent looks toward the coming of the Lord in judgment, Paul reminds the Corinthians that the Lord will reveal the truth of our hearts on that day. God will judge each according to what he has done and will give to each his commendation or his condemnation. Why should we not always judge a man’s faithfulness by what we see? Why is factionalism based on appearances rather than truth? In what ways do we engage in premature judgment, especially on the actions of fellow Christians? How do Jesus’ words in Matthew 7 relate to this passage?