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
not as leaders. The
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
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
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
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
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
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
We are weak. See
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
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
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
17. For this cause I sent Timotheus. Timothy, Paul's "son in the
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
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
(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
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