True View of Ministers: The Judgment Is Not to Be Forestalled; Meanwhile the Apostles' Low State Contrasts with the
Corinthians' Party Pride, Not That Paul
Would Shame Them, but as a Father Warn Them; for Which End He Sent
Timothy, and Will Soon Come
1. account … us—Paul and
ministers of Christ—not heads of the
Church in whom ye are severally to glory (1Co 1:12); the headship belongs to Christ alone;
we are but His servants ministering to you (1Co 1:13; 3:5,
stewards—(Lu 12:42; 1Pe
4:10). Not the depositories
of grace, but dispensers of it ("rightly dividing" or dispensing
it), so far as God gives us it, to others. The chazan, or
"overseer," in the synagogue answered to the bishop or "angel"
of the Church, who called seven of the synagogue to read the law every
sabbath, and oversaw them. The parnasin of the synagogue,
like the ancient "deacon" of the Church, took care of the poor (Ac 6:1-7) and subsequently preached in
subordination to the presbyters or bishops, as Stephen and Philip did.
The Church is not the appendage to the priesthood; but the minister is
the steward of God to the Church. Man shrinks from too close contact
with God; hence he willingly puts a priesthood between, and would serve
God by deputy. The pagan (like the modern Romish) priest was rather to
conceal than to explain "the mysteries of God." The minister's office
is to "preach" (literally, "proclaim as a herald," Mt 10:27) the deep truths of God ("mysteries,"
heavenly truths, only known by revelation), so far as they have been
revealed, and so far as his hearers are disposed to receive them. Josephus says that the Jewish religion made
known to all the people the mysteries of their religion, while the
pagans concealed from all but the "initiated" few, the mysteries of
2. Moreover—The oldest manuscripts read,
"Moreover here" (that is, on earth). The contrast thus is between man's
usage as to stewards (1Co 4:2), and
God's way (1Co 4:3).
Though here below, in the case of stewards, inquiry is made,
that one man be found (that is, proved to be) faithful; yet God's
steward awaits no such judgment of man, in man's day, but the
Lord's judgment in His great day. Another argument against the
Corinthians for their partial preferences of certain teachers for their
gifts: whereas what God requires in His stewards is faithfulness
3:20, Margin; Heb 3:5); as indeed is required in earthly
stewards, but with this difference (1Co 4:3), that God's stewards await not man's
judgment to test them, but the testing which shall be in the day of the
3. it is a very small thing—literally,
"it amounts to a very small matter"; not that I despise your
judgment, but as compared with God's, it almost comes to nothing.
judged … of man's
judgment—literally, "man's day," contrasted with the
3:13) of the Lord (1Co 4:5;
1Th 5:4). "The day of man" is
here put before us as a person [Wahl]. All days previous to the day of the Lord
are man's days. Emesti translates
the thrice recurring Greek for "judged … judge …
judgeth" (1Co 4:4),
thus: To me for my part (though capable of being found faithful) it is
a very small matter that I should be approved of by man's
judgment; yea, I do not even assume the right of judgment and
approving myself—but He that has the right, and is able
to judge on my case (the Dijudicator), is the Lord.
4. by myself—Translate, "I am conscious
to myself of no (ministerial) unfaithfulness." Bengel explains the Greek compound, "to
decide in judgments on one in relation to others," not simply to
am I not hereby justified—Therefore
conscience is not an infallible guide. Paul did not consider his so.
This verse is directly against the judicial power claimed by the
priests of Rome.
5. Disproving the judicial power claimed by
the Romish priesthood in the confessional.
Therefore—as the Lord is the sole
Decider or Dijudicator.
judge—not the same Greek word
as in 1Co
4:3, 4, where the meaning is
to approve of or decide on, the merits of one's case.
Here all judgments in general are forbidden, which would, on our
part, presumptuously forestall God's prerogative of final
Lord—Jesus Christ, whose "ministers"
we are (1Co
4:1), and who is to be the
judge (Joh 5:22, 27; Ac 10:42; 17:31).
manifest … hearts—Our judgments
now (as those of the Corinthians respecting their teachers) are
necessarily defective; as we only see the outward act, we cannot
see the motives of "hearts." "Faithfulness" (1Co 4:2) will hereby be estimated, and the
"Lord" will "justify," or the reverse (1Co 4:4), according to the state of the
then shall every man have
praise—(1Co 3:8; 1Sa 26:23; Mt 25:21, 23,
28). Rather, "his due
praise," not exaggerated praise, such as the Corinthians heaped on
favorite teachers; "the praise" (so the Greek) due for acts
estimated by the motives. "Then," not before: therefore wait till
then (Jas 5:7).
6. And—"Now," marking transition.
in a figure transferred to myself—that
is, I have represented under the persons of Apollos and myself what
really holds good of all teachers, making us two a figure or
type of all the others. I have mentioned us two, whose names
have been used as a party cry; but under our names I mean others to be
understood, whom I do not name, in order not to shame you [Estius].
not to think, &c.—The best
manuscripts omit "think." Translate, "That in us (as your example) ye
might learn (this), not (to go) beyond what is written." Revere the
silence of Holy Writ, as much as its declarations: so you
will less dogmatize on what is not expressly revealed (De 29:29).
puffed up for one—namely, "for one
(favorite minister) against another." The Greek indicative
implies, "That ye be not puffed up as ye are."
7. Translate, "Who distinguisheth thee (above
another)?" Not thyself, but God.
glory, as if thou hadst not received
it—as if it was to thyself, not to God, thou owest the
receiving of it.
8. Irony. Translate, "Already ye are
filled full (with spiritual food), already ye are rich, ye have
seated yourselves upon your throne as kings, without us." The emphasis
is on "already" and "without us"; ye act as if ye needed no more to
"hunger and thirst after righteousness," and as if already ye had
reached the "kingdom" for which Christians have to strive and suffer.
Ye are so puffed up with your favorite teachers, and your own fancied
spiritual attainments in knowledge through them, that ye feel like
those "filled full" at a feast, or as a "rich" man priding himself in
his riches: so ye feel ye can now do "without us," your first spiritual
fathers (1Co 4:15).
They forgot that before the "kingdom" and the "fulness of joy,"
at the marriage feast of the Lamb, must come the cross, and suffering,
to every true believer (2Ti 2:5, 11, 12). They were like the self-complacent
Laodiceans (Re 3:17;
fulness and riches doubtless tended in some cases at Corinth, to
generate this spiritual self-sufficiency; the contrast to the apostle's
literal "hunger and thirst" (1Co 4:11) proves this.
I would … ye did
reign—Translate, "I would indeed," &c. I would
truly it were so, and that your kingdom had really begun.
that we also might reign with
"I seek not yours, but you." Your spiritual prosperity would redound to
that of us, your fathers in Christ (1Co 9:23). When you reach the kingdom, you shall
be our "crown of rejoicing, in the presence of our Lord Jesus" (1Th 2:19).
9. For—assigning the reason for desiring
that the "reign" of himself and his fellow apostles with the
Corinthians were come; namely, the present afflictions of the
I think—The Corinthians (1Co 3:18) "seemed" to (literally, as here,
"thought") themselves "wise in this world." Paul, in contrast, "thinks"
that God has sent forth him and his fellow ministers "last," that is,
the lowest in this world. The apostles fared worse than even the
prophets, who, though sometimes afflicted, were often honored (2Ki
1:10; 5:9; 8:9, 12).
set forth—as a spectacle or
us the apostles—Paul includes Apollos
with the apostles, in the broader sense of the word; so Ro 16:7; 2Co
8:23 (Greek for
as it were appointed to death—as
criminals condemned to die.
made a spectacle—literally, "a
theatrical spectacle." So the Greek in Heb 10:33, "made a gazing-stock by
reproaches and afflictions." Criminals "condemned to die," in Paul's
time, were exhibited as a gazing-stock to amuse the populace in the
amphitheater. They were "set forth last" in the show, to fight with
wild beasts. This explains the imagery of Paul here. (Compare Tertullian [On Modesty, 14]).
the world—to the whole world,
including "both angels and men"; "the whole family in heaven and earth"
3:15). As Jesus was "seen of
angels" (1Ti 3:16), so
His followers are a spectacle to the holy angels who take a deep
interest in all the progressive steps of redemption (Eph 3:10; 1Pe
1:12). Paul tacitly implies
that though "last" and lowest in the world's judgment, Christ's
servants are deemed by angels a spectacle worthy of their most intense
regard [Chrysostom]. However, since "the
world" is a comprehensive expression, and is applied in this Epistle to
the evil especially (1Co 1:27, 28), and since the spectators (in the image
drawn from the amphitheater) gaze at the show with savage delight,
rather than with sympathy for the sufferers, I think bad angels
are included, besides good angels. Estius makes the bad alone to be meant. But
the generality of the term "angels," and its frequent use in a good
sense, as well as Eph 3:10; 1Pe 1:12, incline me to include good as
well as bad angels, though, for the reasons stated above, the
bad may be principally meant.
10. Irony. How much your lot (supposing it
real) is to be envied, and ours to be pitied.
fools—(1Co 1:21; 3:18; compare Ac 17:18; 26:24).
for Christ's sake … in
Christ—Our connection with Christ only entails on us the
lowest ignominy, "ON ACCOUNT OF," or,
"FOR THE SAKE OF" Him, as "fools"; yours
gives you full fellowship IN Him as
"wise" (that is, supposing you really are all you seem, 1Co 3:18).
we … weak … ye …
strong—(1Co 2:3; 2Co 13:9).
we … despised—(2Co 10:10) because of our "weakness," and our not
using worldly philosophy and rhetoric, on account of which ye
Corinthians and your teachers are (seemingly) so "honorable." Contrast
with "despised" the "ye (Galatians) despised not my temptation
… in my flesh" (Ga 4:14).
11. (2Co 11:23-27).
naked—that is, insufficiently clad
buffeted—as a slave (1Pe 2:20), the reverse of the state of the
Corinthians, "reigning as kings" (Ac 23:2). So Paul's master before him was
"buffeted" as a slave, when about to die a slave's death (Mt 26:67).
12. working with our own hands—namely,
"even unto this present hour" (1Co 4:11). This is not stated in the
narrative of Paul's proceedings at Ephesus, from which
city he wrote this Epistle (though it is expressly stated of him at
Corinth, compare Ac 18:3, 19). But in his address to the
Ephesian elders at Miletus (Ac 20:34),
he says, "Ye yourselves know that these hands have ministered unto my
necessities," &c. The undesignedness of the coincidence thus
indirectly brought out is incompatible with forgery.
13. defamed, we entreat—namely, God for
our defamers, as Christ enjoined (Mt 5:10, 44) [Grotius]. We reply gently [Estius].
filth—"the refuse" [Conybeare and Howson], the sweepings or rubbish
thrown out after a cleaning.
of all things—not of the "World"
14. warn—rather, "admonish" as a father
uses "admonition" to "beloved sons," not provoking them to wrath (Eph 6:4). The Corinthians might well be
"ashamed" at the disparity of state between the father, Paul, and his
spiritual children themselves.
15. ten thousand—implying that the
Corinthians had more of them than was desirable.
instructors—tutors who had the
care of rearing, but had not the rights, or peculiar affection, of the
father, who alone had begotten them spiritually.
in Christ—Paul admits that these
"instructors" were not mere legalists, but evangelical teachers.
He uses, however, a stronger phrase of himself in begetting them
spiritually, "In Christ Jesus," implying both the Saviour's office
and person. As Paul was the means of spiritually
regenerating them, and yet "baptized none of them save Crispus,
Gaius, and the household of Stephanas," regeneration cannot be
inseparably in and by baptism (1Co 1:14-17).
16. be ye followers of me—literally,
"imitators," namely, in my ways, which be in Christ (1Co 4:17; 1Co
11:1), not in my crosses
(1Co 4:8-13; Ac 26:29; Ga 4:12).
17. For this came—that ye may the better
"be followers of me" (1Co 4:16),
through his admonitions.
sent … Timotheus—(1Co 16:10;
Ac 19:21, 22). "Paul purposed
… when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go
to Jerusalem. So he sent into Macedonia Timotheus and Erastus." Here it
is not expressly said that he sent Timothy into Achaia (of which
Corinth was the capital), but it is implied, for he sent him
with Erastus before him. As he therefore purposed to go into
Achaia himself, there is every probability they were to go thither
also. They are said only to have been sent into Macedonia, because it
was the country to which they went immediately from Ephesus. The
undesignedness of the coincidence establishes the genuineness of both
the Epistle and the history. In both, Timothy's journey is closely
connected with Paul's own (compare 1Co 4:19). Erastus is not specified in the
Epistle, probably because it was Timothy who was charged with Paul's
orders, and possibly Erastus was a Corinthian, who, in accompanying
Timothy, was only returning home. The seeming discrepancy at least
shows that the passages were not taken from one another [Paley, Horæ Paulinæ].
son—that is, converted by me (compare
1Co 4:14, 15; Ac 14:6, 7; with Ac
16:1, 2; 1Ti 1:2, 18; 2Ti 1:2). Translate, "My son, beloved and
faithful in the Lord."
bring you into remembrance—Timothy,
from his spiritual connection with Paul, as converted by him, was best
suited to remind them of the apostle's walk and teaching (2Ti 3:10), which they in some respects,
though not altogether (1Co 11:2),
as I teach … in every church—an
argument implying that what the Spirit directed Paul to teach
"everywhere" else, must be necessary at Corinth also (1Co 7:17).
18. some … as though I would not
come—He guards against some misconstruing (as by the Spirit
he foresees they will, when his letter shall have arrived) his sending
Timothy, "as though" he "would not come" (or, "were not coming")
himself. A puffed-up spirit was the besetting sin of the
Corinthians (compare 1Co 1:11; 5:2).
translates, "But come I will"; an emphatical negation of their
supposition (1Co 4:18).
shortly—after Pentecost (1Co 16:8).
if the Lord will—a wise proviso (Jas 4:15). He does not seem to have been
able to go as soon as he intended.
and will know—take cognizance of.
but the power—I care not for their
high-sounding "speech," "but" what I desire to know is "their power,"
whether they be really powerful in the Spirit, or not. The predominant
feature of Grecian character, a love for power of discourse,
rather than that of godliness, showed itself at Corinth.
20. kingdom of God is not in
word—Translate, as in 1Co 4:19, to which the reference is "speech." Not
empty "speeches," but the manifest "power" of the Spirit attests the
presence of "the kingdom of God" (the reign of the Gospel
spiritually), in a church or in an individual (compare 1Co 2:1, 4;
21. with a rod, or in love—The
Greek preposition is used in both clauses; must I come IN displeasure to exercise the rod, or
IN love, and the Spirit of meekness
(Isa 11:4; 2Co 13:3)?