1 Corinthians 4:6-7
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?
It is always good to apply the truth one preaches to oneself, even before applying it to others. This is what the Apostle does here.
Paul acknowledges that he had been so far evaluating the ministry of Apollos and himself. He actually applied all these things to himself and to Apollos. This was in order to benefit the Corinthians, by teaching them to learn not to go beyond what is written, so that they regard them according to the scriptural parameters.
Mark the words ‘not to go beyond what is written’ which encourage us to know our boundaries are the Scriptures (v.6a). 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. This is pride, which Paul describes as being ‘puffed up.’ The devil teaches pride. For 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 (v.6b). But actually, to be proud of one’s discernment is to lack discernment!
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? (v.7). All the temporary blessings are from God, for what do you have that you did not receive? (v.7) And since you received how then can you boast as if it is a wage rather than gifts? Paul is simply saying that arrogance is not congruent with true Christianity.
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.
When everything has been said and done the questions to consider are:
1. Are you serving the Lord?
2. Are you serving in humility?
3. Are you willing to do whatever the Master commands in His Word?
4. Do you evaluate your service under the scrutiny and spotlight of the Word of God?
5. Do you only use Scripture as the paradigm?