March 19, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, ‘Do not go beyond what is written.’ Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other. For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?—1 Corinthians 4:6–7 (NIV)
There’s nothing like a pride-crushing collision with humility. Over the course of your life, I’m sure you’ve had some humbling moments.
When I was signing lease paperwork for my first apartment, I knocked over my coffee inside the kitchen of my new apartment right in front of my new landlord. Twenty ounces of coffee went everywhere. To make it worse, there were no supplies to clean it up. I quickly ran to get some paper towels leaving my landlord there waiting. I walked into that situation feeling like a real adult, entering into a brand-new season in my life. I left that situation feeling like a helpless child who couldn’t properly handle a cup of coffee. Just when you feel like you’re on top, something happens to bring you back to reality.
In 1 Corinthians 4, Paul engages with Corinth’s pride problem. At this point in the epistle, he begins to shift the tone of his voice from a polite introduction to blunt commands and rhetorical questions. He even uses some sarcasm. Why? Because he knows pride will rot the Church from the inside out. He calls out their pride in three questions:
Who makes you different from anyone else? No community can thrive when people see themselves as better or more important than others. One of the big themes of the Bible is that all of us are blind to the full extent of our sin. We’re quick to point out the error in others, but blind to our own faults. However, the gospel of Jesus tells us God shows no partiality. No one is righteous (Romans 3:10) and everyone is a sinner (Romans 3:23). Whether wealthy or poor, thriving or hurting, the gospel of Jesus levels the playing field and shows that none of us are better than the other. As Martin Luther once said, “In the presence of God’s mercy, we are all beggars.”
What do you have that you did not receive? If we believe God is creator of heaven and earth, and if we believe that He is sovereign over His creation, then everything we have is a gift from God. We didn’t create it and we didn’t earn it. Every blessing, promotion, opportunity comes from God alone, not from our efforts (James 1:17).
Why do you boast about yourself? How often do you talk about yourself? I recently had a conversation with a prominent non-profit leader. Within two minutes, he told me he leads the largest business in his town, he’s a regular radio personality, and he has won numerous philosophy debates. I don’t doubt any of those are true, but I mention this interaction simply to show how quickly we can make conversations about us and our accomplishments. Too often we believe we are what we do. To boast implies that you made it happen. Boasting focuses on human effort instead of the free saving grace and common grace of God. I love how Calvin puts it, “No room is left for taking pride in ourselves, when it is by God’s grace we are what we are.”
May we, by the Spirit’s help, press into a humility that understands this grace we’ve been gifted!
Pause: Reflect on this question: “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).
Practice: Make a list of 10 things you’re grateful for. Then, take some time to write how you received those things from God.
Pray: Gracious God and heavenly Father, I think about the things I hold close to my heart. Thank You for giving them to me. My life is full of good things because of Your faithfulness and not my effort. Thank You for saving me, for renewing my heart, and for bringing me into Your family. From my salvation to the very breath in my lungs, all of life is a gift from You and in response I worship You alone. Amen.
Jimmy Purchase serves as the Groups Development Director at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale. He graduated with a Master’s Degree in Church Planting from Capital Seminary & Graduate School. He has been in full-time ministry since 2006, has helped plant two churches, and is passionate about seeing South Florida changed by the gospel of Jesus. Jimmy and his wife, Erin, have been married since 2008 and have three children.