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Apostolic Ministry
1So then you must perceive us—not as leaders of factions, but as servants of the Anointed One, those who have been entrusted with God’s mysteries. 2The most important quality of one entrusted with such secrets is that they are faithful and trustworthy. 3But personally, I’m not the least bit concerned if I’m judged by you or any verdict I receive from any human court. In fact, I don’t even assume to be my own judge, 4even though my conscience is clear. But that doesn’t mean I stand acquitted before the Lord, for the only judge I care about is him!
5So resist the temptation to pronounce premature judgment on anything before the appointed time when all will be fully revealed. Instead, wait until the Lord makes his appearance, for he will bring all that is hidden in darkness to light and unveil every secret motive of everyone’s heart. Then, when the whole truth is known, each will receive praise from God.
The Ministry of True Apostles
6Dear brothers and sisters, I’ve been referring allusively to myself and Apollos in order to illustrate what I’ve been saying. It is futile to move beyond what is written in the Scriptures and be inflated with self-importance by following and promoting one leader in competition with another. 7For what makes a distinction between you and someone else? And what do you have that grace has not given you? And if you received it as a gift, why do you boast as though there is something special about you?
8Oh, I know, you already have all you need! Since when did you become so content and rich without us? You’ve already crowned yourselves as royalty, reigning on your thrones, leaving us lowly apostles far behind! How I wish indeed that you really were reigning as kings already, for that would mean we would be reigning as kings alongside of you.
Apostolic Model of Ministry
9It seems to me that God has appointed us apostles to be at the end of the line. We are like those on display at the end of the procession, as doomed gladiators soon to be killed. We have become a theatrical spectacle to all creation, both to people and to angels. 10We are fools for Christ, but you are wise in Christ! We are the frail; you are the powerful. You are celebrated; we are humiliated. 11If you could see us now, you’d find that we are hungry and thirsty, poorly clothed, brutally treated, and with no roof over our heads. 12We work hard, toiling with our own hands. When people abuse and insult us, we respond with a blessing, and when severely persecuted, we endure it with patience. 13When we are slandered incessantly, we always answer gently, ready to reconcile. Even now, in the world’s opinion, we are nothing but filth and the lowest scum.
A Father’s Warning
14I’m not writing this to embarrass you or to shame you, but to correct you as the children I love. 15For although you could have countless babysitters in Christ telling you what you’re doing wrong, you don’t have many fathers who correct you in love. But I’m a true father to you, for I became your father when I gave you the gospel and brought you into union with Jesus, the Anointed One. 16So I encourage you, my children, to follow the example that I live before you.
17That’s why I’ve sent my dear son Timothy, whom I love. He is faithful to the Lord Yahweh and will remind you of how I conduct myself as one who lives in union with Jesus, the Anointed One, and of the teachings that I bring to every church everywhere.
18There are some among you who have exalted themselves as if I were not coming back to you. 19But I will come soon, if it pleases the Lord, and I will find out not only what these arrogant ones are saying, but also if they have power to back up their words! 20For the kingdom realm of God comes with power, not simply impressive words. 21So which would you prefer? Shall I come carrying the rod of authority to discipline or with an embrace in love with a gentle spirit?
Apostles of Christ Jesus
1You should think of us as servants of Christ, the ones God has trusted to do the work of making known his secret truths. 2Those who are trusted with such an important work must show that they are worthy of that trust. 3But I don’t consider your judgment on this point to be worth anything. Even an opinion from a court of law would mean nothing. I don’t even trust my own judgment. 4I don’t know of any wrong I have done, but that does not make me right. The Lord is the one who must decide if I have done well or not. 5So don’t judge anyone now. The time for judging will be when the Lord comes. He will shine light on everything that is now hidden in darkness. He will make known the secret purposes of our hearts. Then the praise each person should get will come from God.
6Brothers and sisters, I have used Apollos and myself as examples for you. I did this so that you could learn from us the meaning of the words, “Follow what the Scriptures say.” Then you will not brag about one person and criticize another. 7Who do you think you are? Everything you have was given to you. So, if everything you have was given to you, why do you act as if you got it all by your own power?
8You think you have everything you need. You think you are rich. You think you have become kings without us. I wish you really were kings. Then we could rule together with you. 9But it seems to me that God has given me and the other apostles the last place. We are like prisoners condemned to die, led in a parade for the whole world to see—not just people but angels too. 10We are fools for Christ, but you think you are so wise in Christ. We are weak, but you think you are so strong. People give you honor, but they don’t honor us. 11Even now we still don’t have enough to eat or drink, and we don’t have enough clothes. We often get beatings. We have no homes. 12We work hard with our own hands to feed ourselves. When people insult us, we ask God to bless them. When people treat us badly, we accept it. 13When people say bad things about us, we try to say something that will help them. But people still treat us like the world’s garbage—everyone’s trash.
14I am not trying to make you feel ashamed, but I am writing this to counsel you as my own dear children. 15You may have ten thousand teachers in Christ, but you don’t have many fathers. Through the Good News I became your father in Christ Jesus. 16So I beg you to be like me. 17That is why I am sending Timothy to you. He is my son in the Lord. I love him and trust him. He will help you remember the way I live in Christ Jesus—a way of life that I teach in every meeting of the church wherever I am.
18Some of you are acting so proud, it seems as though you think I won’t be coming there again. 19But I will come to you very soon, the Lord willing. Then I will see if these proud talkers have the power to do anything more than talk. 20God’s kingdom is not seen in talk but in power. 21Which do you want: that I come to you with punishment, or that I come with love and gentleness?