The author of 1 Corinthians 4:1–6 is a man who is proud, convicted, and will not be defied…because he is fully submitted to the gospel message. He is not committed to himself because his self has no anchors for the soul. He is committed to the truth that has saved him (“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart”; verse 1).
When he affirms that he refuses to “tamper with God’s word” (verse 2), he contrasts himself with the false teachers that surround the Corinthian church like a disease: men who know their society’s Greek and pagan dispositions toward human wisdom, endless philosophical systems and orations centered upon the glory of man (i.e., those who practice “disgraceful, underhanded ways”; verse 2). He will not tamper with God’s word but will submit to its abundant and perspicuous, easy truths.
Is not the gospel “an open statement” ready for the child? (verse 2) Is it not already perfectly receivable and in no need of the superfluous dazzles of man’s words? Paul commends himself to the consciences of his people by simply submitting to God’s truths and not giving them a reason to have to circumvent it with human preferences and thus lose it. And the great irony is this: as Paul contrasts himself with the sugar-voiced philosophers that infect his people, he is doubly sad because the canvas of ideas that have been cunningly painted for his people have created a veil, a crust of misunderstanding burdening those who are perishing and who desire to twist God’s will into something it cannot be. The gospel “is veiled to those who are perishing” (verse 3), and how beautiful a veil can be if we want it.
Blindness of the heart is hardly ugly, and worse the enemy of our souls makes us ignorant of our ugliness: “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers” (verse 4). He makes perishing feel like pleasure. And to flex his hand of death further, the master of cunning can toy with us more severely by guiding us to see and love Jesus Christ as a substance to be mixed in to our blind perishing and never as an exhaustive light that brings the glory of God’s gospel.
To be sure, there are many who are veiled from the glory of Christ who understand Christ very deeply and never rightly. But as a contrast once again, Paul is a submissive servant, bearing under the word of God and not holding it as a toy for the thinker. He is a servant for Christ’s sake; Christ is not a servant for his sake. He cannot let darkness be beautiful any longer. He cannot rest in the malaise of comfortable ambiguity. He cannot love the kinghood of the everyman. He can only absorb and buckle under the weight of God’s glory and exude forth its light (“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”; verse 6). This is no choice or disposition. This is his design, and ours.
This article was written by special guest, Jared Lafitte. Jared is a speaker and consultant from Louisville, Kentucky. He is a graduate of Wheaton College and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Mandy, have a 20-month old daughter, Audrey.