“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.” (1 Corinthians 4:9, AV)
When we lived in Savannah Georgia, my wife saw an advertisement in the local newspaper. A motion film company was looking for extras to play a part in a film about a golf tournament. My wife challenged me to go to the audition. I really was not inclined to go, but I thought it might be good to show my children what it meant to step out of one’s comfort zone. Besides this, at the time I was serving as a bi-vocational church planter/pastor and had no work scheduled for the business I ran for my primary income.
Sometime later, the motion picture company called me and wanted me to show up for a scene in the movie. The movie was titled, “The Legend of Bagger Vance.” I ended up working in the movie in a variety of scenes as a ballroom dancer, a reporter, and a VIP. I spent a lot of time sitting in a tent waiting to be called on the set, which gave me time to prepare Bible lessons, share with other extras, etc.
The one thing about the movie production is that it is all fabricated. It is not real. There were hours of filming with scenes shot over and over. The finished product told a story that presented a good virtue, honesty. Yet, the whole set-up was done as a theatrical production for people to see.
In this passage of Scripture, Paul is continuing the thought regarding the example that the apostles set in humility for people to see. In fact, in verse nine, Paul wrote that they were “made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.” The word for “spectacle,” theatron. It is a word from which we get the English “theater.” Strongs indicates that it refers to a place for a public show (Strong G2302). The apostles were on public display for all to see, the world, and angels and men.
However, the stage upon which they played their roles was real just as their actions were. God wrote the script and they faithfully carried out their part. Their part was not a rose garden. These men had it rough. Paul describes the difficult part that they encountered. Paul used strong words in this. He stated that they were set forth “as it were appointed to death.” He went on to say in the subsequent verses that they served in contrast to the way of those at the church. The apostles went contrary to the wisdom of the world, in weakness, and despised (v10). Moreover, he stated that the apostles suffered hunger, thirst, deprivation of good clothing, beaten, and without homes (v11). In verse twelve he wrote that they labored, kopiao, toiled to the point of weariness (Strong G2872), they were reviled, and persecuted (v12). In the next verse we see that they were defamed, and made as the filth or refuse (Strong G4027) of the world (v13).
What is the point of this? They were put on display as the model of a humble servant. In spite of the hardship, they were faithful. This type of faithfulness in the midst of hardship reveals the heart of these men. They demonstrated true faith, without which they would have quit.
The point he is making to the church at Corinth and also to us is this. What does our part in the great theater look like. Are we the humble servants of God who have answered the call and played our part with such steadfast zeal? Paul does not challenge us as a hypocrite, a simple actor. He challenges us as one who set the true example in his Christian walk. Let us examine our walk as it relates to the stage upon which God has positioned us. Other are looking and evaluating Christ based upon what they see.