1 This is how you are to look upon us, as servants of Christ and stewards of God's secret truths. 2 Now in this matter of stewards your first requirement is that they must be trustworthy. 3 It matters very little to me that you or any human court should cross-question me on this point. I do not even cross-question myself; 4 for, although I am not conscious of having anything against me, that does not clear me. It is the Lord who cross-questions me on the matter. 5 So do not criticize at all; the hour of reckoning has still to come, when the Lord will come to bring dark secrets to the light and to reveal life's inner aims and motives. Then each of us will get his meed of praise from God.
6 Now I have applied what has been said above to myself and Apollos, to teach you ... that you are not to be puffed up with rivalry over one teacher as against another. 7 Who singles you out, my brother? What do you possess that has not been given you? And if it was given you, why do you boast as if it had been gained, not given? 8 You Corinthians have your heart's desire already, have you? You have heaven's rich bliss already! You have come into your kingdom without us! I wish indeed you had come into your kingdom, so that we could share it with you! 9 For it seems to me that God means us apostles to come in at the very end, like the doomed gladiators in the arena! We are made a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men! 10 We, for Christ's sake, are 'fools'; you in Christ are sensible. We are weak, you are strong; you are honoured, we are in disrepute. 11 To this very hour we hunger and thirst, we are ill-clad and knocked about, we are waifs, 12 we work hard for our living; when reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we put up with it; 13 when defamed, we try to conciliate. To this hour we are treated as the scum of the earth, the very refuse of the world!
14 I do not write this to make you feel ashamed, but to instruct you as beloved children of mine. 15 You may have thousands to superintend you in Christ, but you have not more than one father. It was I who in Christ Jesus became your father by means of the gospel. 16 Then imitate me, I beg of you. 17 To ensure this, I am sending you Timotheus, my beloved and trustworthy son in the Lord; he will remind you of those methods in Christ Jesus which I teach everywhere in every church. 18 Certain individuals have got puffed up, have they, as if I were not coming myself? 19 I will come to you before long, if the Lord wills, and then I will find out from these puffed up creatures not what their talk but what their power amounts to. 20 For God's Reign does not show itself in talk but in power. 21 Which is it to be? Am I to come to you with a rod of discipline or with love and a spirit of gentleness?