“Dear brothers and sisters, I have used Apollos and myself to illustrate what I’ve been saying. If you pay attention to what I have quoted from the Scriptures, you won’t be proud of one of your leaders at the expense of another. For what gives you the right to make such a judgment? What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?” 1 Corinthians 4:6-7
All that Paul has been saying about himself and about Apollos is true not only for them but also for the Corinthians. It is not only he and Apollos who must be kept humble by the thought that it is not the judgment of men they are facing, but the judgment of God; the Corinthians must walk in a like humility. Paul had a wonderfully courteous way of including himself in his own warnings and his own condemnations. The true preacher seldom uses the word you and always uses the word we; he does not speak down to men; he speaks as one who sits where they sit and who is a man of like passions with them. If we really wish to help and to save men, our attitude must be not that of condemnation but of pleading; our accent must be not that of criticism but of compassion. It is not his own words that Paul insists the Corinthians must not go beyond; it is the word of God, which condemns all pride.
Then Paul asks them the most pertinent and basic of all questions. “What do you possess,” he said, “that you did not receive?” In this single sentence Augustine saw the whole doctrine of grace. At one time Augustine had thought in terms of human achievement, but he came to say, “To solve this question we laboured hard in the cause of the freedom of man’s will, but the grace of God won the day.” No man could ever have known him unless God had revealed himself; no man could ever have won his own salvation; a man does not save himself; he is saved. When we think of what we have done and think of what God has done for us, pride is ruled out and only humble gratitude remains. The basic fault of the Corinthians was that they had forgotten that they owed their souls to God.