4 So look at Apollos and me as mere servants of Christ who have been put in charge of explaining God’s mysteries.2 Now, a person who is put in charge as a manager must be faithful.3 As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point.4 My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.
5 So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.
6 Dear brothers and sisters,[a] I have used Apollos and myself to illustrate what I’ve been saying. If you pay attention to what I have quoted from the Scriptures,[b] you won’t be proud of one of your leaders at the expense of another.7 For what gives you the right to make such a judgment? What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?
8 You think you already have everything you need. You think you are already rich. You have begun to reign in God’s kingdom without us! I wish you really were reigning already, for then we would be reigning with you.9 Instead, I sometimes think God has put us apostles on display, like prisoners of war at the end of a victor’s parade, condemned to die. We have become a spectacle to the entire world—to people and angels alike.
10 Our dedication to Christ makes us look like fools, but you claim to be so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are so powerful! You are honored, but we are ridiculed.11 Even now we go hungry and thirsty, and we don’t have enough clothes to keep warm. We are often beaten and have no home.12 We work wearily with our own hands to earn our living. We bless those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us.13 We appeal gently when evil things are said about us. Yet we are treated like the world’s garbage, like everybody’s trash—right up to the present moment.
14 I am not writing these things to shame you, but to warn you as my beloved children.15 For even if you had ten thousand others to teach you about Christ, you have only one spiritual father. For I became your father in Christ Jesus when I preached the Good News to you.16 So I urge you to imitate me.
17 That’s why I have sent Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord. He will remind you of how I follow Christ Jesus, just as I teach in all the churches wherever I go.
18 Some of you have become arrogant, thinking I will not visit you again.19 But I will come—and soon—if the Lord lets me, and then I’ll find out whether these arrogant people just give pretentious speeches or whether they really have God’s power.20 For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.21 Which do you choose? Should I come with a rod to punish you, or should I come with love and a gentle spirit?
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