Who Maketh Thee to Differ?

1 Corinthians

Who Maketh Thee to Differ?

June 19th, 1955 @ 7:30 PM

And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?
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Dr.  W.  A.  Criswell

1 Corinthians 4:6-7

6-19-55    7:30 p.m.


Now in our preaching through the Word, we left this morning off at the fifth verse of the fourth chapter of 1 Corinthians.  And in your Bible turn to the place, and we’ll begin tonight at the sixth verse in the fourth chapter of 1 Corinthians.  And the text is in the seventh verse.  And I read now those two verses, 1 Corinthians 4:6-7:


And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes, that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.

For who maketh thee to differ from another?  And what hast thou that thou didst not receive?  Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?


Now that’s the text.  The sermon tonight is on that seventh verse of the fourth chapter of 1 Corinthians.

Now I remind you again of the occasion that caused Paul to write these words.  There were people in the church that were factional [1 Corinthians 1:10-17, 3:1-4].  And the Hatfields looked down on the McCoys, and the McCoys looked with contempt on the Hatfields.  And some of them were proud and lifted up.  They were better.  They were "puffed up," as Paul says [1 Corinthians 4:6].  And they’re glad they didn’t belong to that family or glad they didn’t run with that crowd, and they were just better than all the others.

And they were lifted up.  Some of them were gifted, and they looked down on those that were not so gifted [1 Corinthians 12:11-31].  Some of them had marvelous talents, and they looked with scorn and contumely upon those who were not so talented.

So Paul says he’s transferring all of that to him and Apollos.  They liked to compare the two preachers.  They liked to be factional about it:  "I’m an Apollosite" and "I’m a Paulite" [1 Corinthians 3:3-4].  Now he says, "We’re not anything – just servants of Christ, stewards of the great mysteries of God [1 Corinthians 4:1].  And you’re not to think above what is written about any man, for who maketh thee to differ from another?" [1 Corinthians 4:6-7]

We do differ.  Every minister differs from every other minister, and all the people in this church differ from everybody else.  "Who maketh thee to differ?" [1 Corinthians 4:7] Who made you that way?  "And what do you have that you didn’t receive?  Now if thou didst receive it, why do you glory" – why do you boast – "as if you didn’t receive it?" – as though it were yours and not a gift of God [1 Corinthians 4:7].  So we’re going to talk about that thing of pride tonight: of vanity, falsely lifted up, looking upon ourselves as being better, or more gifted, or more set apart, or more favored than somebody else. 

Now we’re going to start with an answer to a thing that so often is raised.  Where did sin come from?  Where was it born?  How is it iniquity is in this world?  Who brought it, and who caused it?

You have a clear answer to that in God’s Book.  Sin was born.  Sin came from this thing: a proud heart, a lifted-up spirit.  In the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Isaiah and in the twenty-eighth chapter of the Book of Ezekiel, in those two places, you have a description of him who is the father of iniquity and the beginning of all unrighteousness.  Now listen to Isaiah first:


How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!  How art thou cut down to the ground!

For thou hast said in thine heart: "I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation in the sides of the north;

I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the most High."

Yea but thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.

They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying: "Is this the one that made the earth to tremble, that did shake the nations,

That made the world as a wilderness and destroyed the cities thereof, that opened not the house of his prisoners?"

[Isaiah 14:12-17]


That’s where it began.  Now you find another description of that same glorious, celestial being.  Now listen to the Word of the Lord in the twenty-eighth chapter of Ezekiel.  "Thou" – talking about that same Lucifer, the son of the morning:


Thou sealedest up the sum, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.

Thou hast been at Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering: the sardius, the topaz, the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, the carbuncle, the gold; the workmanship of thy tabrets and thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.

Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth;

– had rule of all of the worship of God and all of the celestial hosts of glory –

and I have set thee so;

– God made him so –

thou was upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.

Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee . . .

Therefore, I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God; and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.

Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty.

[Ezekiel 28:12-17]



I suppose it is impossible for anybody wonderfully gifted, beautiful in body, symmetrical in form – I suppose it’s impossible not to be lifted up.  But that was the curse that came into the world through this "anointed cherub that covereth . . . thy heart was lifted up because of thy beauty.  Thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness" [Ezekiel 28:14, 17].  His gifts were a curse to him and a damnation:


I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings . . .

Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffic; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee; it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all of them that behold thee.

And all they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee; thou shalt be a terror, and nevermore shalt thou be.

[Ezekiel 28:17-19]


That’s where sin began – in heaven before the world was made.  God created a cherub. God created an angelic being beautiful in form and in glory, wise like the brightness of the sun – just a glorious creation [Ezekiel 28:14-15].  And he was proud in his beauty, and he was lifted up in his intelligence, and he said in his heart, "I will be like God. I’ll take the throne of God" [Isaiah 14:13-14].

And there was the beginning of sin.  And cast out of heaven, he came down into the paradise in which the Lord had placed our first parents [Ezekiel 28:13, 16-17; Revelation 12:7-9], and tempting Eve, and through Eve to Adam, achieved our first fall and all of the woe that has filled our earth ever since [Genesis 3:1-24].  Sin began in the heart that was lifted up proud against God.

Now it’s a strange thing.  That sin of pride and lifted-upness seems to be inherent in mankind when you read the story.  It’s all the way through.  Pharaoh, king of Egypt: though the Lord sent nine plagues to humble his heart, Pharaoh was hard against God.  Pharaoh didn’t bow before the Lord though those terrible plagues overwhelmed his life [Exodus 5:1-2, 7:12-13, 7:20-23, 8:6-15, 8:17-19, 8:24-32, 9:6-7, 9:10-12, 9:22-35, 10:12-20, 10:21-29].

I’ve been to these penitentiaries.  I’ve talked to these men.  It is a rare thing.  You’ll never find a man humbled by the terrible terrors that overtake him because of his gross and dark iniquities.  That’s the way with Pharaoh.  He didn’t humble himself before God.  His heart was hard and his spirit lifted up even though those terrible plagues had come.

You hear the story of Absalom [2 Samuel 13:1-19:43] – Absalom who was the handsomest man in all Israel.  His hair was beautiful, his countenance glorious to look upon.  David loved him.  Absalom was to be the new king.  He was to sit on the throne of David: Absalom – David’s great, glorious, beautiful, handsome son.  But his glory and his beauty turned his heart – lifted him up, made him proud – so much so that he sought to undermine the very kingdom of David his father.

That was the matter with the Pharisees [Matthew 3:1-12; Luke 3:1-18].  They came out to hear John the Baptist preach, and John insulted them.  "Why," they said within their hearts, "We are the children of Abraham." But John the Baptist said all men everywhere are outside of the covenant of God.  All men everywhere have to repent and on that basis are to be baptized, preparing for the coming King.  And the Pharisees said, "Repent?  Those Gentile dogs, they need to repent.  Those folks over there, publicans and sinners, they need to repent; but we, we the Pharisees?"  And the Bible said they rejected for themselves the baptism of John and so the kingdom of righteousness in Christ Jesus [Matthew 9:10-13; Mark 2:15-17; Luke 18:9-17].  Pride did it; "better than thou" did it; a lifted-up spirit did it.

And I say that seems to be a sin that is inherent in all mankind, and it characterizes us [1 John 2:16].  Ah, it’s wonderfully easy to look upon yourself as better than somebody else.  "See that Mexican over there?  See that colored man over there?  See that Negro there?  See that minority group over there?  We’re better than they.  We’re just favored of God.  They have a colored skin; we’re white people.  We’re better; we’re somehow the favorites of God.  And you see that fellow there?  I’m glad I’m not like him [Luke 18:9-17].  And you see that one over there?  I’m glad that the Lord has seen fit to make me better than he."  And that spirit of pride gets in us. 

Then when you’re talented and gifted – and you can sing, or you can talk, or you can do, or you can give – and then they don’t recognize your talents and your gifts, why then you get hurt.  You’re crushed, and you get mad, and you get sore, and you get all awry, and the machinery on the inside of you doesn’t click, and you go out all undone because, you see, you look upon yourself as being somebody that ought to be favored, somebody ought to be set apart, somebody that ought to be treated special, somebody that’s just a little different from everybody else.  And pride enters our souls and it undoes us, and it undoes our life.  It undoes it still, too [Mark 7:21-23; James 4:6; 1 John 2:16].

Now we’re going to to look at ourselves just a minute.  First of all, who made us?  Who made us?  We didn’t make ourselves [Psalm 100:3].  When you go to the potter’s house – and that’s an interesting thing to do – when you go to the potter’s house, and like they’ve done for thousands of years on a wheel, he’ll mold and fashion that vessel.  And when the vessel is beautifully and wonderfully made, could you conceive of the vessel saying, "Ah, look at me!  What proportion, what beautiful symmetry, what color, what decoration – what glory is due me!"  Why the vessel never made itself.  If there’s any glory due anyone, it’s due the potter that fashioned it [Isaiah 29:16].

So it is with us.  We didn’t make ourselves.  We’re nothing but animated lumps of clay – just dust [Genesis 2:7, 3:19].  God made us [Psalm 119:73].  And that’s the reason why no man ought to feel lifted up or proud no matter how he’s made or what gifts he has.  "For who maketh thee to differ?  And what hast thou that thou didst not receive?  Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory as if thou didst not receive it?" [1 Corinthians 4:7]

 These things that are us, God made them.  And every gift we have comes from Him [James 1:17].  Are you beautiful?  God made you that way.  You didn’t make yourself that way.  Do you have beautiful eyes?  Do you have beautiful hair?  Do you have fine stature?  Do you have a graceful bearing?  Do you have something on the inside that when people are with you they’re drawn to you – what you call personality?  You didn’t make that.  That was given to you of the Lord God [Psalm 139:13-16].

And the more’s given to you, the more in debt you are.  Did you ever hear anybody boast because they were in debt?  "Why, I owe a thousand dollars. I owe a million dollars.  I owe five million dollars.  I’m bankrupt."  You don’t hear anybody boast about that.  I never heard anybody boast about their debts in my life.

If God gave these things to you, you’re in debt.  God gave them to you.  You didn’t win them or make them.  They’re yours by the grace of God’s gifts, and you’re in debt to God.  And we don’t boast about our indebtedness.  Whatever gift we have, that’s from the Lord.  It came from His gracious hands [John 3:27; 1 Peter 4:10].

Now the works that we do: it’s the easiest thing in the world to fall into pride about our works.  "Why, look what I do, and look what I do.  And look at how much I do."  And we get proud in our works for God [Romans 12:3-16].

Well, I believe in total depravity if for no other reason than this: however you work and whatever you do, there is an element of shortcoming in it [Isaiah 64:6].  There is an element of mistake in it.  It never reaches perfection.  It just never does.  However our work is and however fine it is, it isn’t quite what God would do Himself.  It doesn’t come up to the full measure of God: no sermon the preacher ever preaches, no number the choir ever sings, no lesson the teacher ever teaches, no thing the church ever does.  It always has in it that element of weakness, of shortcoming, of [imperfection].  It never quite measures up to the full glory of God.

I read some time ago about this man Samuel Morse.  He was a painter, oh, beyond forty years of age.  It was only after he was forty that he turned to the scientific world and later invented the magnetic telegraph.  In the days of his youth, people greatly praised him because of his painting.  And when he was about twenty years old, his father consented to send him to London that he might study in the Royal Academy that he might be a glorious painter.

So he took his best painting and went over there and presented it to old Benjamin West, a great artist who was president of the Royal Academy.  And so when he presented his painting so proudly to Benjamin West, the great old man looked at it and he said, "Son, that is fine, but go finish it."

And the boy replied, "Why, sir, I have finished it."

"Oh no," said the old artist, "Look here and here and here and here."

And so the boy went away.  Samuel Morse went away; and he worked on it meticulously for another week, and he brought back his painting to the president of the Royal Academy.

And the Royal Academy president looked at it and said, "You’ve done well, my son.  But go finish it.  Go finish it".

And the boy replied, "But sir, I have finished it."

And the great artist said, "Look here, the articulation of this muscle.  Look here, the marking of this joint, and there and there.  Go finish it."

So Samuel Morse took his painting and worked on it for three days and brought it back.

And the president of the Royal Academy looked at it and he said, "It is cleverly done.  It is well done.  But you must go finish it."

And the boy replied, "Sir, I, I, I can’t finish it."

And when he said that, the great old artist put his arms around the boy and said, "Son, I’ve tried you enough.  You’ve learned the lesson that you’d never have learned had you made a thousand beginnings."  However we do – however fine and however good – it always still is enough fallen short to keep us humble.

I can do better. I can do better.  Lord, it isn’t done yet.  It’s not done like it could be done.  The best sermon, I haven’t preached yet.  By the grace of God and with His help, when I get about 95 or 110, maybe I will.  But I haven’t got there yet.  And the best number hasn’t been sung, and the best poem hasn’t been written, and the best work hasn’t been done.  There’s no need to be proud and lifted up.  It’s still yet to do – yet to do.  "Who maketh thee to differ?  And what hast thou that thou didst not receive?  Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?" [1 Corinthians 4:7]

 Now in a little different way, may I say two or three things?  One is this: We’re saved.  We’re Christians, and a lot of people are not saved, and they’re not Christians.  I see them all of the time.  They’re not the children of the Lord: they’ve never been converted; their hearts are hard; their souls are like iron.  It’s like the dropping of dew upon a barren rock.  You can sing to them, but their ears are deaf.  You can plead with them, but their souls are dead.  And we – we’ve been saved.  We’re Christians.  Why is it you’re saved and in the kingdom of God and they’re not?  Who made you to differ?

Why I remember when I heard the gospel preached.  I’m still that way.  If a man preaches the gospel with great power and God’s Spirit is upon him, my soul will just respond like a harp string, will vibrate to the hands of that musician.  When I used to hear the gospel as a boy, many times, many times, I’d get down between the pews to hide my face because I was ashamed to see anybody, to have anybody to look at me as I cried.  My heart was touched, and my soul was full.  And when I was a boy and the pastor made an invitation to come to Jesus, I took the Lord as my Savior.

Where’d all that come from?  John 6:44: "No man can come unto Me except the Father which sent Me draw him."  It’s God that did that for you.  It’s God that saved you.  It’s God that made a Christian out of you [Ephesians 2:8-9].  And were it not for the grace of God, you’d still be lost – your heart hard and your soul dead in trespasses and in sins [Ephesians 2:1-7; Colossians 2:13-14].  That we’re saved, that we’re Christians, is due to the love and grace and mercy of God [John 3:16; Romans 5:8; Colossians 2:13-14].

Now another way: Look at the providences that surround our lives.  Ah, how many are there?  How many are there?  I can think back.  There, one of my school friends – one of the finest fellows you ever knew, ever knew – told me goodbye one day, went out swimming with a little party and drowned.  Why have I not been thus tragically overtaken?  I’m no better than that boy; he was better than I.

I think another one of my wonderful friends: high up in a pecan tree shaking limbs, fell down, broke his back in two.  And from that day until this, all the lower part of his body is paralyzed.  I’m not paralyzed, but I’m not any better than that boy.

And I think of another one.  Just as he was beginning his work as a youth, my friend, both of us in school together, he died of a heart attack.  I have had no such ailment.  And I think of another, and another, and another.  Why is it those providences have not overwhelmed me?  "Who maketh thee to differ?" [1 Corinthians 4:7]  The providence of God. God did it.  The Lord did it.

And look around us.  Look around us.  I don’t know of a more discouraging sight in the world than to go to a veteran’s hospital.  Oh, some of them seemingly are not very ill, but I want you to know some of them look like the flotsam and the jetsam of humanity: sick, sick, sick, sick, sick.  And other people for ten, twenty, maybe thirty years have never known a well day: sick, sick, sick, sick [Mark 5:25-34].  Ah, the providences of life.  Why aren’t you that ill?  Why aren’t you thus stricken?

Back there in the baptistery, those three boys who helped me so graciously asked me about another young fellow here in this church.  That young fellow – and he’s a young fellow, younger than I – that young fellow, that young fellow – younger than they are – that young fellow had a cerebral hemorrhage not long ago, and a great part of the vital functioning of his life is paralyzed.  And he’s just a young fellow, just a young fellow.  Why didn’t that happen to those boys?  Why not to you?  Why not to you?

And the poverty that is in this world.  Why wasn’t I born over there in one of those Arab refugee camps where they live like animals?  Why wasn’t I born in India where I have seen children growing up just to starve – that’s all – or in some other place of the world where they don’t live, they just exist?

"Oh," you say, "The reason is I chose to be born in America.  You see, you don’t know me, Preacher.  I chose to be born in the United States.  I chose to be born here in the midst of affluence where we have a lovely home and a car and all these things."  No, you didn’t. God did it for you.  "Who maketh thee to differ?" [1 Corinthians 4:7]. God did it; God did it.

Up and down this ministry that I have in this city, there I’ll see a dope head.  Do you think he planned to be a dope head?  Do you think when he was growing up he looked forward to that day when he’d be a dope fiend?  Look at him: the wretch so miserable!

Here’s another fellow.  He’s an alcoholic.  He is a slave to that terrible curse.  You think he planned to be that way?  Here’s somebody else.  Most of them are fine-looking, but they’re prostitutes and they live in the dens and the dregs of the worst social disease and life in the world.

Well why aren’t we that way?  Why is it I am not a dope fiend?  He never planned it.  Why is it I’m not an alcoholic?  He never planned to be an alcoholic.  Why is it you’re not a prostitute?  Do you suppose when they were growing up they planned to live so terribly?  Think so?  "Who maketh thee to differ?" [1 Corinthians 4:7]

You know, I’m like John Newton, Cowper’s [William Cowper] friend who wrote "There’s a Fountain Filled with Blood."  He was saved gloriously out of – he himself was a servant to a slave trader.  Ah, his life was dark and black.  And preaching one time in England to an open field congregation, they were leading a man off to be hanged, condemned by the court, and John Newton pointed his finger at him and said, "There but for the grace of God goes John Newton."

You can say that about every sinner that you see in your life.  There but for the grace of God goes you and you and you and you and you.  Just the goodness of God has spared you and delivered you to the life, beautiful and precious, that you enjoy tonight.  "Who maketh thee to differ?  What hast thou that thou didst not received?  And if thou didst receive it, why do you glory as though you didn’t receive it?" [1 Corinthians 4:7]

However it is, Lord, if the lines have fallen in pleasant places in my life [Psalm 16:5-6], it’s been Thy goodness.  If I have health, God saw fit to give it.  If I’ve been saved, God saw fit to save me [John 6:44].  If we’re kept in the way that is beautiful, God in His goodness has chosen the path for us [Proverbs 16:9].  If we are talented and gifted, we didn’t make those talents.  They came from His gracious hands.  Whatever it is that we have, we’re debtors to Him.  No cause to be proud or lifted up – none at all.

O glory to God for His goodness to us!  And may His mercy upon us endure forever!

Now, I’m done with my sermon.  I want to put a little addendum – you know, like you’ll read a book and they’ll have an appendix there.  You write a letter, put a little postscript.  I want to put a little postscript to this sermon. I want to turn the thing around.

However God has done for us, I am to rejoice in it and be glad [1 Thessalonians 5:16-18].  I may not understand it.  I may not be able to explain it.  But the providences that come upon me however they are – if I should be blind and I can’t see [John 9:1-3], if I should be deaf, like our Silent Friends, and I couldn’t hear [Mark 7:32-35], if I were to be cut down and be invalid and be confined to my bed [Luke 5:18-26], or whatever overwhelming providence should sweep me before it – I am to take it as from God.  It’s from His hands [Genesis 50:20; Acts 2:22-24; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10].

And this little story that you’ve heard that has meant so much to me:  The street-car going by and stopped, and just as the conductor began to go on, he heard a little childish, treble voice down the street say, "Mr. Conductor! Mr. Conductor, wait up!  Wait up for me!" And on his crutches hobbled a little boy, and up the steps of the car and into the car, and took his seat by a man there in the streetcar, and put his crutches by his side and sat there; and the little fellow was so bright and so happy.  And the fellow seated there looked at the boy.  Anybody that in affliction is bright and happy, you can’t help but notice them.  And the fellow seated by the little boy looked at him and said, "Son, you surely are happy."

"Yes, sir!" he said

"Well, son, you – what you happy about?  You’re so crippled, and you can’t play like these other children play.  What you so happy about, son?"  And the little boy replied, he said, "Sir, my daddy told me that God always gives us what is best, and don’t you think I ought to be happy with what is best?"  God bless his heart.  That’s great religion!

These things come from God’s hands – good and bad [Job 1:21].  "That’s a crazy theology, Preacher."  But I believe it just the same.  In the will of God these things come from His hands, and He knows best [John 9:1-3, 11:1-6, 11:11-15].  If it’s that I walk, "Thank you, Lord, I can walk."  If it’s that I can’t walk, "Help me, Lord, to praise Thee not walking."  However it may come, God’s hand is in it; His Spirit is guiding [Psalm 139:16], and His people glorify Him when they exalt His name however the providences of life may come [Daniel 3:16-18; Acts 16:22-25]. Well, that was my little postscript. 

Now, Mr. Souther, we’re going to sing our song.  We’re going to sing our song, and while we sing it, somebody you, give his heart to Jesus.  Somebody you, put your life in the church, however God shall say the word and make the appeal; a family of you, put your life here with us.  As the Lord shall speak to your heart, make appeal to your soul, you come and stand by me.  "Here I am, preacher.  Today I take Jesus as my Savior," or "Here I come, pastor.  We’re putting our lives here in the church."  As God shall say the word, you come, while we stand and while we sing.