I Corintians 4:6-7 (NRSV)
6 I have applied all this to Apollos and myself for your benefit, brothers and sisters,[a] so that you may learn through us the meaning of the saying, “Nothing beyond what is written,” so that none of you will be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you?[b] What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?
Grace, the freely given, unmerited gift from God, itself the ground on which all the life of faith stands, is the standard by which all else is gauged. Though the term “grace” does not occur in these verses, that is what the questions in 4:7 are about. Paul’s questions aim to establish the common denominator of all of life, they seek to establish or focus upon what is important by ruling some matters out of contention. To those who would vaunt themselves or whom others would lionize, Paul disarms their pretensions by frank questions: “What distinguishes you? What do you have that you have not received [as a gift, understood]? And if you receive, why do you boast as if not receiving?” (4:7). What places all believers, whether in Paul’s time or in ours, on common ground is their equal dependence as ones who are the unmeriting recipients of God’s grace. So who is anybody trying to fool by boasting as if this common ground of grace were not the most important fact about themselves?
-From the New Interpreters Bible Volume X, p. 837
Questions about the Scripture
1. Earlier in this letter (1:10ff), Paul chides the Corinthians for forming cliques around their favorite spiritual leaders (Paul, Apollos, Peter, etc). Why do you think the Corinthians engaged in this kind of divisive cult of personality?
2. In Chapters 1-3, Paul specifically addresses the specific popularity contest going on in Corinth between Paul and Apollos, warning the Corinthians to heed the wisdom of Scripture (likely the meaning of “nothing beyond what is written”), and not be “puffed up in favor of one against the other.” What happens when we put our faith in spiritual leaders rather than God? Can you think of an example in the culture of when this happened either recently or in history? What was the result?
3. Paul then implicitly points the Corinthians toward an infinitely greater foundation for their lives than temporal human leaders (or temporal anything) – the eternal grace of God. He does so by asking the question, “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?” What had the Corinthians received? Why would Paul suggest that it would be wrong to brag (in personal terms) about gifts we have been given?
4. As those who have been given eternal life through the New Covenant (the gift of Jesus Christ), along with “every perfect gift” (James 1:17), how are we to respond? Discuss.
Community & Personal Action Items
Over the course of this week together, let’s challenge ourselves to do one (or both) of the following actions:
1. Be Generous. As receivers of His “presents”, Christ calls us to be involved in serving those in need. Consider joining one of FUMC’s Austin Street teams to serve our homeless friends in Dallas on Saturday mornings. You will experience immense blessing as you prepare food, travel to the shelter, and connect with folks in need. This is a family-friendly opportunity, so the kiddos can get involved too! Contact Martha Hagan-Smith at mhagan@fumcCoppell.org.
2. Remember. Memorize the following verse this week. Then discuss its meaning and application with your family, friends, or small group.
MEMORY VERSE: “Freely you have received; freely give.” – Matthew 10:8b (NIV)