1 Corinthians 4:9-13
For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.
Paul presents himself as an example of one of the servants of the Lord. He does this to demonstrate the need for Christian service to be a willing service. Apostles were God’s exhibits of Christian service. Paul calls the apostles as those presented by God as the last of all! He is thinking of the Roman triumphal procession in which captured enemy soldiers were paraded through the streets before being publicly executed. Therefore, it is willing service because it is not for the faint-hearted.
Christian service is for those who will do anything and everything that the Master who ransomed them by His own blood commands. Even if this means death! After all, the price paid for us is so high. How can we not be willing to pay whatever the cost may be?
He uses a military conquests illustration, which we ought to consider again:
“For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men.”
After the great victory in war, the captives of war were paraded by the Romans general to show the power of the empire. Paul put himself and his fellow faithful apostles in this category of captives of war! Those captured were exposed to the gladiators in the amphitheater where they would either be devoured by lions or they would fight it out to death. The apostles have become public spectacle to the world, to angels and to men! The shame could not get worse. They were sacrificed to die.
Serving God and the Lord Jesus Christ in the world means living according to principles, standards and values that are so different from those the world that they appear foolish. This is why he says, “We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ.” This is because usually serving Christ means becoming fools before the eyes of the flesh. Christian servants are more often weak and suffering dishonor. Servants of Christ have to contend with being hungry and thirsty, poorly clothed and buffeted, homeless, laboring and working with own hands, being reviled, suffering persecution, slander, becoming the scum and the refuse of the world in all things!
Christian ministry is a hard work, yet honourable for it is to serve in the Sovereign King of kings. Yet it is full of hazards and dangers for the devil and all his wicked armies, the world and our own flesh is up in arms to capture and destroy our souls. However, it’s joy is so glorious for the victory is eternal. The faithful ministers and disciples of Christ should gladly undergo anything for their Master’s sake and honour of bringing hope and light to the world.
Faithful ministers should patiently bear reproach and being despised, so that the wisdom and the power of the grace of God may be demonstrated. All Christians do not suffer the same things but they all suffer in Christian service. If you have not endured any hardship then you are not serving under the banner of Christ!
Yet the most outstanding is the sweet and fragrant juice that comes from the squeezing of the servants of Christ. While they are squeezed to the pulp of foolishness as they preach the gospel, through them many are made wise unto salvation. Through their terrible sufferings leading to great weakness, many who are made strong in the Lord. Although Christian ministers may lose reputation in the face of the world, yet their service makes spiritual fools become God’s honoured children. Therefore, in the service of our Master, our charter should be, When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat (vv.12, 13). This is how Paul answered the accusations (cf. Acts 16:37) lest falsehood be established as truth in the public mind and the reputation of the gospel be damaged.
Servants of Christ must show themselves to be His servants holding fast their integrity. They must have a good conscience before God and men, whatever opposition of hardships they meet with from the world. Whatever they suffer they must follow the example of Christ and fulfil the will and precepts, and affliction of their Lord. They must be content, with him and for him, to be despised and abused.
All this service has to be discharged willingly. This is why it comes with all these pressures from within and without so that those who are not willing may fallout. Like Gideon of old Christian servants have to be subjected to all form tests so that those who are double minded may be winnowed, the faint-hearted may be blown away, the fearful may be filtered, the unqualified may be left out so that an army of three hundred men appointed by God to show His power in the gospel may be left to bring down the kingdom of darkness and establish the kingdom of Christ.
The Apostle Peter puts one of the qualifications of pastors like this, “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly…” 1 Peter 5:2-3) In this Peter gives three exhortations to elders to show them how they are to carry out their pastoral mandate entrusted to them,
1) They are to shepherd the church gladly or willingly according to the will of the Chief-Shepherd instead of doing it out of a sense of compulsion.
2) They are pastor the church eagerly and not out of greed or for shameful gain. Instead of doing it for what they have to gain out of it, they do it for the love of the Lord and His flock
3) They are to serve by setting the believers examples and not use their position of leadership to lord it over the flock or domineer
In other words, pastoral ministry, and all other Christian service should be voluntary, willing, and eager service. Unless compelled by the love of Christ, no other motivation should come into play to compel anyone to serve. Otherwise it should be a willing service!