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Chapter 4

4:1 Ministers of Christ [hupēretas Christou]. Paul and all ministers [diakonous] of the New Covenant (1Co 3:5) are under-rowers, subordinate rowers of Christ, only here in Paul’s Epistles, though in the Gospels (Lu 4:20 the attendant in the synagogue) and the Acts (Ac 13:5) of John Mark. The so [houtōs] gathers up the preceding argument (3:5-23) and applies it directly by the as [hōs] that follows. Stewards of the mysteries of God [oikonomous mustēriōn theou]. The steward or house manager [oikos], house, [nemō], to manage, old word) was a slave [doulos] under his lord [kurios], Lu 12:42), but a master (Lu 16:1) over the other slaves in the house (menservants [paidas], maidservants [paidiskas] Lu 12:45), an overseer [epitropos] over the rest (Mt 20:8). Hence the under-rower [hupēretēs] of Christ has a position of great dignity as steward [oikonomos] of the mysteries of God. Jesus had expressly explained that the mysteries of the kingdom were open to the disciples (Mt 13:11). They were entrusted with the knowledge of some of God’s secrets though the disciples were not such apt pupils as they claimed to be (Mt 13:51; 16:8-12). As stewards Paul and other ministers are entrusted with the mysteries (see on 1Co 2:7 for this word) of God and are expected to teach them. “The church is the [oikos] (1Ti 3:15), God the [oikodespotēs] (Mt 13:52), the members the [oikeioi] (Ga 6:10; Eph 2:19)” (Lightfoot). Paul had a vivid sense of the dignity of this stewardship [oikonomia] of God given to him (Col 1:25; Eph 1:10). The ministry is more than a mere profession or trade. It is a calling from God for stewardship.

4:2 Here [hōde]. Either here on earth or in this matter. It is always local. Moreover [loipon]. Like [loipon] in 1:16 which see, accusative of general reference, as for what is left, besides. It is required [zēteitai]. It is sought. Many MSS. read [zēteite], ye seek, an easy change as [ai] and [e] came to be pronounced alike (Robertson, Grammar, p. 186). That a man be found faithful [hina pistos tis heurethēi]. Non-final use of [hina] with first aorist passive subjunctive of [heuriskō], the result of the seeking [zēteō]. Fidelity is the essential requirement in all such human relationships, in other words, plain honesty in handling money like bank-clerks or in other positions of trust like public office.

4:3 But with me [emoi de]. The ethical dative of personal relation and interest, “as I look at my own case.” Cf. Php 1:21. It is a very small thing [eis elachiston estin]. This predicate use of [eis] is like the Hebrew, but it occurs also in the papyri. The superlative [elachiston] is elative, very little, not the true superlative, least. “It counts for very little with me.” That I should be judged of you [hina huph’ humōn anakrithō]. Same use of [hina] as in verse 2. For the verb (first aorist passive subjunctive of [anakrinō] see on 1Co 2:14f. Paul does not despise public opinion, but he denies “the competency of the tribunal” in Corinth (Robertson and Plummer) to pass on his credentials with Christ as his Lord. Or of man’s judgement [ē hupo anthrōpinēs hēmeras]. Or “by human day,” in contrast to the Lord’s Day (der Tag) in 3:13. “That is the tribunal which the Apostle recognizes; a human tribunal he does not care to satisfy” (Robertson and Plummer). Yea, I judge not mine own self [all’ oude emauton anakrinō]. [Alla] here is confirmatory, not adversative. “I have often wondered how it is that every man sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others” (M. Aurelius, xii. 4. Translated by Robertson and Plummer). Paul does not even set himself up as judge of himself.

4:4 For I know nothing against myself [ouden gar emautōi sunoida]. Not a statement of fact, but an hypothesis to show the unreliability of mere complacent self-satisfaction. Note the use of [sunoida] (second perfect active indicative with dative (disadvantage) of the reflexive pronoun) for guilty knowledge against oneself (cf. Ac 5:2; 12:12; 14:6). Yet [all’]. Adversative use of [alla]. Am I not hereby justified [ouk en toutōi dedikaiōmai]. Perfect passive indicative of state of completion. Failure to be conscious of one’s own sins does not mean that one is innocent. Most prisoners plead “not guilty.” Who is the judge of the steward of the mysteries of God? It is the Lord “that judgeth me” [ho anakrinōn me]. Probably, who examines me and then passes on my fidelity [pistos] in verse 2).

4:5 Wherefore [hōste]. As in 3:21 which see. Judge nothing [mē ti krinete]. Stop passing judgment, stop criticizing as they were doing. See the words of Jesus in Mt 7:1. The censorious habit was ruining the Corinthian Church. Before the time [pro kairou]. The day of the Lord in 3:13. “Do not therefore anticipate the great judgment [krisis] by any preliminary investigation [anakrisis] which must be futile and incomplete” (Lightfoot). Until the Lord come [heōs an elthēi ho kurios]. Common idiom of [heōs] and the aorist subjunctive with or without [an] for a future event. Simple futurity, but held forth as a glorious hope, the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus as Judge. Who will both bring to light [hos kai phōtisei]. Future indicative of this late verb (in papyri also) from [phōs] (light), to turn the light on the hidden things of darkness. And make manifest [kai phanerōsei]. (Ionic and late) causative verb [phaneroō] from [phaneros]. By turning on the light the counsels of all hearts stand revealed. His praise [ho epainos]. The praise (note article) due him from God (Ro 2:29) will come to each then [tote] and not till then. Meanwhile Paul will carry on and wait for the praise from God.

4:6 I have in a figure transferred [meteschēmatisa]. First aorist active (not perfect) indicative of [meta-schēmatizō], used by Plato and Aristotle for changing the form of a thing (from [meta], after, and [schēma], form or habit, like Latin habitus from [echō] and so different from [morphē] as in Php 2:7; Ro 12:2). For the idea of refashioning see Field, Notes, p. 169f. and Preisigke, Fachworter). Both Greek and Latin writers (Quintilian, Martial) used [schēma] for a rhetorical artifice. Paul’s use of the word (in Paul only in N.T.) appears also further in 2Co 11:13-15 where the word occurs three times, twice of the false apostles posing and passing as apostles of Christ and ministers of righteousness, and once of Satan as an angel of light, twice with [eis] and once with [hōs]. In Php 3:21 the word is used for the change in the body of our humiliation to the body of glory. But here it is clearly the rhetorical figure for a veiled allusion to Paul and Apollos “for your sakes” [dia humas]. That in us ye may learn [hina en hēmin mathēte]. Final clause with [hina] and the second aorist active subjunctive of [manthanō], to learn. As an object lesson in our cases [en hēmin]. It is no more true of Paul and Apollos than of other ministers, but the wrangles in Corinth started about them. So Paul boldly puts himself and Apollos to the fore in the discussion of the principles involved. Not to go beyond the things which are written [to Mē huper ha gegraptai]. It is difficult to reproduce the Greek idiom in English. The article [to] is in the accusative case as the object of the verb [mathēte] (learn) and points at the words “[Mē huper ha gegraptai],” apparently a proverb or rule, and elliptical in form with no principal verb expressed with [], whether “think” (Auth.) or “go” (Revised). There was a constant tendency to smooth out Paul’s ellipses as in 2Th 2:3; 1Co 1:26,31. Lightfoot thinks that Paul may have in mind O.T. passages quoted in 1Co 1:19,31; 3:19,20. That ye be not puffed up [hina mē phusiousthe]. Sub-final use of [hina] (second use in this sentence) with notion of result. It is not certain whether [phusiousthe] (late verb form like [phusiaō, phusaō], to blow up, to inflate, to puff up), used only by Paul in the N.T., is present indicative with [hina] like [zēloute] in Ga 4:17 (cf. [hina ginōskomen] in 1Jo 5:20) or the present subjunctive by irregular contraction (Robertson, Grammar, pp. 203, 342f.), probably the present indicative. [Phusioō] is from [phusis] (nature) and so meant to make natural, but it is used by Paul just like [phusaō] or [phusiaō] (from [phusa], a pair of bellows), a vivid picture of self-conceit. One for the one against the other [heis huper tou henos kata tou heterou]. This is the precise idea of this idiom of partitive apposition. This is the rule with partisans. They are “for” [huper] the one and “against” [kata], down on, the genitive case) the other [tou heterou], not merely another or a second, but the different sort, [heterodox].

4:7 Maketh thee to differ [se diakrinei]. Distinguishes thee, separates thee. [Diakrinō] means to sift or separate between [dia] as in Ac 15:9 (which see) where [metaxu] is added to make it plainer. All self-conceit rests on the notion of superiority of gifts and graces as if they were self-bestowed or self-acquired. Which thou didst not receive [ho ouk elabes]. “Another home-thrust” (Robertson and Plummer). Pride of intellect, of blood, of race, of country, of religion, is thus shut out. Dost thou glory [kauchasai]. The original second person singular middle ending [-sai] is here preserved with variable vowel contraction, [kauchaesai=kauchasai] (Robertson, Grammar, p. 341). Paul is fond of this old and bold verb for boasting. As if thou hadst not received it [hōs mē labōn]. This neat participial clause (second aorist active of [lambanō] with [hōs] (assumption) and negative [] punctures effectually the inflated bag of false pride. What pungent questions Paul has asked. Robertson and Plummer say of Augustine, “Ten years before the challenge of Pelagius, the study of St. Paul’s writings, and especially of this verse and of Ro 9:16, had crystallized in his mind the distinctively Augustinian doctrines of man’s total depravity, of irresistible grace, and of absolute predestination.” Human responsibility does exist beyond a doubt, but there is no foundation for pride and conceit.

4:8 Already are ye filled? [ēdē kekoresmenoi este?]. Perfect passive indicative, state of completion, of [korennumi], old Greek verb to satiate, to satisfy. The only other example in N.T. is Ac 27:38 which see. Paul may refer to De 31:20; 32:15. But it is keen irony, even sarcasm. Westcott and Hort make it a question and the rest of the sentence also. Already ye are become rich [ēdē eploutēsate]. Note change to ingressive aorist indicative of [plouteō], old verb to be rich (cf. 2Co 8:9). “The aorists, used instead of perfects, imply indecent haste” (Lightfoot). “They have got a private millennium of their own” (Robertson & Plummer) with all the blessings of the Messianic Kingdom (Lu 22:29f.; 1Th 2:12; 2Ti 2:12). Ye have reigned without us [chōris hēmōn ebasileusate]. Withering sarcasm. Ye became kings without our company. Some think that Paul as in 3:21 is purposely employing Stoic phraseology though with his own meanings. If so, it is hardly consciously done. Paul was certainly familiar with much of the literature of his time, but it did not shape his ideas. I would that ye did reign [kai ophelon ge ebasileusate]. More exactly, “And would at least that ye had come to reign (or become kings).” It is an unfulfilled wish about the past expressed by [ophelon] and the aorist indicative instead of [ei gar] and the aorist indicative (the ancient idiom). See Robertson, Grammar, p. 1003, for the construction with particle [ophelon] (an unaugmented second aorist form). That we also might reign with you [hina kai hēmeis humin sunbasileusōmen]. Ironical contrast to [chōris hēmōn ebasileusate], just before. Associative instrumental case of [humin] after [sun-].

4:9 Hath set forth us the apostles last [hēmas tous apostolous eschatous apedeixen]. The first aorist active indicative of [apodeiknumi], old verb to show, to expose to view or exhibit (Herodotus), in technical sense (cf. 2Th 2:4) for gladiatorial show as in [ethēriomachēsa] (1Co 15:32). In this grand pageant Paul and other apostles come last [eschatous], predicate accusative after [apedeixen] as a grand finale. As men doomed to die [hōs epithanatious]. Late word, here alone in N.T. The LXX (Bel and the Dragon 31) has it for those thrown daily to the lions. Dionysius of Halicarnassus (A.R. vii. 35) uses it of those thrown from the Tarpeian Rock. The gladiators would say morituri salutamus. All this in violent contrast to the kingly Messianic pretensions of the Corinthians. A spectacle [theatron]. Cf. Heb 11:33-40. The word, like our theatre, means the place of the show (Ac 19:29,31). Then, it means the spectacle shown there [theama] or [thea], and, as here, the man exhibited as the show like the verb [theatrizomenoi], made a spectacle (Heb 10:33). Sometimes it refers to the spectators [theatai] like our “house” for the audience. Here the spectators include “the world, both to angels and men” [tōi kosmōi kai aggelois kai anthrōpois], dative case of personal interest.

4:10 We—you [hēmeis—humeis]. Triple contrast in keenest ironical emphasis. “The three antitheses refer respectively to teaching, demeanour, and worldly position” (Robertson and Plummer). The apostles were fools for Christ’s sake (2Co 4:11; Php 3:7). They made “union with Christ the basis of worldly wisdom” (Vincent). There is change of order (chiasm) in the third ironical contrast. They are over strong in pretension. [Endoxos], illustrious, is one of the 103 words found only in Luke and Paul in the N.T. Notion of display and splendour.

4:11 Even unto this present hour [achri tēs arti hōras]. [Arti] (just now, this very minute) accents the continuity of the contrast as applied to Paul. Ten verbs and four participles from 11-13 give a graphic picture of Paul’s condition in Ephesus when he is writing this epistle. We hunger [peinōmen], we thirst [dipsōmen], are naked [gumniteuomen], late verb for scant clothing from [gumnētēs], are buffeted [kolaphizometha], to strike a blow with the fist from [kolaphos] and one of the few N.T. and ecclesiastical words and see on Mt 26:67, have no certain dwelling place [astatoumen] from [astatos], strolling about and only here save Anthol. Pal. and Aquila in Isa 58:7. Field in Notes, p. 170 renders 1Co 4:11 “and are vagabonds” or spiritual hobos.

4:12 We toil [kopiōmen]. Common late verb for weariness in toil (Lu 5:5), working with our own hands [ergazomenoi tais idiais chersin] instrumental case [chersin] and not simply for himself but also for Aquila and Priscilla as he explains in Ac 20:34. This personal touch gives colour to the outline. Paul alludes to this fact often (1Th 2:9; 2Th 3:8; 1Co 9:6; 2Co 11:7). “Greeks despised manual labour; St. Paul glories in it” (Robertson and Plummer). Cf. Deissmann, Light, etc., p. 317. Being reviled we bless [loidoroumenoi eulogoumen]. Almost the language of Peter about Jesus (1Pe 2:23) in harmony with the words of Jesus in Mt 5:44; Lu 6:27. Being persecuted we endure [diōkomenoi anechometha]. We hold back and do not retaliate. Turn to Paul’s other picture of his experiences in the vivid contrasts in 2Co 4:7-10; 6:3-10 for an interpretation of his language here.

4:13 Being defamed we intreat [dusphēmoumenoi parakaloumen]. The participle [dusphēmoumenoi] is an old verb (in I Macc. 7:41) to use ill, from [dusphēmos], but occurs here only in the N.T. Paul is opening his very heart now after the keen irony above. As the filth of the world [hōs perikatharmata tou kosmou]. Literally, sweepings, rinsings, cleansings around, dust from the floor, from [perikathairō], to cleanse all around (Plato and Aristotle) and so the refuse thrown off in cleansing. Here only in the N.T. and only twice elsewhere. [Katharma] was the refuse of a sacrifice. In Pr 21:18 [perikatharma] occurs for the scapegoat. The other example is Epictetus iii. 22,78, in the same sense of an expiatory offering of a worthless fellow. It was the custom in Athens during a plague to throw to the sea some wretch in the hope of appeasing the gods. One hesitates to take it so here in Paul, though Findlay thinks that possibly in Ephesus Paul may have heard some such cry like that in the later martyrdoms Christiani ad leones. At any rate in 1Co 15:32 Paul says “I fought with wild beasts” and in 2Co 1:9 “I had the answer of death.” Some terrible experience may be alluded to here. The word shows the contempt of the Ephesian populace for Paul as is shown in Ac 19:23-41 under the influence of Demetrius and the craftsmen. The offscouring of all things [pantōn peripsēma]. Late word, here only in N.T., though in Tob. 5:18. The word was used in a formula at Athens when victims were flung into the sea, [peripsēma hēmōn genou] (Became a [peripsēma] for us), in the sense of expiation. The word merely means scraping around from [peripsaō], offscrapings or refuse. That is probably the idea here as in Tob. 5:18. It came to have a complimentary sense for the Christians who in a plague gave their lives for the sick. But it is a bold figure here with Paul of a piece with [perikatharmata].

4:14 To shame you [entrepōn]. Literally, shaming you (present active participle of [entrepō], old verb to turn one on himself either middle or with reflexive pronoun and active, but the reflexive [heautois] is not expressed here. See on 2Th 3:14. The harsh tone has suddenly changed.

4:15 To admonish [nouthetōn]. Literally, admonishing (present active participle of [noutheteō]. See on 1Th 5:12,14. For though ye should have [ean gar echēte]. Third-class condition undetermined, but with prospect of being determined [ean] and present subjunctive), “for if ye have.” Tutors [paidagōgous]. This old word [pais], boy, [agōgos], leader) was used for the guide or attendant of the child who took him to school as in Ga 3:24 (Christ being the schoolmaster) and also as a sort of tutor who had a care for the child when not in school. The papyri examples (Moulton and Milligan, Vocabulary) illustrate both aspects of the paedagogue. Here it is the “tutor in Christ” who is the Teacher. These are the only two N.T. examples of the common word. I begot you [humas egennēsa]. Paul is their spiritual father in Christ, while Apollos and the rest are their tutors in Christ.

4:16 Be ye imitators of me [mimētai mou ginesthe]. “Keep on becoming (present middle imperative) imitators of me (objective genitive).” [Mimētēs] is an old word from [mimeomai], to copy, to mimic [mimos]. Paul stands for his rights as their spiritual father against the pretensions of the Judaizers who have turned them against him by the use of the names of Apollos and Cephas.

4:17 Have I sent [epempsa]. First aorist active indicative. Probably Timothy had already gone as seems clear from 16:10f. Apparently Timothy came back to Ephesus and was sent on to Macedonia before the uproar in Ephesus (Ac 19:22). Probably also Titus was then despatched to Corinth, also before the uproar. In every church [en pasēi ekklēsiāi]. Paul expects his teachings and practices to be followed in every church (1Co 14:33). Note his language here “my ways those in Christ Jesus.” Timothy as Paul’s spokesman will remind [anamnēsei] the Corinthians of Paul’s teachings.

4:18 Some are puffed up [ephusiōthēsan]. First aorist (effective) passive indicative of [phusioō] which see on verse 6. As though I were not coming to you [hōs mē erchomenou mou pros humas]. Genitive absolute with particle (assuming it as so) with [] as negative.

4:19 If the Lord will [ean ho kurios thelēsēi]. Third-class condition. See James 4:15; Ac 18:21; 1Co 16:7 for the use of this phrase. It should represent one’s constant attitude, though not always to be spoken aloud. But the power [alla tēn dunamin]. The puffed up Judaizers did a deal of talking in Paul’s absence. He will come and will know their real strength. II Corinthians gives many evidences of Paul’s sensitiveness to their talk about his inconsistencies and cowardice (in particular chs. 2 Co 1; 2; 10; 11; 12; 13). He changed his plans to spare them, not from timidity. It will become plain later that Timothy failed on this mission and that Titus succeeded.

4:21 With a rod [en rabdōi]. The so-called instrumental use of [en] like the Hebrew (1Sa 17:43). The shepherd leaned on his rod, staff, walking stick. The paedagogue had his rod also. Shall I come? [elthō;]. Deliberative subjunctive. Paul gives them the choice. They can have him as their spiritual father or as their paedagogue with a rod.

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