1 Corinthians 4:11–14 (KJV 1900)
11 Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; 12 And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: 13 Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. 14 I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.
Somehow, in today’s churches and Bible colleges, we come away from Bible teaching and preaching with a rosy outlook about entering the ministry. In some part, this is the fault of preachers and professors who so emphasize the joy of serving Christ that they fail to mention the hardships. On the other hand, some of the fault lies with the hearer who wants to hear the positives and believes he will not personally face the negatives – that may have happened to Paul, but it will NOT happen to me!
In this passage, Paul mentions a whole list of difficulties that may be faced by those in the ministry: hunger, thirst, nakedness, buffetings, homelessness, and being treated as filth and scum. In verse 12 he warns preachers with a list of three negative reactions to ministry, each of which is immediately followed by three positive responses to those reactions.
BEING REVILED – Reviled carries the idea of being reproached, even publicly, with harsh, negative comments about the ministry one is conducting. Most likely, the first response that comes to any of our minds, when we have been trash-talked for our service to Christ, is not spiritual. It is easy to respond with our own “sanitized,” “spiritualized” and “sanctified” revilings; however, Paul instructs us to “bless.” Bless here is the Greek word from which we derive our English word “eulogy” – it is a compound word which means “good word.” So, Paul is warning – trash talk about you is on its way; respond, not in kind, but with good words!
BEING PERSECUTED – Persecuted in this word may be defined as “pursued with repeated acts of enmity.” In other words, this is not a single act of some hostility towards your ministry of which Paul warns, but a continual, evil pursuit. So, how does he say to respond? “Well, I tell you one thing, I ain’t letting nobody walk all over me!!!” I am sorry to tell you, the word Paul uses for “suffer” here is one that means to hold in, hold back, restrain, endure, and bear patiently. Not exactly what I had in mind! But, Paul has warned us in advance to expect this attack.
BEING DEFAMED - Defamed here is the word blaspheme. It carries the strong idea of slander and hurting the reputation. Sometimes, in our pride, we almost worship reputation – we selfishly want to be known as good people. We despise any negative word or thought being said about us. But Paul warns – it WILL happen if you serve Christ – you WILL BE defamed!
WARNING: Serving Christ may be hazardous to your feelings!!!