Summary: Is the "spiritually superior" attitude that the Corinthians had similar to the attitude found in the American church today?
The Corinthians’ Situation:
1. The Problem: They were living proudly in their spiritual superiority.
- vv. 8-13.
- Paul points out their pride in their superiority and their position, all of it (from their perspective) a sign of the hand of God. In reality, though, they were far from where God wanted them to be.
2. The Pathway: They had forgotten the Giver.
- v. 7.
- Here Paul asks a series of questions that bring out the errors in judgment they made to get where they were.
- Question #1 - “For who regards you as superior?” The answer was that they themselves did. They had forgotten that they weren’t the Judge, God was.
- Question #2 - “And what do you have that you did not receive?” They forgot that any genuine blessing that they had was not due to their superior intellect or tenacity, but it was simply a gift from the Giver.
- Question #3 - “. . . why do you boast. . .?” Paul points out their arrogance.
3. The Doorway: They evaluated themselves against other Christians.
- v. 6b.
- They were “puffed up” - thinking themselves better than the others at unraveling the spiritual insights that showed them to be close to God.
4. The Solution: Stick to what is already established.
- v. 6a - “. . . beyond what is written. . .”
- Two of the truths that the Corinthians had lost sight of that Paul has already mentioned prominently in the letter so far: 1. Christ is the Redeemer (this keeps us from the superiority of evaluating ourselves against other Christians; as we evaluate ourselves against Christ, we realize the weaknesses that we have); and 2. the wisdom of God (that it is mysterious, there are parts that we cannot know, and that it is not like the wisdom of the world).
The American Church’s Situation Today:
1. The Problem: We are living proudly in our spiritual superiority.
- vv. 8-13.
- By all of our rhetoric, you can’t help but conclude that, just as we see America as the leading nation of the world, we also see the American church as the leader of the churches around the world. We act like the churches in the poorer countries are desperate for our help and if we don’t give it that they’ll just fold up.
- The reality is that there are several regions of the world (Asia, Africa, to name two) where the gospel is on fire and the church is growing as many are saved. Meanwhile, the church in America may be materially wealthier in terms of our budgets and our nice buildings, but we lack the fire of revival that is burning elsewhere. We’ve got a church in America that is not living out the radical call of Jesus - by almost every statistical standard (abortions, divorces, gambling, etc.), the “church” in America is acting exactly like the “world.”
- Paul’s long list in vv. 8-13 that sarcastically reveals the Corinthian church is also an accurate description of the American church, its methods and attitudes: “full,” “rich,” “kings,” “wise in Christ,” “strong,” “distinguished.”
- This is not to say that we should stop sending missionaries or trying to help our brothers and sisters persecuted for the Word throughout the world, it’s just that we need to realize that they’ve got more to give to us than we do to them. Therefore, we have no reason for pride.