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. 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?
Show me a preacher who has a high view of the Scriptures, preaching and living accordingly, and I will show you a humble minister. Therefore, Paul says here, ‘none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another’.
Paul acknowledges that he had been evaluating the ministry of both himself and of Apollos. This was for the benefit of the Corinthians, so that they may learn not to go beyond what is written. The point is ministers are to be evaluated on the basis of Scriptures (not some sentimental feelings). Mark the words ‘not to go beyond what is written’ which encourage us to know our boundaries are the Scriptures. This is a good place to learn the regulative principle of worship. We must not argue from silence and so be guilty of adding. Neither should we argue away what is written and so minimize what the Lord has said, effectively subtracting from the Word of God and from our basket of divine blessings!
Surface obedience to the Scriptures and the commands of the Lord is one of the wicked suggestions of the devil in order to ensnare us away from the Lord’s will for us. The devil teaches pride. But God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. The humble keep within the limits of the Bible, neither adding nor subtracting.
We know that Corinthians were proud of their human wisdom. They may have thought that they were very discerning in their choice of their favourite preacher. To be proud of one’s discernment is to lack discernment! Once one is wise in his own eyes, unbelieving the Word of God, then he effectively becomes proud and ‘puffed up’.
We must realize that there is a very close relationship between the sin of unbelief and the sin of pride. The relationship is that while the latter abandons Christ for idols, the former abandons Christ for self-gratification outside of the will of God. The battle for humility is the battle for the true Christian faith. No haughty or arrogant person will enter the glory that was purchased by the humble Saviour.
Humility is acknowledging that all you have are gifts that you have graciously received from Christ! First of all you are what you are by grace, for ‘who sees anything different in you’? All the temporary blessings are from God, for ‘what do you have that you did not receive’? And since you received it, how then can you boast as if it is a wage rather than a gift? Paul is simply saying that arrogance is not congruent with true Christianity. No one can truly preach the gospel in pride and arrogance. Once pride is let in, then the gospel message withdraws.
In condemning their foolish pride, Paul turns to sarcasm: “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!” There is an illogical retrogression from sufficiency to wealth, and then to royalty! Pride too soon forgets and disdains he who enthroned it!
Pride is a great hindrance to your improvement. For when you start reigning in your haughtiness you no longer think you need grace to become better or to listen to God’s servants who enrich you. Due attention to our obligations to divine grace would cure us of arrogance and self-conceit.
Preachers have no reason to boast, for what they preach is a humiliating gospel. The King whom they represent is a humble King. The sinners whom they are reaching have been humiliated by the sinfulness of sin.