Each time I read through 1 Corinthians, I can’t help but draw a parallel between the issues in the Corinthian church and the contemporary church. The culture may have been different, but the self-focused attitudes and actions are not. One theme that emerges pretty quickly in the book is that of pride and superiority. The Corinthians are puffed up by their own accomplishments, which they are measuring against the standards of the Roman-greco society and not the wisdom of the kingdom. Jesus introduced an upside paradigm that flies in the face of what society said was successful. This is true as much today and in the early church. And because of this, they’re even turning their nose down at Paul because he’s not measuring up to their standard.
After giving the Corinthians the smack down in 1 Corinthians 3 about how their divisiveness and self-importance are disrupting the foundation that he has built on Christ, in chapter 4 he gets to the heart of it.
I have applied all these things to myself and to Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against the other. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If you then 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 are 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 retreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. (1 Corinthians 4:6-13)