The chapter is too long to quote, so we will give an outline of the chapter and cite key verses with brief comments. Let’s keep in mind that Paul had to address many troubling issues with this assembly, for they had become CARNAL and were behaving like unsaved men (see 1st Corinthians 3:1-3).

  1. They were JUDGING THE APOSTLE PAUL—verses 1-5. Paul refers to himself and the other apostles as “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” and that “it is required in stewards that one be found faithful” (verses 1-2). The saints at Corinth were “judging Paul’s service,” yet Paul had this to say in verse 3, “But with me IT IS A VERY SMALL THING THAT I SHOULD BE JUDGED BY YOU…in fact, I do not even judge myself.” In essence, he is stating that man is unable to truly judge another man’s service. There is ONLY ONE who can do that as we see in verses 4-5, “But He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.” At the Judgment Seat of Christ the Lord will evaluate our service, including the motives behind our service, and what is done for His glory will receive its due reward (see 1st Corinthians 3:5-15).
  2. They were REIGNING AS KINGS WITHOUT PAUL—verses 6-13. They were filled with SELF-GLORY, for verse 6 says, “that NONE OF YOU MAY BE PUFFED UP on behalf of one against the other.” They had forgotten the truth of verse 7, “For who makes you differ from another. And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it.” It is God alone who imparts spiritual gifts to us for service, so there is no place for comparing our gifts and service with others, and then boasting as if we had something to do with our God-given abilities.

Paul then goes on to contrast the state of the Corinthians with that of the apostles. First he says, “You are already full! You are already rich! You have reigned as kings without us—and indeed I could wish you did reign, that we also might reign with you” (verse 8). The saints at Corinth had become arrogant and were “living like kings,” priding themselves on their spiritual abilities and living comfortably in the world, instead of denying themselves in true humility. It seems they were also “treated royally” by the world around them. In contrast, Paul and the apostles were “made a spectacle to the world” and “have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now” (verse 9 and 13). Verse 10 really highlights the striking contrasts, “We are FOOLS for Christ’s sake, but you are WISE in Christ! We are WEAK, but you are STRONG! You are DISTINGUISHED, but we are DISHONORED.” Paul was even made to speak of his privations in verses 11, “we both HUNGER and THIRST, and we are POORLY CLOTHED, and BEATEN and HOMELESS.” Paul knew that this is the time to SUFFER and that the time to REIGN won’t come until the Lord Jesus Christ comes to establish His kingdom on earth.

  1. They were PAUL’S DISOBEDIENT CHILDREN—verses 14-21. Paul reminds them that he was their “spiritual father” and that “he loves them” in verses 14-16: “I do not write these things to shame you, as my beloved children I warn you…for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me.” As their father, he only wanted what was best for his children in the faith, so he was also sending Timothy to them to “remind you of my ways in Christ” (verse 17). His sending Timothy made some think that he was afraid to come himself, as we see in verse 18, “Now some are puffed up, as though I were not coming to you.” So he assures them (in the remaining verses) that he is indeed coming, and if need be, it will be with all the authority of an apostle to bring the needed discipline. “But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power…What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness?” HOW Paul would come was up to them! If they were humbled by his letter and Timothy’s visit, he would come “in love and a spirit of gentleness.” If not, he would “come…with a rod.” (267.7) (DO)