The Root of the Problem
The Root of the Problem
Words of Faith 5-10-17
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2017
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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1 Corinthians 4
 Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, "Do not go beyond what is written." Then you will not take pride in one man over against another.  For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
The big, most obvious, problem in the church at Corinth was division. There were other problems that Paul will get to like immorality, lawsuits, and marriage issues. But the first big issue was division and this problem had a deeper root: pride. It was in pride that one leader was lifted above another.
Somewhere along the way, some of the leaders and believers at Corinth had missed the fundamental nature of Jesus' kingdom where the greatest is the least and the King died for his people. In this Kingdom, no one is more important than anyone else. In this closing argument, Paul will make it clear that true apostles take the lowest role, not the greatest and they should not be objects of a celebrity cult.
Throughout this whole discussion Paul avoided singling out guilty persons by name. Surely there is some tested pastoral wisdom in that. Only rarely did Paul name offenders (Phil. 4:2). Instead, he applied the problem cases to Apollos and himself, and Peter, and Christ.
These names may have been celebrated by various factions in exactly the way that Paul described. It is possible that Paul used these examples to make his point precisely because these names were so well thought of all the Corinthians. But now, Paul used his own name and that of Apollos in a way that was not hypothetical. Paul offered the example of their lives so that they might learn this critical lesson.
The saying "Do not go beyond what is written" is a fascinating one. It was a phrase that spoke to both Jew and Gentile from their history and culture. This saying was used by Greek philosophers advocating harmony by warning people not to "go beyond what is written" but to comply with a prior agreement. It also contained the phrase familiar to Jews "it is written," used often to introduce Old Testament quotations.
Paul was trying reach into both cultures at Corinth, calling the believers back to a point of agreement, and warning them not to go beyond the teaching of Scripture. If they could learn not to go beyond the teaching of the Scripture about how they should treat God's teachers and all of God's people, then the result would be that they would not be conceited in taking a stand for one teacher or person over against another.
At the heart of this, many of the Corinthian believers and leaders needed a lesson in humility. From the example of their lives Paul hoped the Corinthians would get it. The verb "learn" is mathete, and the related noun is translated "disciple," or "one who practices what he is taught." Paul was calling them to true discipleship which is characterized by humility.
Humility was a difficult lesson in Corinth. The Greeks believed humility was a despicable trait of a slave, a sign of weakness, and not a characteristic of great men. But according to scripture, humility is the only acceptable posture of a person in relation to the God.
God gives a wide variety of gifts on the basis of grace and therefore He alone is deserving of praise. Paul underscored these truths in this series of rhetorical questions. For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
It is powerful to recognize that Paul began this letter by warmly affirming the work of God in the Corinthian believers, but listen to the way Paul praises not the people but the work of God in them, "I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way--in all your speaking and in all your knowledge-- because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful” (1 Cor. 1:4-9).
For us, two thousand years later, the lessons are the same. Pride is our enemy. Spiritual pride is a deceptive enemy. The world despises humility but it is still the way of Christ. We may have achieved great things or built great ministries or seen great wonders, but "Who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
In our world of church, the gift of a lovely clear voice, or an insightful mind, or a musical talent, or an ability to lead, are all received from God. The gifts to preach, teach, educate, envision and inspire all come only from God. Why would we boast as if they were not from God?
For that matter, every pleasure and blessing we enjoy, education or job, house or car, wealth or holding, possession or position, all of this is received from God. What do we have that we did not receive? And if we did receive it, why do we boast as if we did not?
Father God, I give you thanks for... everything. Forgive me the sin of pride and protect me from it. There is nothing that I touch or enjoy that is not from Your hand. There is nothing that I have to offer You except what You have already blessed me with. Make me a true disciple. Give me a spirit of humility. Teach me, O God, that I may walk in Your path with the Mind of Christ. 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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The Words of Faith devotion is published five days a week by E-mail excluding Federal holidays. Please feel free to forward this devotion to a friend who might be blessed by this devotion. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is quoted from the New International Version (R) of The Holy Bible. Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. Words of Faith (c) 1997, 2010 Jeffrey D. Hoy. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to forward this copyrighted material or use portions of it with appropriate notation of the source for non-profit purposes.