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1 Corinthians 4

God is the judge
1What need have we then of any other wisdom than this divine sort? 2We are servants of Christ, we have the stewardship of God's mysteries. And as such we must be faithful. 3-4It is small matter to me what men decide about me, what their criticisms may be. These human judgments and criticisms do not concern the truth of the Gospel. It is the day of the Lord that judges man, separating truth from fiction. 5Therefore I do not even judge myself, I do not exercise my conscience over my degree of faithfulness or the reverse. But that is not my justification, I am not justified simply because my conscience is at rest, I am justified because God is judging me. Wait then for His judgment. It will come to pass — that severance of truth and falsehood, faith and faithlessness. Leave it to God and do not usurp his function before the time, when the light shall shine, when the darkness shall collapse, when the hidden purposes of the heart shall resolve themselves, and man's praise and honour shall come to him from God alone.
The apostles as an example
6Have you learned from me and Apollos? and are you going to make these new acquisitions and possessions a thing to be conceited and self-sufficient about, a thing to judge others in, and put yourself above another? But indulge nothing beyond what is written in our teaching.
7This sensitiveness to praise or blame, and this setting of one teacher above another is no part of the Gospel. Whence come your enlightenment, your wisdom, your treasures of joy and deep riches of the spirit, whence your fulness, completion and victory? From yourselves? Or is it given you in Christ? 8Yes, that is your state in Christ, yet has the Kingdom still to be striven for, you cannot yet call these things your own, and boast of them as such; whilst the world still rules, whilst we apostles are like arena criminals condemned to make a spectacle for others, whilst we are defenceless and weak, will you boast of your victory, will you be strong and self-sufficient? 9Whilst the world and angels and man unite to watch our struggles and efforts, are you reigning at peace with the saints in Christ? 10Whilst we are fools, are you wise in Christ? Whilst we are dishonoured, have you the safety and the glory of the truth? Yes, all that is true, yet I would have you not to glory over it, but to remember the condition of us who taught you. 11We are still hungering and thirsty, we are still naked and buffeted and amazed, 12we still work with our hands to gain a living. We are reviled and we bless, we are persecuted and we endure, 13we are cursed and we turn it aside. Up to the present moment, the very moment that I write to you, we are the outcasts and pariahs of society, its very dregs and offscourings. Think of this when you are tempted to become wise and self-sufficient in your own eyes, to set one man's teaching above another's, and make the Christ a matter of vain-glorious disputation and theory.
Paul as father rather than teacher
14And yet I would not speak harshly to you and condemn you, but I appeal to you as to children whom I love. 15Am I your teacher? Am I not rather the father that begot you in the faith by the Gospel and is that not something more than a mere teacher — a man may have many tutors but only one father. 16If that is our relationship then be like me, be imitative of me. 17That is why I have sent you Timothy, my faithful, my beloved son in the Lord, to tell you of my bonds, of my life in Christ, and to remind you of what my teaching is and always has been in the Christ. 18But because I have not come myself, there have arisen certain persons among you with an exaggerated opinion of their own importance. 19And that being so, I shall, if the Lord so will, come to you myself and visit you, and when I come, it will not be with the dialectic of these self-assertive teachers, but with the word of power. 20In that is the kingdom of God, not theory and contention but spiritual power. 21What then? Shall I come to you as a master with rod and rule, or in the spirit of love and gentleness?
True Apostles of Christ
1So here’s how you should think of us. We’re servants of Christ who’ve been trusted with the mysteries God has shown us. 2Those who’ve been trusted with something must show that they’re dependable. 3I really don’t care if you judge me, or if any human court judges me. I don’t even judge myself. 4I don’t feel I have done anything wrong, but that doesn’t mean I’m not guilty. It’s the Lord who judges me. 5So don’t judge anything before the appointed time. Wait until the Lord returns, and he will bring what’s now hidden in the dark out into the light. He’ll show the real reasons why people do what they do. At that time God will give each person the praise they deserve.
6Brothers and sisters, I’ve used myself and Apollos as examples. I want to help you learn from us what the saying means, “Don’t go beyond what’s written.” If you understand that, you won’t feel proud that you follow one of us instead of the other. 7Who thinks you’re different from anyone else? What do you have that wasn’t given to you? And if it was given to you, why do you brag as though it came from you?
8You think you already have everything you need. You think you’ve already become rich and that you’ve begun to rule, even though we haven’t. I wish that you really had begun to rule. Then we’d be ruling with you! 9It feels as if God has put us apostles on display like the people who are put at the end of the procession to the arena because they’re going to die there. And it feels as if the whole universe is watching, both angels and humans. 10We’re fools for Christ, but you’re so wise in Christ! We’re weak, but you’re so strong! You are honored, but we’re looked down on! 11We’re still hungry and thirsty, dressed in rags, homeless, and treated badly. 12We work hard with our own hands. When others curse us, we bless them. When we’re attacked, we don’t fight back. 13When others say bad things about us, we answer with kind words. We’ve become the world’s garbage, and we’re still everybody’s trash even now.
Paul Warns Against Pride
14I’m not writing this to make you ashamed, but to warn you as my dear children. 15Other people might be your guardians in Christ, but even if there were 10,000 of them, you still wouldn’t have many fathers. I became your father in Christ Jesus by telling you the good news. 16So I’m asking you to follow my example. 17That’s the reason why I’ve sent Timothy to you. He’s like a son to me, and I love him. He’s faithful in serving the Lord. He’ll remind you of the way I live as a servant of Christ Jesus. I myself follow what I teach everywhere in all the churches.
18Some of you have become proud. You act as if I weren’t coming to you. 19But I am going to come very soon, if that’s the Lord’s will. Then I’ll find out if there’s actually any power behind what these proud people are saying. 20The kingdom of God isn’t a matter of talk but a matter of power. 21Which would you prefer? Do you want me to come and punish you? Or do you want me to come in love, with a gentle spirit?