What does 1 Corinthians 4:9 mean?
ESV: For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men.
NIV: For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings.
NASB: For I think, God has exhibited us, the apostles, last of all as men condemned to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to mankind.
CSB: For I think God has displayed us, the apostles, in last place, like men condemned to die: We have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to people.
NLT: Instead, I sometimes think God has put us apostles on display, like prisoners of war at the end of a victor’s parade, condemned to die. We have become a spectacle to the entire world — to people and angels alike.
KJV: For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.
NKJV: For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.
Verse Commentary:
Paul has called out the Corinthian Christians for their arrogance in judging others and for their lavish lifestyles of self-reliant wealth and self-appointed power. Sarcastically, he has said they are living as if they are kings—and he wishes he could do the same!

Now Paul points to himself and the other apostles of Jesus to show the contrast between their lifestyles and attitudes and that of the Corinthians. He wants the believers in Corinth to see the true path of those who live as servants of Christ. Paul writes that God has made him and the other apostles an exhibit of life at the bottom, in terms of earthly values.

Instead of living as kings, as the Corinthians seem to be trying to do, Paul and the other apostles live as condemned men living on death row. Their lives are on display as a spectacle for all to see in both the natural and supernatural worlds. Both angels and men are watching how poorly they live in human terms and making judgments about their choices.

Paul wants the Corinthians to see two things. For one, he wants them to understand how much those who serve them have sacrificed in order to do the will of God. Second, he wants them to expect that a life spent in service to Christ may include pain and loss of comfort instead of wealth and power.
Verse Context:
First Corinthians 4:1–13 begins with Paul's insistence that he is not concerned with anyone's judgment of him. The Lord will judge him, and that's what matters. The Corinthians have become arrogant in their judgment, forgetting that all the good they have is a gift. They feel self-reliant in their wealth and status while Paul and the other apostles live in poverty and under persecution, thought to be scum by the world. Still, they imitate Jesus by blessing those who mistreat them and continuing to serve Christ no matter the cost.
Chapter Summary:
Paul continues to show why the Corinthian Christians must not be divided over loyalties to various Christian leaders. Only the Lord can judge His servants, including Paul. By making themselves judges, they are acting like they have all they need. They are proudly focused on reputation and status while the apostles live for Christ in poverty and under persecution. Paul writes as a father to little children. He urges them to change course and imitate his life. Do they want him to be gentle or come to them with the rod of correction?
Chapter Context:
First Corinthians 4 continues Paul's insistence to the Corinthian Christians to stop making themselves judges of each other. Only the Lord's judgment matters. They are living as if their wealth and status are all they need, while the apostles serve Christ in poverty and under persecution, imitating Christ. Paul urges them to change course and imitate his life. Paul will continue his increasingly stern tone in chapter 5, where he will confront appalling examples of sin in the church at Corinth.
Book Summary:
First Corinthians is one of the more practical books of the New Testament. Paul writes to a church immersed in a city associated with trade, but also with corruption and immorality. These believers are struggling to properly apply spiritual gifts and to resist the ungodly practices of the surrounding culture. Paul's letter gives instructions for real-life concerns such as marriage and spirituality. He also deals with the importance of unity and gives one of the Bible's more well-known descriptions of love in chapter 13.
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