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THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS - Chapter 4 - Verse 9

Verse 9. For I think. It seems to me. Grotius thinks that this is to be taken ironically, as if he had said, "It seems, then, that God has designed that we, the apostles, should be subject to contempt and suffering, and be made poor and persecuted, while you are admitted to high honours and privileges." But probably this is to be taken as a serious declaration of Paul, designed to show their actual condition and trials, while others were permitted to live in enjoyment. Whatever might be their condition, Paul says that the condition of himself and his fellow-labourers was one of much contempt and sufferings; and the inference seems to be, that they ought to doubt whether they were in a right state, or had any occasion for their self-congratulation, since they so little resembled those whom God had set forth.

Hath set forth. Has showed us; or placed us in public view.

The apostles last. Marg., Or, the last apostles, touv apostolouv escatouv. Grotius supposes that this means, in the lowest condition; the humblest state; a condition like that of beasts. So Tertullian renders it. And this interpretation is the correct one, if the passage be ironical. But Paul may mean to refer to the custom of bringing forth those in the amphitheatre, at the conclusion of the spectacles, who were to fight with other men, and who had no chance of escape. These inhuman games abounded everywhere; and an allusion to them would be well understood, and is indeed often made by Paul. Comp. 1 Co 9:26; 1 Ti 6:12; 2 Ti 4:7.

See Seneca, Epis. chap. vii. This interpretation receives support from the words which are used here, "God hath exhibited," "spectacle," or theatre, which are all applicable to such an exhibition. Calvin, Locke, and others, however, suppose that Paul refers to the fact that he was the last of the apostles; but this interpretation does not suit the connexion of the passage.

As it were. wv. Intimating the certainty of death.

Appointed to death, epiyanatiouv. Devoted to death. The word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It denotes the certainty of death; or the fact of being destined to death; and implies that such were their continued conflicts, trials, persecutions, that it was morally certain that they would terminate in their death, and only when they died, as the last gladiators on the stage were destined to contend until they should die. This is a very strong expression; and denotes the continuance, the constancy, and the intensity of their sufferings in the cause of Christ.

We are made a spectacle. Marg., theatre. yeatron. The theatre, or amphitheatre of the ancients, was composed of an arena, or level floor, on which the combatants fought, and which was surrounded by circular seats rising above one another to a great height, and capable of containing many thousand spectators. Paul represents himself as on this arena or stage, contending with foes, and destined to death. Around him and above him are an immense host of men and angels, looking on at the conflict, and awaiting the issue. He is not alone or unobserved. He is made public; and the universe gazes on the struggle. Angels and men denote the universe, as gazing upon the conflicts and struggles of the apostles. It is a vain inquiry here, whether he means good or bad angels. The expression means that he was public in his trials, and that this was exhibited to the universe. The whole verse is designed to convey the idea that God had, for wise purposes, appointed them in the sight of the universe, to pains, and trials, and persecutions, and poverty, and want, which would terminate only in their death. See Heb 12:1, etc. What these trials were he specifies in the following verses.

{1} "apostles" "the last apostles" {*} "appointed" "devoted" {b} "we are" Heb 10:33 {2} "spectacle" "theatre"

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