The Suffering of Christ's Apostles (4:9-13)Paul is still dealing with their pride. But he does so by emphasizing his own weakness and struggles -- no doubt to shame their arrogance by explaining that being an apostle involved not worldly glory -- but suffering for Christ.
"For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display100 at the end of the procession101, like men condemned to die in the arena.102 We have been made a spectacle103 to the whole universe,104 to angels as well as to men." (4:9)
The NIV's addition of "at the end of the procession" and "in the arena" aren't in the text, but might have been part of the image in the apostle's mind -- we don't know. But clearly he sees the struggle of the apostles as an important spiritual battle in heavenly places. The next sentence is dripping with irony.
"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!105" (4:10)
Now he continues with his list of sufferings of the frontline apostles and church planting teams that are evangelizing the Mediterranean area in the first century. Such sufferings have often been the lot of itinerant missionaries and church-planters -- and many preachers -- throughout history.
"11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags106, we are brutally treated107, we are homeless108. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed109, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure110 it; 13 when we are slandered111, we answer kindly112. Up to this moment we have become the scum113 of the earth, the refuse114 of the world." (4:11-13)
We find it pretty hard to relate to this kind of description of being considered the lowest of all people. We have worked hard to become respectable and wouldn't do anything that would expose us to such abuse! Perhaps we are soft! Though I disagree strongly with their often incorrect interpretation of the Bible, I expect that Jehovah's Witnesses, who faithfully go door-to-door, experience this kind of insult and abuse daily. And somehow they avoid answering back rudely. They put us to shame!
How far are you willing to go to proclaim the gospel? What are you willing to endure? Even the slightest put-down is likely to stampede us into full retreat.
Paul shared his experience with the Corinthians to help them understand what it costs to be fully committed.
Q3. (1 Corinthians 4:9-13) Why do you think Paul lists the abuse he has to take? What effect did he want it to have on his readers? What effect does it have on you? Do you avoid ministry that comes with abuse?