Studies in First Corinthians
Lesson 15: The Problem of Pride
I Corinthians 4:6-8
Have you heard the story about the proud owner of a Rolls Royce who was so proud of himself and his car? He was always looking for an opportunity to work his car into any conversation. Then one day a fellow member of the country club couldn’t get his car started. The Rolls Royce owner insisted on giving him a ride. As they started down the driveway the proud owner said, “I guess you’ve never ridden in a Rolls Royce before!” To which the passenger replied, “well, never in the front seat.”
And that is the picture of pride. It is so ironic. Such a paradox. In chapter 4 of First Corinthians the focal point is pride. And we are seeing that it is a very insidious enemy against the Lordship of Christ in our church and in our lives. In our last study we talked about “the paradox of pride,” how foolish it is to be proud. Now in verses 6 through 8 Paul is going to point out some of the problems of pride – and there are several. The first problem that we have to keep in mind is its subtlety as it is brought out in verse 6.
Now these things brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against another.
The first significant phrase to notice in this verse is “puffed up on behalf of one against another.” Now what could be wrong with thinking highly of another person? Well, carried to its logical conclusion, it leads to exaltation of self – because the next verses are addressed to those who exalt themselves and their groups. So the first subtle influence of pride is the fact that it can actually be based on another person (or group or (of particular importance to this study, a denomination.) To be proud of a man or a group and our association with them causes an inability to see things in a true perspective. You see, we can be so wrapped up in a person or a group that we refuse to listen even to legitimate criticism of them – and possibly even follow them right into false teaching!
The Corinthians were so wrapped up in their various groups that Paul had to use examples and illustrations or they wouldn’t have gotten his point. This is what is meant by the phrase “figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos”
So one of the problems of pride is its subtlety. But in verse 7 we find another one: it is subversive nature”
For who makes you to differ from another? And what do you have that that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as though you had not received it?”
Actually this subject is introduced in verse 6 with the phrase “that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written . . .” Exaltation of men comes from ignoring the scripture. The record of scripture shows again and again that humans are failures. Individuals who failed the Lord include such notables as Adam, Cain, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and on and on we could go. And groups such as the disciples, etc.
Paul had summarized this principle back in 3:5-7, saying that even a sincere servant of the Lord is nothing unless “God gives the increase.”
A third emphasis in this letter is that whatever greatness God has allowed anyone to have has been merely to show His grace through them. So with all of that in mind coming back to verse 7, it is the height of foolishness to take pride in anything! Even if, from a human standpoint, you actually are better than someone else it is only because God has allowed it to be so. In fact, there is a real sense in which if you are being used by God it is actually less impressive than others – because “God has chosen the weak things of the world to accomplish His purposes.
At the beginning of the book of Revelation the Holy Spirit had the Apostle John write letters to seven churches that were active in the area of Palestine in the first century. And without taking the time to go into the messages of each of them, one of them was the church at Laodicea recorded in chapter 3, verses 14 through 17. And it forms God’s perspective of proud people.
And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, “these things says the amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the beginning of the creation of God: (15) I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot, and because you are neither cold nor hot I will spew you out of my mouth. (17) Because you say “I am rich, have become wealthy” – and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked . . .
So the bottom line, you see, is that pride is subversive. It makes us think the very opposite of what is true about ourselves!
But then there is a third problem with pride. Not only is it subtle and subversive, but verse 8 shows that it is spurious as well.
You are already full! You are already rich! You have reigned as kings without us – and indeed I wish you did reign, that we also might reign with you!”
Incidentally, Paul’s sense of humor shows in the last line of verse 8 – “I wish it were so”
Here Paul sarcastically points out the attitudes they have because of pride. Rich!, Full! Reigning as kings! And the interesting thing is that these attitudes were not correct or accurate in the first place. Remember chapter 1 verse 26?
For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise, according to the flesh, not many mighty not many noble, are called . . .”
But really, isn’t this a good picture of pride? Here is its end result: thinking things about ourselves or our group that aren’t even true! Other suggested pictures of pride include someone bragging about how well he can opens birthday or Christmas presents, or, as someone else said, “That person was born on third base, but he acts like he hit a triple.”
Well, by this time hopefully we can see what a terrible thing pride is, but fortunately, verses 9 through 13 give us the picture of victory over pride. In these verses Paul uses himself and the other apostles as examples of humility. And this is ironic, because these were the very men who were most worthy of exaltation, if anybody was. But in these verses he gives us three attitudes that put pride in its proper place. First, a lowly position in the eyes of the world in verses 9 and 10.
“For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. (10) We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong You are distinguished and we are dishonored!”
Verse 9 brings out an example that would have been familiar to the Greek and Roman empires. After a victory in battle there would be a great victory parade in the homeland. And the captives who were sentenced to death – the worst of the enemy – would be last in the procession. Verse 10 says that the apostles were “fools” for Christ’s sake (because the preaching of the cross is “foolishness.” They were weak (because God has chosen the weak things of the world,) despised (because the gospel is so contrary to the world’s wisdom.) And yet the Corinthians were priding themselves on the very opposite of each of these things (notice the point by point comparison.) So this point is saying that a really good solution to pride is to remember the lowly position that servants of God hold in the eyes of the world!
But there is a second principle here that also helps give victory over pride: a loose hold on possessions in the world – look at verse 11
Even to the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and are poorly clothed, and beaten and homeless.”
The apostles had not always been in this condition – they had been businessmen, and homeowners, etc. So he is not saying that there is something inherently spiritual about being poor. (a lot of unsaved people are poor too) But he is saying that Christians face the possibility of giving up their possessions for the sake of doing God’s will.
A lowly position in the “eyes of the world” and a “loose hold on possessions” are good preventatives for pride. But there is a third principle in verse 12.
And we labor, working with our hands, being reviled, we bless, being persecuted we endure it”
Each of these things would have been completely repulsive and even unnatural to a polished Greek. Manual labor, returning reviling with blessing, taking persecution with patience, and yet these are the very things Christ did – and exactly what He tells us to do. And if you will compare these things with Galatians 5:22 you will see that they all come from the fruit of the spirit.
We live in a day when it is not hard to be a Christian. In fact, there are some Christians who are in very prominent and highly respected places in our society. And probably none of us suffer in the ways that Paul has been describing in these last few verses. But it hasn’t always been that way – and it may not always be. And if we were to lose these things we would find out very quickly what the real values in life are all about! So how silly it is when we become proud of those things that have just been given to us in the first place. And above all, remember that as we have been seeing again and again in this section of this book, that the real accounts are settled at the judgement seat of Christ (“therefore judge nothing before the time. . .
The purpose of these studies is to draw you closer to Jesus Christ. If you do not know him, it is my prayer that they will help you understand that Romans 3:23 says that you, like all of us, have sinned and come short of the glory of God. And Romans 6:23 says that the result of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ. And Acts 16:32 says “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. If I can be of help to you in understanding any of this information I can be reached at