1 Think of us as servants of the Messiah and as servant managers entrusted with God's secrets. 2 Now it is required of servant managers that each one should prove to be trustworthy. 3 It is a very small thing to me that I should be examined by you or by any human court. In fact, I don't even evaluate myself. 4 For my conscience is clear, but that does not vindicate me. It is the Lord who examines me. 5 Therefore, stop judging prematurely, before the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is now hidden in darkness and reveal the motives of our hearts. Then each person will receive his praise from God.
6 Brothers, I have applied all this to Apollos and myself for your benefit, so that you may learn from us not to go beyond what the Scriptures say. Then you will stop boasting about one person at the expense of another. 7 For who makes you superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not receive it? 8 You already have all you want! You have already become rich! You have become kings without us! I wish you really were kings so that we could be kings with you! 9 For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display in last place, like men condemned to death. We have become a spectacle for the world, for angels, and for people to stare at. 10 We are fools for the Messiah's sake, but you are wise in the Messiah. We are weak, but you are strong. You are honored, but we are dishonored. 11 We are hungry, thirsty, dressed in rags, brutally treated, and homeless, right up to the present. 12 We wear ourselves out from working with our own hands. When insulted, we bless. When persecuted, we endure. 13 When slandered, we answer with kind words. Even now we have become the filth of the world, the scum of the universe.
14 I'm not writing this to make you feel ashamed, but to warn you as my dear children. 15 You may have 10,000 mentors who work for the Messiah, but not many fathers. For in the Messiah Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16 So I urge you to imitate me. 17 That's why I sent Timothy to you. He is my dear and dependable son in the Lord and will help you remember how I live for the Messiah Jesus as I teach everywhere in every church. 18 Some of you have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to evaluate you. 19 But I will come to you soon if it's the Lord's will. Then I'll discover not only what these arrogant people are saying but also what power they have, 20 for the kingdom of God isn't just talk, but also power. 21 Which do you prefer? Should I come to you with a stick, or with love and a gentle spirit?