Sermon Summary | "Deflating the Puffed Up Church"
On Sunday, C.J. preached from 1 Corinthians 4:6-13, addressing how grace from the gospel both produces humility and prepares us for suffering. Below is an outline of his sermon along with a brief summary of the text. You can also listen to his sermon entitled, Deflating the Puffed Up Church, here.
1. Grace Produces Humility (vv6-7)
2. Grace Prepares Us for Suffering (vv8-13)
3. Conclusion: Ambitions and Expectations
Grace Produces Humility (vv6-7)
For the Corinthian church, the gospel message was no longer functionally central in their lives; that is, they were not applying the gospel to their Christian identity. The outcome was a conceited sense of superiority and pride. In turn, they are described as being “puffed up” with favoritism and spiritual one-upmanship (v6; cf. 1:12ff). Thus, in verse 7 Paul employs rhetorical questions to deflate this puffed up church. These questions aim to pierce the heart, in order to re-orient the believer’s understanding of their identity in Christ. Who are you? What do you have? Why do you boast? Underlying these questions, Paul wishes to highlight that nothing is inherently theirs, but God has given everything they received, and it is a gift undeserved. There is not room for boasting or arrogance. Such grace ought to have a humbling affect on the soul.
Grace Prepares us for Suffering (vv8-13)
Paul then addresses the church with the use of sarcasm and irony. The Corinthians wrongly assumed that they had “spiritually arrived.” They imagined themselves as “already” being rich and royal. However, Paul redefines spirituality as service and sacrifice out of love, which is derived from the gospel. For Paul, as an apostle “last of all,” to truly “reign” and be “rich” follows the pattern of Christ’s death and resurrection: humiliation, then exaltation; suffering, then glory. With a high dose of irony, Paul juxtaposes his status with the Corinthians: they are strong, he is weak; they are wise, he is a fool (v10). Paradoxically, however, it is foolishness that truly shows God’s wisdom (cf. 1:18-21); it is in weakness that God’s strength is made perfect (2 Cor 12:9). Who then is the truly “spiritual”? The church that flagrantly propagated their so-called “spiritual superiority,” or the suffering apostle, who entrusted himself to God that displays His glory through His Son, the crucified and risen King?
Conclusion: Ambitions and Expectations This passage challenges us to rethink our ambitions (v7) and our expectations (vv8-13). Are your ambitions pursued from your true identity in the gospel? Do you expect suffering as part of the gospel?
[by Andrew Preston]