Tired of seeing ads while studying? Now you can enjoy an "Ads Free" version of the site for as little as 10¢ a day.

Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament

1 Corinthians 4

Verse 1

1 Corinthians 4:1. “In this way let a man take account of us, viz., as servants of Christ, etc.” draws attention to the coming : the vb[631] implies a reasonable estimate, drawn from admitted principles (cf.Romans 6:11; Romans 12:1, ), the pr[632] impv[633] an habitual estimate. The use of for (1 Corinthians 11:28, etc.), occasional in cl[634] Gr[635], occurs “where a gravior dicendi formula is required” (El[636]). (only here in Epp.: see parls.) agrees with (Romans 14:4, domestic) in associating servant and master, whereas rather contrasts them (1 Corinthians 3:5, see note; Mark 9:35): see Trench, Syn[637], § 9.— . . . . ., “as Christ’s assistants, and stewards of God’s mysteries”—in these relations Jesus set the App. to Himself and God: see Matthew 13:11; Matthew 13:52. With P. the Church is the (1 Timothy 3:15), God the , its members the (Galatians 6:10, Ephesians 2:19), and its ministers—the App. in chief—the (1 Corinthians 9:17, Colossians 1:25, etc.). The figure of 1 Corinthians 3:9 ff. is kept up: those who were and in the rearing of the house, become and in its internal economy. The was a confidential housekeeper or over-seer, commonly a slave, charged with provisioning the establishment. Responsible not to his fellows, but to “the Lord,” his high trust demands a strict account (Luke 12:41-48).—On . , see notes to 1 Corinthians 2:7; 1 Corinthians 2:9 f.: the phrase implies not secrets of the master kept from other servants, but secrets revealed to them through God’s dispensers, to whose judgment and fidelity the disclosure is committed (cf.1 Corinthians 2:6, 1 Corinthians 3:1).

[631] verb

[632] present tense.

[633] imperative mood.

[634] classical.

[635] Greek, or Grotius’ Annotationes in N.T.

[636] C. J. Ellicott’s St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians.

[637] synonym, synonymous.



Verse 2

1 Corinthians 4:2. (proinde igitur) , . . .: “In such case, it is further sought in stewards (to be sure) that one be found faithful”. gathers up the position given to “us” in 1 Corinthians 4:1; is therefore pleonastic, but repeated for distinctness and by reference to the well-understood rule for stewards (Luke 12:48). brings in the supplement to an imperfect representation: it is not enough to be steward—a faithful steward is looked for (an echo of Luke 12:42 f.). resembles , 1 Corinthians 1:10 (see note): the telic force of the conj. has not disappeared; one “seeks” a thing in order to “find” it.



Verse 3

1 Corinthians 4:3. . . .: “For myself however it amounts to a very small thing that by you I should be put to trial, or by a human day (of judgment).” Fidelity is required of stewards: yes, but ( ) who is the judge of that fidelity? Not you Cor[638], nor even my own good conscience, but the Lord only (4: cf.Romans 14:4); P. corrects the false inference that might be drawn from 1 Corinthians 3:22. takes up the general truth just stated, to apply it as a matter between me and you. P. is being put on his trial at Cor[639]—his talents appraised, his motives scrutinised, his administration canvassed with unbecoming presumption. For in this somewhat rare, but not necessarily Hebraistic sense, cf.1 Corinthians 6:16, Acts 19:27; see Wr[640], p. 229. (construction more unclassical than in 1) equals —unless the clause should be rendered, “that I should have myself tried by you,”—as though P. might have challenged the judgment of the Cor[641] (see 1 Corinthians 9:2, 2 Corinthians 3:1; 2 Corinthians 12:11) but dismissed the thought. (see note, 1 Corinthians 2:15) speaks not of the final judgment ( , 5, 1 Corinthians 5:12, etc.), but of an examination, investigation preliminary to it. The “human ( , cf.1 Corinthians 2:13) day,” of which P. thinks lightly, is man’s judgment—that of any man, or all men together; he reserves his case for “the day (of the Lord”: see 1 Corinthians 1:8).— : “nay, I do not even try myself!” The (cf.1 Corinthians 3:3) brings forward another suggestion, contrary to that just rejected ( .), to be rejected in its turn. In another sense P. enjoins self-judgment, in 1 Corinthians 11:28-32; and in 1 Corinthians 2:16 he credited the “spiritual man” with power “to try all things”. , the self-trier, is one who knows no higher or surer tribunal than his own conscience; Christ’s Ap. stands in a very diff[642] position from this. This transition from Cor[643] judgment to self-judgment shows that no formal trial was in question, such as Weizsäcker supposes had been mooted at Cor[644]; arraigned before the bar of public opinion, P. wishes to say that he rates its estimate in comparison with that of his heavenly Master.

[638] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[639] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[640] Winer-Moulton’s Grammar of N.T. Greek (8th ed., 1877).

[641] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[642] difference, different, differently.

[643] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[644] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.



Verse 4

1 Corinthians 4:4. The negative clauses, , together explain, parenthetically, Paul’s meaning in 1 Corinthians 4:3: “For I am conscious of nothing against myself” (in my conduct as Christ’s minister to you: cf. 10, 18; 2 Corinthians 1:12-17)—nothing that calls for judicial inquiry on your part or misgiving on my own—“but not on this ground ( ) have I been justified”. with reflexive pron[645] (h. l. in N.T.) has this connotation, of a guilty conscience, occasionally in cl[646] Gr[647] (see Lidd[648]); cf. the Horatian “Nil conscire sibi, nulla pallescere culpa” (Al[649]). “By” signifies “against” in Bible Eng. (see New Eng. Diet. s. v., 26 d; cf.Deuteronomy 27:16, Ezekiel 22:7); “I know no harm by him” is current in the Midland counties (Al[650]).—For , see parls. The pf. pass[651] defines an act of God complete in the past and determining the writer’s present state. P. has been and continues justified—not on the sentence of his conscience as a man self-acquitted (“not of works of righteousness, which we had done,” Titus 3:5 ff.), but as an ill-deserving sinner counted righteous for Christ’s sake (1 Corinthians 1:30, 1 Corinthians 6:11, 1 Corinthians 15:17; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, Romans 3:23 ff., Romans 4:25, Romans 7:24 to Romans 8:1, etc.). This past “justification” is the ground of his whole standing before God (Romans 5:1 ff.); it forbids presuming on the witness of his own conscience now. A good conscience is worth much; but, after P.’s experience, he cannot rely on its verdict apart from Christ’s. Paul looks for his appraisement at the end (1 Corinthians 4:5), to the source from which he received his justification at the beginning. Accordingly for the present, he refers to Christ the testing of his daily course: , “but he that does try (examine) me is the Lord”—not you, nor my own conscience; I am searched by a purer and a loftier eye. “The Lord is alone qualified for this office” (cf.1 Corinthians 5:3 ff., and notes; Revelation 2, 3, John 5:22, etc.). The Lord’s present prepares for his final (1 Corinthians 4:5). The above interpretation, which maintains the Pauline use of , is that of Calovius, Rückert, Mr[652], Hn[653], Bt[654], and others. Cm[655], Cv[656], Est., Bg[657], Al[658], Ev[659], Ed[660], Gd[661], Sm[662], etc., insist on taking the term “in a meaning entirely diff[663] from its ordinary dogmatic sense” (Gd[664]), referring it iu spite of the tense, on account of 1 Corinthians 4:5, to the future judgment; but this brings confusion into Paul’s settled language, and abandons the rock of his personal standing before God and men (cf.Galatians 2:15 ff.). Since P. accepted justification by faith in Christ, not his innocence, but his Saviour’s merit has become his fixed ground of assurance.

[645]ron. pronoun.

[646] classical.

[647] Greek, or Grotius’ Annotationes in N.T.

[648]idd. Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon.

[649] Alford’s Greek Testament.

[650] Alford’s Greek Testament.

[651] passive voice.

[652] Meyer’s Critical and Exegetical Commentary (Eng. Trans.).

[653] C. F. G. Heinrici’s Erklärung der Korintherbriefe (1880), or 1 Korinther in Meyer’s krit.-exegetisches Kommentar (1896).

[654] J. A. Beet’s St. Paul’s Epp. to the Corinthians (1882).

[655] John Chrysostom’s Homiliœ († 407).

[656] Calvin’s In Nov. Testamentum Commentarii.

[657] Bengel’s Gnomon Novi Testamenti.

[658] Alford’s Greek Testament.

[659] T. S. Evans in Speaker’s Commentary.

[660] T. C. Edwards’ Commentary on the First Ep. to the Corinthians.2

[661] F. Godet’s Commentaire sur la prem. Ép. aux Corinthiens (Eng. Trans.).

[662] P. Schmiedel, in Handcommentar zum N.T. (1893).

[663] difference, different, differently.

[664] F. Godet’s Commentaire sur la prem. Ép. aux Corinthiens (Eng. Trans.).



Verse 5

1 Corinthians 4:5. The practical conclusion of the statement respecting Christ’s servants (see note on , 1 Corinthians 3:21): “So then do not before the time be passing any judgment”. , the cognate ace. = , as in John 7:24. (the fit time, not the set time) signifies prematurely (so Æsch., Eumen., 367), as seasonably (Luke 12:42). Our Lord gives another reason for not judging, in Matthew 7:1 ff.; this prohibition, like that, points to His tribunal, bidding men hold back their verdicts on each other in deference to His (cf.Romans 14:10). “Until the Lord come:” indicates contingency in the time, not the event itself; for this uncertainty, cf.1 Thessalonians 5:2, Matthew 25:13, Luke 12:39, Acts 1:7, etc. His coming is the toward which the hope of this Church was directed from the first (1 Corinthians 1:7: see note); it will reveal with perfect evidence the matters on which the Cor[665] are officiously and ignorantly pronouncing.— . . .: “who shall also illuminate the hidden things of darkness”. points to the cause, as to the result, and (1 Corinthians 2:10) to the mode of Divine disclosures. Christ’s presence of itself illuminates (cf.2 Corinthians 4:6, and other parls.); His Parousia is light as well as fire (1 Corinthians 3:13)—both instruments of judgment. , “the secrets hidden in the darkness” (res tenebris occultatas, Bz[666])—not necessarily evil things (see Romans 2:16, 2 Corinthians 4:6), but things impenetrable to present light.—Chief amongst these, “the Lord will make manifest ( ) the counsels of the hearts”. These God (and with Him Christ, : 1 Corinthians 4:4) already searches out (Romans 8:27; Psalms 139, etc.); then He will make plain to men, about themselves and each other, what was dark before. The is the real self, the “hidden,” “inward man” (Ephesians 3:16 f., 1 Peter 3:4, and other parls.), known absolutely to God alone (cor hominis crypta est, Bz[667]); its “counsels” are those self-communings and purposings which determine action and belong to the essence of character.—“And then (not before) the (due) praise will come ( ) to each from God (not from human lips).” . for it is on God’s behalf that Christ will judge; His commendation is alone of value (Romans 2:29; John 5:44). The Church is God’s field and temple (1 Corinthians 3:9 ff.); all work wrought in it awaits His approval. recalls the lesson of 1 Corinthians 3:8; 1 Corinthians 3:11-13, respecting the discriminating and individual character of Divine rewards. “Praise” ambitious Gr[668] teachers coveted: let them seek it from God. “Praise” the Cor[669] partisans lavished on their admired leaders: this is God’s prerogative, let them check their impertinent eulogies. Enough was said in 1 Corinthians 3:15; 1 Corinthians 3:17, of condemned work; P. is thinking here of his true (1 Corinthians 4:1 f.), who with himself labour and hope for approval at the Day of Christ; little need they reck of the criticisms of the hour.

[665] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[666] Beza’s Nov. Testamentum: Interpretatio et Annotationes (Cantab., 1642).

[667] Beza’s Nov. Testamentum: Interpretatio et Annotationes (Cantab., 1642).

[668] Greek, or Grotius’ Annotationes in N.T.

[669] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.



Verse 6

1 Corinthians 4:6. . . . ( metabatikon, of transition): “Now these things I have adapted (in the way I have put them) to myself and Apollos”.— - (see parls.), to change the dress, or form of presentment ( ), of anything. P. has put in a specific personal way—speaking in concrete, exempli gratia—what he might have expressed more generally; he has done this , “for your better instruction,”—not because he and Ap. needed the admonition. The rendering “I have in a figure transferred” (E.V[671]), suggests that the argument of 1 Corinthians 3:3 to 1 Corinthians 4:5 had no real connexion with P. and A., and was aimed at others than their partisans—an erroneous implication: see Introd. to Div. I. P. writes in the , aiming through the Apollonian party at all the warring factions, and at the factious spirit in the Church; his reproaches fall on the “puffed up” followers, not upon their unconsenting chiefs (1 Corinthians 4:4). We found certain other teachers, active at Cor[672] in the absence of P. and A., rebuked in 1 Corinthians 3:11-17; the Cor[673] will easily read between the lines. This is “id genus in quo per quandam suspicionem quod non dicimus accipi volumus” (Quintilian, In stit., ix., 2).— , the preferable reading here and in Titus 3:13, like the gen[674] of 1 Corinthians 1:12, 1 Corinthians 3:4, is acc[675] of Attic 2nd decl.; (3rd) is attested in Acts 19:1.

[671] English Version.

[672] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[673] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[674] genitive case.

[675] accusative case.

: “that in our case you may learn the (rule), Not beyond the things that are written”; cf. the cl[676] . The art[677] seizes the clause for the obj[678] of ; for the construction, cf.Galatians 5:14, Luke 22:37, and see Wr[679], pp. 135, 644; the elliptical form (“Not” for “Do not go,” or the like) marks the saying as proverbial, though only here extant. Ewald suggests that it was a Rabbinical adage—as much as to say, Keep to the rule of Scripture, Not a step beyond the written word! in his libris semper ad V. T. refertur” (Grotius); but in a general maxim it is superfluous to look for particular passages intended. In 1 Corinthians 3:19 f., and indirectly in 1 Corinthians 4:4 f. above, P. has shown the Cor[680] how to keep their thoughts about men within the lines marked out in Scripture.—The 1st is definitely applied by the second, apposed : “that you be not puffed up, each for his individual (teacher) against the other”. Scripture teaches the Cor[681] both not to “glory in men” and not to “judge” them (1 Corinthians 3:21, 1 Corinthians 4:4 f.).— ( , older Gr[682] or , to inflate) is best explained as irreg. pr[683]sbj[684] (cf. , Galatians 4:17); John 17:3 is the only clear ex[685] of with ind[686] in N.T.—see however Wr[687], pp. 362 f. Mr[688] obviates the difficulty by rendering where, against Bibl. and later Gr[689] use. Fritzsche read (T. R.) for in the previous clause; then, by a double itacism, for and for , thus getting ingeniously an inf[690] clause in 1 Corinthians 4:6 c, standing in apposition to the of 1 Corinthians 4:6 b—“Not beyond what is written,—i.e., that one be not puffed up for the one,” etc.).— . , a reciprocal phrase (cf.1 Thessalonians 5:11), “one for the one (teacher), another for the other” (see 1 Corinthians 1:12),—zeal “for the one” admired master generating an animus “against the other” ( , the second) correspondingly despised. Those who cried up Apollos cried down Paul, and vice versâ.

[676] classical.

[677] grammatical article.

[678] grammatical object.

[679] Winer-Moulton’s Grammar of N.T. Greek (8th ed., 1877).

[680] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[681] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[682] Greek, or Grotius’ Annotationes in N.T.

[683] present tense.

[684] subjunctive mood.

[685] example.

[686] indicative mood.

[687] Winer-Moulton’s Grammar of N.T. Greek (8th ed., 1877).

[688] Meyer’s Critical and Exegetical Commentary (Eng. Trans.).

[689] Greek, or Grotius’ Annotationes in N.T.

[690] infinitive mood.



Verses 6-13

1 Corinthians 4:6-13. § 13. DISCIPLES ABOVE THEIR MASTER. What the Ap. has written, from 1 Corinthians 3:3 onwards, turns on the relations between himself and Apollos; but it has a wide application to the state of feeling within the Church (1 Corinthians 4:6 f.). To such extravagance of self-satisfaction and conceit in their new teachers have the Cor[670] been carried, that one would think they had dispensed with the App., and entered already on the Messianic reign (1 Corinthians 4:8). In comparison with them, P. and his comrades present a sorry figure, as victims marked for the world’s sport—famished, beaten, loaded with disgrace, while their disciples flourish! (1 Corinthians 4:9-13.)

[670] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.



Verse 7

1 Corinthians 4:7. ; “for who marks thee off?” (or “separates thee?—discernit, Vg[691]”)—what warrant for thy boasting, “I am of Paul,” etc., for ranging thyself in this coterie or that? “The was self-made” (El[692]). The other rendering, “Who makes thee to differ?” (to be superior: eximie distinguit, Bg[693])—sc. “who but God?”—suits the vb[694] , but is hardly relevant. This question stigmatises the partisan conceit of the Cor[695] as presumptuous; those that follow, ’ marks it as ungrateful; both ways it is egotistic.— . . .: “what moreover hast thou that thou didst not receive?”—i.e., from God (1 Corinthians 1:4 f., 1 Corinthians 1:30, 1 Corinthians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 3:10, 1 Corinthians 12:6, etc.). For this pregnant sense of , cf.Acts 20:35.—“But if indeed thou didst receive (it), why glory as one that had not received?” The receiver may boast of the Giver (1 Corinthians 1:31), not of anything as his own. lends actuality to the vb[696]; “ , de re quam ita esse ut dicitur significamus” (Hermann); cf.2 Corinthians 4:3. , a rare form of 2nd sing[697] ind[698] mid[699]; Wr[700], p. 90. For with ptp[701], of point of view (perinde ac), see Bm[702], p. 307; cf.1 Corinthians 4:3.

[691] Latin Vulgate Translation.

[692] C. J. Ellicott’s St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians.

[693] Bengel’s Gnomon Novi Testamenti.

[694] verb

[695] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[696] verb

[697]ing. singular number.

[698] indicative mood.

[699] middle voice.

[700] Winer-Moulton’s Grammar of N.T. Greek (8th ed., 1877).

[701] participle

[702] A. Buttmann’s Grammar of the N.T. Greek (Eng. Trans., 1873).



Verse 8

1 Corinthians 4:8 depicts the unjustifiable “glorying” of the readers with an abruptness due to excited feeling (cf. the asyndeton of 1 Corinthians 3:16): “How much you have received, and how you boast of it!—So soon you are satiated!” etc. The three first clauses— , , . . .—are exclamations rather than questions (W.H[703]). Distinguish , jam, by this time; , nunc, at this time (1 Corinthians 3:2, etc.); , in præsenti, modo, just now or then, at the moment (1 Corinthians 13:12, etc.). ( , to glut, feed full; in cl[704] Gr[705] poetical, becoming prose in ; for tense-form, cf.1 Corinthians 1:10, .: “So soon you have had your fill (are quite satisfied)!” The Cor[706] reported themselves, in the Church Letter (?), so well fed by Paul’s successors, so furnished in talent and grace, that they desired nothing more.— (aor[707], not pf. as before): “So soon you grew rich!” The Thanksgiving (1 Corinthians 1:5) and the list of charisms in 12. appear to justify this consciousness of wealth; but ostentation corrupted Cor[708] riches; spiritual satiety is a sign of arrested growth: contrast Philippians 3:10-14, and cf.Revelation 3:17, “Thou sayest, ”. The climax of this sad irony is (aor[709] again), “Without us (without our help) you have come to your kingdom!”—“Gradatio: saturi, divites, reges” (Bg[710]). Paul was given to understand, by some Cor[711], that they had outgrown his teaching: “Then,” he says, “you have surely entered the promised kingdom and secured its treasures, if God’s stewards have nothing more to impart to you!—I only wish you had!” so he continues in the words . . ., “Ay, I would indeed that you had entered the kingdom, that we too might share it with you!” It is Paul’s sigh for the end.— (see parls.) can only relate to the , the Messianic reign (1 Corinthians 4:20, 1 Corinthians 6:9 f., 1 Corinthians 15:50; N.T. passim; cf.Luke 22:28 ff; Luke 6:2 f. below; the judicial assumptions of the Cor[712], in 3 ff., square with this); and the aor[713] in vbs. of “state” is inceptive (Br. § 41)—not “you reigned,” but “became kings” ( ). This, of course, can only come about when Christ returns (see 1 Corinthians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:9, and notes); then His saints will share His glory (2 Timothy 2:10).— (losing its augm.) is in N.T. and later Gr[714] practically an adv[715]; it marks, with following ind[716] past, an impracticable wish (Wr[717], p. 377); (to be sure) accentuates the personal feeling. , remind us again of Stoic pretensions; see note, 1 Corinthians 3:22.

[703] Westcott and Hort’s The New Testament in Greek: Critical Text and Notes.

[704] classical.

[705] Greek, or Grotius’ Annotationes in N.T.

[706] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[707] aorist tense.

[708] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[709] aorist tense.

[710] Bengel’s Gnomon Novi Testamenti.

[711] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[712] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[713] aorist tense.

[714] Greek, or Grotius’ Annotationes in N.T.

[715] adverb

[716] indicative mood.

[717] Winer-Moulton’s Grammar of N.T. Greek (8th ed., 1877).



Verse 9

1 Corinthians 4:9 gives reason in Paul’s sorrowful state for the wish that has escaped him. . . . ( vanting after , as in 1 Corinthians 7:40; so in Eng.): “For, methinks, God has inhibited (spectandos proposuit, Bz[718]) us, the apostles, last”—at the end of the show, in the meanest place (for the use of , cf.Mark 9:35; for the sentiment, 1 Corinthians 15:19 below)—“as (men) doomed to death”. One imagines a grand procession, on some day of public festival; in its rear march the criminals on their way to the arena, where the populace will be regaled with their sufferings. Paul’s experience in Ephesus suggests the picture (cf.1 Corinthians 15:32); that of 2 Corinthians 2:14 is not dissimilar. “The app.” (cf.1 Corinthians 9:1, 1 Corinthians 15:5 ff.), not P. alone, are set in this disgrace: Acts 1-12. illustrates what is said; possibly recent (unrecorded) sufferings of prominent missionaries gave added point to the comparison. - (to show—off) takes its disparaging sense from the connexion, like in Colossians 2:15. (later Gr[719]) = . .— does not give the reason for the above , but re-affirms the fact with a view to bring forward the spectators; this clause apposed to the foregoing, in which was implicit: “Methinks God has set forth us the app. last, as sentenced to death,—that we have been made a spectacle to the world,” etc. Hf[720] would read , , “which spectacle,” etc.—a tempting constr[721], suiting the lively style of the passage; but occurs as adj[722] nowhere in the N.T. (unless, possibly, in Hebrews 9:9), and rarely at all in Gr[723] “may mean the place, spectators, actors, or spectacle: the last meaning is the one used here, and the rarest” (Lt[724]). “To the world:” so Peter, e.g., at Jerus., Paul in the great Gentile capitals. “Both to angels and men” extends the ring to include those invisible watchers—“ singles them out for special attention” (Lt[725])—of whose presence the Ap. was aware (see 1 Corinthians 11:10, and other parts.); angels, as such, in contrast with men,—not the good or bad angels specifically (cf. note on 1 Corinthians 6:3). Ephesians 3:10 f. intimates that the heavenly Intelligences learn while they watch.

[718] Beza’s Nov. Testamentum: Interpretatio et Annotationes (Cantab., 1642).

[719] Greek, or Grotius’ Annotationes in N.T.

[720] J. C. K. von Hofmann’s Die heilige Schrift N.T. untersucht, ii. 2 (2te Auflage, 1874).

[721] construction.

[722] adjective.

[723] Greek, or Grotius’ Annotationes in N.T.

[724] J. B. Lightfoot’s (posthumous) Notes on Epp. of St. Paul (1895).

[725] J. B. Lightfoot’s (posthumous) Notes on Epp. of St. Paul (1895).



Verse 10

1 Corinthians 4:10 represents the contrasted case of the App. and the Cor[726] Christians, as they appear in the estimate of the two parties. “We” are , , (cf.1 Corinthians 1:18-27, 1 Corinthians 3:18, and notes; with 1 Corinthians 2:3, for .); “you,” , , —the last adj[727] in heightened contrast to ; not merely honoured ( , Philippians 2:29), but glorious—P. reflects on the relatively “splendid” (Luke 7:25) worldly condition of the Cor[728] as compared with his own. , “fools because of Christ” (cf.Matthew 5:11)—who makes us so, sends us with a “foolish” message (1 Corinthians 1:23). Distinguish (1 Corinthians 9:23, 2 Corinthians 4:11, etc.) from , which means “on Christ’s behalf,” as representing Him (2 Corinthians 5:20, etc.). The Ap. does not call the Cor[729] (see 1 Corinthians 3:18), but, with a fine discrimination, (prudentes in Christo); he appeals to them as such in 1 Corinthians 10:15, 2 Corinthians 11:19—the epithet was one they affected; writing at Cor[730], he is perhaps thinking of them in Romans 11:25; Romans 12:16. The is the man of sense—no fanatic, rushing to extremes and affronting the world needlessly: this Church is on dangerously good terms with the world (1 Corinthians 8:10, 1 Corinthians 10:14-33, cf.2 Corinthians 6:14 to 2 Corinthians 7:1); see Introd., pp. 731 f.; “Christum et prudentiam carnis miscere vellent” (Cv[731]). They deem themselves “strong” in contrast with the “feeble in faith” (Romans 14:1), with whom P. associates himself (1 Corinthians 9:22, etc.), able to “use the world” (1 Corinthians 7:31) and not hampered by weak-minded scruples (1 Corinthians 6:12, 1 Corinthians 10:23; 1 Corinthians 10:8; see note on 1 Corinthians 3:22). In the third clause P. reverses the order of prons. (you ’ we), returning to the description of his own mode of life. The (1 Corinthians 1:28) is without the birth qualifying for public respect, the (see parls.) is one actually deprived of respect—in cl[732] Gr[733], disfranchised.

[726] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[727] adjective.

[728] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[729] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[730] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[731] Calvin’s In Nov. Testamentum Commentarii.

[732] classical.

[733] Greek, or Grotius’ Annotationes in N.T.



Verses 11-13

1 Corinthians 4:11-12 a. describes the , reduced to this position by the world’s contempt and with no means of winning its respect—a life at the farthest remove from that of the Gr[734] gentleman. The despicableness of his condition touches the Ap. New features are added to this picture in 2 Corinthians 11:23-33. On , see note to , 1 Corinthians 4:8; cf.1 Corinthians 4:13.—Hunger, thirst, ill-clothing—the common accompaniments of poverty; blows, homelessness, manual toil—specific hardships of Paul’s mission. The sentences are pl[735]: all Christian missionaries (1 Corinthians 4:9) shared in these sufferings, P. beyond others (1 Corinthians 15:10).— (later Gr[736]) denotes light clothing or armour; cf. , Matthew 25:36, James 2:15 (ill-clad).— (see parls.), to fisticuff, extended to physical violence generally—sometimes lit[737] true in Paul’s case.— , to be unsettled, with no fixed home—to Paul’s affectionate nature the greatest of privations, and always suspicious in public repute—to be a vagrant. On . . . —at Eph. now (Acts 20:34), at Cor[738] formerly (Acts 18:3)—see note, 1 Corinthians 9:6; manual labour was particularly despised amongst the ancients: “Non modo labore meo victum meum comparo, sed manuario labore et sordido” (Cv[739]).

[734] Greek, or Grotius’ Annotationes in N.T.

[735] plural.

[736] Greek, or Grotius’ Annotationes in N.T.

[737] literal, literally.

[738] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[739] Calvin’s In Nov. Testamentum Commentarii.

1 Corinthians 4:12 b, 1 Corinthians 4:13. Beside their abject condition (1 Corinthians 4:11-12 a), the world saw in the meekness of the App. the marks of an abject spirit, shown in the three particulars of : “id mundus spretum putat” (Bg[740]).— . (reviled to our faces) implies insulting abuse, (defamed) injurious abuse: for the former, cf.1 Peter 2:23.— , “persecuted, we bear with (lit[741]put-up with) it”—implying patience, while (1 Corinthians 13:7, etc.) implies courage in the sufferer. The series of ptps. is pr[742], denoting habitual treatment—not “when” but “while we are reviled,” etc.— : to revilings they retort with blessings, to calumnies with benevolent exhortation; “they beg men not to be wicked, to return to a better mind, to be converted to Christ” (Gd[743]); cf. the instructions of Luke 6:27 ff. “It is on this its positive side that” Christian meekness “surpasses the abstention from retaliation urged by Plato” (Crit., p. 49: Ed[744]).— (from - , - respectively, to cleanse, wipe all round, with - of result): the ne plus ultra of degradation; they became “as rinsings of the world,—a scraping of all things” (purgamenta et ramentum, Bz[745]),—the filth that one gets rid of through the sink and the gutter.

[740] Bengel’s Gnomon Novi Testamenti.

[741] literal, literally.

[742] present tense.

[743] F. Godet’s Commentaire sur la prem. Ép. aux Corinthiens (Eng. Trans.).

[744] T. C. Edwards’ Commentary on the First Ep. to the Corinthians.2

[745] Beza’s Nov. Testamentum: Interpretatio et Annotationes (Cantab., 1642).

The above terms may have a further significance: “the Ap. is carrying on the metaphor of above. Both . and . were used esp. of those condemned criminals of the lowest class who were sacrificed as expiatory offerings, as scapegoats in effect, because of their degraded life. It was the custom at Athens to reserve certain worthless persons who in case of plague, famine, or other visitations from heaven, might be thrown into the sea, in the belief that they would ‘cleanse away,’ or ‘wipe off,’ the guilt of the nation” (Lt[746]). (for the earlier ) occurs in this sense in Arr.-Epict., III., xxii., 78; also in Proverbs 21:11 (LXX). This view is supported by Hesychius, Luther, Bg[747], Hn[748], Ed[749]; rejected, as inappropriate, by Er[750], Est., Cv[751], Bz[752], Mr[753], Gd[754], El[755] Certainly P. does not look on his sufferings as a piaculum; but he is expressing the estimate of “the world,” which deemed its vilest fittest to devote to the anger of the Gods. Possibly some cry of this sort, anticipating the “Christiani ad leones” of the martyrdoms, had been raised against P. by the Ephesian populace (cf.1 Corinthians 15:32; also Acts 22:22).— , repeated with emphasis from 1 Corinthians 4:11, shows P. to be writing under the smart of recent outrage. With his temper, Paul keenly felt personal indignities.

[746] J. B. Lightfoot’s (posthumous) Notes on Epp. of St. Paul (1895).

[747] Bengel’s Gnomon Novi Testamenti.

[748] C. F. G. Heinrici’s Erklärung der Korintherbriefe (1880), or 1 Korinther in Meyer’s krit.-exegetisches Kommentar (1896).

[749] T. C. Edwards’ Commentary on the First Ep. to the Corinthians.

[750] Erasmus’ In N.T. Annotationes.

[751] Calvin’s In Nov. Testamentum Commentarii.

[752] Beza’s Nov. Testamentum: Interpretatio et Annotationes (Cantab., 1642).

[753] Meyer’s Critical and Exegetical Commentary (Eng. Trans.).

[754] F. Godet’s Commentaire sur la prem. Ép. aux Corinthiens (Eng. Trans.).

[755] C. J. Ellicott’s St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians.



Verse 14

1 Corinthians 4:14. . . .: “Not (by way of) shaming you do I write this, but admonishing (you) as my children beloved”. It is in chiding that the Ap. addresses both the Cor[759] and Gal. as his “children” (2 Corinthians 6:13; 2 Corinthians 12:14, Galatians 4:19); he applies besides only to Timothy (1 Corinthians 4:17 and 2 Timothy 1:2). Not intentionally here, but in 1 Corinthians 6:5 and 1 Corinthians 15:34 he does speak .— (= ) is the part of a father (Ephesians 6:4), or brother (2 Thessalonians 3:15); “the vb[760] has a lighter meaning than or , and implies a monitory appeal to the rather than a direct rebuke or censure” (El[761]).

[759] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[760] verb

[761] C. J. Ellicott’s St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians.



Verses 14-21

1 Corinthians 4:14-21. § 14. PAUL’S FATHERLY DISCIPLINE. All has now been said that can be concerning the Divisions at Cor[756]—the causes underlying them, and the spirit they manifest and foster in the Church. In their self-complacent, ungrateful thoughts, the Cor[757] have raised themselves quite above the despised and painful condition of the App. of Christ; “imitabantur filios qui illustrati parum curant humiles parentes—ex saturitate fastidium habebant, ex opulentia insolentiam, ex regno superbiam” (Bg[758]). The delineation of Paul’s state and theirs in the last Section is, in truth, a bitter sarcasm upon the behaviour of the readers; yet P. wishes to admonish, not to rebuke them (1 Corinthians 4:14). He states, in a softened tone, the measures he is taking to rectify the evils complained of. His severity springs from the anxious heart of a father (1 Corinthians 4:14 f.). Yet in the father’s hand, before the paragraph ends, we see again the rod (1 Corinthians 4:21).

[756] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[757] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[758] Bengel’s Gnomon Novi Testamenti.



Verse 15

1 Corinthians 4:15. Reason for this lighter reproof, where stern censure was due—“For if you should have ten thousand tutors in Christ, yet (you have) not many fathers!” The relation of the to the (1 Corinthians 3:10) is exchanged for that of the to the . The (boy-leader) was not the schoolmaster, but the home-tutor—a kind of nursery-governor—who had charge of the child from tender years, looking after his food and dress, speech and manners, and when he was old enough taking him to and from school (see Lt[762] on Galatians 3:24). This epithet has a touch of disparagement for the readers (cf.Galatians 3:25); as Or[763] says (Catena), referring to 1 Corinthians 3:1 f., , .— (1 Corinthians 14:19) indicates the very many—probably too many—teachers busy in this Church (cf.James 3:1; James 3:18 above), in whose guidance the Cor[764] felt themselves “rich” and Apostolic direction superfluous (1 Corinthians 4:8).— (at certe) introduces an apodosis in salient contrast with its protasis: “You may have ever so many nurses, but only one father!” From this relationship “non solum Apollos excluditur, successor; sed etiam comites, Silas et Timotheus” (Bg[765]): (I and no other) (cf.Philemon 1:10, Galatians 4:19); in the Rabbinical treatise Sanhedrin, f., xix. 2, the like sentiment occurs, “Whoever teaches the son of his friend the law, it is as if he had begotten him”; similarly Philo, de Virtute, p. 1000.— . : cf.1 Peter 1:23; also 1 Corinthians 1:18 above, 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; John 6:63, etc.

[762] J. B. Lightfoot’s (posthumous) Notes on Epp. of St. Paul (1895).

[763] Origen.

[764] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[765] Bengel’s Gnomon Novi Testamenti.



Verse 16

1 Corinthians 4:16. “I beseech you therefore (as your father), be imitators of me.” (pr[766] impr.) signifies, in moral exhortations, be in effect, show yourselves (cf.Ephesians 4:32; Ephesians 5:17). demands, beyond , a character formed on the given model. Imitation is the law of the child’s life; cf.Ephesians 5:1; and for the highest illustration, John 5:17-20. It is one thing to say “I am of Paul” (1 Corinthians 1:12), another to tread in Paul’s steps. The imitation would embrace, in effect, much of what was described in 1 Corinthians 4:9 ff.

[766] present tense.



Verse 17

1 Corinthians 4:17. “For this reason”—viz., to help you to imitate me as your father—“I sent to you Timothy, who is a beloved child of mine, and faithful in the Lord”. Timothy had left P. before this letter was written, having been sent forward along with Erastus (possibly a Cor[767], Romans 16:23) to Macedonia (Acts 19:22), but with instructions, as it now appears, to go forward to Cor[768]; respecting his visit, see notes to 1 Corinthians 16:10 f. The Cor[769] had heard already (through Erastus?) of Timothy’s coming; P. does not announce the fact, he explains it: “This is why I have sent. to you”; to the (1 Corinthians 4:14) P. sends a (see Philippians 2:19-22), adding ., since it was a trusty agent, one “faithful in the Lord”—in the sphere of Christian duty—that the commission required. For , see parls., esp. Ephesians 6:21, Colossians 4:7; (Acts 16:15) denotes a right relationship to Christ, includes responsibility for others.—“Who will remind you of my ways, that are in Christ” ( ); the adjunct is made a definition by the repeated art[770] with double acc[771], like . in John 14:26, combines our remind (a person) and recall (a thing). Paul’s “ways” had been familiar in Cor[772] (cf.Acts 20:31-35; also 2 Corinthians 1:12 ff.), but seemed forgotten; the had crowded out of mind the . He means by habits of life to be copied (1 Corinthians 4:16)—the of 2 Timothy 3:10 f.—not doctrines to be learnt; see further 1 Corinthians 9:19-27, 1 Corinthians 10:33 to 1 Corinthians 11:1, 2 Corinthians 6:4-10; 2 Corinthians 10:1. For , see note on . ., 1 Corinthians 1:2. In Paul’s gentler qualities Tim. would strongly recall him to the Cor[773], by conduct even more than words.—“According as” (not how) “I teach”—in accordance with my teaching. Paul’s ways and teaching are not the same thing; but the former are regulated by the latter; they will find the same consistency in Tim. “(As I teach) everywhere, in every Church:” the “ways” P. and Tim. observe, and to which the Cor[774] must be recalled, are those inculcated uniformly in the Gentile mission; see 1 Corinthians 1:2 ( , and notes), also 1 Corinthians 11:16, 1 Corinthians 14:33.

[767] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[768] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[769] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[770] grammatical article.

[771] accusative case.

[772] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[773] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[774] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.



Verses 18-19

1 Corinthians 4:18-19. : “Some however have been puffed up, under the idea that I am not coming to (visit) you”. The contrastive points to a group of inflated persons (cf.1 Corinthians 4:6, 1 Corinthians 5:2, 1 Corinthians 8:2) hostile to Paul’s “ways”. The wish was father to the thought, which was suggested to “some” by the fact of Timothy’s coming. They bore themselves more insolently as not fearing correction;—or did they imagine that Paul is afraid of them! Amongst these, presumably, were mischievous teachers (1 Corinthians 3:11-17) who had swelled into importance in Paul’s absence, partisans who magnified others to his damage and talked as though the Church could now fairly dispense with him (1 Corinthians 4:3; 1 Corinthians 4:6; 1 Corinthians 4:8; 1 Corinthians 4:15). On with ptp[775], see Bn[776] § 440 f., or Goodwin’s Syntax, or Grammar, ad rem; cf. note on , 1 Corinthians 4:7, also 2 Corinthians 5:20, 2 Peter 1:3: “because (as they suppose) I am not coming”. The aor[777] points to the moment when they heard, to their relief, of Timothy’s coming. is postponed in the order of the sentence to avoid separating the closely linked opening words (Wr[778], pp. 698 f.)—“But (despite their presumption) I shall come speedily, if the Lord will”. They say, “He is not coming; he sends Tim. instead!” he replies, “Come I will, and that soon” (see 1 Corinthians 16:8, and note).— (see parls.), varied to in 1 Corinthians 16:7; the aor[779] sbj[780] refers the “willing” to the (indeterminate) time of the visit. “The Lord” is Christ; that and (see note on 1 Corinthians 12:11) are elsewhere referred by P. to God (Mr[781]) is no sufficient reason for diverting . from its distinctive sense (cf.1 Corinthians 4:17 above, and note on 1 Corinthians 1:31). Christ determines the movements of His servants (1 Corinthians 4:1; cf.1 Thessalonians 3:11, Acts 16:7; Acts 18:9, etc.).

[775] participle

[776] E. Burton’s Syntax of the Moods and Tenses in the N.T. (1894).

[777] aorist tense.

[778] Winer-Moulton’s Grammar of N.T. Greek (8th ed., 1877).

[779] aorist tense.

[780] subjunctive mood.

[781] Meyer’s Critical and Exegetical Commentary (Eng. Trans.).

“And I shall know (take cognisance of) not the word of those that are puffed up (pf. pass[782] ptp[783], of settled state), but their power.” “ : verbum judiciale; paternam ostendit potestatem” (Bg[784]). High-flown pretensions P. ignores; he will test their “power,” and estimate each man (he is thinking mainly of the of chap. 3) by what he can do, not say. The “power” in question is that belonging to “the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18; 1 Corinthians 1:24, 1 Corinthians 2:4).

[782] passive voice.

[783] participle

[784] Bengel’s Gnomon Novi Testamenti.



Verse 20

1 Corinthians 4:20. “For not in word (lies) the kingdom of God, but in power:” another of Paul’s religious maxims (see note on 1 Corinthians 1:29), repeated in many forms: cf.2 Corinthians 10:11; 2 Corinthians 13:3 f., etc. The always (even in Romans 14:17) bears ref[785] to the final Messianic rule (see 1 Corinthians 6:9 f., 1 Corinthians 15:24; 1 Corinthians 15:50); the “power of God” called it into being and operates in every man who truly serves it. That Divine realm is not built up by windy words. To the same test P. offers himself in 2 Corinthians 13:1-10. For (understood) , see 1 Corinthians 2:5 and note.

[785] reference.



Verse 21

1 Corinthians 4:21. ; “What is your will?”—what would you have? a sharper ; the latter only once (John 7:17) in N.T.—“With a rod am I to come to you? or in love and a spirit of meekness?” (= , , Cm[786]) is sound Gr[787] for “armed with a rod” (cf.Sirach 47:4, ; Lucian, Dial. Mort., xxiii., 3, . ; add Hebrews 9:25, 1 John 5:6)—the implement of paternal discipline (1 Corinthians 4:14) called for by the behaviour of “some” (1 Corinthians 4:18).

[786] John Chrysostom’s Homiliœ († 407).

[787] Greek, or Grotius’ Annotationes in N.T.

There is reason, however, in the stern note of this question, for connecting it with ch. 1 Corinthians 5:1 (so Oec[788], Cv[789], Bz[790], Hf[791]). P. is approaching the subject of the following Section, which already stirs his wrath. For the sbj[792] of the dubitative question, , see Wr[793], p. 356: (Cm[794]).— . . . ( ); cf.2 Corinthians 2:1; the constr[795] of 1 Corinthians 2:3 above is somewhat diff[796] (see note). defines the particular expression of love in which P. desires to come: cf.1 Corinthians 13:6 f. The Ap. does not mean the Holy Spirit here specifically, though the thought of Him is latent in every ref[797] to the “spirit” of a Christian man. (cf.2 Corinthians 10:1) is the disposition most opposed to, and exercised by, the spirit of the conceited and insubordinate at Cor[798]

[788] Oecumenius, the Greek Commentator.

[789] Calvin’s In Nov. Testamentum Commentarii.

[790] Beza’s Nov. Testamentum: Interpretatio et Annotationes (Cantab., 1642).

[791] J. C. K. von Hofmann’s Die heilige Schrift N.T. untersucht, ii. 2 (2te Auflage, 1874).

[792] subjunctive mood.

[793] Winer-Moulton’s Grammar of N.T. Greek (8th ed., 1877).

[794] John Chrysostom’s Homiliœ († 407).

[795] construction.

[796] difference, different, differently.

[797] reference.

[798] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

DIVISION II. QUESTIONS OF SOCIAL MORALS, 5–7. The Ap. has done with the subject of the Parties, which had claimed attention first because they sprung from a radical misconception of Christianity. But in this typical Hellenic community, social corruptions had arisen which, if not so universal, were still more malignant in their effect. The heathen converts of Cor[799], but lately washed from the foulest vice (1 Corinthians 6:9 ff.), were some of them slipping back into the mire (2 Corinthians 12:21). An offence of incredible turpitude had just come to the Apostle’s ears, to the shame of which the Church appeared indifferent (5.). This case, demanding instant judicial action (1 Corinthians 4:1-5), leads the Ap. to define more clearly the relation of Christians to men of immoral life, as they may be found within or without the Church (1 Corinthians 4:6-13). From sins of uncleanness he passes in ch. 6 to acts of injustice committed in this Church, which, in one instance at least, had been scandalously dragged before the heathen law-courts (1 Corinthians 4:1-8). In 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 P. returns to the prevalent social evil of Cor[800], and launches his solemn interdict against fornication, which was, seemingly, sheltered under the pretext of Christian liberty! It is just here, and in the light of the principles now developed, that P. takes up the question of marriage or celibacy, discussed at large in ch. 7. The fact that the Ap. turns at this juncture to the topics raised in the Church Letter, and that ch. 7 is headed with the formula , must not be allowed to break the strong links of subject-matter and thought binding it to chh. 5 and 6 Its connexion with the foregoing context is essential, with the following comparatively accidental.

[799] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[800] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.



Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.