1 Corinthians 4:8-13
Now you are full, now you are rich, you have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God you did reign…
Having shown that the Christian consciousness was a twofold realization of the worthlessness of whatever was its own, and the infinite worth of the "all things" in Christ, and having proceeded thence to the idea of stewardship and the urgent need of faithfulness, how can St. Paul withhold the stern application of such truths? Had it been a childish self complacency with which he was dealing, we know how he would have treated it. But it was an active jealousy, a pompons arrogance, a virulent self conceit, a carnal temper in which the natural man survived, that he had to combat. Now, therefore, he would show them what they were. The weapons of his warfare were not carnal, but, nevertheless, they were weapons, and withal such weapons as Elijah had employed, and even the Lord Jesus had not disdained to use. If, by means of contrast, we know everything external, and if thereby we know ourselves too and realize our identity by discriminating one mood of consciousness from another, it follows that irony has its legitimate place and may be sanctified to the best purposes, Men are acutely sensitive to its caustic probe, and, as they will not exercise it on themselves, its application is one of those offices, severe but humane, which must be performed on them. Is the conflict over and the victory won? Full and rich, lo! ye are reigning "as kings," and significantly enough, "without us," the apostles, the sent of God, in this movement. And what dominion is that from which we are excluded? Where are your apostles in this hour of your coronation as kings? "God hath set us forth" - a terrible contrast to their self glorification - at this instant are we so set forth, like criminals doomed to death, and made a spectacle as in a vast theatre, "unto the world, and to angels, and to men." Alas! the only use just then to which the great Apostle to the Gentiles could put his knowledge of Greek games in the amphitheatre was in an outburst of indignation and sorrow. And then follows one of his characteristic sentences, in which impassioned feeling is quite as condensed as strong thought: fools, weak, despised, are we the apostles, while ye are wise and strong and honorable. The formal contrast is dropped, and now, how like the rapid summation of his experience to the sufferings of his Lord? Fidelity in suffering, fidelity to suffering, reconciliation to it, acceptance of its law as basic to his life, not an exceptional thing occurring at rare intervals as most of our sad experiences, but common and habitual, wounds unhealed and yet deeper wounds, "even unto this present hour." Hunger and thirst, nakedness, buffetings, homeless, refusing all remuneration and earning our own support, returning good for evil and blessing for cursing, objects of persecution, denied recognition as the friends of humanity and lovers of their kind, abused and vilified, ay, treated in the centres of this world's intelligence and refinement as "the filth of the world and the offscouring of all things," and no break or cessation, "unto this day." The sameness of these sufferings is twice mentioned, and the wondrous biography, first and last, is one chapter of woes. Over all stands a single motto, which came and could only come from Christianity: "For Christ's sake." At this juncture, call to mind a fact of some moment. Men are wonderfully individualized by sufferings. Considering how suffering abounds, it is noticeable that few truly regard themselves as providential sufferers, and realize in their experience the Divine discipline they are appointed to undergo. There is much selfishness in our ways of enduring the ills of life, in the uses made of affliction, and the habits of intellect and sensibility growing therefrom; and St. Paul strikes the heart of the subjects when he connects his sufferings with "Christ's sake." This gives an instant pathos to the recital and an instant nobility to the apostle as a sufferer. Furthermore, only for "Christ's sake" does he go into this affecting detail of the number, variety, and continuation of iris sorrows. A noble sufferer like St. Paul could find no selfish pleasure in such an enumeration; nay, in itself it would be painful. Vain men, ignoble men. gratify their littleness in recounting what they have endured, and these pensioners of public opinion - it may be the public opinion of a very diminutive world - find their account in the illusory sense of sympathy. Far from this weakness - very far - was this heroic man, to whom it was a new suffering to tell his sufferings, but who, in the courage of humility, the most courageous of the virtues in a true man, was even ready to uncover a bleeding heart for "Christ's sake." We shall now see that his love for these erring Corinthians prompted him to make the narration of his sufferings. - L.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you.