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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 4

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

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Verse 1


1) "Let a man so account of us." (Greek houtos hemas lo logizesthe anthropos) "Thus let any man reckon, calculate, or consider us" - Paul expresses a desire that he and his missionary companions, in the light of the foolishness of worldly wisdom, be evaluated as follows:

2) "As of the ministers of Christ." (Greek hos huperetas christou) "as attendants, ministers or helpers of Christ." This attitude identifies Paul and his missionary companions as men of humility and dedication to Jesus Christ - not to the striving for position and power – Matthew 20:25-26.

3) "And stewards of the mysteries of God." (Kai oikonomous) "and stewards or house-keepers" - this refers to the church of Jesus Christ, as in Mark 13:34-37; 1 Timothy 3:15. (Greek musterion theou) "of the mysteries of God," as housekeepers or stewards of the mysteries of God these missionaries sought to make Jesus Christ known, through the church, among the nations, Ephesians 3:8-10.

Verse 2

1) "Moreover it is required in stewards." (hode loipon) "here for the rest or remainder" (zeteitai en tois oikonkmois) "It is sought among stewards or housekeepers or houseguards" - this seeking or requirement is of God. The steward cares for and gives account of his oversight over that which belongs to another.

2) "That a man be found faithful." (Greek hina) in order that." - a required accounting, checking, or monitoring of one’s conduct in positions of responsibility encourages faithfulness, honesty and integrity. (pistos tis eurethe) "faithful each one or everyone should be found." God is man’s judge. Romans 14:12.

Verse 3

1) "But with me" (Greek emoi de) "but to me" -in contrast with contentions of brethren over the greater in the missionary ministry Paul asserts.

2) "It is a very small thing ’ (eis elachistov estin) "it (the contention) is with reference to a little or minuscule thing."

3) "That I should be judged of you. ’ (Greek hina huph humon anakritho) "In order that I am judged of you." Man’s opinion of his fellowman is not that standard by which the great judgment is measured or determined.

4) "Or of man’s judgment." (Greek e hupo anthropines hemeras) "or by a day of human judgment I should be judged." See Romans 14:13,

5) "Yea, I judge not mine own self" (alla oude hemauton anakbino) "but not even myself I judge." Jesus Christ is to be man’s final judge, according to the Word of God, Romans 2:16; 2 Timothy 4:1-2.

Verse 4

1) "For I know nothing by myself" (ouden gar) "For not one thing," (hemauto sunoida) "against myself do I really know." This remark seems to be in nature of subtle humor that, "every way of man is right in his own eyes," Proverbs 21:2; Proverbs 12:15.

2) "Yet am I not hereby justified" - though I see nothing wrong with myself, I am not even my own judge, Paul seemed to say to the brethren. What man thinks about either himself or others does not influence God’s judgment of him, Isaiah 55:8-9. (Greek all’ ouk en toute dedekaiomai) "but not in this - (my opinion of myself) have I been judged."

3) "But he that judgeth me is the Lord." (ho de anakrino me kurios estin) "moreover or indeed the one judging me is the Lord." Paul asserts it is His judgment that counts. It is Him man must please. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; John 5:30.

Verse 5

1) "Therefore judge nothing before the time." (hoste) "So then" (Greek me pro kairon ti krinete) "judge ye not anything before the time-season or time period." This refers to either 1) the period of the judgment seat of Christ or 2) the period or time-season of the great white throne judgment – 2 Corinthians 5:10-11; Revelation 20:11-15.

2) "Until the Lord come." (heos an elthe ho kurios) "until the Lord comes." No period of final, determining judgments of man’s deeds shall be made until the coming of Jesus Christ.

3) "Who both will bring to light." (Greek hos kai photisei) "who will both shed light on."

4) "The hidden things of darkness." (ta krupta tou skotous) "the concealed or hidden things of the darkness." The omniscient Christ shall uncover, cause light to shine upon, all hidden, covered or unconfessed sins of men; Every work and secret thing shall be unveiled in the judgment day, for every man. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; Matthew 12:37.

5) "And will make manifest the counsel of the hearts." (Kai phanerosei tas boulas ton kardion) "and will manifest the counsels - (imaginations, vain, empty and presumptuous thoughts) of the heart." Genesis 6:5. Even the purposes and fleshly desires of men shall be revealed at the judgment so that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess to the Glory of God. Philippians 2:11-12; Romans 14:12.

6) "And then shall every man have praise of God." (Greek kai tote ho epainos) "and then the praise" (genesetai hekasto apo tou theou) "will be to each one from God." The "well done" from God is the real judgment praise that counts. Matthew 25:21; Matthew 25:23.

Verse 6

1) "And these things brethren." (tauta de, adelphoi) "these things moreover brethren" - things concerning personal opinions about people and. God’s concept of them and their actions.

2) “I have in a figure." (Greek meteschematisa) "I adapted or applied" in a figure or schematic manner.

3) "Transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes." (Greek eis emauton kai apollon di humas) "unto myself and Apollos because of you" - because of their quarreling and contention over these missionary laborers, 1 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 3:3-6.

4) "That ye might learn in us." (Greek hina en hemin mathete) "in order that among us you all may learn." In ministers of God, there exist, both virtue and imperfections. Ministers (pastors) are at their best still men - imperfect, tempted to evil, not worthy of causing church strife, 1 John 1:8-9.

5) "Not to think of men above that which is written." (to me huper ha gegraptai) "not (to think of men) above what things have been written." Moses, David, Peter and Paul, like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were all men chosen and called of God, yet not to be objects of glorying, 1 Corinthians 3:21; Philippians 3:3-4.

6) "That no one of you be puffed up." (hina) "in order that or for the purpose that" one among you should not be puffed up or hissing like a serpent at another in (the church) over the greatest preacher.

7) "For one against another." (kata tou heterou) "against another of you" It appears that certain carnal church members in Corinth were calling other church members "outrageous heretics of another order". Against such Paul chided the inter-party church wrangling and contention, Titus 3:9; Proverbs 13:10; Proverbs 17:14; Proverbs 22:10.

Verse 7

1) "For who maketh thee to differ from another." (Tis gar se diakrinei) "For who distinguisheth thee, evaluates thee?"

2) "And what hast thou that didst not receive?" (ti de echeis ho ouk elabes;) "moreover, what dost thou have or hold which thou didst not receive?" This is a judgment question of rhetoric nature -affirming that all one has of life, talents, education and possessions he received from God or others.

3) "Now if thou didst receive it." (ei de kai elabes) "and if thou didst take or receive it (from another).

4) "Why dost thou glory," (ti kauchasai) "why boastest thou" - why do you gloat, boast or brag?

5) "As if thou hadst not received it?" (hos me labon) "as not receiving it?" The cross of Jesus Christ should be the focal point, the occasion from which all glorying, rejoicing, and praise should emanate -not from some minister as Lord or god, Galatians 6:14; James 3:5. While "the tongue boasteth great things" it kindleth the fires of hell, according to James.


James McDougall, a young Scotsman, a candidate for the ministry, was on his way to the pulpit to preach his trial sermon. James had worked hard on that sermon, and he felt that it was a good one. He knew he had a good voice, and he was confident of making an excellent impression. As he walked up the aisle and mounted the high pulpit steps, the pride in his face and walk was evident to everybody in the church. Old Robin McLair, the sexton, shook his grizzled head, I hae me doots o’ yon laddie," he said to himself. James McDougall made a miserable failure in the pulpit that day. And when his wretchedly delivered sermon was done he walked slowly down the pulpit steps, head bowed and heart humbled. "Ay, laddie," mused old Robin, "if ye had gone up as ye came doon, ye’d hae come doon as ye went up!"

The Evangelical Christian


You can fool the hapless public,

You can be a subtle fraud,

You can hide your little meanness,

But you can’t fool God!

You can advertise your virtues,

You can self achievement laud,

You can load yourself with riches,

But you can’t fool God!

You can magnify your talent,

You can hear the world applaud,

You can boast yourself Somebody,

But you can’t fool God!

-Grenville Kleiser

Verse 8

1) "Now ye are full, now ye are rich." (ede kekoresmenoi este) "at this moment ye are glutted; now ye became rich". The Corinthians were gluttonous with material prosperity in a prosperous commercial trade center, rich with materialism.

2) "Ye have reigned as kings without us." (choris hemon ebasileusate) "apart from us and ye have reigned as kings." The term "without" or "apart from us" seems to indicate that the Corinthians had lived like royalty, reigned like Gentile heathen rulers, but neglected to support the very missionaries who brought them to Christ, 1 Corinthians 4:11-15.

3) "And I would to God ye did reign." (kai ophelon ge ebasilusate) "and an advantage (it is that) ye reigned." It is better to be a giver of charity than to be in poverty, an object of charity, if one’s prosperity and blessings be shared with others. Luke 6:38; Ecclesiastes 11:1-2; Galatians 6:6; Acts 20:35.

4) "That we also might reign with you." (hina kai hemeis humin sumbasileusomen) "in order that we might reign with you." Paul desired that the Corinth church should share its reign of material prosperity with him and those missionary companions who had brought them to Christ and taught them in the faith, 1 Corinthians 9:11-15.

Verse 9

1) "For I think that God." (doko gar ho theos) "For I think the trinitarian God." Paul believed that true apostles were God-sent ’ that the gift of apostles was the first gift set in the New Testament church, 1 Corinthians 12:28.

2) "Hath set forth us the apostles last," (humas tous apostolous eschatous) "us the apostles last." Paul recognized that the apostles, those who stood true to Jesus and His doctrines would be "despised by all men," held last in honor before worldly kings. He also knew that in Christ "the last shall be first" Luke 10:16; Mark 9:35.

3) "As it were appointed unto death." (apedeksen hos epithanatious) "has set forth as doomed or appointed to death." Paul considered himself and all other apostles as divinely sent, to witness for Jesus unto death, suffering persecution even to death, but not without honor in due season when His reign comes, Luke 22:30; Romans 8:17.

4) "For we are made a spectacle unto the world." (hoti theatron egenethemen to kosmo) "because a spectacle (gazing stock) we became to the world order." Our Lord and His church and His people have been objects of scorn and derision, despised by the world from the beginning of His ministry. Matthew 5:11-12; 2 Timothy 3:12.

5) "And to angels, and to men." (kai angelois kai anthropois) "and to angels, and to men." Matters that concern the belief and conduct of followers of Jesus Christ cause them to be objects or persons upon whom the world and angels gaze with wonder, awe and amazement, 1 Peter 1:10-12.

Verse 10

1) "We are fools for Christ’s sake." (Gk. hemeis moroi dia christou) "We are morons (to the world) on account of Christ." The idea is that Christian testimony is without a basis of mature mentality, in the judgment of the worldly; the lack of mental comprehension is really in the babbling-worldly, not in the wisdom of Christ, 1 Corinthians 2:14. Festus took this attitude toward Paul, Acts 26:24-25.

2) "But ye are wise in Christ." (Greek humeis de phronimoi en Christo) "but ye are prudent in Christ." This expresses the human view of contrast between Paul and the devout missionaries and the "at ease in Zion" Corinthian brethren who lived in prosperity, gluttony, and carnality.

3) "We are weak, but ye are strong." (hemeis astheneis) "we are weak, infirm or sickly" (humeis de ischuroi) "but ye are strong." Too often this is the pathetic contrast between the unsanctified, unseparated lives of professed believers and missionaries and pastors who are sold out for God.

4) "Ye are honorable, but we are despised." (humeis endoksoi) "ye are held in honor" (hemeis de atimon) "but we are not honored." It is a regretful thing that often those who live most unselfishly are also most despised, and go unhonored by men through life. But when God rewards from His journal of the records of the deeds of His faithful, each faithful shall have his high reward and none shall be without honor then, 1 Corinthians 4:5; Revelation 22:12.

Verse 11

1) "Even unto this present hour." (achri tes arti horas) "Even up to this very present hour (time)". As Paul closed his three year mission ministry in Ephesus and Asia Minor preaching and teaching, after having labored in Corinth, he wrote:

2) "We both hunger and thirst." (Kai peinomen Kai dipsomen) "we even hunger and thirst." That missionaries, pastors, and their families have often gone hungry and thirsty, in need of food and drink, while those they serve or have served live lives of luxury and even gluttony is a sin against God, James 4:17.

3) "And are naked and are buffeted." (kai gumniteuomen kai kolaphizometha) "and are naked (without clothes) and buffeted or goaded." When God’s missionaries and pastors are so neglected that they can not clothe themselves properly, God’s people and churches must take action, James 2:13-14; 1 John 3:17-18.

4) "And have no certain dwelling place." (Greek kai astatoumen) "and are not settled down" (like you). To have a home and comforts of life is not a sin, but to live in luxury and gluttony and turn a deaf ear and empty hand, and cold heart to the needy, especially faithful servants of the ministry, is so grave a sin as to incur God’s displeasure; See Luke 12:47; Matthew 25:34-45.

Verse 12

1) "And labor, working with our own hands." (kai kopiomen ergazomenoi tais idiais chersin) "and labor, continually working with my own hands." Paul did tent-making with his own hands in Corinth, Acts 18:3, while building the church. More than three years later he continually did manual labor, supporting himself and other missionaries in Ephesus while the Corinthian brethren were at ease in Corinth, Acts 20:34-35.

2) "Being reviled, we bless." (loidoroumenoi eulogoumen) "While being continually reviled or vilified, we bless." This is what our Lord taught his servants to do, Matthew 5:44; this is what Stephen did, Acts 7:60.

3) "Being persecuted, we suffer it:”- (diokomenoi anechometha) "being continually persecuted we bear up under it or keep on enduring it." Paul knew experimentally that God would not suffer him to be tested more than he was able to bear, 1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

Verse 13

1) "Being defamed, we entreat:" (dusphemoumenoi parakalou men) "being continually defamed, we entreat." The term entreat means with Holy Spirit compassion we call those defaming to come alongside us because we care for their souls - being defamed, they defamed not, but pled the cause of Christ to defamers.

2) "We are made as the filth of the world." (hos perikatharmata tou kosmou) "as refuse of the world, as scum of the earth". (Greek egenethemen) "we became" - Thus the world so often Jg the most devout of God’s servants. Yet with patience and humility the true servant of God plods on, Hebrews 13:3-5; Philippians 4:19.

3) "And are the offscouring of all things unto this day” (panton peripsema heos arti) "offscouring of all things even until yet (we are)." In spite of man’s dedication and holy life spiritual things are enigmatic, foolishness to those who are blinded, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6.

Verse 14

1) “I write not these things to shame you." (ouk entrepon humas graps tauta) I write not these things shaming or to shame you." This factual report of Paul’s hardships and sufferings in labor for Christ was not merely to shame or humiliate them, but to motivate them to higher living, even to charitable giving to missions.

2) "But as my beloved sons." (alla hos tekna mou agapeta) "but as my beloved children" (of affection). These Corinthians were fruits of Paul’s ministry in the gospel at Corinth and his care was for their growth in Christ, above all else.

3) 1 warn you." (Greek noutheton) "admonishing" - to admonish means to call one from paths of moral and ethical wrong to holiness of life and active service for Christ, James 1:22. He desired that fruits of the Spirit be more prominent in their lives, to displace their carnal luxurious living, Galatians 5:25.

Verse 15

1) "For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ." Paul concedes that it was possible for the Corinthian brethren to have myriads of pedagogues or instructors in Christ.

2) "Yet have ye not many fathers." (Greek all’ ou pollus pateras) "but (in contrast with this) not many fathers." The apostle Paul seems to refer to himself as the spiritual father of most of the brethren at Corinth.

3) "For in Christ Jesus." (en gar christo iesou) in contrast to ones being "in the world or world order" - these brethren once out of Christ, were now "in Christ" - and Paul had led most of them to be "in Him" - to be saved.

4) “I have begotten you through the gospel." (dia tou eoangeliou ego humas egennesa) "I begat ou through the gospel." This is why he could affectionately address these as his sons. 1 Corinthians 9; 1 Corinthians 12; 1 Corinthians 15:1-3.

Verse 16

1) ’Wherefore I beseech you." (parakalo oun humas) "therefore I beseech, exhort or call you compassionately alongside of me." Paul desired that the Corinth brethren join him and other missionary companions in suffering, labor, and financial help in bearing the gospel to the lost.

2) "Be ye followers of me." (Greek mametai mou ginesthe) "Become ye imitators of me." In another instance he wrote "follow me as I follow Christ," 1 Corinthians 11:1; Luke 9:23-24.

Verse 17

1) "For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus." (dia touto auto) "on account of this very thing." (The humility and patient service of the missionaries while in financial need). (Greek epempsa humin Timotheon) "I sent to you Timothy." Timothy was sent of Paul, a leader of the missionaries, to report their faith and service not to exercise authority over the Corinth church.

2) "Who is my beloved son and faithful in the Lord." (hos estin mou teknon agapeton kai piston en kurio) "who is my beloved son (in the ministry) and faithful in the master." Paul assured the Corinthian brethren that Jesus was lord or master of the life of Timothy, Acts 19:22; 1 Corinthians 16:10-11.

3) ’Who shall bring you into remembrance." (hos humas anamnesei) "who shall cause you to recall, or bring up in your memory." Remembrance of former sacred vows, pledges of faith, and moral stands for right should often be recalled as moments of strengthened and renewed efforts for truth, 2 Timothy 2:14; 2 Peter 1:12.

4) "Of my ways which be in Christ." (tas hodous mou tas en Christo iesou) "the ways of me which (are) in Christ Jesus." Timothy had become a very devout, loyal missionary companion of Paul and was most able to certify to the Corinthian brethren the integrity of his life and doctrines.

5) "As I teach everywhere in every church." (Greek kathos pantachou en pase ekklesia didasko) "Just as everywhere in every church I teach." True ministers of God are glad to have capable brethren to report their labors and faith to others. They neither fear factual reports regarding their deportment nor the doctrines they preach, Acts 17:11; John 5:39.

Verse 18

1) "Now some are puffed up." Evidently the report from the Chloe household had indicated to Paul that certain Corinth members were puffed up with pride, arrogance, and cynicism against Paul because of his long delay to return.

2) "As though I would not come to you." The term "hos" means "as" or "when" (Greek me erchomenou humas) "I was not coming to you," (as planned). The Greek term (epusiathesan) indicates "a puff-adder," serpentine attitude. The hissing world of railing against Paul were fleshly (a lot of wind) without either real power of hurt of influence, 1 Corinthians 5:11.

Verse 19

1) "But I will come to you shortly." (elusomai de tacheos pros humas) "but I will come to you very soon (of my own accord) or because I will to do so." This indicates the serious integrity of Paul’s announced interest in the Corinth brethren.

2) "If the Lord will." lean ho kurios thelese) "if the Master wills." Paul believed in the overriding leadership and will of God that should prevail in his and everyone’s life, Ephesians 5:17; James 4:15 advises, “ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that." Acts 18:21.

3) "And will know." (kai gnosomai) "and will know, or take into consideration - "

4) "Not the speech of them that are puffed up." (ou ton logon ton pephusiomenon) "not the speech or words of the ones being "ballooned" or puff-adder-like."

5) "But the power." (alla ten dunamin) "but the power, or power-source." Paul seemed to be certain that the power or dynamics of these puff-adder, pouting, hissing, carnal church members was of the devil. He would not even recognize such an attitude as having any place in Christian deportment.

Verse 20

1) "For the kingdom of God." (gar he Basileia to theou) "For the kingdom or dominion of God" -the jurisdiction of God’s will in men on earth.

2) "Is not in word, but in power" (ou en logo all’ en dunamei) "is not in word (logistics) but in dynamics or active power." God sometimes interrupts man’s appointments and time schedules and bids his servants to alter theirs accordingly, (Acts 16:7; 2 Corinthians 1:17; Acts 16:6).

Verse 21

1) "What will ye?" (ti thelele) "What is your highest will, the thing you want most?" This is followed with a rhetoric question, indicating that Paul’s message, when he came, would be of the pleasant or unpleasant nature, contingent or dependent upon the attitude of the Corinthian hearers.

2) "Shall I come unto you with a rod?" (en rabdo eltho pros humas;) "With a chastening rod shall I approach you?" Shall I flail you, scourge you, chasten you, rebuke and reprove you with the word, he inquired. Do you want a whipping, the mother asks the disobedient child. Proverbs 10:13; Proverbs 26; Proverbs 29:15.

3) "Or in love and in the spirit of meekness?" (he en agape pneumati te prautetos) "or in an attitude of love, a spirit of meekness?" Paul was prepared to “preach the word" in longsuffering upon his return to Corinth, in joy or in sorrow, in reproof, or instruction, as determined by their state or condition upon his return, 2 Timothy 4:2.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 4". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/1-corinthians-4.html. 1985.
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