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Attitudes towards God’s servants (4:1-21)
What the Corinthians think about the servants of God is not important. God is the one who gives his servants their work and they are responsible to him, not to anyone else (4:1-2). Paul is not concerned about the Corinthians’ assessment of him. Even Paul himself cannot properly assess how true his service has been. He may not know of any failure in his service, but that does not mean he is faultless. The only judgment that matters is the one that will take place at Christ’s return, when he examines motives and reveals hidden attitudes (3-5).
The Corinthians should stop boasting of their attachment to certain teachers, as if it shows that they are superior to others. All these teachers are but God’s gift to them; and no one has cause for personal boasting about something that, after all, was freely given by another (6-7).
Paul shows his disappointment concerning the unchristian attitudes at Corinth by the irony he uses in comparing the pride of the Corinthians with the humiliation of the apostles. The Corinthians thought they were superior Christians. Paul says that he wishes they were, so that he and other apostles might be built up in the faith through them! It appears that the apostles, instead of being the leaders of the Christian community, are the most backward. They are openly humiliated, as people about to be killed in the public arena. They are fools, weak and despised, so different from the mighty Corinthians (8-10)! On account of his service for Jesus Christ, Paul suffers constant hardship and unceasing persecution. He is cursed, beaten and treated as the lowest of the low, yet he always returns good for evil (11-13).
In writing to the Corinthians like this, Paul is warning them as a father might warn his children (14-15). He wants them to remember the things he taught them, by word and example, when he was among them. The teaching he gave them is no different from what he gives in other churches, and to remind them of it he is sending Timothy to them. Perhaps Timothy can help the church back to the right path (16-17).
This sending of Timothy does not mean that Paul himself is afraid to go, as his opponents claim. He will not hesitate to go if he believes it is God’s will; and he will soon find out whether these opponents are as good as they say they are. He urges them to change their ways quickly, otherwise his visit will be marked by unpleasant discipline instead of enjoyable fellowship (18-21).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 4". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany