Paul’s role as an apostle
1So a person should think about us this way—as servants of Christ and managers of God’s secrets. 2In this kind of situation, what is expected of a manager is that they prove to be faithful. 3I couldn’t care less if I’m judged by you or by any human court; I don’t even judge myself. 4I’m not aware of anything against me, but that doesn’t make me innocent, because the Lord is the one who judges me. 5So don’t judge anything before the right time—wait until the Lord comes. He will bring things that are hidden in the dark to light, and he will make people’s motivations public. Then there will be recognition for each person from God.
6Brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit. I’ve done this so that you can learn what it means not to go beyond what has been written and so none of you will become arrogant by supporting one of us against the other. 7Who says that you are better than anyone else? What do you have that you didn’t receive? And if you received it, then why are you bragging as if you didn’t receive it? 8You’ve been filled already! You’ve become rich already! You rule like kings without us! I wish you did rule so that we could be kings with you! 9I suppose that God has shown that we apostles are at the end of the line. We are like prisoners sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle in the world, both to angels and to humans. 10We are fools for Christ, but you are wise through Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, but we are dishonored! 11Up to this very moment we are hungry, thirsty, wearing rags, abused, and homeless. 12We work hard with our own hands. When we are insulted, we respond with a blessing; when we are harassed, we put up with it; 13when our reputation is attacked, we are encouraging. We have become the scum of the earth, the waste that runs off everything, up to the present time.
14I’m not writing these things to make you ashamed but to warn you, since you are my loved children. 15You may have ten thousand mentors in Christ, but you don’t have many fathers. I gave birth to you in Christ Jesus through the gospel, 16so I encourage you to follow my example. 17This is why I’ve sent Timothy to you; he’s my loved and trusted child in the Lord; he’ll remind you about my way of life in Christ Jesus. He’ll teach the same way as I teach everywhere in every church. 18Some have become arrogant as if I’m not coming to see you. 19But, if the Lord is willing, I’ll come to you soon. Then I won’t focus on what these arrogant people say, but I’ll find out what power they possess. 20God’s kingdom isn’t about words but about power. 21Which do you want? Should I come to you with a big stick to punish you, or with love and a gentle spirit?