1 The right way for a man to think of us is as Christ's servants, and managers authorized to distribute the secret truths of God. 2 Now further, what is always demanded of managers is that they can be depended on. 3 I for my part care very little about being examined by you or by any human court. I do not even offer myself for investigation. 4 For while my conscience does not trouble me at all, that does not prove that I am innocent. It is the Lord who must examine me. 5 Do not form any premature judgments, therefore, but wait until the Lord comes back. For he will light up the darkness that now hides things and show what the motives in people's minds are, and then everyone will get from God the praise he deserves.
6 Now, brothers, for your benefit I have applied all this only to Apollos and myself, by using us as illustrations to teach you the old lesson, "Never go beyond the letter," and to keep any of you from boasting of one teacher at the expense of another. 7 For who sees anything special in you? And what have you got that you have not been given? But if it has been given you, why do you boast as though it had not been? 8 Are you satisfied already? Have you become rich already? Have you entered your kingdom without waiting for us? I wish you had entered it, so that we might share it with you! 9 For it seems to me, God has exhibited us apostles at the very end of the procession, like the men condemned to die in the arena. For we have become a spectacle to the whole universe, angels as well as men. 10 We are made fools of, for the sake of Christ, while you are men of sense, through being united with him. We are weak, you are strong. You are distinguished, we are despised. 11 To this day we have gone hungry, thirsty, and ill-clad; we have had rough usage, we have had no home, 12 we have worked with our hands for a living. When people abuse us, we bless them, when they persecute us, we put up with it, 13 when they slander us, we try to conciliate them. We have come to be like the scum of the earth, the dregs of the world, and we are so now.
14 I do not write this to you to make you ashamed, but for your instruction as my dear children. 15 For no matter how many guides you may have in the Christian life, you will not have many fathers; for in this matter of union with Christ, I became your father, through preaching the good news to you. 16 So I urge you, follow my example. 17 This is why I have sent Timothy to you. He is a dear child of mine, in the service of the Lord, and one on whom you can depend, and he will help you to keep in mind my methods in the service of Christ Jesus, which I follow everywhere in every church. 18 Some of you seem to think that I am not coming to visit you, and are putting on airs about it. 19 But I am coming very soon to see you, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out, not what these conceited people have to say, but what they can actually do. 20 For the reign of God is not a matter of words but of power. 21 Which will you have? Shall I come to you with a stick, or in a loving and gentle spirit?