What do you have that you did not receive?
What do you have that God hasn’t given you? – 1 Corinthians 4:7
1 Corinthians 4:1-7
1 So look at Apollos and me as mere servants of Christ who have been put in charge of explaining God’s mysteries.
2 Now, a person who is put in charge as a manager must be faithful.
3 As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point.
4 My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.
5 So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time – before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.
6 Dear brothers and sisters, I have used Apollos and myself to illustrate what I’ve been saying. If you pay attention to what I have quoted from the Scriptures, you won’t be proud of one of your leaders at the expense of another.
7 For what gives you the right to make such a judgment? What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?
To achieve the Father’s kingdom goals on earth requires collaboration. The Father has chosen to use groups or teams of His children to accomplish His purposes. Team players with strong teamwork skills are required to make this happen. A team player is someone who cares more about helping a group or team to succeed than about his or her individual success. Team players understand that their team’s success is their own success. This is seen in team sports such as football, hockey, soccer, and basketball.
In the Father’s kingdom, team players are genuinely committed to the task that the Father assigned to them and to one another.
Paul was a great team player as well as a team builder. He did not talk down to others. He was able to put himself in their place and share their feelings and emotions. His purpose was to fulfill the Father’s game plan: to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). He shared the gospel and grounded children of the King in the faith.
Paul was always at work bringing people into a closer relationship with the living God. Paul exhorted and coached others. He primarily provided information rather than condemnation. But when necessary he was willing to confront. “Paul had a wonderfully courteous way of including himself in his own warnings and his own condemnations” (Barclay).
REFLECT & PRAY
“All gifts and advantages come from God. They are special graces from God. We do not earn or deserve them. An understanding of the grace of God puts an end to pride” (Richison).
Father, I recognize that all I have and all I am is a sheer gracious gift from You. Foster within me an attitude of gratitude.
Being puffed up and arrogant have no place in the Father’s kingdom or on the Father’s team. Paul confronts the Corinthians regarding their perceived special status. Paul “punctures their inflated view of themselves with a series of questions: Who? What? Why?” (Garland).
1 Corinthians 4:7 can be translated in various ways.
For who makes you different from anyone else? (NIV)
Who regards you as superior? (NAS)
For who makes you so superior? (HCSB)
For who sees anything different in you? (ESV)
Who defines you (Thiselton)?
The sentence has two parts. The first part is the answer to the question, Who is responsible. This in turn has two answers. One is correct, the other not so much.
Ultimately, the Father is responsible, He has decided. Each child of the King is different from everyone else and He endowed them with certain unique characteristics, abilities, talents, appearance, and the like. He defined them!
Yet on the other hand, many of the Corinthians were self-identifying themselves as superior. They were filled with arrogance and pride.
Why would they think of themselves in this way? What could possibly make them superior or special? Paul’s answer is their distinguishing attributes, features, strengths, virtues, etc.
But none of these factors are things that they have done for themselves. Rather everything they have; they have received from the Father. How can they possibly boast about something that was given to them as a free gift of pure grace? “Nothing is inherently theirs, so they cannot be arrogant and boastful” (Marshall). “All is of grace; nothing is deserved, nothing earned” (Fee). That is Paul’s point.
All children of the King are very special to Him. The Father is the source of their life and forgiveness in Christ. But that does not make them superior to others. The Corinthians are guilty of being presumptuous and ungrateful. “For them to be puffed up one against another effectively denies that God is the one who has given them all things” (Garland).
“In an ultimate sense, human arrogance makes very little sense, because we never accomplish anything except by using the gifts, talent, energy, inspiration – and even breath – that God gives to us” (Stanley).