1 Corinthians 4:1-21

Church leaders

1 This is how you should think about us, who are leaders in the church. We are Christ's servants. God has also given a special job to us. We must explain his message to people so that they understand it. 2 Anyone who has that kind of job must do what his master wants. That is the important thing.

3 So what you think about me does not matter to me. What you decide, or what any human authority decides, is not important. I do not even try to decide about myself. 4 I am sure in my own mind that I have not done anything wrong. But that does not make me right. Only the Lord himself can judge me. 5 So you should not decide about things before the time is right. Wait until the Lord comes again. He will show everything clearly. He will show the bad things that people have done secretly. He will show the secret purpose of people's thoughts. Then God will praise each person in a way that is right for them.

6 My Christian friends, I want to help you to understand these things. That is why I have used Apollos and myself as examples. You should learn from us what this means: ‘Obey what is written in the Bible.’ None of you should be proud of one leader and not respect another leader. 7 Do not think that any of you are better than anyone else. You received from God everything that you have. So you have no reason to be proud of what you have. It is all a gift!

8 You already have everything that you need, do you? You think that you are very rich already! You are ready to rule as kings. You no longer need us to help you. I think it would be good if you had really become kings. Then we could also rule together with you! 9 This is what I think: as apostles, God has put us last of everyone. People see us like we are prisoners at the end of the line. They are taking us to die in a public place. Everybody in the world has come to look at us, both people and angels.

10 We have become like fools so that we can serve Christ. But you think that you are wise because you belong to Christ. We seem like weak people, but you seem to be strong! People respect you but they insult us!

11 Until now, we continue to be hungry and thirsty. Our clothes have become old. Sometimes people hit us for no reason. We do not have our own homes. 12 We work hard, so that we become very tired. When people insult us, we ask God to bless them. When people give us trouble, we are patient and brave. 13 When people say bad things against us, we answer with kind words. We have become like dirty things that people throw away. That is still true, even today.

14 I do not write these things to make you ashamed. You are like my own children that I love. So I want to teach you what is right. 15 When I told the good news about Jesus Christ to you, I became like a father for you. You may have ten thousand teachers to help you understand the message about Christ. But I am the only person who is like a father for you. 16 That is why I want you to copy my example. 17 To help you to do that, I have sent Timothy to visit you. He is like a son to me, and I love him very much. He continues to serve the Lord well. He will help you to remember how I live as a Christian. I teach the same things to all groups of Christians everywhere.

18 Some people among you have become proud. They think that I will never come back to warn them. 19 But I will come to visit you again soon, if the Lord wants me to. Then I will find out what these proud people are really like. It is not just the words that they say. I will find out if they have the power of God. 20 When people serve God as their king, they have God's power. They do not just speak proud words. 21 I will come and I will find out what is really true. So you must choose. Will I need to be angry and punish you? Or will I speak kind words to show that I love you? Which do you want me to do?