"I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things."
Let's talk about something we ALL deal with. Pride. At first read, you may not understand that pride is what Paul is getting at. I mean, as I first read it, I was really confused. Where was the switch? When did Paul begin to envy the Corinthians? Wasn't he calling them babies a few chapters ago? And now they are wise? Nope! Don't worry. Paul isn't changing his mind. He is just being sarcastic. Or, as Bible commentators call it... ironic. The truth is, Paul is putting the Corinthians on major blast. He is calling them out for walking around like they are the coolest thing ever. Like they have it all together. Like they are kings.
Paul uses himself and Apollos as examples. Saying that if the Corinthian church really looked at the Word of God and followed the example of the leaders they themselves were elevating, they would not put on such airs. Paul asks them "who sees anything different in you?" This isn't a challenge to be set apart from the world, it's the Greek way of saying "what makes you so special?!" In the next passage we are reminded of the love God has for us. But for now, what I really want us to get is that nothing we have is by our own merit. "What do you have that you did not receive?"
Again, in my study this week, I listened to a message by Alistair Begg. He admonished his listeners to see themselves in light of who God is. God is everything. We are nothing. The more we love who He is, the more we know how little we have. The more we recognize that without His grace we fall so flat. We don't even fall, because we never made it off the ground to fall back to. "We have become, and are still, the scum of the world". No one likes being called scum. But take a moment to contemplate the perfect holiness, the vast power, the complete justice, the immovable faithfulness, the unconditional love, and the infinite being of God. Now... tell me... what makes you so special? We are nothing. All we have have been given by grace. Next week I'm so excited to talk about where we get grace. At the cross by the love and power of God. That we would live to praise Him because He is worthy! But today, I am striving to let go of my love of self, for my good and His glory.
"Accordingly, two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self"
~ Saint Augustine The City of God