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1Corinthians  ◦   Chapter 4

1You should consider us as Christ's ambassadors whose mission it is to share with you the secret things of God.2The requirement to be trusted as an ambassador of Christ is to accurately reveal Christ in word and deed.3Your assessment of me is not relevant, nor do I concern myself with the conclusions of a human court; indeed, I do not even diagnose myself.4My conscience has been cleansed, but that does not mean I am totally cured. It is the Lord who diagnoses me.5Therefore don't diagnose anyone's final state before the appointed time: wait until the Lord returns, for he will expose the true condition of every person and bring into the open the real character formed in each individual's heart. At that time, all who have been healed will receive affirmation from God.

6Understand, brothers and sisters, that I have applied all these truths to myself and Apollos for your good, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, "Don't add human fables or selfish interpretations to the Scriptures." Then you will remain humble and not promote one human above another.7Who makes you healthier or holier than anyone else? What do you have–whether health, purity of character, riches, talents, or anything else–that was not given to you? And if God gave it to you, why do you brag as though you obtained it on your own?

8You act as though you have all that you need! You act as though you are rich, as though you are already kings in God's kingdom, even though you are not! Oh, how I wish you really were kings in God's kingdom, for that would mean God's kingdom is already here and we would be kings with you!9As I see it, God has put us ambassadors on display at the end of a great procession of his witnesses. Just like people who die in the arena, we — who have partaken of the Remedy procured by Jesus — are now center stage. We have been made examples and evidence of the healing power of the Remedy–procured by Jesus Christ–before the entire universe, revealing the truth to angels as well as to people!10Our commitment to Christ and his method of love brings the accusation that we are fools, but you claim to have received superior wisdom from Christ! Our meekness is thought of as weakness, but you view yourselves as strong! While you are adored, we are degraded!11Often we go hungry and thirsty. Our clothes are rags, we are abused and mistreated, and we are homeless.12Yet we are not lazy: we work diligently to provide for ourselves. We bless those who curse us, we patiently endure all persecution,13and we speak kindly of those who lie about us, yet we are treated like waste — discarded and reviled.

14I am not writing this to shame or discourage you, but to warn you as the children I love.15Even though through Christ you have ten thousand caregivers, you do not have many fathers; for in union with Jesus Christ I became your spiritual father through the Remedy he brought.16Therefore model yourselves after me.17To help you do this, I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, and who knows God and is true to him. He will share with you how I live victoriously in Christ Jesus, which is in harmony with what I teach in every church.

18Some of you are self-righteous and arrogant, as if I were never coming.19But very soon, if it is God's will, I will come and discover not only what these arrogant people are saying, but also the impact or power their words are having.20For the kingdom of God is not simply a matter of words, but of power–the power to heal and transform hearts and minds!21When I come, which manifestation of love would you prefer me to reveal? A whip with which to discipline and correct, or a gentle spirit with which to reason and teach?