The Corinthians and Their Apostles: Page 10 of 10 (series: Lessons on 1 Cor.)
by John Lowe
The word of God clearly teaches that the laborer is worthy of his hire: “And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire” (Luke 10:7; KJV); and that a preacher should be supported by his church: “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel” (1 Cor 9:14; KJV). It was a saying among the Jews, "that the inhabitants of a town where a wise man had made his abode should support him, because he had forsaken the world and its pleasures to study those things by which he might please God and be useful to men." I believe that where possible a church should pay its pastor a living wage in order for him to be free to spend his time looking after the flock, visiting the sick and widows, winning souls in the home, and preparing for services with the congregation. But it is a matter of historical record that Paul and his fellow ministers worked to support themselves while they ministered in Corinth. It is not a disgrace for a minister to do secular work or manual labor, even if it is the type of work than brings on great weariness, if circumstances demand it, and it is necessary in order to win souls and further the Gospel. Paul said, “I become as all men are, that I might win some.” We should be willing to follow his example to the glory of God, and for the sake of souls finding Jesus as their Savior.
Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:
Because the Greeks considered it a disgrace to do manual labor, they abused the apostles, heaped contempt upon them, and aroused prejudice against them. But Paul and his helpers were acting in conformity with instructions given by the One who had called them, ordained them, and sent them to preach the Gospel:
• “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matt 5:44; (KJV).
oLove your enemies—this is the most inspirational piece of morality ever given to man. But it has appeared unreasonable and absurd to some? And why is that? Because it is natural for man to avenge himself, and hurt those who hurt him; and he can always find plenty of excuses for his conduct. Jesus Christ’s intention is to make men happy; but anyone who hates another is, of necessity, miserable. Our Lord prohibits only that which, from its nature, is opposed to man's happiness. This is therefore one of the most reasonable principles in the universe.
o Bless them that curse you—give them good words for their bad words.
o Do good to them that hate you—Give your enemy proof that you love him. We must not love with words only, but in deed and in truth.
o Pray for them which despitefully use you—those who are continually opposing you, and constantly harassing and maligning you. This is another exquisitely reasonable precept.
o And persecute you—those who hate you and treat you cruelly with repeated acts of hostility.
• “Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not” (Romans 12:14; KJV). Give good words, or pray for them that give you bad words, who curse you and may even injure you. Bless them, pray for them, and do not curse them, whatever the provocation may be. Have the loving, forgiving mind that was in your Lord.
Paul meant what he said because this is the way he treated everybody. He is simply stating how he responded to the way people treated him, and this, in itself, helped to make him great. What life does to us depends on what life finds in us. When Paul was reviled, he blessed, just as Jesus commanded in Mathew 5.44 (above). When persecuted, he endured it by the grace of God and he did not retaliate. When he was slandered he tried to conciliate. In all things he tried to respond in love.
13 Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.
Being defamed, we intreat:
The Greek word used here has several meanings, but in this instance it seems to signify “to beseech” (not beg); to request
cessation of the slander. This humble, gentle way of meeting such treatment is contrary to the flesh and can be practiced only by spiritually minded believers. The flesh cries out, “Fight back! An eye for an eye!”—but the truly spiritual believer, like Stephen, prays, “Lay not this sin to their charge.” Such a spirit on the part of an individual finds its source in the grace of God—and ONLY in grace.
Being defamed. Blasphemed; spoken of and to, in a harsh, abusive, and accusing manner. The original and proper meaning of the word is, to speak in a disapproving manner of anyone, whether of God or man. It is usually leveled at God, but it may also be aimed at men.
We entreat. Either God on their behalf, praying for God to forgive them, or we entreat them to turn from their sins, and become converted to God. Probably the latter is the sense here. They urged them to examine more honestly their claims, instead of berating them; and to save their souls by embracing the Gospel, instead of destroying them by rejecting it with contempt and scorn.
This verse is a continuation of the preceding one and Paul is saying how he responded to the way people treated him. I wish I were more like him, that I was void of self-pride, jealousy and ambition and entirely committed to my Savior.
Next, we have the result of the apostles character, as he lived according to Christ’s directive—“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matt 5:44; (KJV).
we are made as the filth of the world,
Paul and his co-laborers were regarded as scum, rubbish—the offscouring (The sweepings thrown out after a cleaning.) and refuse of the world. Among the Greeks in Paul’s day, such language was applied to victims who were sacrificed as punishment, and also to describe criminals who were kept at public expense until they could be thrown into the sea or put to death in some other manner. Sacrifices were offered in this manner when there was an outbreak of pestilence, with the thought that it would cleans away the defilement of the nation. It was in this spirit that the refined, cultured Greeks looked upon Paul and his fellow ministers. The meaning of the Greek language here signifies refuse that must be removed or done away with, and in the eyes of the Greeks, Paul and his helpers must be disposed of in one way or another. They were royally hated and dispised.
The Jews hated Paul, because he had been a notable Rabbi, before Jesus sent him to the Gentiles to preach the Gospel; they even called for his death; “… and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live” (Acts 22:22b; KJV). Paul and the other disciples were treated just as their Lord was treated; but God vindicated them and brought glory to His name.
and are the offscouring of all things
The Greek word rendered here as “offscouring” is a synonym to the word rendered “filth,” meaning “that which was wiped off or removed from the midst of humanity; the sweepings thrown out after a cleaning.” This is another way of saying that they considered the apostle, and what he taught, worthless. We are not told how many held this opinion, but it was serious enough for Paul to write this letter, send Timothy to them, and make plans to visit them; God willing.
If the believers at Corinth took Paul’s words to heart, the description he gives here must be a strong rebuke to the self-conceit and pride of those who read the epistle.
unto this day.
This is a repetition of the statement in verse 11 and emphasizes the fact that Paul at that very moment, while writing the epistle, was suffering persecution and was looked upon as filth. You and I can’t imagine how the apostle Paul suffered in order to get out the gospel of Jesus Christ. He evangelized Asia Minor. We are told that in the province of Asia everyone, both Jew and Gentile, heard the Word of God!
Such passages as this show the great faith, the devotion, the heroism of men like Paul, and the debt we owe to them.