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1 Corinthians 4
The Apostles and the Church.
SUMMARY.--The Apostles Stewards of the Mysteries of God. Forming Judgments of Religious Teachers. The Apostles Made a Spectacle to the World. The Apostolic Trials. Counted by the World as Offscouring. Yet, Paul the Spiritual Father of the Corinthian Church. And His Example should be Imitated.
1-5. Let a man so account of us. The apostles and evangelists. They are to be regarded as ministers (servants) of Christ, (3:5), not as leaders. The word rendered "ministers," means, literally, "under-rowers." The figure is that of a ship impelled by oars. The church is the ship; Christ commands; the rowers only obey orders. Since they have no right to give orders, no parties should be formed about them. Stewards. Again the figure is changed, but still the idea is that they were servants. The steward his charge of the house for his master. The church is the house; Christ is the Master; the apostolic stewards in charge, having the mysteries of God, the revealed knowledge, knowledge not their own but given them, must faithfully dispense it to the household. 2. Moreover it is required of stewards, etc. The supreme quality required in a steward is fidelity to his trust. 3. It is a very small thing, etc. The essential matter with Paul was, not that the Corinthians should judge him a faithful steward, or that he should be faithful in his own judgment, but that the Lord shall count him faithful. Of course, with factions at Corinth, some disparaged Paul. 4. For I know nothing by myself. In the Revision, "Against myself." In his own judgment he had been a faithful steward at Corinth, but that did not justify him, for he must be judged by the Lord. To the Lord, then, he must give a satisfactory account. 5. Therefore, judge nothing, etc. Hence, let no one form premature judgments. Only when the Lord comes, in the day of judgment, will all secrets be brought to light, and the motives of hearts be manifest. Then, when just judgments are given, shall every man shall have the praise (due him) of God. Each shall be judged as he deserves. Only then can the Corinthians form an infallibly correct estimate of their religious teachers.
6-9. These things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos. I have used the names of Paul and Apollos to illustrate lessons that I wished to impress upon; especially the lesson not to think of men too highly. Be puffed up for one against another. Exalting one preacher and making him a leader, while seeking to pull down another. 7. Who maketh thee to differ? Who has imparted to you graces which distinguish you from others? All were imparted to you. If you have nothing that you didst not receive, Why dost thou glory? Some unseemly exaltation, probably over spiritual gifts, is rebuked. 8. Now ye are full, now ye are rich, etc. Paul has just rebuked their glorying over gifts bestowed upon them. Now he uses a burst of irony. Though receiving all the grace they had, being dependent and needy, they boasted as if they had it of themselves. The apostles had spiritual gifts, but were poor and persecuted; the Corinthians had these gifts, imparted by Paul, but were puffed up, felt, in his absence, as though they were full, had all things; were rich, well supplied; they reigned as kings. Held their heads high as though they were made kings. I would ye did reign. Here comes the keenness of the rebuke which follows the irony. If they were only exalted to be kings, as they seemed to think themselves, perhaps then those who had imparted to them all that they boasted of might become kings also. The apostles were in the suffering period, but these converts had got to the reigning period. 9. God hath set forth us the apostles last. In contrast with them, the state of the apostles is given. The figure is drawn from the Roman amphitheatre. At "last," near the close of the games, gladiators doomed to die were led forth and shown to the spectators, then stripped of all armor, and exposed naked to the attack of others. So the apostles were a spectacle unto the world, doomed to reproach, suffering and to death.
10-13. We are fools for Christ's sake. The sad worldly lot of the apostles is set forth. For Christ's sake they chose a path of sorrow that made the world call them fools. Ye are wise in Christ. Think you are wise in your religious speculations. We are weak. See 2:3. Ye are strong. In your own conceits. 11. Unto this present hour, etc. All through our ministry we suffer want for the needs of life, are often in want of food and drink and clothing, are beaten (buffeted), and, like the Master, have no certain home. 12. And labor. Support ourselves by our own hands, while preaching the gospel, returned good for evil. 13. Are made as the filth of the world. Are accounted by the world as its very sweepings, as scum, as refuse utterly worthless and repulsive. Such passages, which are not overdrawn, show the greatness of faith, the devotion, the heroism of and the debt we owe to such men as Paul.
14-17. I write not these things to shame you. I do not contrast your pride and glorying with our humiliation to shame you, but as a fatherly admonition to beloved children. 15. Yet have ye not many fathers. They might have many tutors, who sought to train them as children, but Paul was their father who had begotten them in the gospel; that is, converted them. 16. Be ye followers of me. Hence, since he was their spiritual father, they ought all to imitate him, his lowliness and self-denial. Children should seek to be like the parent, rather than like the tutor. 17. For this cause I sent Timotheus. Timothy, Paul's "son in the gospel" (Acts 16:1-3), had already been sent onward toward Corinth (1 Cor. 16:10), but going round by land would not arrive until after this letter, if it went across by sea. Of my ways in Christ. Timothy will revive their remembrance of Paul's life, conduct and teachings, so that they can the better "follow" him.
18-21. Now some are puffed up. Some of those who were factious thought, as Paul was sending Timothy, he would not come himself, and this encouraged them to continue their factious conduct. 19. I will come to you shortly. If God permitted, he would soon follow (1 Cor. 16:7, 8), and would put to the test those puffed up. Not the speech, . . . but the power. He will confront these vain boasters, and see what power is behind their swelling words. 20. For the kingdom of God. For in the kingdom of God it is not words or professions which avail, but the power of God in the heart. 21. What will ye? When he comes, how shall he come? Will it be necessary to rebuke and exert his apostolic authority, or will the condition of the church be such that only love and gentleness will be called for?
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. Original work done by Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.