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. We are fools for Christ’s sake…. —1 Corinthians 4:9-13
The apostle Paul paints a vivid picture of the trials and suffering of the apostles in 1 Corinthians 4:9-13. It is an encouragement and challenge to devoted ministers of the gospel.
Paul alludes to the Roman practice of bringing gladiators, armed with weapons, into the amphitheaters to fight wild beasts. If the gladiators survived, they were later disarmed and left defenseless before beast and man to be killed. If they escaped, they were eventually forced to contend with another assailant that would bring certain death. Ministers of the gospel may as Paul suffer many trials, persecutions, false accusations, poverty, and sufferings in this life; but it is an honor to be counted worthy to suffer for the name of Christ.
People of God are often a “spectacle unto the world.” Spectacle refers literally to the amphitheater where the combatants fought. Seats surrounded the arena that could hold thousands of spectators to watch the assured death of the gladiator or the common criminal sentenced to death. The saints of God are surrounded by the world. Holy people often become a laughing-stock as they are gazed upon by unrighteous people. The principles governing the heart and soul of the child of God are radically different than those of the world. The world does not understand and so it often scoffs and ostracizes the child of God. Saints of God look and act differently than the world. They love and forgive rather than retaliate and fight. They preach humility, love, and unity rather than a doctrine of self-serving carnality and ambition. It is no wonder the saints of God are a spectacle.
The enemy is fighting hard to discourage and cause the ministers on the front lines to turn back. Rather than be discouraged and downcast at the certain suffering of this life, take heart! We have no need to be ashamed for standing faithfully on the Word of God and proclaiming the life-giving message of salvation and holiness. As others have suffered for the cause of Christ, so shall we. Stay faithful, for we are kings and priests in the kingdom of our Lord. ■