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THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS - Chapter 4 - Verse 21

Verse 21. What will ye. It depends on yourselves how I shall come. If you lay aside your contentions and strifes; if you administer discipline as you should; if you give yourselves heartily and entirely to the work of the Lord, I shall come, not to reprove or to punish, but as a father and a friend. But if you do not heed my exhortations, or the labours of Timothy; if you still, continue your contentions, and do not remove the occasions of offence, I shall come with severity and the language of rebuke.

With a rod. To correct and punish.

In the spirit of meekness. Comforting and commending, instead of chastising. Paul intimates that this depended on themselves. They had the power, and it was their duty to administer discipline; but if they would not do it, the task would devolve on him as the founder and father of the church, and as entrusted with power by the Lord Jesus, to, administer the severity of Christian discipline, or to punish those who offended by bodily suffering. See 1 Co 5:6; 11:30. See also the case of Ananias and Sapphira, Ac 5:1, etc., and of Elymas the sorcerer, Ac 13:10,11.

{*} "ye" "imitators" {d} "shall I come" 2 Co 13:10 ————————————————————————————————————-

 

REMARKS ON 1st Corinthians Chapter 4

(1.) We should endeavour to form a proper estimate of the Christian ministry, 1 Co 4:1. We should regard ministers as the servants of Jesus Christ, and honour them for their Master's sake; and esteem them also in proportion to their fidelity. They are entitled to respect as the ambassadors of the Son of God; but that respect also should be in proportion to their resemblance of him, and their faithfulness in their work. They who love the ministers of Christ, who are like him, and who are faithful, love the Master that sent them; they who hate and despise them, despise him. See Mt 10:40-42.

(2.) Ministers should be faithful, 1 Co 4:2. They are the stewards of Christ. They are appointed by him. They are responsible to him. They have a most important trust—more important than any other stewards; and they should live in such a manner as to receive the approbation of their Master.

(3.) It is of little consequence what the world thinks of us, 1 Co 4:3. A good name is on many accounts desirable; but it should not be the leading consideration; nor should we do anything merely to obtain it. Desirable as is a fair reputation, yet the opinion of the world is not to be too highly valued; for,

1st, it often misjudges;

2nd, it is prejudiced for or against us;

3rd, it is not to decide our final destiny;

4th, to desire that simply is a selfish and base passion.

(4.) The esteem even of friends is not to be the leading object of life, 1 Co 4:2. This is valuable, but not so valuable as the approbation of God. Friends are partial; and even where they do not approve our course, if we are conscientious, we should be willing to bear with their disapprobation. A good conscience is everything. The approbation even of friends cannot help us in the day of judgment.

(5.) We should distrust ourselves, 1 Co 4:3,4. We should not pronounce too confidently on our motives or our conduct. We may be deceived. There may be much even in our own motives that may elude our most careful inquiry, This should teach us humility, and self-distrust, and charity. Knowing our own liableness to misjudge ourselves, we should look with kindness on the faults and feelings of others.

(6.) We see here the nature of the future judgment, 1 Co 4:5.

1st. The hidden things of darkness will be brought out—all the secret crimes, and plans, and purposes of men, will be developed. All that has been done in secret, in darkness, in the night, in palaces and in prisons, will be developed. What a development will take place in the great day when the secret crimes of a world shall be revealed; and when all that has now escaped the notice of men, and the punishment of courts, shall be brought out!

2nd. Every man's secret thoughts shall be revealed. There will be no concealment then. All that we have devised or desired; all the thoughts that we have forgotten, shall there be brought out to noonday. How will the sinner tremble when all his thoughts are made known! Suppose, unknown to him, some person had been writing down all that a man has thought for a day, a week, or a year, and should begin to read it to him. Who is there that would not hang his head with shame, and tremble at such a record? Yet at the day of judgment the thoughts of the whole life will be revealed.

3rd. Every man shall be judged as he ought to be. God is impartial. The man that ought to be saved, will be; the man that ought not, will not be. How solemn will be the impartial trial of the world! Who can think of it but with alarm!

(7.) We have no occasion for pride or vain-boasting, 1 Co 4:7. All that we have of beauty, health, wealth, honour, grace, has been given to us by God. For what he has given us we should be grateful; but it should not excite pride. It is indeed valuable, because God gives it; and we should remember his mercies, but we should-not boast. We have nothing to boast of. Had we our deserts, we should be driven away in his wrath, and made wretched. That any are out of hell is matter of thankfulness; that one possesses more than another, proves that God is a sovereign, and not that we are more worthy than another, or that there is by nature any ground of preference which one has over another.

(8.) Irony and sarcasm are sometimes lawful and proper, 1 Co 4:8-10. But it is not often as safe as it was in the hands of the apostle Paul. Few men can regulate the talent properly; few should allow themselves to indulge in it. It is rarely employed in the Bible; and it is rarely employed elsewhere where it does not do injury. The cause of truth can be usually sustained by sound argument; and that which cannot be thus defended is not worth defence. Deep wounds are often made by the severity of wit and irony; and an indulgence in this usually prevents a man from having a single friend.

(9.) We see from this chapter what religion has cost, 1 Co 4:9-13. Paul states the sufferings that he and the other apostles endured in order to establish it. They were despised, and persecuted, and poor, and regarded as the refuse of the world. The Christian religion was founded on the blood of its Author, and has been reared amidst the sighs and tears of its friends. All its early advocates were subjected to persecution and trial; and to engage in this work involved the certainty of being a martyr. We enjoy not a blessing which has not thus been purchased; and which has not come to us through the self-denials and toils of the best men that the earth has known. Persecution raged around all the early friends of the church; and it rose and spread while the fire of martyrdom spread, and while its friends were everywhere cast out as evil, and called to bleed in its defence.

(10.) We have here an illustrious instance of the manner in which reproach, and contempt, and scorn should be borne, 1 Co 4:12,13. The apostles imitated the example of their Master, and followed his precepts. They prayed for their enemies, persecutors, and slanderers. There is nothing but religion that can produce this spirit; and this can do it always. The Saviour evinced it; his apostles evinced it; and all should evince it, who profess to be its friends. We may remark:

1st. This is not produced by nature. It is the work of grace alone.

2nd. It is the very spirit and genius of Christianity to produce it.

3rd. Nothing but religion will enable a man to bear it, and will produce this temper and spirit.

4th. We have an instance here of what all Christians should evince. All should be in this like the apostles. All should be like the Saviour himself.

(11.) We have an argument here for the truth of the Christian religion. The argument is founded on the fact that the apostles were willing to suffer so much in order to establish it. They professed to have been eye-witnesses of what they affirmed. They had nothing to gain by spreading it, if it was not true. They exposed themselves to persecution on this account, and became willing to die rather than deny its truth. Take, for example, the case of the apostle Paul.

1st. He had every prospect of honour and of wealth in his own country. He had been liberally educated, and had the confidence of his countrymen. He might have risen to the highest station of trust or influence. He had talents which would have raised him to distinction anywhere.

2nd. He could not have been mistaken in regard to the events connected with his conversion, Ac 9. The scene, the voice, the light, the blindness, were all things which could not have been counterfeited. They were open and public. They did not occur "in a corner."

3rd. He had no earthly motive to change his course. Christianity was despised when he embraced it; its friends were few and poor; and it had no prospect of spreading through the world. It conferred no wealth; bestowed no diadem; imparted no honours; gave no ease; conducted to no friendship of the great and the mighty. It subjected its friends to persecution, and tears, and trials, and death. What should induce such a man to make such a change? Why should Paul have embraced this, but from a conviction of its truth? How could he be convinced of that truth except by some argument that should be so strong as to overcome his hatred to it, make him willing to renounce all his prospects for it—to encounter all that the world could heap upon him, and even death itself, rather than deny it? But such a religion had a higher than any earthly origin, and must have been from God.

(12.) We may expect to suffer reproach. It has been the common lot of all, from the time of the Master himself to the present. Jesus was reproached; the apostles were reproached; the martyrs were reproached; and we are not to be surprised that ministers and Christians are called to like trials now. It is enough "for the disciple that he be as his Master, and the servant as his Lord."

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