With this post we wrap up Paul's opening discussion of conflict over leaders that's dividing the Corinthian church. With 1 Corinthians 4:1-21 Paul takes on the issue that's been in the background all along: there are a number of people in the church who are strongly criticising his leadership and teaching. Paul has failed to persuade or impress them and more than that, they think they've got it all figured out on their own. Yet here Paul turns the tables and suggests that being a genuine Christian leader has nothing to do with being impressive or powerful - in fact if we're really following Jesus it can be the opposite!
- Read 1 Cor. 4:1-5. We should be careful in how we apply Paul’s teaching here as it’s easy for Christian leaders to abuse it. At the same time it does raise some important questions.
- When is it appropriate to judge or evaluate those in leadership and when is it best to leave it up to God? How do we determine if a leader has genuine authority from God?
- Read 1 Cor. 4:6-13. What do you make of Paul’s contrast between the Corinthians’ proud self-image and the humble picture he draws of true Christian apostles? How does Paul’s description of what to expect from genuine Christian leaders compare with Christian leaders you know (or know of)?
- The image of Christian life Paul offers raises questions for all Christians, not just leaders. Which of these two models would you prefer to be: rich and powerful or poor and weak? What challenge does this make to our comfortable Christian lives today and our understanding of success?
- Read 1 Cor. 4:14-21. Paul tells the Corinthians to “be imitators of me.” Is this arrogance and self-praise on Paul’s part or does he mean something else? (Hint: think of what Paul says in verses 6-13)
- Finally, what do make of verse 20 “For the kingdom of God depends not on talk but on power.”? What kind of power is Paul talking about?