“Therefore judge nothing before the time. Until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God. And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.” (1 Corinthians 4:5-6)
What Paul is saying here–one of the things anyway–is that we should remain humble in our outlook. You will run across things throughout your day and your life that seem weird, only slightly off. And it would seem that there was only one way of looking at that input or that incident or that person. Okay. But when he refers to himself and Apollos, he’s saying that they’re living for others as an example of how things should be done, and looked at. That they, themselves, are going to live as examples of proper conduct in this most obscure thing known as the “life of the mind”. The previous verse reads: “For I know nothing by myself…” Here, he’s saying (in my opinion) that there’s nothing that he knows on his insides that hasn’t been substantiated by the truth of the Holy Spirit (“the Spirit of truth”, John 15:26).
Too often, we go through life having made up our minds about things using information that is only half- or even just slightly true at best. And when you take a half truth and run with it, at the end of the race, you may not even be at the proper finish line. Does this make sense? In relation to others, a code of conduct toward a person with whom you perceive something off–if you don’t direct that perception to God–may well be wrong. But you won’t know it until it’s too late. Until after you’ve dealt with them based on a lie. I’ve made this mistake many a time and I hate it. Because I end up looking like a fool. Love believes the best of everyone, whether they deserve it or not. I certainly don’t deserve it. And there have been days when I’m not my usual gregarious, outgoing self, and those who’ve never met me think that I’m like this all the time. Moody, withdrawn, pensive. Please! I shouldn’t have to wear a sign listing all of my inherent character qualities and subsequently the best way to interact with me on this given day. There have been those who might’ve benefitted from such a clear and obvious instruction, or they could have just walked in “love and the spirit of meekness” (1 Corinthians 4:21) and things wouldn’t have been so awkward. Same goes for me towards them. Make up your mind.
The next verse reads as follows: “For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (verse 7) That verse is pretty dense with meaning, but Paul is essentially indicting those who walk around and misrepresent themselves to the world at large. Understand this: no one is entirely self-made. At the very least, the rest of society has an influence (for good or ill) that helps to mold and shape us into what we are. But everyone you meet, young, old, male, female, has a family. A spouse or parents at home. A school or a job or a vocation from which they came or to which they’re going. And I’m just as guilty of this as the next person, but everyone has an image, an idealized way with which they present themselves. “That ye might learn in us not to think of men (or women) above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another”. In other words, don’t go around acting like you’re someone you’re not. At the very least, act humble, neutral. This will put those to whom you’re representing yourself at ease and the interaction will be one of peace and normalcy. Sadly, many people have their minds made up. No, it’s not that they’re inflexible, it’s that the mindset with which they comport themselves is one that is not based in facts and substance and not the mind with which they interact with friends and family and loved ones. This might sound obvious, but I’m talking about a facade. I’m talking about someone who becomes a different person when they step out their front door. Paul asks “what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst not receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” Any attribute we lead with is a gift. And that gift was bestowed upon us by God and developed with the encouragement and support and sponsorship of family, friends, teachers, etc. And not something with which we can use to simply make ourselves look better for looking better’s own sake. Any gift we possess is intended to bless others, not to cause us to become more arrogant than we already are. Not that we already are, but you get the idea.
“To the weak became I as weak that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22)
The reason Jesus was well received by so many different people (and is to this day) is because He was simply Himself. A loaded statement if there ever was one, but understand. He wasn’t pretentious. He didn’t pretend to be something He wasn’t. We should make up our minds to do and be the same.