1 Corinthians 4 – For the Applause Plause

1st Corinthians 4 Bible with Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Cacao Nibs

Today’s Chocolate: Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Cacao Nibs

Today’s Passage: 1 Corinthians 4

Translation’s a tricky business. Generally, my translation of choice is the NASB, because it cuts fairly close to the original languages of the Bible. But, in my fondness for the NASB, I have to be careful not to fall into the trap of the KJV-onlyists. Fact is, a lot of people more qualified and knowledgeable than I have put together a lot of different and useful translations, and God communicates to us through their work. The NASB’s attempt to retain the original text’s grammatical constructions (where possible) can sometimes obstruct clarity and readability. Just look at 1 Corinthians 4:5.

Paul begins this chapter by talking about his accountability to God as a steward of his revelation. He doesn’t care about any human assessment of his ministry, because the only verdict he cares about is God’s. He concludes his point: “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God” (4:5). Can you imagine how absurd it would be if the defendant tried to climb up with the judge behind the bench, or even to push the judge aside? No, let God be God, and if you’re in Christ, then in time your praise will come to you. Wait, what?

And that’s where I find the NASB unclear. Is God the judge actually praising the defendant in this scenario? Or is God giving us praises to reflect back at him? After all, it seems reasonable to think that the all-powerful, all-good Creator of the universe is the only one that deserves praise, and it seems presumptuous, contrary to grace, that we should earn praise from God. But if you think back to the previous chapter, Paul had already begun to discuss God rewarding builders for their work (3:14). Is the reward God’s applause, and does Paul therefore live for the applause, applause, applause? Does he live for the applause plause? Yeah, that joke’s gonna age well.

But other versions confirm: yes, God is praising us. The NIV translates 1 Corinthians 4:5 as “At that time each will receive their praise from God,” and the NLT puts it, “Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.” Grace and merit aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, grace is the foundation of merit. Remember Paul’s words in the previous chapter, “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ?” (3:11). God’s grace in Jesus Christ, his sacrifice on the cross for our sins, is the means by which God not only forgives us but also leads us through the process of sanctification. If we do something praiseworthy, it’s only possible because God initiated a work of his grace in us. When God praises us, it reflects on his own goodness.

Sure, I could have busted out my interlinear New Testament and Greek lexicon and Strong’s Concordance. But you don’t need to know a single letter of the Greek alphabet for God to communicate to you. And at the risk of opening a can of worms way too late in the blog post, I’ll add this: Christianity isn’t like Islam, where the Quran in Arabic is considered the definitive revelation of God, and any translation in any other language is viewed as a “meaning” of the Quran. God can reveal himself just as much through a translation as he can through the original Greek of this text.

So if you’ve got a question about the text? Consult someone else. Do some research. Check out another translation, compare it to other passages, and try to figure out what God wants you to learn from the text. Engage the process.

Today I finished off the Endangered Species chocolate with cacao nibs. On the inside of the wrapper, there are a bunch of bat facts. Now “forest mint” obviously pertains to the rainforest, and super-dark chocolate has something in common with black-furred panthers, but I’m not sure what the connection is between bats and cacao nibs. Any idea what the relevance is here?

 

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