1 Cor 4:1-21
Not many centuries after Paul had written this, ‘apostles’ had come to mean popes, missing the point entirely. Popes were a mechanism to ensure apostolic succession and protect from error. That didn’t happen!
We have just got back from holiday in Sicily where we saw charismatic Catholics doing a mission and watched a mass on the beach complete with Matt Redman worship songs; but in the midst of so much that was beautiful there was Mary venerated, Jesus still on the cross, and wafers that have “become” the body of Jesus.
None of us has everything right, but the job of the apostolic is to keep the foundations right and set the plumb-line in churches.
Today’s passage outlines much of what it means to be an apostle.
The first 11 were Apostles of the resurrection, witnesses who passed it on. Then Paul, Barnabus, Apollos and Silas gave the model for the apostolic today.
Apostles are judged by God – v.1-5
They will have to give an account, as stewards, for what they have done and their motives. I was greatly saddened this week to hear further revelations of appalling behaviour by one of the most well-known US church movement leaders in the world, whose books have so helped me over the years. Money, sex and power are powerful temptations. Be careful whatever “position” you have in the kingdom.
Apostles embody humility – v.6-7
Humility wasn’t valued highly in Roman culture, just like now. Paul valued it highly.
Apostles lead cross-shaped lives – v.8-13
Paul is very sarcastic in this section, mocking the Corinthians’ prosperity doctrine and desire for super apostles. True apostolic ministry also includes suffering – Paul was beaten many times, worked hard and didn’t have a new jet!
Apostles father churches – v.14-16
There are many leaders out there, but not many fathers. Pauls’ desire is that leadership is servant hearted and father hearted. Paul urged the people to be imitators of him and his lifestyle. Sadly, too many leaders urge people to do what they are not doing themselves.
I once went to hear a well-known apostle twice over 2 years – he told the same evangelistic story that had happened ‘last month’ at both events. Most teach people to do what they are not doing. Fathers do and teach and mentor others to do what they are doing.
Apostles have authority – v.17-21
Paul wants to know whether to come to Corinth with a rod or to be gentle? He can be gentle with a people who respond well to godly authority.