The German theologian Johannes Brenz declared, "There is no higher honor than to be classed with the prophets and the Son of God." In his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul compares the fate and treatment of the apostles to the captured competitors in Rome at the end of a parade or procession. Their sentence was a brutal and inhumane death for the entertainment of the spectators. Such was the life of the apostle that a death of suffering awaited them.
The purpose of Paul in this passage is to discipline and instruct some in the Church that had become arrogant and puffed up with pride. They felt superior in knowledge and felt they were indeed enlightened even beyond the Apostle Paul. Pride is one of the greatest sins in the Church and it plagues many of its leaders. It infected the church at Corinth and it infects many churches today.
When we look around at leaders today, especially in industry or government, we see a bounty of failed leadership. However, too much humility never seems to be the cause of the failure. Can you imagine if some of the leaders of our country stood before us and admitted failure? Then those same leaders asked for more help and guidance when it came to leading? It is hard to imagine, but I suspect more citizens would be a lot more forgiving than some might expect. A scenario like that would be too counter-cultural and shocking for many that anger may not even enter into their thinking.
The Lord Christ himself said, "The last shall be first and the first shall be last." Humility and servitude to Christ and all that he offers is no weakness at all but empowerment. In Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, he declares of Christ, "Though he was rich, yet for your sakes, he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich." Paul also adds, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Everything that the Apostle Paul says deserves our utmost attention. There was nobody closer to the heart and mind of Christ and no one willing to suffer so much for the glory of Christ. The chains, affliction, and suffering that Paul experienced only served to empower and justify his calling even more so. What sacrifices do we make in our own life to draw attention to Christ?