God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world. –1 Corinthians 4:9
Paul’s spiritual children, the Corinthian Christians, needed a dose of humility. So he instructed them–and us–through his words. In 1 Corinthians 4, he gave a strong word to the self-centered, people who believe the whole world ought to revolve around their happiness. Look at verse 8: “You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us; and indeed, I wish that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you.”
Have you heard the expression “Who died and made you king?” That is what Paul was saying here. His words are dripping with sanctified sarcasm. He was saying, “Oh, pardon me, Corinthians, for trying to correct you. I forget you are so rich you have no need of anything compared to us lowly apostles, who are nothing but scum.” Then he continued in verse 9, “For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.”
The word “spectacle” referred to a Roman tradition that Paul’s audience was very familiar with. When a Roman general would triumph over an enemy, he would parade back into Rome followed by all the prisoners he had taken captive. They were made to be a spectacle, a laughingstock before the Roman people. Then they were taken to the Circus Maximus, where they were thrown into the arena and devoured by wild beasts. Paul was saying, “That is what we are as Christians: we are spectacles before the world. We are nothing but a laughingstock.”
Our leader, Jesus Christ, was a spectacle, a laughingstock, as He hung naked on that cross, dying for the sins of the world. We are His followers. Why are we surprised when people ridicule us for our faith? Why are we surprised when people turn away our invitation to come to church or our attempts to share the gospel? Jesus said, “A slave is not greater than his master” (John 13:16). If our master was a spectacle before the world, if He suffered, why are we surprised when we suffer for our faith? Are we greater than our master? And if you are not a spectacle, it may be because you are not really taking a stand for Christ.
The problem with the Corinthians was they wanted exaltation without any humiliation. They wanted to reign with Christ right now and not suffer with Christ. So Paul reminded them that they had been called to suffer for Christ. The world did not revolve around them.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Building a Legacy That Lasts” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2010.