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Tuesday, November 28th, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 4

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

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Verses 1-21

Chapter 4

Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God ( 1 Corinthians 4:1 ).

Ministers of Christ, the Greek word there is the under-rowers. They were the guys down in the bottom of the ship handling the oars, usually chained to the oars. And the fellow up on top would call the order for them to row and which side to row, the under-rowers. And so Paul uses that particular Greek word here, "We are the under-rowers of Christ. We're down on the bottom level. We're just pulling the oars at the command of Christ."

But then, "We are stewards." And the steward was the one who was in charge of the master's goods. He was the one who ordered the affairs of the household. He bought for the necessities of the household. It was entrusted unto him the goods of the master, though he was still himself a servant, but overseeing the goods of the master.

So Paul uses the second Greek word as a steward, "We're the overseers of those things that belong to the Master."

Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful ( 1 Corinthians 4:2 ).

The one requirement, really, of stewardship is that of faithfulness to that which I've been called to do or that which has been entrusted to me. Your faithfulness to that which God has called you to do is the thing for which one day you will receive your reward or lack of reward.

Have you been faithful in the call of God on your life? It's required of stewards that they be found faithful. Now Paul said,

But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: I don't even judge myself ( 1 Corinthians 4:3 ).

Now evidently, they had been saying that, "I am of Paul, or I am of Apollos, or I am of Peter," to the exclusion of the others. In other words, there are people that cannot show, it seems, a loyalty to more than one. Or if they have a loyalty to one, they have to put down everyone else.

And so in saying, "I am of Apollos," they were really putting down Paul and judging Paul. "It doesn't bother me that you judge me," and so the first judgment that we so often do face is the judgment of man. But man's judgment at best is faulty. Because one thing that we cannot judge is the motive by which a man did something. Because we cannot judge motives, our judgment is not a true judgment.

So they really didn't know Paul, they didn't know the heart of Paul. And yet, they were saying things against Paul. And Paul said, "Hey, I've heard that you've been judging me. That doesn't bother me that you should judge me; I don't even judge myself." The second judgment is that of self-judgment. Now, Paul is talking about, "I don't judge myself," in the sense of condemning myself. I think that it's tragic that there are people that are constantly judging themselves and condemning themselves. "Oh, I'm no good. Oh, I can't do anything right. Oh, I'm such a mess," you know. And they're constantly judging themselves. Paul said, "I don't even judge myself."

Now, I believe that you should do your best and then just commit the rest. Hey, it's the best I could do, so it's a mess, it's all I can do. That was my best, you see. And so I don't go away and moan and complain because, "Oh, I really failed. I didn't do a good job. I didn't say the right thing." I did my best, so I just leave the rest of it with the Lord. "Lord, that's the best I can do. Sorry about that, but that's the best I can do." So I don't beat myself or worry about it or fret over, "Oh, did I do the right thing? Or should I have done more?" Or whatever. Hey, I did my best. I did what I felt was right in the situation. So I don't go on condemning myself for what came of it. It was the best I could do. Now many times the best I can do isn't sufficient, but I can't help that. It's the best I can do. So I don't judge myself in the sense of condemning myself.

For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified ( 1 Corinthians 4:4 ):

Now he's actually saying, "I don't know anything against myself." That's quite a statement. But he said that even at that it doesn't justify me. It doesn't mean that I'm righteous just because I don't know anything against myself, that doesn't make me righteous.

but he that judges me is the Lord ( 1 Corinthians 4:4 ).

Now here's the third judgment, and this is the important one. This is the one I'm concerned about. I don't care what you say about me. I do, but so what, I can't help that. I'm not even concerned about my own opinion of myself. But I am deeply concerned of the Lord's opinion of me. You may judge me for what I've done, it doesn't bother me. I may judge myself, that isn't important. I stand before the Lord and He is my judge, and that is the judgment that I am concerned with, what is the Lord's opinion of me and what I have done.

Therefore judge nothing before the time ( 1 Corinthians 4:5 ),

In other words, wait for the day of God's judgment, the fire will come and the works will be proved, what sort and what manner they are, the motives behind them. So don't judge anything before its time, don't prejudge.

until the Lord comes, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God ( 1 Corinthians 4:5 ).

Notice how the Lord is going to judge, the hidden things, the things of your heart, the motives. Hey, that is heavy duty. The Bible says everything is naked and open before Him with whom we have to do. "Oh Lord, I really didn't mean it." "Oh you didn't? Let's take a look." And God will be able to project what was in your heart and mind as you were doing it on a screen.

You remember Ezekiel was taken by the Spirit to the wall, and the Lord said, "Dig a hole through the wall. Now crawl in." And he crawled in, and inside he was looking around and all of the pornography. And Ezekiel said, "Oh, that's horrible, all the pornography around here." And the Lord said, "I have allowed you to go inside of the minds of the leaders there in Jerusalem. That's what's going on in their minds, Ezekiel."

God can see into your mind. God knows what's going on in your heart. And so the day will come when God will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and will make manifest the counsels, the intents, the motivations of our hearts. And then shall every man have the praise of God.

And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos [now transferring that over to Apollos and me] for your sakes; that you may learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for or against another ( 1 Corinthians 4:6 ).

Don't become divided over the instruments of God that God may use for His purposes in your life. Receive from all, be benefited by all. It doesn't mean that you have to turn against one just because you're gaining from another.

For who makes you to differ from another? ( 1 Corinthians 4:7 )

What makes you so different? Why are you so puffed up? What makes you different? "Well, I thank God I'm not like he is." Well, what makes you different than him? Do you have anything of value? Do you have anything of good? Do you have anything of worth? Where did it come from?

You say, "Well, God gave it to me." Well, then, if it was given to you, why are you boasting as though it wasn't given to you? You see, anything that I have that is of any value, the Lord gave it to me. Anything of my life that is worthwhile, it came to me from God. I know in me, that is my flesh, there dwells no good thing. Anything that is of worth and value has been given to me by God. If it's been given to me by God, then God help me not to go around and act as though it wasn't like I am somebody, like I have a great ability or I have a great talent or I have developed this or that or the other. It's come as a gift from God, and as such, then you can't really glory in it as though it wasn't a gift from God. How many times the Lord has brought this scripture to my heart after something I did turned out good. You know, it's always exciting when something you did turns out to be right, turns out to be good. And occasionally that happens. Now it is interesting that when it does happen, I like to act like, "Well, sure I've got it. I do it all the time, man," you know. Not so. If it turns out good it's the Lord.

What have you but what you received, if you've received it, then why do you act like you didn't receive it? ( 1 Corinthians 4:7 )

Which is quite often the common tendency to act as though it is something that we possess rather than something that was given to us by God.

Now you are full, now you are rich, you have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you ( 1 Corinthians 4:8 ).

Now Paul is speaking in a satire here. "Now you are full, now you are rich, now you are reigning without us." This is the kind of a boast that they were making. But Paul said, "I would to God that you really were reigning in order that I might reign with you."

For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men ( 1 Corinthians 4:9 ).

The word spectacle here is a word that has a lot of color in that when a Roman general would be victorious over the alien armies, he would come back to Rome for the victory march. And the general would come, usually on his chariot, into the city of Rome with the crowds of people lining the sides of the road, heaping their praise and adulation upon him. And he would bring back with him the trophies of war, all of the loot that he had captured.

But at the rear of the procession there would be those poor people that had been captured and were being brought back to be the victims in the arena, being tossed to the lions and so forth; and they were called the spectacle, they were those captives that had been brought back by the general to be sacrificed in the arena to the lions.

And so Paul says, "I would to God that ye did reign. It seems to me that God has made us apostles sort of last, as it were, we're appointed unto death. We're a spectacle." As these people would come by, the crowd would all jeer and hiss and all, and they would take them to the arena and give them to the lions for the sport of the people. And so, "We are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men."

We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ ( 1 Corinthians 4:10 );

Again, speaking with satire here.

we are weak, but you are strong; you are honorable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place ( 1 Corinthians 4:10-11 );

Poor Paul, if he had only known how to make his positive confessions, he would not have had to be this way. Lack of faith. You know, Paul is still getting it. The Corinthians, all the carnal Christians, seemed to give it to Paul. And today Paul still gets it. I had one of these ministers tell me, "Don't you think if Paul could have just had victory over his flesh that he would not have had to have the thorn in the flesh? It's because of the weakness of Paul's flesh." God help anybody who thinks they are more spiritual than Paul, or have more on the ball than Paul had.

And Paul's speaking of his own personal experience. He said, "Even in this present hour, we're hungry, we're thirsty, we're naked, we've been beaten, and we don't have any certain place to live, no certain dwelling place."

And we labor, working with our own hands ( 1 Corinthians 4:12 ):

I don't even make enough from the ministry to be supported by the ministry. I have to work to support my own needs. But,

being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we accept it, we take it: Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. Now I don't write these things to shame you, but as my sons I seek to warn you ( 1 Corinthians 4:12-14 ).

So here the heart of the apostle hurt over the attitude of the Corinthians. Because somehow they could not accept from Apollos without having to put Paul down, getting into these little petty party divisions, the mark of their carnality. And Paul is hurt over the things that they are saying about him, hurt over the divisions that exist. And he said, "Now I don't write these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I want to warn you."

For though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, you have not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel ( 1 Corinthians 4:15 ).

Now look, you may have ten thousand instructors. There may be ten thousand guys that have come along and laying some of their trips on you.

And God help us, there are over ten thousand trips out there. Everybody has to have an angle. I received a letter this week from someone who was questioning about a particular paper they had received and they sent it to me, wanted me to read it over and give my opinion to them. And this particular paper was this guy's understanding of the prophecy of Daniel and in the kingdoms that were going to arise. He doesn't see it all as is traditionally accepted and taught by Chuck Missler and every good Bible scholar. But he has his own private little twist and interpretation. No one else has seen this, no one else has been able to come to this understanding, but oh, he has a special understanding in this particular prophecy of Daniel. And instead of there being four major world-governing empires, there are actually five. And he has the insight into the feet of clay, they are actually the Arab states and so forth, and he goes on to espouse his theory.

Yet, Peter said no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation. Now when someone comes along and says, "You know, friends, I want to reveal some new truths to you tonight. You know the Bible scholars in the past, they've just not been able to see this, why is it that they haven't taught you this? You see, here it is." And they start, then, giving you their unusual little twist.

No prophecy of scripture is of private interpretation. Some guy has some new understanding and truth that has never been discovered before, you can be sure it's wrong. For God has given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness and they're all bound up here in the Word, and they're not for any private interpretation. Now, in order to espouse their particular doctrinal belief though, they've got to put down everybody else that teaches anything else. Anybody that teaches contrary to that immediately becomes a false prophet.

There's a fellow here in the area that insists on writing me. He used to come to church here quite regularly. He used to be constantly declaring his love for me. In fact, he came in one day, for God had given him a vision that he was to work side by side with me. But other aspects of his visions were a little weird, and so because I did not concur with his vision that he was called by God to work side by side with me, he then became quite upset and has left the church and now is writing me all kinds of letters accusing me of being a liar, a false prophet, a Jimmy Jones, a cultist, and you poor people are all being duped, you know, by the Chuck Smith cult, according to his letters.

Sad, isn't it? That those who once felt called of God to work by your side, now suddenly have revealed to them by God that your teaching is so wrong and all and, of course, they often say, "Well, Chuck really knows the truth, but he's afraid to teach it." They don't know me, because I'm not afraid to say anything that I think is right. But Paul was faced with the same kind of a thing in Corinth, they were putting Paul down.

Though he said, "Hey, you may have ten thousand instructors that have come along and try to teach a different slant, but you only have one father, and I begot you into the faith." It's sort of sad to see those that you have brought to birth in their spiritual walk get caught up and carried away with some of these teachers of exotic things. So Paul said,

I beseech you [I beg you], be followers of me. For this cause have I sent Timothy unto you, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church ( 1 Corinthians 4:16-17 ).

Timothy, Paul said in another epistle, was the only one that he had that was like-minded as was he. I have a real empathy for Paul's position here. Having brought these Corinthians to a faith in Jesus Christ, having laid the foundation of Jesus Christ, to see men coming along and building wood, hay and stubble hurt.

Some of the Calvary Chapels that have sprung out of our church here, in their desire to develop buildings, facilities and all, have gone to fundraising techniques: fundraising dinners, pledges, marathons, telethons, phoneathons, phonythons, and it hurts. It really hurts. Because I have sought to teach them to walk in the Spirit and to trust in the Lord to provide for their needs. For when God guides, God provides.

And if you get ahead of God, then the provision isn't there and it's because you've stepped out ahead of God. Wait upon the Lord. He not only has the plan, but the method by which the plan is to be accomplished, and the funding. And we don't have to lean upon man, nor do we have to turn to worldly schemes or devices to raise the funds for the work of God. And to see them getting involved in pledges and getting involved in promotional dinners and things like this, it really hurts down deep. They have not so learned, Jesus Christ. But you know, others have come along and say, "Hey, this is the way it's done. This is the way you've got to do it."

So Paul was sending Timothy to reestablish them in the truth that Paul had taught to them, the things that Paul taught in every church everywhere.

Now some of you are [upset] puffed up, as though I would not [personally] come to you ( 1 Corinthians 4:18 ).

Oh yeah, if it's so important why didn't Paul come then? He said,

But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills ( 1 Corinthians 4:19 ),

Now James said, "Don't say, 'Tomorrow we're going to do this and that.' You should rather say, 'Now if the Lord wills, tomorrow we're going to do this and that'" ( James 4:13-15 ). And so Paul says, "I'm going to come to you shortly if the Lord wills." Good little insertion. We should always live our lives with that contingency, if the Lord wills.

And I will know, not the speech of those that are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in the words that a man can say, the kingdom of God is in power. Now, what is your will? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness? ( 1 Corinthians 4:19-21 )

"How do you desire that I come? With a rod to correct, or coming in the spirit of love and of meekness?" So with this, Paul closes his discussion on the divisions that had arisen in the church of Corinth because of the carnality.

Now he's going to start moving into some of the more difficult issues and problems that were existing in the church of Corinth, the problems of immorality, the problems of the saints taking one another to the worldly courts, and dealing again with the subject of the body of Christ and that desired unity of the body as we next week move into chapters 5 and 6. So read ahead and we'll continue next Sunday night.

All things are yours, learn to draw and to gain from many sources, but mostly from Him. As you take the Word and as you wait upon the Spirit, may your heart be instructed in the things of God that you might grow up into that fully matured person that He wants you to be. May God be with you and bless you, keep His hand upon your life, and give you a good week. In Jesus' name. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 4". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/1-corinthians-4.html. 2014.
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