1 Corinthians 4:9-13 For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. KJV
Paul just finished saying in his letter to these Corinthian believers how God the Father had so privileged them to reign or rule in their new found life in Christ, but Paul appears to begin a personal “lamentation” or “mourning” or his very own expression of sorrow or grief. Paul was not a god or an angel, he was a man, albeit a redeemed man, regenerated man, and a resurrected man from spiritual death, but he still was a man with feelings, sorrows, grief, and hurts. Paul is not here complaining but simply opening up his heart or inner man to these brethren in Corinth so that they may more clearly understand him. Paul expressed his feelings in this manner, “For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men” (1 Corinthians 4:9). Paul used the English word “think” in making his analysis of what God was doing concerning himself and the other Apostles and this word is translated by the Greek word dokeo which means to be of the opinion or to suppose. Paul just like Job did not understand why our Lord Jesus allowed him to undergo so many horrible trials, test, and tumults when he knew our Lord Jesus had the Power to prevent them or to keep him from them.
However, Paul goes on to say in this same verse that God “has set forth” the Apostles before the whole world in this manner and this English phrase is translated by the Greek word apodeiknumi which means to show off or exhibit or figuratively to demonstrate or to prove what kind of person anyone is. Paul, although, he knows what God is doing with his life and the other Apostles (demonstrating His Redemptive Power in them) yet Paul still expresses his sorrow or grief and we can hear it in his words here, “You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us; and indeed, I wish that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you” (1 Corinthians 4:8). Paul is not some superman (even with our Lord’s Grace and Power in his life) but a man of like passions just as all of us are and he like us would rather side step those hard trials in his life and enjoy just fellowshipping with our Lord Jesus without the threat and actuality of being attacked or imprisoned for walking with and loving our Lord. This is why Paul in writing to the Philippians said this to them while he was in jail for preaching the gospel, “But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake” (Philippians 1:23-24) (read also Philippians 1:12-22).
Paul says that God has made he and the other Apostles into “spectacles” before the whole world, angels, and men and this English word is translated from the Greek word theatron which is where we get our English word “theater” from and it means a theatre, a place in which games and dramatic spectacles are exhibited, and public assemblies held (for the Greeks used the theatre also as a forum) a public show, metaphorically it means a man who is exhibited to be gazed at and made sport of. This is what John Wesley said of this idea of being made a spectacle and appointed to death, “Alluding to the Roman custom of bringing forth those persons last on the stage, either to fight with each other, or with wild beasts, who were devoted to death; so that, if they escaped one day, they were brought out again and again, till they were killed.” This is exactly how Paul felt and why he expresses himself as he does in verses 8 and 9. Paul was the star or the main attraction (the one gazed at) in a motion picture drama and thriller that had lies, betrayal, imprisonment, beatings, sexual immorality, lust, greed, shipwrecks, wild animals, and non-stop action in every city and certainly it was rated R but with a theme that carried a G rating. Paul was the main attraction everywhere he went and in so being he calls himself “a fool for Christ’s sake” which means that to the world of lost humanity he was stupid, absurd, and even a blockhead and Paul was glad to count or consider himself as such.
Paul again expresses his heart by comparing how the world regarded him verses the Corinthian believers and a bit of grief, sadness, and pain mixed together with the joy of knowing from where the Holy Spirit of God has brought these Corinthian pagan people into the “fellowship of the Spirit” or communion or participation or partnership with Him through our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul makes an inventory or list of the tribulations he and the other Apostles under went for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ and far far from those seen and heard today professing name it and claim or health, wealth, and prosperity, Paul says he endured nakedness, hunger, homelessness, and even he was “buffeted.” This English word buffeted is translated from the Greek word kolaphizo which means to strike with the fist, give one a blow with the fist to maltreat, treat with violence and abuse. Paul took beatings for being “a fool for Christ’s sake.”
However, Paul and the other Apostles respond in the manner fit for a soul that has been washed form sin in Christ Blood. When they were vilified, reproached, and abused verbally and physically they blessed, one example was after the Philippians finished beating Paul and Silas the jailer threw them violently into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks, but instead of Paul or Silas hurling insults back to the jailer, they were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Paul after being treated violently did not revile back at his attackers instead he praised God for counting him worthy to suffer unjustly for His Name Sake (Acts 16:22-34). And in this one incident recorded for us by Dr. Luke here in Acts 16:22-34 we find the fulfillment of every word Paul wrote here to the Corinthians with these words, “And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day” (1 Corinthians 4:12-13).
“In vivid words the Apostle shows how great was the difference between the ease and self-satisfaction of the Corinthian church and the sorry plight to which he and his fellow-workers were often reduced. Many regarded them as the captives in a conqueror’s triumphal procession, who behind the triumphal car were being-marched to death. But it mattered little to them so long as Christ was adored, loved, glorified, and His Kingdom advanced.” F. B. Meyer
“We are fools for Christ’s sake; such in common account, and we are well content to be so accounted. We can pass for fools in the world, and be despised as such, so that the wisdom of God and the honour of the gospel may by this means be secured and displayed.” Note, Faithful ministers can bear being despised, so that the wisdom of God and the power of His grace be thereby displayed.” Matthew Henry
“Paul was a man who found it difficult to conceal his true feelings and so we find him in his letters expressing exactly how he feels about all things and he even lets us see his grief, pain, and sorrow that surely was difficult for him to reveal, even as he did here by revealing his feelings on how God put him in very painful places physically, emotionally, and spiritually.” Clifford D. Tate, Sr.
If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ and His amazing healing power, pray this from your heart to the Lord Jesus Christ (you speaking directly to Him), Dear Lord Jesus, I confess to You that I am a sinner and I need Your forgiveness. I believe You shed Your Blood and died for my sins. I believe that You rose from the dead proving that You alone are God. I repent of my sins. I want to turn from my sins. I ask You Dear Lord Jesus to come into my heart and take control of my life. I want You to be my Lord, Savior, and my God. Amen...
Sincerely in Christ,
Clifford D. Tate, Sr.
Author of “Silent Assassins of the Soul - Are you Broken by Pornography and Masturbation? You can be Restored by the Lord Jesus Christ and brought into Deliverance, Freedom, and Victory! A Guide for Men and Women in the Enemy’s Crosshairs” e-book available now @ Amazon Kindle, @ Apple I Bookstore for IPod, Barnes and Noble for Nook, Reader Store for Sony Reade, Kobo, Copia, Gardners, Baker and Taylor, and eBookPie…
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