“Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign – and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you!” 1 Cor 4:8
When I was a freshman at college (a long time ago), I remember distinctly learning about a phenomena that was frequently discussed, especially at the beginning of the school year. This phenomena was called ‘being Sophomoric’. It basically described the perspective the second year students (the sophomores) took towards the lowly freshman now that they had a whole year of college and had learned and grown so much in maturity. Add the spiritual element to this phenomena that was a part of a Christian university and suddenly you had 19 and 20 year old students thinking they had reached some upper echelon of spiritual awakening and we immature freshman really needed to learn from them. The amusing thing was that as much as I witnessed it and dealt with this attitude in some of the sophomores my freshmen year, I found myself tempted to take on the same attitude when I became a sophomore!
In 1 Corinthians 4 Paul is addressing a sophomoric attitude that was being displayed by some of those in the Corinthian church. It was pretty evident there was a feeling of superiority many in the church were experiencing and Paul’s comments in verse 8 were designed to wake them up to this false sense of spiritual superiority and to bring them down to reality. He sarcastically says; “Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign – and that without us!” In Paul and Apollo’s absence some in the church had begun to take on this air of spiritual superiority to others and Paul states they are acting like they are already perfect and reigning over their heavenly rewards!
There is a phrase that became popular in the mid 90’s that I have heard frequently when describing someone who believes they are superior; that they have ‘arrived’. Someone would say; “Fred really thinks he is all that and a bag of chips”. I have always taken this to mean that Fred feels like he was ‘complete’, like a lunch of not just a sandwich but a bag of chips to eat with it. A complete lunch. I believe if this phrases had been around Paul may have applied it to those with this attitude of superiority.
The application for us is pretty apparent. God cannot work with the proud and arrogant person. He can, however, do great work with a humble heart. If we believe we have arrived spiritually, emotionally or mentally then we symbolically shut off God’s sanctifying work in us and begin to walk around in our own power. The reality is every good gift we have comes from God (James 1:17) and we cannot take credit for anything when it comes to God’s grace, justification through faith, and even his sanctifying work. Paul was encouraging the Corinthians to examine themselves by contrasting their haughty superiority to the humility that he and Apollos displayed even though they, of all people, could claim to be spiritually superior.
Want to test your heart in this area? Get alone with God and open your Bible to Psalm 51. Begin praying to God and say, “Father, this is my prayer to you…” and then read the entire Psalm to God as a prayer…and mean it! God WILL answer that prayer.