Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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1 CORINTHIANS - Chapter 4

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1 Corinthians 4

Supplemental Commentary:

I.  PARTY SPIRIT  1, 10 -- 4, 21 (continued)

4, 1-5:  Ministers of Gospel Judged by Christ.    4.  Paul refers to the work of his apostolate, in which he is not conscious of fault; not thereby justified does not therefore directly refer to the justification of the sinner through grace.  His apostolate was probably not perfect; only God is an infallible judge.    5.  So also the Corinthians should avoid judging the preachers, which leads to division.    They have not sufficient evidence now, but they will have it on the last day when they judge the world with Christ (cf. 6, 2 f).  Everyone will have his praise: Paul takes it that all the preachers will merit praise; if there be any blameworthy they will be blamed.

4, 6-21:  Corinthians Contrasted with Apostles.  Perfect contentment will be found in the Messianic kingdom only in its final stage when Christians will reign with Christ.  The Corinthians are so self-satisfied that they seem to expect nothing better than their present state while the Apostles, who would be expected to be admitted first to glory, are still suffering with Christ.  The first part of this is ironical.    6.  Transgressing what is written: in the Greek this comes immediately after learn; literally, that in us you may learn the "not beyond what is written."  It is probably proverbial.  What is written almost invariably refers to the sacred writings.  In this case Paul would be referring to Old Testament teaching on humility in such passages as those quoted in 1, 19.31; 3, 19 f.    7.  Who singles thee out? probably implies the answer "no one"; there is no foundation for the personal advantage claimed in party division.  Even if there were it would be, as all else, from God and not an occasion for boasting.    9.  An allusion to the Roman "circus" where men condemned to death had to fight men and beasts for the spectators, some admiring and sympathizing, others scorning and gloating.    13.  Offscouring: what is removed in cleaning, similar to refuse.    16.  As I am in Christ: probably added from 11, 1.    17.  Timothy's mission is mentioned in Acts 19, 21 f.  My ways: teaching and example.    18 f.  Paul had promised a return visit (Acts 18, 21), and intends to keep his promise (16, 5-8).  Some adversaries seem to have boasted that they had so undermined his authority that he would be afraid to return (cf. 2 Cor. 10-13).  Paul will look for the fruits of preaching not vain eloquence.

Confraternity Bible:

Ministers of Gospel Judged by Christ  1 Let a man so account us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.  2 Now here it is required in stewards that a man be found trustworthy.  3 But with me it is a very small matter to be judged by you or by man's tribunal.  Nay I do not even judge my own self.  4 For I have nothing on my conscience, yet I am not thereby justified; but he who judges me is the Lord.  5 Therefore, pass no judgment before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the things hidden in darkness and make manifest the counsels of hearts; and then everyone will have his praise from God.

Corinthians Contrasted with Apostles  6 Now, brethren, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos by way of illustration for your sakes, that in our case you may learn not to be puffed up one against the other over a third party, transgressing what is written.  7 For who singles thee out?  Or what hast thou that thou hast not received?  And if thou hast received it, why dost thou boast as if thou hadst not received it?  8* You are already filled!  You are already made rich!  Without us you reign!  And would that you did reign, that we too might reign with you!  9* For I think God has set forth us the apostles last of all, as men doomed to death, seeing that we have been made a spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men.  10* We are fools for Christ, but you are wise in Christ!  We are weak, but you are strong!  You are honored, but we are without honor!  11* To this very hour we hunger and thirst, and we are naked and buffeted, and have no fixed abode.  12* And we toil, working with our own hands.  We are reviled and we bless, we are persecuted and we bear with it, 13* we are maligned and we entreat, we have become as the refuse of this world, the offscouring of all, even until now!

14 I write these things not to put you to shame, but to admonish you as my dearest children.  15* For although you have ten thousand tutors in Christ, yet you have not many fathers.  For in Christ Jesus, through the gospel, did I beget you.  16 Therefore, I beg you, be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.  17 For this very reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my dearest son and faithful in the Lord.  He will remind you of my ways, which are in Christ Jesus, even as I teach everywhere in every church.

18 Now some are puffed up, as if I were not coming to you.  19 But I shall come to you shortly, if the Lord is willing, and I shall learn the power of those who are puffed up, not the promises.  20 For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.  21 What is your wish?  Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and in the spirit of meekness?


8-13: Paul ironically contrasts the self-satisfaction of the Corinthians with the humble condition of the Apostles, still in the midst of sufferings.

15: The tutor, i.e., "pedagogue," the slave, often not much loved, who accompanied the youth to and from his real teacher.