Summary: In today's lesson we learn about an appropriate response to church leadership.
We continue our study in The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians in a series I am calling Challenges Christians Face.
One of the challenges that Christians face is an appropriate response to church leadership. Let’s learn about this in a message I am calling, “Responsibility and Humility.”
Let’s read 1 Corinthians 4:6-13:
6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?
8 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! 9 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. 10 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 in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. (1 Corinthians 4:6-13)
Helen Roseveare was an English missionary doctor in the Congo, Africa from 1953 to 1973, where she served as the only doctor at a large hospital. There were constant interruptions and shortages, and she was becoming increasingly impatient and irritable with everyone around her.
Finally, one of the African pastors insisted, “Helen, please come with me.”
He drove Helen to his humble house and told her that she was going to have a retreat—two days of silence and solitude. She was to pray until her attitude adjusted.
All night and the next day she struggled; she prayed, but her prayers seemed to bounce off the ceiling.
Late on Sunday night, she sat beside the pastor around a little campfire. Humbly, almost desperately, she confessed that she was stuck. With his bare toe, the pastor drew a long straight line on the dusty ground.
“That is the problem, Helen. There is too much ‘I’ in your service.”
Then he gave her a suggestion: “I have noticed that quite often, you take a coffee break and hold the hot coffee in your hands waiting for it to cool.”
Then he drew another line across the first one.
“Helen, from now on,” he said, “as the coffee cools, ask God, ‘Lord, cross out the “I” and make me more like you.’”
In the dust of that African ground, where a cross had formed, Helen Roseveare learned a great principle of Jesus: freedom comes through service, and service comes by letting go of our pride.
One could call this a theology of the cross. It is understanding how we live our lives as believers in view of the cross.
This was one of the major challenges that faced the Corinthian believers. They had come to faith in Christ through Paul’s ministry to them. He had planted the church, and he was their spiritual father in the faith. After 18 months of church planting Paul moved away from Corinth. Apollos came to Corinth as the pastor of the congregation. People in the congregation were divided over who they followed as their leader. Some followed Paul, others followed Apollos, and others even followed Cephas (who was also known as Peter). The believers in Corinth were struggling with pride in their favorite leader, and it was tearing the church apart.
In today’s passage Paul focused their attention on an appropriate response to church leadership.
And so, in today’s lesson we learn about an appropriate response to church leadership.
Let’s use the following outline for today’s lesson:
1. The Responsibility of Believers (4:6-8)
2. The Humility of the Apostles (4:9-13)
I. The Responsibility of Believers (4:6-8)
First, let’s examine the responsibility of believers.
The apostle Paul was concerned about how the Corinthian believers were responding to himself and Apollos. He wanted the believers to respond appropriately to their leadership in the church. And so he set down several responsibilities for the believers about how to respond appropriately to church leadership.
A. Believers Should Submit to Scripture (4:6)
First, believers should submit to Scripture.
Paul began by saying in verse 6a, “I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers. . . .”