arenaAs I was reading my chapter today (1 Cor 4), I was struck by Paul’s description of what he (and his fellow Apostles) was enduring as the initial leaders of the Christian Church. First – lets take a look at what Paul says in 1 Cor 4:9-13.

“For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings.  We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.” – 1 Cor 4:9-13

A couple of things to note:

  •  Vs 9 – Paul says God has put them on display at the end
    • Paul is intentionally using language representing a gladiator match in the arenas throughout the Roman world of his day. In the morning of a show the gladiators/prisoners who were to fight the wild beasts were given armor to protect themselves a bit. But in the afternoon portion of the show the gladiators fought naked – with nothing to defend themselves. (If any escaped these matches they were put back in the next day). These gladiators who fought last were referred to as “men appointed to die” because of the unlikelihood they would survive the confrontation without defense.
    • Paul also uses the word “spectacle” to describe this. It is the Greek word for “theater” and also echoes the gladiator fights in the arena (theater).
  •  Vs 10 – Paul then uses the word “fools” to describe their position. The word used is “moros” and it is referring to the audience hissing, booing, and insulting the gladiator/prisoners in the arena.
  • Then Paul uses several adjectives to describe their present state:
    • Weak, dishonored, hungry, thirsty, naked, homeless

So what is Paul saying here?

Many people take statements like this from Paul and attribute it to all Christians. (All Christians will be weak, dishonored, hungry, thirsty, naked, homeless…). They say that we must “suffer for Christ” as the Apostles did – and that suffering is in the form of being sick, losing your job, your children dying, etc.

The problem is that this completely stands against much of the many promises in God’s Word for us as His children.

Instead – we need to actually hear what Paul is saying. Paul isn’t saying that all Christians will endure this. He says they (the Apostles) are enduring it. They are paraded through the streets and abused like the gladiator/prisoners are –those men “appointed to die” at the end of the day’s fighting.

Paul said God chose them for this task – to be persecuted. That meant being attacked – even killed – for the sake of the gospel message that Jesus saves from sin.

For Paul (and other martyrs) to “suffer for Christ meant actual bodily harm, torture, imprisonment, even death ALL because they stood for the name of Jesus and refused to bow under outside pressure.

Sickness, poverty, and the like are NOT included in this “suffering” because those are part of the curse – removed on the cross in the atonement (Isaiah 53, etc).

We are so very fortunate to live in a nation that was founded on Christianity – were we can worship Jesus and live our faith without fear of torture, imprisonment, and death.

But not everyone has been afforded that luxury. Many have been martyred over the past 2000 years for standing up for Jesus.

When you lump colds, flu, cancer, disease, poverty, calamity, and other modern day satanic attacks in with the real sufferings others have gone through – you discredit and cheapen the prices they all paid.

To suffer persecution, in Biblical terms, is to face harm as retribution for your stand on the Word of God and His Son, Jesus. Today that can come in the form of physical, financial, emotional – but it must be in response to you making a stand for Christ:

  • Such as getting fired because you are a Christian.
  • Being imprisoned for preaching the Gospel.
  • Being physically attacked because you are a Christian.

That is what it means to “share in the sufferings of Christ” (read 1 Pet 4:12-19). It is never in the form of those things we were redeemed from by Jesus on the cross.

 

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK