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1 Corinthians 4:6-8

6. And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.

6. Haec autem, fratres, transfiguravi in me ipsum et Apollo propter vos, ut in nobis disceretis, quis supra id quod scriptum est, de se sentiat: ut ne quis pro hoc vel illo infletur adversus alterum.

7. For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?

7. Quis enim to discernit? quid autem habes, quod non acceperis? si vero etiam acceperis, quid gloriaris tanquam non acceperis?

8. Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you.

8. Jam saturati estis, jam ditati estis, absque nobis regnum adepti estis; atque utinam sitis adepti ut et nos vobiscum regnemus.

 

6. I have in a figure transferred. Hence we may infer, that it was not those who were attached to Paul that gave rise to parties, as they, assuredly, had not. been so instructed, but those who had through ambition given themselves up to vain teachers. 225225     “A ces docteurs pieins d’ostentation;” — “To those teachers, full of ostentation.” But as he could more freely and less invidiously bring forward his own name, and that of his brethren, he preferred to point out in his own person the fault that existed in others. At the same time, he strikes a severe blow at the originators of the parties, and points his finger to the sources from which this deadly divorce took its rise. For he shows them, that if they had been satisfied with good teachers, they would have been exempted from this evil. 226226     “S’ils se contentent de bons et fideles docteurs, ils seront hors de danger d’vn tel mal;” — “If they had contented themselves with good and faithful teachers, they would have been beyond the risk of such an evil.”

That is us. Some manuscripts have it “that in you.” Both readings suit well, and their is no difference of meaning; for what Paul intends is this — “I have, for the sake of example, transferred these things to myself and Apollos, in order that you may transfer this example to yourselves.” “Learn then in us,” that is, “in that example which I have placed before you in our person as in a mirror;” or, “Learn in you,” that is, “apply this example to yourselves.” But what does he wish them to learn? That no one be puffed up for his own teacher against another, that is, that they be not lifted up with pride on account of their teachers, and do not abuse their names for the purpose of forming parties, and rending the Church asunder. Observe, too, that pride or haughtiness is the cause and commencement of all contentions, when every one, assuming to himself more than he is entitled to do, is eager to have others in subjection to him.

The clause above what is written may be explained in two ways — either as referring to Paul’s writings, or to the proofs from Scripture which he has brought forward. As this, however, is a matter of small moment, my readers may be left at liberty to take whichever they may prefer.

7. For who distinguisheth thee? The meaning is — “Let that man come forward, whosoever he be, that is desirous of distinction, and troubles the Church by his ambition. I will demand of him who it is that makes him superior to others? That is, who it is that has conferred upon him the privilege of being taken out of the rank of the others, and made superior to others?” Now this whole reasoning depends on the order which the Lord has appointed in his Church — that the members of Christ’s body may be united together, and that every one of them may rest satisfied with his own place, his own rank, his own office, and his own honor. If one member is desirous to quit his place, that he may leap over into the place of another, and invade his office, what will become of the entire body? Let us know, then, that the Lord has so placed us in the Church, and has in such a manner assigned to every one his own station, that, being under one head, we may be mutually helpful to each other. Let us know, besides, that we have been endowed with a diversity of gifts, in order that we may serve the Lord with modesty and humility, and may endeavor to promote the glory of him who has conferred upon us everything that we have. This, then, was the best remedy for correcting the ambition of those who were desirous of distinction — to call them back to God, in order that they might acknowledge that it was not according to any one’s pleasure that he was placed in a high or a low station, but that this belonged to God alone; and farther, that God does not confer so much upon any one as to elevate him to the place of the Head, but distributes his gifts in such a manner, that He alone is glorified in all things.

To distinguish here means to render eminent. 227227     “Rendre excellent, ou mettre en reputation;” — “To render eminent, or exalt to fame.” Augustine, however, does not ineptly make frequent use of this declaration for maintaining, in opposition to the Pelagians, 228228     The reader will find a variety of passages of this tenor quoted from Augustine in the Institutes, volume 1. — Ed. that whatever there is of excellence in mankind, is not implanted in him by nature, so that it could be ascribed either to nature or to descent; and farther, that it is not acquired by free will, so as to bring God under obligation, but flows from his pure and undeserved mercy. For there can be no doubt that Paul here contrasts the grace of God with the merit or worthiness of men. 229229     “Comme estans ehoses contraires;” — “As being things opposite.”

And what hast thou? This is a confirmation of the preceding statement, for that man cannot on good ground extol himself, who has no superiority above others. For what greater vanity is there than that of boasting without any ground for it? Now, there is no man that has anything of excellency from himself; therefore the man that extols himself is a fool and an idiot. The true foundation of Christian modesty is this — not to be self-complacent, as knowing that we are empty and void of everything good — that, if God has implanted in us anything that is good, we are so much the more debtors to his grace; and in fine, that, as Cyprian says, we must glory in nothing, because there is nothing that is our own.

Why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it? Observe, that there remains no ground for our glorying, inasmuch as it is by

the grace of God that we are what we are,
(1 Corinthians 15:10.)

And this is what we had in the first chapter, that Christ is the source of all blessings to us, that we may learn to glory in the Lord, (1 Corinthians 1:30, 31,) and this we do, only when we renounce our own glory. For God does not obtain his due otherwise than by our being emptied, so that it may be seen that everything in us that is worthy of praise is derived.

8. Now ye are full Having in good earnest, and without the use of any figure, beat down their vain confidence, he now also ridicules it by way of irony, 230230     “Vsant d’ironie, c’est a dire, d’vne facon de parler qui sonne en mocquerie;” — “Making use of irony, that is to say, a form of speech that has a tone of mockery.” because they are so self-complacent, as if they were the happiest persons in the world. He proceeds, too, step by step, in exposing their insolence. In the first place, he says, that they were full: this refers to the past. He then adds, Ye are rich: this applies to the future. Lastly, he says, that they had reigned as kings this is much more than either of those two. It is as though he had said, “What will you attain to, when you appear to be not merely full for the present, but are also rich for the future — nay more, are kings?At the same time, he tacitly upbraids them with ingratitude, because they had the audacity to despise him, or rather those, through means of whom they had obtained everything.

Without us, says he. “For Apollos and I are now esteemed nothing by you, though it is by our instrumentality that the Lord has conferred everything upon you. What inhumanity there is in resting with self-complacency in the gifts of God, while in the meantime you despise those through whose instrumentality you obtained them!”

And I would to God that ye did reign 231231     “A bitter taunt,” says Lightfoot, “chastising the boasting of the Corinthians, who had forgot from whom they had first received those evangelical privileges, concerning which they now prided themselves. They were enriched with spiritual gifts; they reigned, themselves being judges, in the very top of the dignity and happiness of the gospel; and that, ‘without us,’ saith the Apostle, ‘as though ye owed nothing to us for these privileges,’ and, ‘O would to God ye did reign, and that it went so happily and well with you indeed, that we also might reign with you, and that we might partake of some happiness in this your promotion, and might be of some account among you!’” — Ed. Here he declares that he does not envy their felicity, (if indeed they have any,) and that from the beginning he has not sought to reign among them, but only to bring them to the kingdom of God. He intimates, however, on the other hand, that the kingdom in which they gloried was merely imaginary, and that their glorying was groundless and pernicious, 232232     “Fausse et dangereuse:” — “Groundless and dangerous.” there being no true glorying but that which is enjoyed by all the sons of God in common, under Christ their Head, and every one of them according to the measure of the grace that has been given him.

For by these words that ye also may reign with us, he means this — “You are so renowned in your own opinion that you do not hesitate to despise me, and those like me, but mark, how vain is your glorying. For you can have no glorying before God, in which we have not a share — for if honor redounds to you from having the gospel of God, how much more to us, by whose ministry it was conveyed to you! And assuredly, this is a madness 233233     “C’est vne folie, et bestise;” — “This is a folly and stupidity.” that is common to all the proud, that by drawing everything to themselves, they strip themselves of every blessing — nay more, they renounce the hope of everlasting salvation.”


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