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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
1 Corinthians 4

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

1. οὕτως ἡμᾶς λογιζέσθω ἄνθρωπος. ‘Of the things of which we have spoken this is the sum.’ We are not to be regarded for any qualifications we may have of our own, but simply as ‘the servants of the Most High God.’

ὑπηρέτας Χριστοῦ. Not ministers in the technical sense, but attendants, in the modern sense of the word. The ὑπηρέτης was either, [1] the under-rower, one who rowed under the direction of another, or [2] one who sat in the lower bank of oars. John Mark (Acts 13:5) was the ὑπηρέτης of Barnabas and Paul. See also Luke 1:2.

καὶ οἰκονόμους μυστηρίων θεοῦ. Literally, house-ruler, or house-feeder. Cf. German Hauswalter from walten to rule, and the English housekeeper. What a steward’s office is, we learn from Matthew 24:45. μυστήριον is derived from μύω, to shut the eyes, and was in the old Greek civilization used to denote those rites which were only permitted to the initiated, and were kept a strict secret from the outside world. Of such a kind were the well-known Eleusinian mysteries, which were kept every fifth year at Eleusis in Attica, the rites of the Bona Dea, which were observed at Rome, and those of Isis and Mithras, which were of Egyptian and Persian origin. (See Article ‘Mysteria’ in Smith’s Dictionary of Antiquities.) The word is used in Scripture in two senses, [1] of things hidden from the ordinary understanding, [2] of things formerly concealed in the counsels of God but revealed to those who believe the Gospel. We have examples of the former meaning in ch. 1 Corinthians 13:2 and 1 Corinthians 14:2 of this Epistle, in 2 Thessalonians 2:7, and in Revelation 1:20, and of the latter in Matthew 13:11; Romans 16:25; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:26, as well as in ch. 1 Corinthians 2:7. The present passage appears to include both meanings. The ministers of Christ are to nourish their people on the knowledge of the truths of His Gospel, a knowledge (ch. 1 Corinthians 2:10-16) revealed only to the spiritual. As Chrysostom says, they were to do this οἷς δεῖ, καὶ ὅτε δεῖ, καὶ ὡς δεῖ. No instance of μυστήριον in its more modern Greek sense of Sacraments is to be found in Holy Scripture. In the Septuagint it is frequently found in the Apocrypha (as in Tobit 12:7; Tobit 12:11), but the only instances of its occurrence in the Canonical books are in the Septuagint translation of the book of Daniel, ch. Daniel 2:18-19; Daniel 2:27-30; Daniel 2:47, ch. Daniel 4:6 (where it is the translation of a Chaldaic word signifying ‘a thing hidden,’ which in our Authorized Version is translated secret) and in Isaiah 24:16, where, however, the translators, as those of the Vulgate, appear to have been misled by the similarity of the Chaldee word to a Hebrew one (Luther, Ewald, and the English version translate the word by ‘leanness’). It is also found in some editions in the Greek of Proverbs 20:19. Cf. for similar sentiments to the above passage, Titus 1:7, and 1 Peter 4:10.


Verses 1-7

1–7. THE TRUE ESTIMATION OF CHRIST’S MINISTERS AND THE TRUE CRITERION OF THEIR WORK

After having pointed out the light in which the teachers of Christianity should be regarded, the Apostle in this chapter goes on to point out the practical difference between those who preach themselves and those who preach Christ, and urges all to a life like his, that he may have no need of rebukes when he comes.


Verse 2

2. ὧδε. According to Meyer, this being so, though Dean Alford would interpret it here on earth. R.V. translates here, moreover. Lachmann connects it with the last verse, and puts the period after it. But this yields a poor meaning, and makes a very unusual sentence. The rec. ὃ δὲ λοιπόν would mean simply moreover.

ἵνα. Great endeavours have been made by Classical purists to make ἵνα bear the telic sense here. Thus Meyer translates ‘it is sought’ (what is sought he does not say), ‘in order that a man be found faithful.’ But it is impossible, in the face of innumerable passages, to maintain this rendering. See Winer, Gr. Gram. Pt III. § 44.8, and Mark 6:25; Mark 9:30; John 4:34, &c. The fact is (see Prof. Jebb’s Appendix to Vincent and Dickson’s Modern Greek Grammar, p. 320), that colloquial Greek had undergone gradual changes, which had affected written Greek in the Apostles’ time. Cf. Dion. Halic. (25 B.C.) I. 215 δεήσασθαι ἔμελλον ἵνα ἀγάγοι, I was going to ask her to bring me, where, as in many passages in the N. T., ἵνα is no more than the sign of the infinitive, like the modern Greek νά. See also next verse.


Verse 3

3. εἰς ἐλάχιστον. It amounts to the least, i.e. it is of the least possible consequence.

ἵνα ὑφ' ὑμῶν ἀνακριθῶ ἢ ὑπὸ ἀνθρωπίνης ἡμέρας. That I should be arraigned. Faithfulness is no doubt more urgently required in the discharge of this duty than of any other. But it is not man’s province to make the inquiry, but God’s. ἀνακριθῶ is translated judged in A.V. The meaning of the word is tried or examined. See notes on ch. 1 Corinthians 2:14-15. As the Apostle ‘could not speak unto the Corinthians as spiritual’ (ch. 1 Corinthians 3:1), for they were ‘men’ and ‘walked as men’ (1 Corinthians 4:3-4), so he altogether refuses to admit their right, or that of any other purely human tribunal, to institute an inquiry into his motives. Such an inquiry is altogether premature. It can only take place at the great Day of the Lord. Man has not capacity sufficient to undertake it. The word translated judgment in A.V. is ‘day’ in the original. As instances of the use of the word day as in some sense equivalent to judgment, we may adduce the Latin diem dicere, to appoint the day of trial, and our word daysman, i.e. arbitrator, as in Job 9:33. So Chaucer, Chanonnes Yemannes Tale, lines 15, 16:

‘Lene me a mark, quod he, but dayes thre

And at my day I will it quyte the.’

And the Dutch dagh vaerden to fix a day, daghen to cite, as in a legal process.

ἀλλ' οὐδὲ ἐμαυτὸν ἀνακρίνω. Nay, I do not even arraign myself.


Verse 4

4. οὐδὲν γὰρ ἐμαυτῷ σύνοιδα. For if I were to put myself on my trial, I am conscious of no dereliction of duty. In A.V. ‘I know nothing by myself’ (I know nought by myself, Tyndale) signifies I know nothing against myself, like the Latin ‘nil conscire sibi’ in Hor. Ep. I. 1. 61, or the nihil mihi conscius sum of the Vulgate here. The expression ‘I know nothing by him,’ as equivalent to ‘I know nothing against his character,’ is a common one in the North of England. Instances of this expression in old English writers may be found in Davies’ Bible English.

ἀλλ' οὐκ ἐν τούτῳ δεδικαίωμαι. ‘But my innocence (lit. righteousness) has not been established by this.’ Here δικαιόω means to declare a righteousness actually possessed, as in 1 Kings 8:32 (LXX.) and Psalms 143 [142]:2. ἐν, though here used in an instrumental sense, is not the simple instrument, but refers to the result of a process. St Paul who elsewhere (ch. 1 Corinthians 9:27, 1 Corinthians 15:9; Ephesians 3:8; 1 Timothy 1:13; 1 Timothy 1:15—cf. also Philippians 3:13) had an almost exaggerated sense of infirmity can hardly have meant to imply here that he was entirely free from fault. What he seems to have meant was that, as far as he could see, and as far as anyone else could see, he had been strictly conscientious in the discharge of his mission. But he must not be puffed up, either by the thought that no one had a right to judge him, or even by his own inability to see where he had failed. There was a strict and righteous Judge, Who would bring him to account in His own good time.

ὁ δὲ ἀνακρίνων με κύριός ἐστιν. ‘But He who arraigneth me, putteth me on my trial, is the Lord,’ i.e. Jesus Christ.


Verse 5

5. ὥστε μὴ πρὸ καιροῦ τι κρίνετε. κρίνω here, because the decision, not the process is meant, while the present tense signifies the habit of exercising judgment. καιρός signifies the proper time for the decision. The precept is here applied to the relation of teacher and taught which is laid down generally in Matthew 7:1 and Romans 2:1. It is our duty to listen to the teaching of God’s ministers, test it humbly yet candidly, by the aid of God’s word, to ‘hold fast that which is good’ and act upon it (1 Thessalonians 5:21), but to avoid all scrutiny and imputation of motives, since to search the heart is the prerogative of God alone. ‘Learn not to judge, for we do not know the secrets of the heart. We judge men by gifts, or by a correspondence with our own peculiarities, but God judges by fidelity.’ Robertson.

τὰ κρυπτὰ τοῦ σκότους. Cf. Psalms 44:21; Romans 2:16 and ch. 1 Corinthians 14:25. It clearly means the secret iniquity of the heart.

ὁ ἔπαινος. The praise he deserves.


Verse 6

6. μετεσχημάτισα. Literally, I changed the form of. The Vulgate renders transfiguravi, Wiclif transfigured, Tyndale described in mine own person, the Geneva version, I have figuratively described in mine own person. St Paul changes the names of the persons, substituting himself and Apollos for the teachers most in repute at Corinth, that he might thus avoid personality. But the principles laid down in the preceding chapters were to be applied universally.

τὸ μὴ ὑπὲρ ἃ γέγραπται. Translate, that ye may learn in our persons the precept, Not above what is written. Bp Wordsworth quotes in illustration of the construction:

‘Observe

The rule of not too much, by Temperance taught.’

Paradise Lost, Bk XI. l. 528.

See Critical Note.

γέγραπται refers to the Old Testament Scriptures. We have no certainty that any part of the New Testament was written at this time, save the two Epistles to the Thessalonians, and perhaps that to the Galatians; but see Bp Lightfoot’s Commentary on this last Epistle, p. 40. The only place in the New Testament where the term Scripture is applied to any of the books of the New Testament is 2 Peter 3:16. See ch. 1 Corinthians 9:10, 1 Corinthians 10:11, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 1 Corinthians 15:45; 1 Corinthians 15:54. St Paul either refers to Jeremiah 9:23-24, or to passages which speak of God as the source of all knowledge, such as Deuteronomy 17:19-20; Joshua 1:8; Psalms 1:2; Psalms 119:99-100; Proverbs 8:9, &c.

ἵνα μὴφυσιοῦσθε. Here we have ἵνα with the present indicative, an unusual construction. Winer, § 41, note, says that this construction is ‘quite common’ in modern Greek. But this appears to be an exaggeration. It is found again in Galatians 4:17. A better explanation has, however, been given by Professor Hort, in the Notes on Orthography appended to Westcott and Hort’s Gr. Test. p. 167. The N. T. form of the conjunctive in the case of verbs in -όω, it is suggested, coincides with that of the indicative.

εἷς ὑπὲρ τοῦ ἑνός. Literally ‘That ye may not be puffed up, one man for the one,’ against the other.


Verse 7

7. τίς γάρ σε διακρίνει; Literally, ‘for who separates thee?’ Hence comes the idea of distinction in one’s own mind and then in that of another. διακρίνω is opposed to συγκρίνω (combine) in the passage from Aristotle’s Metaphysics mentioned above, ch. 1 Corinthians 2:13. The Vulgate translates by discerno here, a rendering which serves to explain the use of discern in the A.V. of ch. 1 Corinthians 11:29, where see note. The answer to the question is shewn by the context to be ‘God.’ And since He was the source of all the gifts which distinguished these men from others, all boasting was of course absurd. Cf. John 3:27; James 1:17. Chrysostom interprets the word of the distinction resulting from praise.


Verse 8

8. ἤδη κεκορεσμένοι ἐστέ. Here we have one of the sudden turns of feeling so remarkable in the Apostle’s style. Abruptly breaking off at the word ‘boast,’ he dashes off into an animated and ironical apostrophe. ‘I may well say “boast,” for boasting is your crying sin, but it is boasting in yourselves, not in God. All your wants spiritual and temporal now are satisfied, you have become rich, you are reigning like kings. But in your self-satisfaction you give not a thought to those whose labours have made you what you are. Would that it were really with you as you imagine it to be! Then we might hope for some remission of our trials, distresses, humiliations. But at present all the sorrow, suffering, shame is ours, while either in fact or in fancy you are enjoying all the good things given to Christians, immunity from suffering, quiet of conscience (Romans 8:1), wisdom, honour, inward satisfaction.’ κεκορεσμένοι means ‘having been satiated with good things’ (Vulgate, saturati). Some editors read the verse as a series of questions. But the affirmative rendering strengthens the irony of the passage, and the καί which follows supports it.

ἐπλουτήσατε. The aorists here cannot be construed strictly. They mean, ‘ye have been living in prosperity,’ ‘ye have been reigning.’

χωρὶς ἡμῶν. Though St Paul had admitted the Corinthians into the same blessings as he enjoyed himself, he had no share in their blessings.

καὶ ὄφελον. The Apostle does not regard the persecutions and distresses he underwent as desirable for their own sake, but only as means to an end. The empire of evil is not to be destroyed without a conflict, and the sufferings endured by Christ’s servants are the evidences that this conflict is going on, as well as the means by which victory is secured. But the best of those who are thus contending for the truth may lawfully wish that the conflict were over and the reign of the saints begun. Such a wish appears to be included in the words, ‘Thy kingdom come.’ ὄφελον, properly a verb, has become in later Greek a particle, signifying ‘would that’ and therefore followed by a finite verb. See Winer, § 41 and 2 Corinthians 11:1; Galatians 5:12; Revelation 3:15. The aorist signifies, not the simple wish, which would be indicated by the future, but the desire for its immediate fulfilment, ‘Would that ye could now begin to reign!’ The ‘to God’ of the A.V. is an addition for the sake of emphasis.


Verses 8-16

8–16. CONTRAST BETWEEN THE CORINTHIAN TEACHERS AND ST PAUL


Verse 9

9. γάρ gives the reason for ὄφελον.

ἐπιθανατίους, condemned to death. A.V. approved to death. So the original version of 1611. Our modern Bibles read appointed with Tyndale and Cranmer. Cf. ch. 1 Corinthians 15:31; Psalms 44:22; Romans 8:36; 2 Corinthians 4:11. It is possible that we have here, as in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, an expression of that expectation of Christ’s speedy coming which we know was general among the Christians of the Apostolic age. We know (Mark 13:32) that the Apostle’s inspiration did not extend to this subject. However this may be, the Apostles are represented as coming last in a procession of gladiators, devoted to death (Tertullian renders the word bestiarios, ‘appointed to fight with beasts,’ see ch. 1 Corinthians 15:32), and the whole universe, angels and men, are supposed to be spectators of the conflict. Cf. Hebrews 10:33; Hebrews 12:1. The image is taken from the Isthmian games which were held near Corinth. See notes on ch. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.

θέατρον. Originally, as in English, the place where the spectacle is performed. Here only, in the sense of the spectacle itself.

ἐγενήθημεν. As A.V. and R.V., ‘we are made.’

καὶ ἀγγέλοις. The absence of the article before this and the following noun has been variously explained. Some regard it as merely a case of the omission of the article before nouns coupled together by conjunctions. But other authorities, as Meyer and Winer, regard the ἀγγέλοις and ἀνθρώποις as specializing τῷ κόσμῳ. ‘The world, namely angels as well as men.’


Verse 10

10. μωροὶ διὰ Χριστόν. Fools on account of Christ, in reference to the labours and sufferings they underwent in His cause, but which it were folly to have undergone, if the Corinthian theory of the Christian life were correct, which placed the reward of the Christian in the things of this present world. See 1 Corinthians 4:8 and ch. 1 Corinthians 2:14, 1 Corinthians 3:3.

φρόνιμοι. Prudent, Wiclif; prudentes, Vulgate. It is scarcely necessary to explain that this language is ironical. They were unquestionably ‘prudent’ in this, that they spared themselves the labours and anxieties in which St Paul was so ‘abundant’ (2 Corinthians 11:23).


Verse 11

11. ἄχρι τῆς ἄρτι ὥρας. The Apostle would point out to his converts the true glory of the Christian minister. Labour and suffering for Christ’s sake are the marks of the servants of God, not self-conceit and self-praise.

γυμνιτεύομεν. See Critical Note.

ἀστατοῦμεν. Later Greek word. It is used by Appian of the waves of the sea.


Verse 12

12. ἐργαζόμενοι ταῖς ἰδίαις χερσίν. Consult Paley, Horae Paulinae, 1st Ep. to Corinthians, No. 6, for a full discussion of the remarkable coincidence between this passage and the speech to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:34, where, though the words were spoken on a different occasion, and are related by a different author, we find statements exactly corresponding. St Paul, in this Epistle written from Ephesus, and in that speech spoken at Ephesus, states that he laboured with his own hands there, and in both cases the remark is dropped undesignedly. The coincidence is the best proof possible of the genuineness both of Epistle and narrative. See also ch. 1 Corinthians 9:6 and Acts 18:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8.

λοιδορούμενοι εὐλογοῦμεν. Compare Matthew 5:5; Matthew 5:38-45; Luke 23:34; John 18:23; 1 Peter 2:20; 1 Peter 2:23.


Verse 13

13. περικαθάρματα. The word means [1] that which is removed by cleansing, [2] that which is cast away to make something else clean, and hence [3] an expiation. κάθαρμα and καθαρμός are more often used in this sense in earlier Greek, as in Herod. VII. 197 διότι καθρμὸν τῆς χώρης ποιευμένων Ἀχαιῶυ ἐκ θεοπροπίου Ἀθάμαντα τὸν Αἰόλου, καὶ μελλόντων μιν θύειν. See also Proverbs 21:18 (LXX.), περικάθαρμα (Heb. copher) δὲ δικαίου ἄνομος, καὶ ἀντὶ εὐθέων ἀσύνθετος. The expiatory sense must not be pressed here. St Paul seems simply to mean that he suffers ignominy in order that the Corinthians may escape it.

ἐγενήθημεν. We became or were made, i.e. from our being called as Apostles onward.

πἀντων. Of all men, rather than with the English versions, ‘of all things.’

περίψημα. The precise synonym of περικάθαρμα, according to the laws of Hebrew parallelism, here introduced to emphasize St Paul’s meaning. ψάω signifies to rub or wipe περίψημα is therefore something wiped off. The patriarch Photius gives an elaborate explanation of the phrase. He says, τὸ παλαιὸν ἐπειδάν τινων ἄνωθεν μηνιμάτων εἰς πείραν ἐνέπιπτον, καὶ ποινὰς αὐτοὺς τῶν τετολμημένων ἀπαιτεῖσθαι συνήσθοντο, ἀθρόοι περιστάντες τὸ ὁμόφυλον ἑνί τινι αὐτῶν, ὅς ἔμελλεν ἢ κλήρῳ ἀφορισθείς, ἢ τῷ προθύμῳ τῆς γνώμης ἑκούσιος ὑπὲρ πάντων προθύεσθαι, καὶ καθάρσιον αὐτῶν γένεσθαι· τοῦτον χερσὶ περιψῶντες καὶ ἐφαψάμενοι, Περίψημα ἡμῶν, ἔλεγον, γενοῦ. Ex Amphilochianis Quaestionibus, 155. He explains it by καθάρσιον and ἱερεῖον, one who delivered himself up to all kinds of indignities, like his Master, for those to whom he was sent. Suidas (s. v.) adds that the victim was cast into the sea as a sacrifice to Poseidon, with the words quoted by Photius. See also Tobit 5:18, ἀργύριον τῷ ἀργυρίῳ μὴ φθάσαι, ἀλλὰ περίψημα τοῦ παιδίου ἡμῶν γένοιτο. And Ignat. Ep. to Eph. ch. 8 (with which compare Barnabas Epist. ch. 6), περίψημα ὑμῶν, καὶ ἁγνίζομαι ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν Ἐφεσίων.


Verse 14

14. οὐκ ἐντρέπων ὑμᾶς γράφω ταῦτα. The object of the foregoing passage might be mistaken, and therefore the Apostle refers to the mutual relation between himself and the Corinthian Church. His object is not reproach, but the amendment of their lives. It is the rebuke of a father, not the strong language of a man who harbours a grudge.


Verse 15

15. γάρ gives the reason for τέκνα.

παιδαγωγούς. The παιδαγωγός (see Bishop Lightfoot on Galatians 3:24) was originally [1] employed to escort the boy to school, and thence [2] was ‘entrusted with his moral supervision.’

ἀλλ' οὐ πολλοὺς πατέρας. We have here an interesting example of the fact that the spirit rather than the letter of Christ’s commands is to be observed, and that one passage of Scripture is not to be strained so as to contradict another. ‘Call no man your father on earth,’ says Christ (Matthew 23:9); that is, as explained by the present passage, in such a spirit as to forget Him from whom all being proceeds.

ἐγώ. Although the pronoun is emphatic, I begat you, the Apostle does not forget that it is ‘in Christ Jesus.’ Cf. ch. 1 Corinthians 3:5-9.


Verse 16

16. μιμηταί. Imitators. Vulgate, imitatores. St Paul’s was no spurious humility, such as has too often taken the place of real Gospel humility in the Christian Church. He could venture to refer to his own example, where his conscience told him he had honestly striven to carry out his Master’s commands.


Verse 17

17. ἔπεμψα. I sent, i. e. before this Epistle was written. The epistolary aorist is excluded by ch. 1 Corinthians 16:10. St Paul’s affection for the gentle and somewhat timid Timothy is a remarkable trait in his character. From almost the beginning to the end of his ministry he had, not even excepting St Luke, no more trustworthy, affectionate, and faithful friend, nor one who more thoroughly understood his mind. Cf. Philippians 2:19-20; Philippians 2:22; 1 Thessalonians 3:2; 1 Timothy 1:3; 2 Timothy 3:10. It may be also valuable to remark how the common life of the believer and his Lord is ever present with St Paul. If Timothy is ‘faithful and beloved,’ it is ‘in the Lord’; if St Paul has ‘ways,’ they are ‘in Christ.’ For Timothy’s parentage and connection with the Apostle, see 2 Timothy 1:5, and Acts 16:1. It will be observed that the statement here undesignedly made is in precise agreement with Acts 19:22. See Paley, Horae Paulinae, in loc.

μου τέκνον ἀγαπητὸν καὶ πιστὸν ἐν κυρίῳ. My beloved and faithful child in the Lord, implying that Timothy owed his conversion to the Apostle, cf. 1 Timothy 1:2; 1 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 1:2; where the same word is used which is here translated ‘son.’

ἀναμνήσει τὰς ὁδούς μου. A delicate hint that they had forgotten them.

τὰς ἐν Χριστῷ. An equally delicate hint that they are not St Paul’s ways only. The repetition of the article emphasizes the hint.

καθὼς πανταχοῦ ἐν πάσῃ ἐκκλησίᾳ διδάσκω. An additional reason why they should not be set aside at Corinth.


Verses 17-21

17–21. MISSION OF TIMOTHY, TO BE FOLLOWED, IF INEFFECTUAL, BY STRONG MEASURES ON THE PART OF ST PAUL HIMSELF.


Verse 18

18. ἐφυσιώθησάν τινες. See note below, ch. 1 Corinthians 5:2. As the whole of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians shews (see for instance, ch. 1 Corinthians 10:2), there were those at Corinth who depreciated St Paul’s authority. Such persons persuaded themselves that they had so undermined his reputation that he would not dare to come again to Corinth, and they grew more self-asserting in consequence. But though St Paul submitted to contempt and insult from without, he demands the respect due to his office from those within. He bore the reproach of the infidel and scoffer; among his own people he acts upon the precept, ‘Let no man despise thee.’ Paley remarks on the undesigned coincidence between this passage and 2 Corinthians 1:15-17; 2 Corinthians 2:1. It appears that there had been some uncertainty about the Apostle’s visit. It was this which had led some of his opponents to assert that he would never shew his face at Corinth again.


Verse 19

19. ἐὰν ὁ κύριος θελήσῃ. See James 4:13-15, who ‘justly derides that rashness among men, in that they plan what they shall do ten years hence, when they are not certain that they shall live another hour.’ Calvin in loc. The Roman Catholic commentator, Estius, makes a similar observation.

ἀλλὰ τὴν δύναμιν. The power that is derived from Christ, which He Himself possessed to influence the heart of man for good. Such seems to be the more usual meaning of the word δύναμις in St Paul’s Epistles. Cf. Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 2:4, &c. It includes, no doubt, the power of working miracles. But these, after all, are but particular cases of the general principle above enunciated, for with one or two exceptions, the miracles of the Gospel were manifestations of Christ’s power to deliver humanity from the dominion of evil and its consequences.


Verse 20

20. οὐ γὰρ ἐν λόγῳ. See note on ch. 1 Corinthians 1:5. Like our words sermon and discourse, the word λόγος contains within itself the notion of matter and oral delivery. Of what the Apostle meant by power, we are scarcely fit judges. We have been too familiar with them from childhood to be able to comprehend what power the Apostles’ words must have had upon the hearts and lives of those who heard them. We may gain some slight idea by comparing them with the best passages of the earliest Christian writers after the Apostles; and still more by comparing them with the utterances of the Greek sophists and dialecticians of the time. The kingdom of God, St Paul would remind his hearers, i. e. His sovereignty over the human heart, is not simply an affair of the intellect, but of the spirit. It does not consist merely in the acceptance or establishment of certain propositions, but in influence over the life and conscience.


Verse 21

21. ἐν ῥάβδῳ. That is either [1] with some commentators, e. g. Chrysostom, the resolution to deliver the rebellious over to Satan (see next chapter). If this be the case, the word ‘power’ in the last verse must include power to do harm. But it is better [2] to refer the expression to the severity of language which the Apostle would be compelled to use, if there were no signs of improvement when he came. This falls in best with the fatherly relation, involving of course the idea of correction, in which he describes himself as standing towards the Corinthian Church. See 1 Corinthians 4:15, and compare Proverbs 13:24; Proverbs 23:13-14, &c. The words ‘spirit of meekness’ in the last part of the verse confirm this last interpretation. ἐν here refers to the spirit in which the Apostle was to come. ‘Am I to come to you in a spirit of correction, or in a spirit of meekness?’ See note on 1 Corinthians 1:5.

ἔλθω. Should I come?

 


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on 1 Corinthians 4:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/1-corinthians-4.html. 1896.

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