Amazing Grace Baptist Church, Hamburg Bible Study Material on 1 Cor 4:8-13
This study on 1 Cor 4:8-13 identifies the impressions that the people of the world with particular attention to the Corinthians have on ministers of the gospel. The word spectacle is from the Greek term that we get the word “theatre.” Paul’s use of the expression “we have been made a spectacle to the world” is meant how the apostles (servants of God) were publicly humiliated. In 1 Cor 4:8-13; Paul makes use of skilful irony to demonstrate to the Corinthians how their concerns and criticisms are insignificant and unfair. Paul does that by comparing his sufferings to the pain and public humiliation of captives condemned to die (2 Cor. 11:23–30).
Ministers as Perceived by the World
The world and its wisdom are incompatible with Jesus Christ and the ministers of the Gospel. Paul uses some “loving sarcasm” (rhetorical words) here when he says: “You Corinthians brag about one another and compare one man with another, as though you were kings on a throne! How wonderful it must be to reign as kings and look down on others! I wish I could reign with you. But, no, I must be a hated apostle, a spectacle to the world, a fool for the Messiah’s sake.”
Ministers as “captured soldiers”
The verbal picture he painted was a familiar one to the people of Paul’s day. Whenever a victorious general came home from war, he was given a glorious parade through the city streets. As a way of boasting, he would display the captured nobles and generals. At the very end of the parade marched the soldiers. They were to be thrown to the wild beasts in the arena. Paul compared himself and the other apostles to these captured soldiers, “appointed to death for Jesus’ sake,” (verses 9 and 10) while the Corinthian believers were boasting at the front of the parade!
The spectacle of a true servant of God
What a spectacle a true servant of God must be to the world! Paul could have been a great Jewish rabbi, with authority and esteem. Yet he gave it up for Jesus’ sake (Philippians 3) to have hunger, nakedness, peril and death! The world cannot understand this attitude and calls such a person a fool.
How convicted these Corinthians should have been when they compared their carnal living to the sacrifices Paul and the other apostles were making. Paul was a fool; they were wise. Paul was weak, but they were strong. Paul was hated by the world, but they were relying upon the world’s wisdom. He went so far as to call himself “the scum of the earth—the world’s rubbish” (1 Cor 4:13).
The servant of God must share this attitude of heart today as well. How easy it is to settle down and live like the world, accepting the world’s standards and courting the world’s honours, when we ought to beware “when all men speak well of us” (See Luke 6:26).
Paul’s resume appears to present a picture of an unimpressive carrier of being in the pastoral ministry. For Paul was bounced from church to church, run out of many towns, accused of starting riots, and rarely supported by the ministry, he was arrested and imprisoned several times. To hire Paul as a pastor in contemporary times, therefore, would be difficult.
It seems that today, some churches and the world want to play it safe: “a little popularity, a little reputation, but still the anointing of God.” This makes some Pastors look for power without the cost. It is obvious, however, that choosing Paul’s way is the best because it is really God’s way.
Contrary to who the Servants of God truly are, as in the case of Paul, some of the Corinthians and some Christians in contemporary times think of themselves as notably successful, only because they do not understand what it means to be “fools for Christ’s sake.”