1. Servants of Christ and Stewards of the Mysteries of God. (1 Corinthians 4:1-5).
2. Contrast Between Self-Glorification and Humiliation. (1 Corinthians 4:6-13).
3. Admonition to Beloved Children. (1 Corinthians 4:14-21).
Paul speaks of himself and the fellow workmen as servants of Christ and the stewards of the mysteries of God. They were serving under Christ. Apollos, though not an Apostle, is included by Paul. Apollos with his great eloquence probably appealed strongly to the Corinthians and thus the party spirit had been fostered among them. But Paul classes Apollos with himself; he might have told the Corinthians that Apollos was not an Apostle and by this belittle him in their eyes. All were servants of Christ to serve the household of faith and to give meat in due season. The “mysteries of God” are not, as claimed by ritualistic Christendom, the sacraments in their invented “mysterious” actions. The mysteries of God are those blessed hidden things, which were not revealed in former dispensations; but now they are made known and the servants of Christ are the stewards of the blessed truths of Christianity, to guard and to dispense them. And Paul who may be called “the chief steward” of these mysteries had been judged by them, but he expresses his independence of all their judgment. He is responsible to the Lord although he was not aware Of anything against himself yet he was not thereby justified, for the Lord might know something, that he had overlooked. He then points to that day (the day of Christ) when He comes and all His people will have to appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Then the hidden things will come to light, the counsels of the hearts will be manifest and each man have his praise from God. To that day the servant of Christ, the steward of God’s mysteries, yea, every Christian, must look, and serve in anticipation of it. Then all our acts and ways will be examined and judged by the Lord Himself. Paul therefore declared that any judgment now was a judgment “before the time.”
And all this he wrote by the Spirit to uncover their foolishness and to counteract their party-spirit. “That ye might learn not to go beyond the things which are written, that no one of you be puffed up the one against the other. For who maketh thee to differ? and what hast thou that thou hast not received? But, if thou hast received it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” Thus the Spirit of God exposed the folly of the Corinthian party spirit in which they were puffed up and had lost sight of Christ.
Where they had drifted in their carnal spirit by glorying in men and not in Christ is made known by the contrast between their self-glorification, self-exaltation and self-sufficiency and the path of humiliation, suffering and contempt, which is marked out for the true follower of the Lord and the servant of Christ. Here is solemn food for reflection. They were full and rich, reigned as kings, but without the Apostles, who were blessedly sharing the sufferings of Christ and were a spectacle unto the world, to angels and to men. By their profession the Corinthians were waiting for the coming of the Lord, yet in His absence they reigned as kings. They enjoyed prosperity, had all things in abundance, they gloried in all these things while the true servants of Christ were suffering, were in want, following in the path of His blessed life on earth, bearing His reproach, despised and rejected by the world. And so it is today that the professing church has fully gone the Corinthian way; an outward profession, a seeing after the honor of men, the applause of the world, glorying in earthly attainments, rich, increased in goods. With it the offense of the cross has ceased. The cross which has written the sentence of death upon the flesh, which has made the believer dead to the world and the world dead to him; the cross, which demands separation, self-denial, self-surrender and self-sacrifice is denied.
And what a record of suffering and privation, persecution, reproach and shame, the Apostle gives! The Corinthians knew nothing of that; nor does the professing church of today. But has not the world changed since then? Is not the age becoming better? Is not the leaven of Christianity changing existing conditions so that the reproach of Christ ceases and suffering is changed into worldly honor and glory? A thousand times, No! These are the spurious claims. The world, this Present age, man’s day, does not change. The world is the same today as it was in the days of the apostle. It is still true and will be true till the Lord comes “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecutions.” The applause and approval of the world, the recognition by the world of that which is called “religion”--”Christian work and service,” is an evidence that that service and religion is not according to the truth of God.
Paul sent Timothy to remind them “of my ways which are in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.” And he was also coming in person. He was not afraid to visit them and meet them face to face; he would come in power. “What will ye? Shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?” It was his loving call for them to repent and humble themselves.
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Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 4". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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