Paul is telling the Corinthian Church, and us, that a growing relationship with Christ and His church is essential to living out the message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The central issue in 1 Corinthians is that salvation in Christ is to be expressed through a believer acting on the knowledge they have. The Corinthians were tearing apart their congregations through their focus on leaders and not Christ, on who was more spiritual, by who they belonged to.
In saying, “I belong to Apollos; he is wise and eloquent,” they were implying that they were also wise and eloquent. Those that claimed they belonged to Paul were claiming intellectual competence. Yet they were destroying their congregations through their division. They were not serving God nor building up the church. Building up the Church is done through sacrificial service to God.
As we saw last week what mattered to Paul was God’s judgment of his managing/stewardship, not their judgment of him or even his own. Paul was open to criticism and being taught by others, but he didn’t live to please them. He, as God’s servant, lived to please God. People judge without having all the information, but one-day, we all, like Paul will answer to God, who knows everything. Only God knows to what extent each of us carries out our God given responsibilities. It is He who will judge the motives of our hearts.
As a Christian, God’s servant, your focus is to be on the Lord’s will and the responsibilities given to you as individuals – and on those given to your congregation of His Church. Remember Romans 12:5, we are members one of another. We, together, as servants of the most High God must keep in mind that we are stewards and managers of God’s mysteries, which all of us have access to: His Word, which as we know from last week will judge us on that last day.
A servant is judged by their master, but they may be held accountable by their fellow servants, but in the end the final and eternal judgment will come from our Lord. It is He that will bring to light what is hidden in darkness.
We have the Word of God and are commanded not to add or subtract from it, “Nothing beyond what is written.”
Paul is speaking fluent sarcasm in confronting the Corinthians over their sin of following man over Jesus and over the sin of arrogance; they were acting like “Sister Bertha Better-than-you”, thinking they had arrived and were already royalty in the Kingdom. You don’t know Sister Bertha?
She was immortalized in a Ray stevens song: Mississippi Squirrel Revival… First self-righteous Church… Sister Bertha is seen in many congregations and Corinth was no exception.
Verna Davis in the Herald Review out of Anderson, Indiana, describes Sister Bertha Better-Than-You like this, “She’s the one who says, “Since I was created in God’s image, I have more than returned the favor.” She’s the one that criticizes the preacher, the sermon, the music, the deacons, the elders, the Sunday school teachers. She’s the one that goes out for dinner after church and criticizes the crowds, the service, the food. She knows all the church gossip and repeats it, sometimes adding extra details as she thinks are needed. She feels justified in doing so, for she knows that she is better than you, me, or anyone else in the church. Truth be told, Bertha would be shocked to know that church is not all about her.”
Paul is confronting them out of Love, not from the perspective of being right, from legalism; but so that they would get back on the right path and so that they and we would all know that we are in this together as God’s Servants, though he has more reason to than the others to want to see them in heaven as it was Paul that led them to Jesus Christ and he was speaking to them as their spiritual father.
Just like Paul we too must hold each other accountable, again out of love and in the love of God, we are to confront and encourage right and godly living. We each will be held accountable for how we helped or hindered God’s other servants by holding them accountable or ignoring their disobedience.
I know that the “First Self-Righteous Church” is fictional, but I think we should all be concerned about the squirrel… we don’t want to end up like the church at Corinth being chastised for arrogance or our dear sister Bertha or the other self-righteous of the world and God having to send a half crazed squirrel to get us back on the straight and narrow.
We need to be fools for Christ without the provocation they experienced, we need to be God’s Church, God’s People, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, we need to be Connected, living in Community, building relationships with God and one another; unconcerned for the world’s ways, wisdom, and wants, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” So lets be connected in our foolishness.
The world says it is all about you, God says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). Be servants of God, bless your enemies, pray for them, defend the weak, let the one who boasts boast in the Lord! Be fools for Christ! Be accountable to Him and to one another! Don’t be like those who are perishing, “Once, as we were on our way to prayer, a slave girl met us who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She made a large profit for her owners by fortune-telling. As she followed Paul and us she cried out, ‘These men, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation, are the servants of the Most High God‘” (Acts 16:16-17).
- How are you serving the Lord Your God where He has placed you?
- Are you a fool for Christ?
- Are you ready to be held accountable for what you did… and what you did not?
- General: Matthew 6:24, Matthew 25:14-30, Mark 10:45, John 12:26, John 13:12-16, Romans 12:1, Galatians 5:13, Ephesians 2:10, 1 Peter 2:16, 1 Peter 4:10
- Accountability: Jeremiah 17:10, Matthew 7:3-5, 12, Luke 17:3, Galatians 6:1-5, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Hebrews 4:13, James 4:17, Galatians 6:1-10, Philippians 2:1-5