Fools for Christ

I Corinthians 4

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
December 2023

Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign—and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you! 9 For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings.

10 We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless.

12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.

 I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. 15 Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 

16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.

 Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have. 20 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. 21 What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit?

Today, we are going to be talking about fools.  We have been studying the Book of I Corinthians.  It is an incredible book about a dysfunctional church.  It is a book written to the church with problems.

Every Christian should read and study this book.  Many churches in America look like the Church of Corinth.  What Paul said to this church applies to churches in our own day.

We have been looking at I Corinthians 4.  We spent several weeks in this chapter.  Today, we are going to finish the chapter.  We are going to look at three things that Paul says to us today.

1) Listen to your spiritual leaders

That is something the church needs to hear today.  All of us have spiritual leaders.  There are spiritual leaders in every congregation.

They are not infallible.  They are not perfect.  They are sinners.  They need accountability but the Bible tells us to honor them.

It tells us to submit to their authority, even when we do not always agree with them.

Many Christians today have a problem with that.  Many have a problem with authority.  It is a problem in society as a whole.

People have a problem with parents.  They have a problem with teachers.  They have a problem with law enforcement.  They have a problem with all politicians.

Paul was the spiritual leader of the Corinthians.  He was not just an apostle.  He was not just their pastor.  He was not just the one who founded their church.  He did start it.

He was the one who led them to the Lord.  They were his spiritual children.  He calls the Corinthians “his dear children” (I Corinthians 4:14).

As far as we know, Paul did not have any physical children, but he was still a father.  He had some spiritual children.

Do you have any spiritual children?  Are there any that you have evangelized or discipled?  There were many people he led to Christ.  He tells the Corinthians, “I am your daddy.”

For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel (I Corinthians 4:15 NJKV).

They had many teachers.  They listened to many preachers, but they only had one spiritual father.  There was only one person who led them to Christ.  They were led to Christ by the Apostle Paul.

When you have children, you have to discipline them.  Anyone who has kids knows that children need discipline.  Kids need correction.  Some need it more than others but they all need it.

Some parents do not give kids that today. They use the hands-off approach to child-rearing.  They let kids raise themselves.  That is one of the reasons they act like a fool in the classroom.

Paul gave his children correction.  The Corinthians were his problem. children.  He wrote a letter to them.

He uses some strong language.  Sometimes we need to use strong language with fellow Christians, but we need to do it in love.  The Bible says to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

Paul used strong language.  He rebuked the Corinthians.  He admonishes them (I Corinthians 4:14).  He even used some sarcasm in this chapter.

Is it ever right to use sarcasm?  Most sarcasm is sinful.  It is used to mock people and ridicule them but in the Bible sarcasm is used to mock idols.

The prophet Elijah used it with the prophets of Baal.  He had a contest with them on Mount Carmel.  It was a contest to see who the true God was.

It was a contest to see which would answer by fire.  The prophets of Baal went first.

They called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. (I Kings 18:26 NIV)

Finally, Elijah mocked them.  He told them to yell louder.  He can’t hear you.  Elijah said that maybe he is sleeping or on a trip or going to the bathroom (I Kings 18:27).  There are other places in the Bible where we see it as well.

Paul used strong language.  He also said that he was going to send Timothy to Corinth.  Timothy was much younger than Paul but he knew him well.

They worked together on the mission field.  He was a faithful worker.  Paul trusted him.

For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church. (I Corinthians 4:17 NIV)

Timothy had not arrived yet.  In the last chapter, he tells the Corinthians that when he comes to treat him well (I Corinthians 16:10-11).

Finally, he said that he was going to come to Corinth to visit them.  Some of the Corinthians said that he was never coming.

Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing (I Corinthians 4:18-19 NIV)

A fool spurns a parent’s discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence. (Proverbs 15:5 NIV).  A fool also spurns a spiritual parent’s discipline.

2) Do not be afraid of suffering

The Corinthians did not know the role of suffering in the Christian life.  Most Christians today do not know it either, especially in America.

The prosperity gospel popular in many circles.  What does the prosperity gospel teach?  In different churches, it is presented in different ways.

It says that God blesses people financially.  It says that wealth is a sign of his favor.  Some even teach that it is God’s will for every believer to be rich.  It is called the health and wealth gospel.

It is a message that people want to hear.  Who would not want to be told that, if you are a Christian, you will never be sick and you will never be poor?

Who would not want to be told that you will never have problems in your life?  You will have health, wealth.  You will have prosperity.  The Corinthians believed in prosperity theology.

They were strong.  They were honored.  They were respectable.  They were popular with the world (I Corinthians 4:10).  They acted like royalty.

Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign—and that without us! (I Corinthians 4:8 NIV)

They were reigning as kings.  They thought they were in the Millennium.  There are some Christians that think that today.  They are called amilllennialists.

Is prosperity theology biblical?  No.  It is not biblical but, as with most false teachings, they have an element of truth in them.  That is the way that Satan deceives people.  He mixes truth in with a bunch of lies.

God does bless people financially.  The Bible says so explicitly.

The blessing of the Lord brings wealth. (Proverbs 10:22 NIV)

The LORD will make you prosper abundantly in the fruit of your womb, the offspring of your livestock, and the produce of your land, in the land the LORD swore to your fathers to give you. (Deuteronomy 28:11 NIV)

“The LORD has greatly blessed my master, and he has become rich. He has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, menservants and maidservants, camels, and donkeys. (Genesis 24:35 NIV)

God does bless people financially but is this the will of God for every believer?  No.  It was not even the will of God for the apostles.  We see that clearly in I Corinthians 4.

If there was anyone you would think that God would bless financially it would be the apostles.  If there were any believers that you would think should be wealthy, it would be the apostles.

They were the super Christians.  They spent time with Jesus.  They had special powers.  They could perform miracles and raise the dead.

They were the real deal.  They were not like Christians we see today.  They were not like the fake apostles that we see in some churches.

They were real apostles and they did not live in prosperity.  Everything did not always go well with them.  They did not have it easy.  Notice what the Apostle Paul said.

24 FIVE TIMES I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 THREE TIMES I was beaten with rods, ONCE I was pelted with stones, THREE TIMES I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move.

I have been in DANGER from rivers, in DANGER from bandits, in DANGER from my fellow Jews, in DANGER from Gentiles; in DANGER in the city, in DANGER in the country, in DANGER at sea; and in DANGER from false believers.

27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. (II Corinthians 11:24-27 NIV)

That is interesting.  Why do bad things happen to good people?  All of these bad things were happening to the Apostle Paul.

Most preachers are dressed fairly well.  They live in a nice home.  They have plenty of food to eat.  Sometimes, too much.

Paul was hungry.  He was thirsty.  He was sleepy.  He was cold.  He was naked.  He was beaten.  He was homeless.

He had to work and he did not work in an air conditioned office.  He had to work with his hands.  He was in danger all of the time.  Wherever he went, his life was in danger.

Where is God in that?  We see God in success but not in failure.  Paul was right in the will of God when all of this was happening to him.  God was with him.  He wasn’t being punished.

You say, that is just Paul.  What about the rest of the apostles.  I Corinthians 4, Paul talks about the rest of the apostles.

Paul describes how the Corinthians were treated by the world and compares it to how he and the other apostles were treated.

For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as LAST of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless,

12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. (I Corinthians 4:9-12 NIV)

How were they treated?  The apostles will be rewarded in heaven.  How did the world treat them?  Did they exalt them?  Did they offer them to speak at their universities?  Did they invite them as guests to speak on their TV shows?

The world treated them like entertainment.  Paul uses the Greek word θέατρον in I Corinthians 4:9. We get our word “theater” from this Greek word.  It is a public show for the entertainment value (cf. Acts 19:29, 31).

The world treated them like criminals.  They put them on death row.  They treated them like garbage (περίψημα).  They treated them like trash.  They treated them like scum.

The world treated them like fools (μωρός).  In I Corinthians 1, the Christian message, the gospel, is called foolish to the world.  The preaching of the cross to those who are perishing is foolishness.  In I Corinthians 4, Christian people are called foolish.

Seven Types of Fools

There are many different kinds of fools in the Bible.  Here are seven of them.

1. The Simple Fool

The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps (Proverbs 14:15 NIV).  Fools are gullible.  They are naïve.  They believe everything you tell them.  They are perfect targets for scammers and for fraud.

2. The Skeptical Fool

One type of fool believes everything.  Another type does not believe anything.  They do not believe in the Bible.  They do not believe in sin.  They do not believe in guilt.

Fools mock at sin (Proverbs 14:9 NKJV).  The whole concept of sin is a joke to fools.  It is prehistoric.  That is the view of modern society.

They do not believe in sin.  They do not believe in Hell.  They do not even believe in God. The fool says in his heart, “There is no God” (Psalm 14:1 NIV).

Not all fools have a low IQ.  Fools may be smart.  They may be educated.  They can teach at Princeton or Harvard, and still be fools.

Atheists think that they are smart.  They think that they are advanced.  Other people may call them smart.  God calls them fools.

3. The Ignorant Fool

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7 NIV).  That is one of the signs of a fool.  You can see it in kids.  You can see it in adults.

4. The Arrogant Fool

The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. (Proverbs 12:15).  Every fool thinks he is right.  He cannot be convinced otherwise.  When you can never tell a person anything, he or she is a fool.

5. The Material Fool

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ (Luke 12:16-20)

This fool is materialistic.  He is covetous.  He has no interest in God or spiritual things.  He lives only for this world.

6. The Mocking Fool

Fools mock at sin (Proverbs 14:9 NKJV).  They mock at guilt.  The whole concept of sin is a joke to fools.  It is prehistoric.  That is the view of modern society.

7. The Christian Fool

Paul calls himself a fool.  He was a fool apostle.  Some people are just fools.  Paul was a fool for Christ.  What does it mean to be a fool for Christ?

It is someone who is willing to be ridiculed and mocked by the world.  It is someone who accepts being hated by the world and does not try to compromise his faith to fit in.

You say that is great for Paul and the apostles but not us.  Paul says, “IMITATE ME.” Therefore I urge you to imitate me. (I Corinthians 4:16 NIV)

That does not mean that we all should be homeless.  He was not homeless by choice, but he was not afraid to take a stand for Christ and suffer for his faith.  The Christian life is a life of suffering.

Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (II Timothy 3:12 NIV)

3) Don’t just talk about your faith

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. (I Corinthians 4:20 NIV)

This is an important verse.  How genuine is your Christian life?  Christianity is more than saying the right words.  It is more than taking a catechism class or a new believer’s class and being able to recite all of the creeds or doctrines of the faith.

It is about power.  But you will receive POWER when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NIV)

If you have the Holy Spirit in you, you have power, supernatural power.  It does not necessarily mean you will be able to break things, like the Faith Force

It does mean that you will have a changed life, if you are genuinely saved.  For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.  Jesus has the power to completely change and transform lives.

This is one of the ways to choose a good church.  Many of us go where there are good words.  We go where you can hear a good sermon.

That’s great but is there any power?  Some of the best preachers live lives that completely contradict what they say.

Having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. (II Timothy 3:5 NIV)

You can have a church with good words.  You can have a church with good rituals.  You can have a church with outward forms of religion without any power or you can have a church with all of those things with supernatural power.




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