Roy Riegels made one of the most famous plays in college football history at the 1929 Rose Bowl. Playing for the University of California against Georgia Tech, Riegels picked up a fumble, was spun around and ran 69 yards—in the wrong direction. His mistake led directly to a Georgia Tech safety, an 8-7 loss, and the nickname “Wrong-Way Riegels.”
Like Riegels, the Corinthian believers were headed in the wrong direction. They were acting as if they had already reached spiritual maturity when in fact they were still living according to worldly wisdom. They should have known from Paul’s own example, which is why he encouraged them to imitate him (v. 16) insofar as he himself imitated Christ (see 11:1).
Paul and other leaders never pursued popularity but instead sought to serve the Lord as faithful stewards of the mystery of the gospel (v. 1). By embracing the wisdom and power of God, he had been perceived as weak and foolish. That didn’t matter, nor did the Corinthians’ opinion, nor even his own conscience. The only thing that mattered was God’s judgment of his faithfulness to his calling (vv. 2–5).
The Corinthians, in their quarreling and factionalism, had forgotten these basic truths and stood guilty of pride (vv. 6–7). Paul used sarcasm and irony to call them to repentance (vv. 8–13). The world saw him and other leaders as fools, and treated them as “the garbage of the world.” They had followed in Christ’s footsteps and suffered for His name. Yet apparently the Corinthians thought they had found a quicker and easier way to the kingdom. Apparently they didn’t need God’s wisdom and strength, the kind associated with the Cross. Apparently they were better than the leaders over whom they were fighting. Paul’s stern rebuke fit the seriousness of their sin!
Apply the Word
Part of being “co-heirs with Christ” is to “share in his sufferings” (Rom. 8:17; 2 Cor. 1:5). We would rather thank the Lord for His blessings than be hungry, cursed by others, or regarded as “the garbage of the world.” Ask the Lord to strengthen your faith to accept this part of our calling, even when the world thinks we’re weak and foolish.