For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? 1 Cor 4:7
Beginning in verse 6 of chapter 4, Paul explains the third reason for the divisions and dissensions in the church at Corinth. Recall again, the first reason, explained in 1:18-3:4, is a misunderstanding of the nature of the saving power of the Gospel. After this, in 1 Corinthians 3:5-4:5, Paul gives the second reason for the factions – their misunderstanding of the Christian ministry and leadership. The third reason is in fact the source and heart of the first two – and it is pride. In the previous passages, Paul has used various metaphors – farm workers, builders, servants, and stewards – to describe himself and Apollos as ministers of the Gospel. He did this so that by his own example, the Corinthians would learn to follow suit and not think too highly of themselves, but practice humility and banish pride.
Read the irony and sarcasm of verses 8-13. Paul is describing the Corinthians in terms of the glory of the future kingdom – enjoying all of its treasure; while he and the other apostles are bearing a cross of suffering. The Bible teaches that suffering always precedes glory – life on earth precedes life in heaven, Passover precedes Pentecost, Yom Kippor precedes the Feast of Tabernacles, repentance precedes rejoicing, and the cross precedes the resurrection. Perhaps the high-flying Corinthians were, as Kenneth Copeland sings, “living the high life!” – living, as it were, in the ‘not yet’ of realized eschatology (that is to say, living in the kingdom before its time). Perhaps the church believed they had received the glorious kingdom of Christ when they received the Spirit of God – and all suffering had come to an end? Certainly the attitude Paul describes in these verses demonstrate that they were living by a theology of glory and not a theology of the cross. in this section Paul urges them to follow his own example in suffering, just as Christ suffered setting the example for all who follow Him.
Finally as Paul concludes, he recalls the special relationship that he had with the Corinthians – he wants them to understand that the severe words he spoke to them were not inspired by resentment, but by genuine concern for them. He wants to deal with the leaders of these factions directly, but not with arguments of words, but with demonstration of power.
Listen to this message here: