Paul’s identification of himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ in his salutation to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:1) was probably meant to clarify his role in preaching the gospel. Paul referred to himself as a masterbuilder (1 Corinthians 3:10), someone in a position of authority who was responsible for the success of a building project. The Greek word Paul used that is translated masterbuilder, architekton (ar-khee-tek’-tone) refers to the architect or designer of a building. Architekton is derived from the Greek words arche (ar-khay’) and tekton (tek’-tone) which together suggest that Paul was referring to himself as the initiator of a building project that would eventually be held accountable for the quality of his design. Paul said that he had “laid the foundation” (1 Corinthians 3:10) upon which others were expected to build. From a building project perspective, that meant that Paul’s work would determine the strength and longevity of the building that was erected.
As an apostle of Christ, Paul claimed to have special abilities that enabled him to do the work that God had given him, but Paul didn’t think of himself as someone special. He said, “For I think that 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, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honorable, but we are despised” (1 Corinthians 4:9-10). The Greek word translated fools is moros. The English word moron comes from the word moros and is used to describe a person with a mental age in adulthood of between 8 and 12 years old. Paul may have been using a play on words to signify the unworthiness he felt to have been chosen as Christ’s representative. The Greek word moros could be a derivative of the word muo which means to shut the mouth (G3466). One way to describe muo would be to say, no comment or I’m not allowed to talk about that. Paul may have felt that he had been entrusted with delivering a message that was so far above his pay grade that he was not even allowed to interpret the content, just repeat word for word what he had been told.
So that there wouldn’t be any misunderstanding about the prestige associated with his position, Paul described to the Corinthians his experience of preaching the gospel. He said, “Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; and labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day” (1 Corinthians 4:11-13). The harsh picture Paul painted of his life as an apostle, was probably meant to discourage anyone that might be thinking about taking his ministry away from him. It’s likely that as Paul neared the end of his life and his strength began to wane, other leaders in the church were thinking about picking up where he left off when he was gone. Paul may have been concerned about the gap that would need to be filled and intentionally identified Timothy as his successor. He stated, “For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church.