These Corinthians were lifted up with pride. In their opinion they had arrived and needed no instructions, correction, nor guidance from Paul and the other apostles. They thought themselves rich in gifts, knowledge and grace. It was evident from their behaviour that they were neither full nor rich, but were children in understanding, far from being what they thought themselves to be (Rom. 12:3).
(Vs. 9.) "It seems to be that God has made an exhibit of us apostles." He may refer to the great triumphal processions when conquering armies marched through the city. Their slaves and enemies, sentenced to death, were at the end of the line, taunted, prosecuted and jeered by all spectators, "We are made a sport and spectacle to wicked men and before the angels."
(Vs. 10.) "We are looked upon as fools for our devotion to and our preaching of Christ crucified, but you, supposedly, have made such use of worldly wisdom and carnal policy in your religion that you have gained the favour of the world and escaped persecution. We are weak in body, influence, worldly goods and fame, but you are strong! You have property, earthly credentials, friends in high places and much influence and acclaim. You are honoured among men for your learning, your riches and your success, but we are held in contempt and despised of men."
(Vs. 11-13.) In an effort to curb their pride and to warn them against the friendship of this world, Paul continues to describe the real attitude toward and the treatment of a devoted witness of Christ by this world (Isa. 53:3; Luke 6:22-26; John 15:18, 19). "We have gone both hungry and thirsty; we have few clothes; we are scourged and beaten and wander about having no place to call home. We have to work with our hands to make a living. When men revile, curse and ridicule us, we bless them. When we are persecuted for Christ's sake, we take it patiently. When we are slandered, we try to answer softly. We are considered to be the rubbish and the filth of this world the scum of the earth."
(Vs. 14.) Paul did not write these things to put the Corinthians to shame, though they certainly should have been ashamed of the vain opinion they had of themselves. He wrote to warn them of the dangers of compromise, worldly wisdom, being lifted up with pride and discounting the ministry of the apostles (Gal. 3:1-3,9-11).
(Vs. 15.) "Though you have many preachers and teachers (some false and some true), yet you only have one spiritual father, who was the instrument of God to bring you to a knowledge of Christ. It was under my ministry that you were regenerated and brought to faith. It was not the ministry of law and works but the gospel of Christ which was the means of your salvation" (Rom. 3:19-26).
(Vs. 16.) "So I urge and implore you not to depart from my teaching but to abide in the doctrine of Christ. Do not follow those who would draw you away and cause divisions among you. Follow me as I follow Christ" (Heb. 13:7).
(Vs. 17.) "Because I care for you and your spiritual welfare and growth, I sent Timothy unto you. Timothy is like a son to me and is a faithful steward of grace and the gospel of Christ. Timothy will bring to your remembrance my way of preaching, the doctrines I taught and what should be the manner of life and conversation of believers. He will remind you that the sum and substance of faith, life and hope is Christ. This I teach and preach everything in all churches."
(Vs. 18.) "Some are conceited, arrogant and puffed up over their gifts, their stations in the church and their human wisdom, hoping that I will not come back and call them to account for r errors."
(Vs. 19.) "But I will come if the Lord is willing, and I will understand the truth about these proud boasters, not observe the outward show, the fine words and the claims to fame, but I will expose the truth about them that their power is not to the glory of God, the good of the church and the conversion of sinners" (2 Tim. 3:5).
(Vs. 20.) The kingdom of God consists not of fine talk, human words and wisdom, philosophy and vain show, but in the powerful efficacy of the Spirit attending the preaching of the gospel. God awakens, convicts, converts and brings men to Christ, making them new creatures inwardly (1 Cor. 2:1-5).
(Vs. 21.) "Now which do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod as an apostle of Christ, to set things straight in the church? Or shall I come to you with the affection of a father, with a pleasant countenance and a meek spirit, rejoicing over your determination to set matters straight?"