1Co 4:8-10 “Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you. For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised.”
In order to understand the tone of these verses, we must be blessed by God to keep in mind that Paul has been addressing a problem in the church. There were divisions over who had the greatest claim to fame with some giving Paul credit for their gospel salvation while others claimed Apollos or Peter. Some even claimed Christ. Paul’s letter thus far has addressed the foolishness of worldly wisdom and the wisdom of God in a mystery.
The brethren at Corinth had grown in their own estimation. Rather than recognizing that all (Christ, Paul, Apollos, Peter, and even themselves – 1Co 3:21-23) were from God, they had started choosing sides. Since no sides existed in reality, they made up some. Each group was satisfied with the leader they had aligned themselves with and felt themselves superior to the others. Paul now begins to point out how, in this act, they have defamed and abandoned the very principles they were taught.
The brethren saw themselves as being satisfied with themselves; they were full. They did not feel anything lacking in their lives; they were rich. They saw themselves as being in a position of power and ruling over others. This malady was not just confined to Paul’s day. We still see many today who have taken up the name of Christ without exemplifying any of the characteristics of Christ.
Paul reminds us that when we see ourselves as rich and powerful and having the authority of kings through our own conceits, we have abandoned the teaching of the apostles. He told the Corinthian brethren “You have reigned like kings without us.” In other words, they did not learn their present attitude from Jesus or His ministers. Their very actions showed disdain for the men they were trying to lay claim to.
When we truly reign with Christ (2Ti 2:12), then we reign with all those who truly serve Him. Paul had a great desire that the brethren truly reign so that they might all reign together. He then goes on to describe what reigning with Christ looks like, and it is not a place that gains us honor with the world. Paul showed them plainly that the servants of Christ claimed no preeminence for themselves.
Paul pointed out that the mightiest of God’s servants often appeared to the world to be the least favored. Man’s wisdom has often seen the servants of God as no more than cannon fodder in a world that shows little regard for the truth. When we love God and seek His path, we are often referred to in derisive tones and considered to be out of touch with reality. Many who claim to speak with the authority of Christ (angels) still teach that He needs our aid or that we should expect to be rich and powerful in this world’s goods if we are truly and faithfully serving Him.
Those that are full and rich and reigning in their own estimation consider themselves to be wise in Christ. Paul says those who truly serve Him are willing to be fools for His sake. While those who trust in the arm of flesh consider themselves to be strong, Paul says the true servant knows himself to be weak so the strength of God may be clearly seen (2Co 12:9). Men who cause and support division among God’s people often do so with a posture of great dignity and honor, and are looked on with favor by the wisdom of men. The true servant is not deemed worthy of honor by worldly wisdom.
May we ever seek to be clothed upon with Christ and Him alone and joyfully endure the ridicule of the world that we might serve Him!