John Wesley's Explanatory Notes
Verse 1. Let a man account us, as servants of Christ - The original word properly signifies such servants as laboured at the oar in rowing vessels; and, accordingly, intimates the pains which every faithful minister takes in his Lord's work. O God, where are these ministers to be found? Lord, thou knowest. And stewards of the mysteries of God - Dispenseth of the mysterious truths of the gospel.
Verse 3. Yea, I judge not myself - My final state is not to be determined by my own judgment.
Verse 4. I am not conscious to myself of anything evil; yet am I not hereby justified - I depend not on this, as a sufficient justification of myself in God's account. But he that judgeth me is the Lord - By his sentence I am to stand or fall.
Verse 5. Therefore judge nothing before the time - Appointed for judging all men. Until the Lord come, who, in order to pass a righteous judgment, which otherwise would be impossible, will both bring to light the things which are now covered with impenetrable darkness, and manifest the most secret springs of action, the principles and intentions of every heart. And then shall every one - Every faithful steward, have praise of God.
Verse 6. These things - Mentioned, 1 Corinthians 1:10, &c. I have by a very obvious figure transferred to myself and Apollos - And Cephas, instead of naming those particular preachers at Corinth, to whom ye are so fondly attached. That ye may learn by us - From what has been said concerning us, who, however eminent we are, are mere instruments in God's hand. Not to think of any man above what is here written - Or above what scripture warrants. 1 Corinthians 3:7
Verse 7. Who maketh thee to differ - Either in gifts or graces. As if thou hadst not received it - As if thou hadst it originally from thyself.
Verse 8. Now ye are full - The Corinthians abounded with spiritual gifts; and so did the apostles: but the apostles, by continual want and sufferings, were kept from self- complacency. The Corinthians suffering nothing, and having plenty of all things, were pleased with and applauded themselves; and they were like children who, being raised in the world, disregard their poor parents. Now ye are full, says the apostle, in a beautiful gradation, ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings - A proverbial expression, denoting the most splendid and plentiful circumstances. Without any thought of us. And I would ye did reign - In the best sense: I would ye had attained the height of holiness. That we might reign with you - Having no more sorrow on your account, but sharing in your happiness.
Verse 9. God hath set forth us last, as appointed to death -Alluding to the Roman custom of bringing forth those persons last on the stage, either to fight with each other, or with wild beasts, who were devoted to death; so that, if they escaped one day, they were brought out again and again, till they were killed.
Verse 10. We are fools, in the account of the world, for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ - Though ye are Christians, ye think yourselves wise; and ye have found means to make the world think you so too. We are weak - In presence, in infirmities, in sufferings. But ye are strong - In just opposite circumstances.
Verse 11. And are naked - Who can imagine a more glorious triumph of the truth, than that which is gained in these circumstances when St. Paul, with an impediment in his speech, and a person rather contemptible than graceful, appeared in a mean, perhaps tattered, dress before persons of the highest distinction, and yet commanded such attention. and made such deep impressions upon them!
Verse 12. We bless-suffer it-intreat - We do not return revilings, persecution, defamation; nothing but blessing.
Verse 13. We are made as the filth of the world, and offscouring of all things - Such were those poor wretches among the heathens, who were taken from the dregs of the people, to be offered as expiatory sacrifices to the infernal gods. They were loaded with curses, affronts, and injuries, all the way they went to the altars; and when the ashes of those unhappy men were thrown into the sea, these very names were given them in the ceremony.
Verse 14. I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you - It is with admirable prudence and sweetness the apostle adds this, to prevent any unkind construction of his words.
Verse 15. I have begotten you - This excludes not only Apollos, his successor, but also Silas and Timothy, his companions; and the relation between a spiritual father and his children brings with it an inexpressible nearness and affection.
Verse 16. Be ye followers of me - In that spirit and behaviour which I have so largely declared.
Verse 17. My beloved son - Elsewhere he styles him "brother," 2 Corinthians 1:1; but here paternal affection takes place. As I teach -No less by example than precept.
Verse 18. Now some are puffed up - St. Paul saw, by a divine light, the thoughts which would arise in their hearts. As if I would not come - Because I send Timothy.
Verse 19. I will know - He here shows his fatherly authority Not the big, empty speech of these vain boasters, but how much of the power of God attends them.
Verse 20. For the kingdom of God - Real religion, does not consist in words, but in the power of God ruling the heart.
Verse 21. With a rod - That is, with severity.
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