The Irony of it All
The Irony of it All
Words of Faith 5-11-17
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2017
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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1 Corinthians 4
 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have become kings--and that without us! How I wish that you really had become kings so that we might be kings with you!  For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men.  We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored!  To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless.  We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it;  when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.
Okay. Back to English class for just a minute. Do you remember that "irony" is the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning? They did it all the time in Paul's world.
As a literary and rhetorical device, irony was a powerful tool in the ancient world for persuading people of something that they very much needed to see. Irony differs from "sarcasm" in that sarcasm is harsh, bitter, taunting and sneering, and is usually intended to wound. The origin of "sarcasm" means to cut meat or flesh. Paul's intention was not to wound, but irony seemed to be the best tool break the Corinthians out of their bubble of self-delusion.
The believers at Corinth had somehow deluded themselves into thinking that they had "arrived" in their Christian walk and they were kings and queens. They had grown haughty in their religious expression and prideful in their regard of themselves. If pride is the problem, humility is more than just a solution. Humility is the mind of Christ, the foundation, in terms of the way we regard life, people and God.
Paul wrote to the Philippian believers, "Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross" (2:5-8).
This posture of humility is to be taken by all Christians. The path of Jesus took Him to the cross and then to exaltation. It was a path marked first by humiliation and then crowned by exaltation. The Corinthians had apparently dispensed with the first half. They wanted their exaltation immediately.
Paul derided their conceit with irony by quoting a series of dramatic boasts they had made. They thought they had all they needed. They were rich and are reigning like kings, even without any help from Paul. The Corinthians evidently thought they had reached full maturity and were ruling and reigning rather than walking humbly with God.
The reality is that spiritual life begins at the point of spiritual poverty. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Mt. 52). Our blessing begins when we recognize our spiritual poverty, our absolute dependence upon the mercy and grace of God.
The Corinthians thought they had all they wanted, but they should have been hungering and thirsting for the practical righteousness they so desperately needed. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Mt. 5:6). They thought of themselves as kings in need of nothing when in fact they were as needy as the foolish king in the children's tale of the emperor's new clothes, who blithely paraded nakedly before his subjects.
Jesus spoke this very thought to the church at Laodicea, "You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see" (Rev. 3:17-18). In their self-deluded pride, the Corinthians did not recognize their own poverty and nakedness.
Paul was no fool. He did not like suffering. He wished they were right. But they weren't. The apostles followed the path of Christ's humiliation. Just as Jesus marched a parade route to His death, so did they. "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him" (2 Cor. 2:14).
As Christ had suffered deprivation and defamation, so did His servants. In His Spirit they endured and responded with grace. The apostles lived out the message of the Cross. But the Corinthians were complacent and secure with their "theology of the palace.”
In great love, Paul attempted to pop the bubble of self-delusion among the Corinthians, knowing that eventually it would have to pop, and might do so in a far more painful way. While Paul's irony may seem harsh, it was really very gentle.
What do we take from this? We should certainly realize how easy it is in an affluent culture to begin to think that we are the kings and queens of God's Kingdom. It is easy to slip in to the Corinthian trap of spiritual haughtiness that somehow attributes great blessing to our advanced faith and spiritual posture, ignoring the fact that people of greater faith often suffer and die.
When we slide into this easy mindset, we miss the fact that everything we have spiritually and physically is a trust from God that is given because of His grace and mercy. This thinking is of the world rather than the Mind of Christ.
Does God do miracles today? Absolutely. Does the Lord watch over His children? More carefully than we could ever know. Does Jesus care about the details in my life? He certainly does. But does this mean that we are immune from suffering, persecution, hardship or sickness? Nope.
It doesn't mean that at all. But it does mean that the Lord is with us and uses everything to proclaim His Kingdom, power and glory. Are we kings and queens? Nope. But we know the King. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. It is really good to know Him.
Father God, build the Mind of Christ in me that I may walk humbly with Jesus by the power of Your Spirit. Show me the way of Christ and give me the fruit of Your Spirit. Remove from me mindset of the world. In Jesus' name.
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© Jeffrey D. Hoy 2007, 2017
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy - Faith Fellowship Church (EFCA)
2820 Business Center Blvd.
Melbourne, Florida 32940 (321)-259-7200
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