I Corinthians 4:8-21 - Making the Right Evaluation

Dr. Steve Viars August 14, 1991 1 Corinthians 4:8-21

- tonight I'd like to begin our time together by asking us
  to think about several questions
- let's suppose tonight that your car is giving you problems
  and so you take it into the mechanic to be fixed

- INPUT - how important is it that the mechanic makes the
     right evaluation of the problem and why is that is

- INPUT - what are some other areas (other than the Christian
          life) - where making the right evaluation of the
          situation is very important?

- tonight, we're going to be looking at "making the right
    evaluation" in the Christian life from I Cor. 4:8-21

- read verse 8

- before we read this whole passage, we need to point out
  something about the literary method that Paul is using
- INPUT - in what way is Paul speaking in verse 8?

- there's no other way to understand these verses other than
  to say that Paul is using what some have called "sanctified
  sarcasm" to make a point

- now, we need to talk about that for a minute
- we often talk about sarcasm in a negative way
- INPUT - was it sinful for Paul to speak in this way to the
          Corinthians?  (no) - All scripture is given by
          inspiration of God, (II Tim. 3:16-17
        - "Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one
           title shall in no way pass from the law, till all
           be fulfilled."
- we believe in verbal, plenary inspiration
    - which means that each word in the Bible is inspired
    - each word is inspired to the same degree - each one is
       equally important (plenary)

- So obviously God knew that this method was the most loving
  and effective way to get the point across to the
- there's nothing wrong with the way Paul was speaking

- INPUT - however, does that mean that you and I should go
     around trying to imitate that method?  (no, because of
     the great possibility of sin entering in to the way we
     exercised it)

- there are a number of things that the Lord did because He
  was sinless that we wouldn't necessarily do because of the
  great potential for our own sin and weakness to enter in

- Jesus counseled the woman at the well apparently by Himself
   - with just the two of them present

- that’s something we don't do
    - because of the appearance of evil
    - the possibility of temptation

- Jesus had such perfect control of Hs anger that He was able
  to drive the money changers out of the temple with a scourge
  of cords and not sin
- We're not going to deal with sinful folks in that way today
  because of the great possibility of sinfulness entering in

- ***what can be a thing of beauty and power in the hands of
     one person can be a thing of destruction and death in
     the hands of another

     - cf. Paul Smith - doing a demonstration with explosive
             chemicals - (you wouldn't want me doing that)

- Point is - while Paul is using sarcasm here - most of us
  would say that:
   - because we've wrestled with the sinful use of sarcasm so
     much in the past
   - because of the great possibility of sinfulness entering
     in now
- there would be other methods of communicating truth that
   would be wiser for us to use

- READ 9-21

- Paul's addressing an obvious problem in these verses

I. The Problem Paul Addressed

- let's divide these verses this way

- first, let's think about:

    A. The Corinthians evaluation of their situation

        - INPUT - there are at least six different
           words/phrases that Paul uses to describe the way
           the Corinthians were evaluating themselves. WHAT
           WERE THEY?

        1. full (NIV - have all you want)
        2. rich
        3. reigning as kings
        4. wise
        5. strong
        6. honorable

    - INPUT - how would you summarize their evaluation?
               (you've got all you need - you've reached all
                your goals - you've got the world by the
                tail, etc.)

- INPUT - on the other hand, how does Paul evaluate his
   situation along with the other apostles?

    B. Paul's evaluation of his situation

        - I've organized these various characteristics around
          four key words

        1. spectacles

            - when Paul says in verse 9 that "we are being
              made a spectacle unto the world", he's calling
              up an image that would have been very familiar
              to the Corinthians
            - when a Roman general won a major victory, it
              was celebrated with what was called a triumph

            - the general and his troops would enter the city
              with great military splendor
            - behind them would come the prisoners with the
              conquered king and military officers displayed
              prominently for everyone to see and mock

            - the prisoners were then taken to the arena to
              fight the wild beasts
            - that was called the "spectacle"

            - Paul is saying – that’s what its like to be an
            - one writer translated this verse "God means us
              apostles to come in at the very end like doomed
              gladiators in the arena."

- now just think about how Paul's description of situation
  compares with what the Corinthians were striving for
  (we'll talk about that more in a minute)

        2. fools

            - he said earlier that that the preaching of the
              cross is WHAT to those who are perishing?
            - since Paul and the other apostles had been
              faithful in sharing the good news of Jesus
              Christ-those who did not believe declared them
              to be fools
            - they were "fools...for Christ's sake"

        3. sufferers

            - INPUT - what verse does this come through? (12)
            - INPUT - what other passage does this sound
                     like?  II Cor. 11

        4. scum

           - filth and off-scouring (KJV) refer to the
             scrapings and off-scouring you get after you've
             cleaned a big pot
           - you know what that's like - you've just had a
             great dinner, and you get up to the dishes

           - you do the pots last - WHY?  (because you don't
             want to get all that junk on the rest of the
             dishes (you know what stuff we're talking about)
           - in Bible days, that was called filth and dregs

        - Paul says – that’s what its like living for the Lord
        - now, there's a lot of victories
        - many have accepted the Jesus as Lord and Savior and
          they love us
        - but those who haven't - they have no respect for us
          at all
            - we're not treated well by them at all
            - no riches, no prestige, no honor

        - we're spectacles, fools, sufferers, and scum

       - now Paul's not bitter about that
       - INPUT - how do we know? v. 12 - "being reviled, we
                 bless, being persecuted - we endure"

        - now we've separated these words out to try to get
          an understanding of what the words mean
        - but Paul weaved them back and forth to communicate
          a point

        - there's a real problem here

    C. What's the problem?

        1. There's a great difference between:

             - where they thought they were and where they
               really were
             - where they wanted to be and where God wanted
               them to be

        - another way of saying that is:

        2. they were unable to evaluate themselves correctly

            - just like the mechanic needs to be able to know
              what's wrong with a car and what needs to be
              done to fix it
            - just like an economist has to know what's wrong
              with economy before suggesting a solution
            - just like the physician must be able to make a
              proper diagnosis before he can prescribe a

            - evaluation is everything

            - Paul says (with tongue in cheek) - you think
              you're full, you think you're rich, you think
              you're reigning
                - I wish you were, he says--but you're not
                - you're in trouble because you're not
                  evaluating yourself correctly


- we see this same problem in counseling
- sometimes the mission boards will ask us to work with
  someone or a couple that was sent home from the field
- we've had situations where everyone of those co-workers
  gave them negative evaluations - yet they said there weren't
  any problems
- they said they couldn't think of anything God wanted them
  to change or that they needed to work on

- I've had folks in that situation where I've asked them for
  homework to go home and write down the five ways God wanted
  them to change the most, and they came back without being
  able to make out a list
- we've just come to the position in those situations that
  we're not going to try to convince folks that they need
  help if they can't see the need in any sense

- I think of one couple that was sent home because the wife
  had an affair with someone on the field
- we told them that we would be working with them in their
  marriage - they said - "we don't need any help with our
  marriage - that affair just happened"
- Was that couple right?
   - was everything OK?  It just happened?

- see, Paul's talking about an inability to evaluate
- INPUT - can you think of another church mentioned in the NT
          that had this same problem?  (the church at
        - Rev. 3:17 - "Because thou sayest, I am rich, and
           increased with goods, and have need of nothing,
           and knowest not that thou art wretched, and
           miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked."

- one of the main reasons they weren't able to make the
   proper evaluation is that they didn't have the correct
   standards or goals

        3. They were unable to set correct standards or goals

    - you realize this makes all the difference in the world
    - we can't possibly make the right evaluation unless we
      have the right goals

    - it would be like you and I taking a trip to
    - I'm driving, and we get down to I-65, and I have
      Indianapolis and Chicago confused in my mind
    - so I get on I-65 north

    - you say - hey, do you know where you're going
    - I say - INPUT? (trust me)

    - so you doze off and an hour later you wake up and ask
      me how the trips going

    - I would present to you that I'm completely unable to
      make the right evaluation
    - why? - because I've got the wrong goal in mind

    - so when you ask me how the trips going, I'm going to
      say things like:
       - it going great!
       - we've gone 60 miles
       - we're almost to Lowell

    - I've made the wrong evaluation because I've had the
      wrong goal

- that’s what was happening in the lives of the Corinthians
- their goals were to:
    - gain respect from the unsaved world
    - be thought of as wise because of the teacher they had
    - to rise up the ladder of material success

- Paul says - you think the trips going great but its not
- because you're heading the wrong way
   - you're heading for Chicago when you should be heading
       for INDY
   - the truth is - the trip is going terrible, because
     you're further away from the destination than ever

- now, that’s what was happening in the Corinthian church
   - I said when we started this series a couple of months
     ago that I wasn't going to present this material as if,
     just because it was happening there means it is
     happening here
   - I don't believe that's true at all - at least not in the
     sense that’s it happening to the same degree

   - but would you agree with me - that this is an area that
     we all have to wrestle with?
   - the issue of properly evaluating how we're doing?

- let's think about how we can avoid this kind of lifestyle

- II. Opposites of This Kind of Lifestyle
    - INPUT - what are some opposites of this kind of
        lifestyle, that if implemented, will help us avoid
        the problem we've been talking about tonight?

    - If a person is trying to avoid the kind of lifestyle
      the Corinthians had - how will that affect their
      relationship to the Word of God?

    A. Hunger and thirst after righteousness

         - Matt. 5:6

         - INPUT - why would those who want to evaluate
             themselves correctly have a strong desire for
             the Word?

- Psalm 107:105 - thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light
                  unto my path

- Psalm 119:9 – Where withall shall a young man cleanse his
                way? By taking heed thereto unto thy Word.

    B. Being A learner

        I John 1:7-9

- INPUT - what impact would the Corinthians' sin have on
     their ability to solve interpersonal problems?  (have
     trouble solving problems because they weren't willing to
     look at their side of the issue first)

    C. Looking at your side first

        Matt. 7:3

    D. Having God's goals

        - Rom. 8:28, 29, II Cor. 5:9

        - I'm not saying it always comes down to choices,
           but if it did come down to a choice between living
           for God (and being called foolish by some) or
           sinning (and being called wise), which would you
        - in other words - is pleasing the Lord and doing
          His will more important than what others think of

        - let's think of a couple of examples

        - Vacation - let's say you're on vacation with some
             other families - and the men tend to be macho
             types who treat their wives like hired servants
             (without the hire!)
        - let's say the wife is preparing a meal and
          obviously needs some help

        - what's the "Corinthian like husband" going to do
          because he's in front of his buddies?"
            (ignore the need)
        - what's the godly husband going to do? (be loving to
          his wife - even if he has to put up with some guff)

        - let's take another one
           - let's say a young person sits down to lunch with
             some friends at school
           - let's say these are guys that he really wants to
             hang around with and this is the first time
             they've ever asked him to eat with them

         - what's the "Corinthian like young man" going to
            do?  (forget about praying, sneeze-pray)
         - INPUT - if you asked the Corinthian-like young man
              at the end of the day about what kind of day he
              had, what do you think he might say?

     - what would the godly young man do? (thank the Lord
       for his food regardless of what everybody else thinks)
        E. Dependent spirit

           - Psalm 63:1 - "O God, thou art my God, early will
              I seek thee; my soul thirsteth for thee, my
              flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty
              land, where no water is..."

        F. Vibrant prayer life

           - Psalm 55:17 - "Evening, and morning, and at
              noon, will I pray, and cry aloud, and He shall
              hear my voice."

        G. Humility

            - I Peter 5:6 - Humble yourselves, therefore,
              under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt
              you in due time.

        H.  Regular and Genuine Repentance

- See, the question tonight is - are you evaluating yourself
   biblically and correctly or are you like the Corinthians
   who thought they were doing were great when in fact they
   were displeasing the Lord

- now I'm surely not saying that those who evaluate
   themselves properly will:
     - always come out with a tremendously low evaluation
     - will always be down,
     - and will be overly introspective,

- but we are talking about thinking long and hard about
  whether we are like the Corinthians

- in many areas, and especially in the Christian life, it's
  tremendously important that we make the right evaluation

- now, we've been studying through four chapters of this
  book, and I think many of us would say:

    - "its about time to give up on the Corinthians!
    - "Paul needs to go start a new church somewhere - after
       all-its easier to give birth than to raise the dead!"

- but of course that’s not what the Lord does
- Instead, he lovingly intervenes

III. The Lord's Loving Intervention - vv. 14-21

    A. sent someone to admonish them

        - Paul says - I'm not trying to shame you - I'm
          trying to admonish you like a father
        - look how gracious the Lord was - even with
          individuals who were so far out
            - to send someone along to give them another
              opportunity to evaluate themselves properly,
              and repent

            - because we have the book of II Cor, we know
              that many in this church did repent
            - II Cor. 7:9 - "Now I rejoice, not that you were
               made sorry but that you sorrowed to
               repentance, for you were made sorry after a
               godly manner, that you might receive damage by
               us in nothing."

             - one clear evidence of individuals who are
               living in line with this passage is that they
               repent, and repent well
             - a right evaluation often leads to thorough

- God was also gracious to these folks in that:

    B. Sent someone to model

        - Paul says in verse 16 - be ye followers of me

        - he says in verse 17, "I'm sending Timothy, and I
          want you to follow his example

        - individuals who evaluate themselves properly, and
          have the right goals--are getting behind the right
          kind of models to help them

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video