Why, then, do you compare Apollos and myself to those who boast in themselves and in their own accomplishments? See us for who we are, for we are servants of another, who is Christ. Regard us not as those who build their own kingdoms but as those who have been made managers of God’s mysteries. And as trustworthiness is required for managers in the realm of man, it is far more important in the realm of God. 1
God has examined me and found me trustworthy. I am not the least bit concerned about your scrutiny, nor that of any court of man. I don’t even examine myself, for I am aware of nothing against myself! However, I am not freed from all charges based upon my own obliviousness to things that might be held against me, instead, my confidence is found in knowing that the one who examines me is the Lord.
And since this is the case, let your judgment against others be suspended until the time God reveals all things. For he will uncover that which is hidden in darkness, and he will make known the motives behind why people do what they do. That’s why I tell each and every one of you to wait for God’s approval.
My dear brothers, I am quite sure by now that you are wondering why I’ve been inserting the names of Paul and Apollos where you know good and well I’m referring to someone else, that is, to those who have become important among you. Believe me when I tell you that I have done this for your own good. For in not naming those who love to be named, I have removed the opportunity for anyone to stretch what I have written into some kind of an endorsement of one man or one group above another.
Where do you get off thinking you are so much better than anyone else? After all, what do you have that was not given to you? So then, if what you have has been given to you, how can you brag about it as if it was not given to you? What I mean is that you boast about being already filled and already made rich, as if you had somehow achieved it. You brag about how you’ve been made kings … kings without us!
Ah, to reign as kings with you, now that would be nice. However, it seems to me that God has put us — the ones he sent to you with the good news — in last place. For while you parade yourselves around as victors at the head of the line, receiving praise from one another, we are dragged behind as prisoners of war, as men condemned to death. Our public humiliation has become entertainment for all who see us.
My purpose in writing as I have is not to shame you, but to break through your fleshly understanding with true comprehension — you who are my beloved children. It makes no difference how many teachers you might have in Christ, it makes no difference how many claim authority over you, they are not your fathers — for in Christ Jesus, I became your father through the good news. Therefore I address you as a father and impress upon you to follow my example — although it will be judged foolish by those who appear wise among you.
And this is why I have sent Timothy to you, for he is a precious and faithful son to me in the Lord. He knows my ways in Christ, the very same as I teach everywhere in every gathering of Christ. As you seem to have forgotten, he will remind you of those ways.
I know there are some who have puffed themselves up under the assumption that I’m not coming back, but I have every intention of doing so — and soon, if the Lord desires it. And when I get there, I’m going to find out what those airbags are really made of. But I am not coming to play word games, rather I’m going to find out if they have any strength behind them. After all, God’s kingdom is not built of words, but of power.
So, how do you want me to return? Do you want me to come after the manner of your esteemed leaders — that is, like a strict disciplinarian? Or do you want me to come as the one you remember — that is, with love and a gentle spirit? 2
- 1. Although my treatment may seem rather long-winded for these two short verses, I have only expanded upon them to bring the often overlooked context more in view. Unless we keep what had actually happened among the believers in view (which was contention, competitiveness, boasting, and such) we tend to misread and misunderstand the verses according to our own assumptions.
- 2. Of course, I’m sure some will question my interpretation, as if I’ve totally read this idea into the mix. However, consider that how Paul addressed this very thing near the end of the second letter (2 Corinthians 10-11) reveals that, though not expressed at this juncture, this is more to the heart of his unspoken point. You see, we might not pick it up, but the Corinthians could not have mistaken his meaning. That’s why I add it in here, because we need to recognize the connection. There’s no doubt that Paul had been given authority by God to deal in whatever manner he deemed fit, but woven in and out through both letters we are given insight into Paul’s heart toward those he loved, and he bent over backwards to be gentle towards them. In fact, he tells them that he almost expected to be humiliated before them and he would end up mourning over them. This type of outcome was totally opposite to that of those who were puffed up. Consider Paul’s description:
For you tolerate it if anyone enslaves you, anyone devours you, anyone takes advantage of you, anyone exalts himself, anyone hits you in the face. To my shame I must say that we have been weak by comparison. But in whatever respect anyone else is bold–I speak in foolishness–I am just as bold myself. 2 Corinthians 11:20-21