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The Scriptorium

The Real Life of the Apostles

Not what the Corinthians thought. 1 Corinthians 4.11-13

1 Corinthians 4 (4)

Pray Psalm 71.1-3.
In You, O LORD, I put my trust;
Let me never be put to shame.
Deliver me in Your righteousness, and cause me to escape;
Incline Your ear to me, and save me.
Be my strong refuge,
To which I may resort continually;
You have given the commandment to save me,
For You are my rock and my fortress.

Sing Psalm 71.1-3.
(Solid Rock: My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less)
In You, O LORD, I refuge claim; O let me never be ashamed.
In righteousness deliver me; incline Your ear and hear my plea.
Refrain v. 3
A Rock of habitation be; command Your Word to rescue me;
my Rock and Fortress ever be!

Read 1 Corinthians 4.1-13; meditate on verses 11-13.


1. How did Paul describe his experience as an apostle?

2. How did he respond to these trials?

By exalting one or another of the apostles—“I am of Paul!” “I am of Apollos!” “I am of Cephas”—the Corinthians were doing like all the political groups and religious sects of their day. Choose a group, rally around the charismatic leader, and hope to gain a bit of his esteem or status, if only by identification.

Obviously, the Corinthians had no idea what it was like to be Paul or Apollos or Peter. Paul set them straight in these verses. Deprivation, hardship, homelessness, abuse, rejection: Sign me up for that, right? Plus—and here Paul inserts a pique he will elaborate on in chapter 9—they not only had to do the work their stewardship required, but to supply all their needs by working with their hands as well (v. 12).

Yet throughout their trials they did not complain, revile, blame, or falter. Instead, consistent with their true calling and mission, they blessed, endured, sought the Lord in prayer, and stayed the course (vv. 12, 13). They knew that the world regarded them as people to be rejected (v. 13), but that changed neither their calling nor their stewardship. God had called them to serve, and they weren’t seeking anything for themselves. They kept their focus on the Lord and remained faithful in their calling.

And that’s good advice for all who follow Jesus.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Paul used an inclusio of time to bring gravitas into the moment. He began this passage with “To the present hour” and ended it with “until now” (1 Cor. 4.11, 13). He wanted to make sure that they understood the relevance of what he was saying. The hardships endured were not something from the past that he had mastered and come through. No, what he was writing about was happening to him right then. Even as he was amidst this suffering, he responded with blessings, endurance, and kindness.

He was living what he talked and wrote about. So, when he tells us to imitate him as he imitates Christ (1 Cor. 4.16; 11.1), we can do that wholeheartedly and without question. A real, living, breathing, human being, filled with the Holy Spirit, who obediently did what God had called him to do.

Right at that very moment he was hungry, thirsty, poorly clothed, beaten, homeless, reviled, persecuted, defamed, and told he was the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things that had ever been offscoured up to that very minute. All included.

Paul’s circumstances never affected his Kingdom work or his outlook.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4.13).
“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1.21). Paul’s perfect perspective.

“Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Phil. 3.8, 9, 10, 11).

Paul, without the gift of salvation and the empowering of the Holy Spirit, was a man “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9.1).

But Paul, experiencing the gift of salvation and the empowering of the Holy Spirit, was a man we would all do well to appreciate, follow, and imitate. What a difference the Lord Jesus makes!

“O God, who is like You?
You, who have shown me great and severe troubles,
shall revive me again…” (Ps. 71.19, 20).

Paul invites us to walk in his footsteps, to experience the gift of salvation and the empowering of the Holy Spirit through all our circumstancesthe Real Life of a follower of Christ and fellow-worker with God (1 Cor. 3.9)

For reflection
1. How should you prepare for the kind of suffering Paul wrote about?

2. When trials come, how do you respond to them?

3. God sends us trials, as He sent trials to Paul, to strengthen us in our service and stewardship. How have you experienced this lately?

They must be content, with Him and for Him, to be despised and abused. It is much better to be rejected, despised, and ill used, as St. Paul was, than to have the good opinion and favor of the world. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on 1 Corinthians 4.7-13

Pray Psalm 71.14-18.
Pray about the day ahead, that God will give you courage to live and bear witness for Him, and that you will stand up against any opposition and bless the Lord for His salvation.

Sing Psalm 71.14-18.
(Solid Rock: My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less)
But as for me my voice I raise to sing in hope and constant praise!
With saving grace my voice will swell Your never-ending grace to tell.
Refrain v. 3
A Rock of habitation be; command Your Word to rescue me;
my Rock and Fortress ever be!

O LORD, I praise Your righteousness Who me from youth have taught and blessed.
Forsake me not when I am old, ‘til I Your mercies all have told!


T. M. and Susie Moore

The Church in Corinth needed revival. But there was much to be done before that would happen. The Church today needs revival, and the same is true for us. Our book, Revived!, can help us to discern our need for revival and lead us in getting there. Order your copy by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalteravailable by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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