The Corinthians and Their Apostles: Page 8 of 10 (series: Lessons on 1 Cor.)
by John Lowe
10 We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised.
We are fools for Christ's sake,
In this and the following statements Paul sets forth in detail a series of caustic contrasts between the true servant of God who suffers because of his stand for the Gospel, and the conditions that existed at that time in the assembly at Corinth; also he continues to introduce sarcasm into his comments. The apostles were “fools” on account of Christ and their stand on the Gospel. Because of their preaching and their manner of daily living for Christ, they were looked upon as being stupid, “fools for Christ’s sake.” Compare the following with this verse:
• (1 Cor 1:21-23; KJV) “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness.”
• (2 Cor 4:11; KJV) “For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.” Although we are preserved alive, we are in such continual dangers that we carry our life in our hands, and are constantly in the spirit of sacrifice. But the life—the preserving power of Christ is manifest in our continual support.
Paul was a fool according to the standards of men. If he had remained a rabbi he would have attained great influence within the Jewish religious system—“and I advanced in the Jews' religion beyond many of mine own age among my countrymen, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers” (Gal 1:14; ASV). He was the most outstanding Jew of his time, well-known throughout the country, and the man entrusted with the task of eradicating the Christian religion. Had he sided with the Jewish legalist in the Jerusalem Church and not ministered to the Gentiles, he could have avoided a great deal of persecution.
but ye are wise in Christ;
There is no doubt that there is irony, and a touch of sarcasm, in this statement. These individuals whom Paul is scolding were so full of conceit and self-esteem that even in the virtue of their union with Christ they regarded themselves as being possessed with wonderful, extraordinary powers of discernment and wisdom.
Anyone who truly possesses the wisdom of Christ does not display conceit or strive to glorify themselves. The Lord Jesus Christ was the most humble person who ever walked upon the face of this earth, and all believers are urged to follow in His steps.
The Corinthians were wise in their own eyes, but they were actually fools in God’s eyes. By depending on the wisdom and standards of the world, they were acting like fools. The way to become spiritual wise is to become a fool in the eyes of the world—“Let no man deceive himself. If any man thinketh that he is wise among you in this world, let him become a fool, that he may become wise” (1 Cor 3:18; ASV). In the words of the Martyred Jim Elliot, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Wise: is not the word Paul used in previous chapters; here it should be translated “sensible” or “prudent.”
A lot of smart people, in reality, are not wise; here are some examples. “Attorneys are the primary professionals who draft wills. Ironically, though, 80 percent of the lawyers who die in America haven’t taken heed to the wisdom of their own field and die without a valid will. Recent studies have also revealed that those who fight germs the most, doctors, often fail to observe the wisdom of the American Medical Association. Doctors wash their hands less than 50 percent of the time before seeing a patient. Ministers are likewise suspect of neglecting the wisdom of their field. Research on the clergy unearthed the fact
that 27 percent of pastors don’t tithe. Wisdom involves doing what you know to be right.” (The Complete Financial Guide for Young Couples, Larry Burkett)
we are weak, But ye are strong;
What Paul is saying is, “We apostles suffer many things as we labor in our service for the Lord Jesus Christ, however, you act with vitality and make public a supposed spiritual strength.” But the Corinthians were deceived, because they were neither strong or wise.
There was a time when Paul gloried in his strengths; but then he met Jesus on the road to Damascus and discovered that what he thought were assets were in really liabilities (See Phil. 3). It was through his own personal sufferings that Paul discovered that his spiritual strength was the result of personal weakness—“ And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor 12:7-10; KJV). Strength that knows itself to be strength is weakness; but weakness that knows itself to be weakness, becomes strength—“For we rejoice, when we are weak, and ye are strong: this we also pray for, even your perfecting.” (2 Cor 13:9; ASV). It will give me indescribable pleasure that I should still appear to be poor, despicable, and destitute of this extraordinary power with which God has clothed me, so that you may be strong in all the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit.
ye are honourable, but we are despised.
The literal rendering would be “Ye are glorious, but we are without honor.” The word of God declares, “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26; KJV). Jesus Christ did not receive honor and glory from all men; the masses rejected Him; only a minority accepted Him. The same can be said for the minister of the Gospel. There are preachers who would rather have the praise of men than to have the honor of God upon their ministry. They prefer to compromise and to stand in the good graces of men rather than to preach the pure Gospel of the grace of God and endure the persecution that comes with such a ministry, even though they are winning souls for the Lord Jesus Christ.
The masses followed Jesus as long as He fed them loaves and fishes, healed their sick, opened the eyes of the blind, and raised the dead; but when he fell beneath the cross, it was necessary for the soldiers to force Simon the Cyrene to carry the cross the rest of the way for Him. The masses have always followed the way of least resistance; it is the minority who prove faithful.
Everyone who says “Lord, Lord,” will not enter heaven; but only those who do the will of the heavenly Father; and it is the will of God that we believe in His Son Jesus Christ, and put our faith in His finished work, and shed blood—not in the ability of men seeking glory and honor from other men.
This is the crux of the whole matter: the Christians in Corinth wanted the honor that comes from men, not the honor that comes from God. They were trying to borrow glory by associating with “great men.” Paul answered, “If you associate with us, you had better be ready for suffering. We apostles are not held in honor—we are despised; “… but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible” (2 Cor 10:10b; KJV). Paul will describe the sufferings of an apostle in verses 11-13.