That is how we ought to be regarded, as Christ's servants, and stewards of God's mysteries. And this is what we look for in choosing a steward; we must find one who is trustworthy. Yet for myself, I make little account of your scrutiny, or of any human audit-day; I am not even at pains to scrutinize my own conduct. My conscience does not, in fact, reproach me; but that is not where my justification lies; it is the Lord's scrutiny I must undergo. You do ill, therefore, to pass judgement prematurely, before the Lord's coming; he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness, and reveal the secrets of men's hearts; then each of us will receive his due award from God.
All this, brethren, I have applied to myself and to Apollo, but it is meant for you. The lesson you must learn from our example is, not to go beyond what is laid down for you, one man slighting another out of partiality for someone else. After all, friend, who is it that gives you this pre-eminence? What powers have you, that did not come to you by gift? And if they came to you by gift, why do you boast of them, as if there were no gift in question?
Well, you are already fully content; already you have grown rich; already you have come into your kingdom, without waiting for help from us. Would that you had come into your kingdom indeed; then we should be sharing it with you. As it is, it seems as if God had destined us, his apostles, to be in the lowest place of all, like men under sentence of death; such a spectacle do we present to the whole creation, men and angels alike. We are fools for Christ's sake, you are so wise; we are so helpless, you so stout of heart; you are held in honour, while we are despised. Still, as I write, we go hungry and thirsty and naked; we are mishandled, we have no home to settle in, we are hard put to it, working with our own hands. Men revile us, and we answer with a blessing, persecute us, and we make the best of it, speak ill of us, and we fall to entreaty. We are still the world's refuse; everybody thinks himself well rid of us. I am not writing this to shame you; you are my dearly loved children, and would bring you to a better mind. Yes, you may have ten thousand schoolmasters in Christ, but not more than one father; it was I that begot you in Jesus Christ, when I preached the gospel to you. Follow my example, then, I entreat you, as I follow Christ's.
That is why I have sent Timothy to you, a faithful and dearly loved son of mine in the Lord; he will remind you of the path I tread in Christ Jesus, the lessons I give to all churches alike. Some of you have grown contemptuous, thinking that I would never come to visit you. But I shall be coming to see you soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will test, not the fine words of those who hold me in contempt, but the powers they can show. It is power that builds up the kingdom of God, not words. Choose, then; am I to come to you rod in hand, or lovingly, in a spirit of forbearance?