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1 Corinthians 4

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy ScripturesEverett's Study Notes

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Verses 1-5

The Stewardship of Christian Ministry In 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 Paul explains stewardship. He is saying in this passage that he and his fellow workers were helpers of Christ, and because He had given to them responsibilities, they had also become stewards of such responsibilities, as those who will one day give an account of this stewardship (1 Corinthians 4:5). Therefore, in light of eternal judgment, Paul gives very little weight of importance to the judgment of others about his ministry (1 Corinthians 4:3). Neither does he give much weight to the way he judges himself, for he knows that the Lord is a better judge of all these things (1 Corinthians 4:4).

There is no Condemnation in Christ Jesus Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 that it is not someone else’s job to judge his life, neither does he look for fault in himself. Rather, he has learned that when there is a problem in his life, the Lord will show this to him by His Spirit, and then it is time to judge sin in his life. In other words, Paul had learned that he is not going to worry about what others think about himself. He has learned not to constantly find fault with himself. For if God approves him, why should Paul disapprove and condemn himself. Of course Paul was not perfect, and neither are any of us. But we should be able to walk in the liberty of believing that God is working out his salvation in us daily and loves us dearly.

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

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

1 Corinthians 4:2 Comments - A steward is a manager of some else’s affairs. Thus, he is one who has been entrusted with resources. A steward is in a position of responsibility. This responsibility is expressed as faithfulness in 1 Corinthians 4:2.

1 Corinthians 4:3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.

1 Corinthians 4:3 “or of man's judgment” Comments - This phrase literally reads, “in a human court.” Paul certainly is reminded by this phrase of the incident of being taken before Gallio during his first stay in Corinth (Acts 18:12-17). Archeologists have uncovered a market center in the ruins of ancient Corinth. In the midst of this large open market was found a platform used as an open judgment seat by the city magistrates. These Corinthians remember how Paul was abused before jealous Jews before this Gallio, and how Paul was found innocent.

1 Corinthians 4:3 Comments - These carnal-minded Corinthians were deciding who to follow. Therefore, they were passing judgment on those whom they did not want to listen to.

1 Corinthians 4:4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.

1 Corinthians 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, 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 Comments - In 1 Corinthians 4:5 we find a second reference to Christ’s Second Coming within his first epistle to the Corinthians, the first being in 1 Corinthians 1:7. Paul will write a lengthy passage on our redemption and rapture and the Second Coming in 1 Corinthians 15:1-58. This is because a believer’s hope in the Second Coming becomes the anchor of his soul that motivates him through the process of sanctification (1 Corinthians 15:58). We see in Paul’s epistle to the Thessalonians that the Second Coming is the secondary theme that supports its primary theme of the sanctification of the believer.

1 Corinthians 1:7, “So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:”

1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”

Verses 1-21

Sanctification by the Holy Spirit In 1 Corinthians 3:1 to 1 Corinthians 14:40 Paul takes the greater part of this epistle to teach them about the process of sanctification by the Holy Spirit. However, the ways in which these issues are presented reflect the sanctification of man’s mind, body, and spirit, in that order. For example, Paul’s discussion on church divisions (1 Corinthians 3:1 to 1 Corinthians 4:21) emphasizes the sanctification of our minds so that we learn not to prefer one church member, or church leader, above another. His discussion on fornication (1 Corinthians 5:1 to 1 Corinthians 7:40) emphasizes the sanctification of our bodies, as we offer them as holy vessels to the Lord. His discussion on meats offered until idols (1 Corinthians 8:1 to 1 Corinthians 11:1) emphasizes the sanctification of our spirits as we learn to walk and conduct our lifestyles with a clean conscience, which is the voice of the spirit. Paul then turns his attention to issues regarding public worship (1 Corinthians 11:2 to 1 Corinthians 14:40). Remember in the Old Testament how the priests and Levites had to sanctify themselves before entering into the service of the Tabernacle and Temple. Therefore, Paul uses this same approach for the New Testament Church. As we allow our minds, bodies and spirits to yield to the work of sanctification by the Holy Spirit, we become vessels in which the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit can operate.

Outline - Here is a proposed outline:

1. Divisions in the Church 1 Corinthians 3:1 to 1 Corinthians 4:21

2. Fornication in the Church 1 Corinthians 5:1 to 1 Corinthians 6:20

3. Idolatry and foods offered to idols 1 Corinthians 8:1 to 1 Corinthians 11:34

4. Public Worship 1 Corinthians 11:2 to 1 Corinthians 14:40

The Two Issues of Fornication and Foods Offered Unto Idols Reflect Heathen Worship Note that the two major topics that are covered in this epistle of 1 Corinthians, fornication and meat offered to idols, are two of the four issues that those the Jerusalem council decided to ask of the Gentiles. Note:

Acts 15:20, “But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.”

Acts 15:29, “That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.”

Acts 21:25, “As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.”

In submission to the church apostles and elders a Jerusalem, Paul delivered these ordinances to the Corinthian church earlier while he lived there. In this epistle, Paul expands upon them:

1 Corinthians 11:2, “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.”

Note also that Jesus told the church in Pergamos in the book of Revelation that these were the two doctrines of Balaam.

Revelation 2:14, “But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication .”

Therefore, the practice of feasting in idolatry and fornication appears to have been a common practice in Asia Minor among the temple worship of the Greeks. We also see in Romans 1:18-32 how idolatry was followed by fornication as God turned mankind over to a reprobate mind. Thus, these two sins are associated with one another throughout the Scriptures. However, first Paul deals with church divisions.

Verses 6-13

Evidences of Paul’s Stewardship - In 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 Paul explains stewardship. He now takes time in 1 Corinthians 4:6-13 to give evidential support for himself and Apollos as stewards of God. In 1 Corinthians 4:9 Paul tells the Corinthians that God has set them apart to be made spectacles to the world. He then beings to describe what this means by listing a series of events that Paul and his companions have suffered for Christ’s sake. In 1 Corinthians 4:10-13 Paul describes himself by how the world sees him, while contrasting the Corinthians from the perspective of God’s beloved people. He explains how he appears before the world as foolish, weak and despised. The world sees his traveling group of evangelists as hungry, thirsty, without proper clothing, buffeted by others and constantly wandering from city to city. They toil with their hands like the slaves who serve the wealthy aristocrats. They endure being reviled, being persecuted and being defamed. Thus, to the world, they appear as useless filth.

The Purpose of Paul’s Stewardship The purpose of Paul’s stewardship as an apostle to the Gentiles was to enrich the believers in their daily walk with Christ. But such blessings came at a great price to Paul, who will declare himself as their “spiritual father” in the next passage (1 Corinthians 4:14-21). At the one who “fathered their faith,” he had to endure much persecution and suffering for Christ’s sake. Paul will make mention of this fatherly principle of making sacrifices for his children in his second epistle to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 6:10) as well as to the sacrifices that Christ bore for us that we might be made rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).

2 Corinthians 6:10, “As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.”

2 Corinthians 8:9, “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.”

So, what does it mean to become a “father” of a people’s faith? We see Abraham being called “the father of all them that believe” (Romans 4:11). We look at Abraham’s historic steps in the Promised Land, obeying the Lord in order to demonstrate to us that it is possible to live in right standing with God. Thus, he serves as a “father of faith” for all who were to believe afterwards. But there were many sacrifices that Abraham made, and much suffering and persecutions he endured for the sake of the Lord. One good example of how a “father of faith” must make great sacrifices is seen in the accomplishment of Charles Lindburgh, the first man to fly across the Atlantic Ocean compared to some of the historic flights made today with some of the world’s biggest passenger jets. One of these took place on November 10, 2005 when a Boeing 777 commercial airline flew from Hong Kong to London, a distance of 18,662 kilometers (11,664 miles) on a flight that took 22 hours and 43 minutes in the air, breaking the record for the longest nonstop flight by a commercial jet. Those on board enjoyed the luxuries of a lounge, beds, sofas and meals. But such events did not begin that way. The first man make such a flight across the oceans was Lindburgh, who fathered flights across the Atlantic. On May 20, 1927 he roared down the muddy runway of Roosevelt Field, Long Island and lifted his small aircraft, the “Spirit of St. Louis”, into the air. Thirty-three and one half-hours and 3,500 miles later he landed in Paris, France. This was a dangerous journey that had already seen a number of men lost at sea in their failed attempts to be the first to cross the Atlantic. Lindburgh had no parachute, but only took with him with four sandwiches, two canteens of water and 451 gallons of fuel in order to keep his load light. His spirit and will to succeed captivated the world and made many believe that it could be done. From that point men worked hard in faith knowing that they could follow in the steps of Lindburgh. [116]

[116] “Lindbergh Flies the Atlantic, 1927,” (EyeWitness to History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com , 1999) [on-line]; accessed 18 April 2010; available from http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/lindbergh.htm; Internet.

So, when Paul tells the Corinthians that they are rich and reign as kings while he suffers as a spectacle to the world in 1 Corinthians 4:6-13, he is explaining the principle of fatherhood that Abraham (Romans 4:11-12) and Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 8:9) walked in. They made tremendous sacrifices themselves so that their “children” could walk in blessings.

1 Corinthians 4:6 And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.

1 Corinthians 4:7 For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?

1 Corinthians 4:8 Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye 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 Comments - When we accept Jesus Christ as our Saviour, God’s blessings abound in us to overflowing. We tear down demonic strongholds around us and set captives free. All of this is manifested to the world in a number of ways, one of which is material prosperity. For example, when my home church Calvary Cathedral International was located in downtown Fort Worth, Texas, the heart of the city prospered. I believe this prosperity was a manifestation of God’s blessings upon this city which overflowed from the church. The buildings were renovated, business prospered and people came to downtown Fort Worth to shop, to attend conventions, and to just sightsee. Also, when our church built a Christian television station in Uganda, they purchased a piece of land on the side of a hill just north of the capital city of Kampala. Within a few years, a building boom developed on the side of this hill. Houses sprung up and the price of real estate shot up. Right now as I write, the area around the television studio is one of the fastest growing areas in the city.

Yet, in the midst of this prosperity, I sacrifice as a missionary in this city to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I do not pursue this material prosperity because I am pursuing my ministry as a missionary. Everyone likes the prosperity they see in the nation, but not everyone likes Christian television.

1 Corinthians 4:9 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 Comments - The Corinthians well knew what befell men who were thrown to the wild beasts, as those who were appointed unto death; for in their own city was built a Greek amphitheatre where gladiators fought to the death, and people were eaten by lions and other beasts. The paraphrase of Goodspeed suggests that Paul was comparing himself and his co-workers to the prisoners who were condemned to death in Rome’s public arenas of his day. These poor souls were shamed, tormented and killed before live spectators.

“For it seems to me, God has exhibited us apostles at the very end of the procession, like the men condemned to die in the arena . For we have become a spectacle to the whole universe, angels as well as men.”

Thus, Paul uses an event within their own culture in order to drawn an analogy of his struggle as an apostle to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 4:10 We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised.

1 Corinthians 4:11 Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace;

1 Corinthians 4:12 And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:

1 Corinthians 4:12 “And labour, working with our own hands” Comments - Paul’s reference in 1 Corinthians 4:12 to “labouring, working with his own hands” is recording in Acts 18:1-3 when he entered Corinth and began to work with Aquila as a tent maker. This statement certain includes other places where Paul worked during his missionary journey, as Paul would soon state to the elders of Ephesus in Acts 20:34-35 on his return to Jerusalem from his third missionary journey. So we see how Paul worked with his hands throughout his career. Thus, we may read Acts 4:11-12, “Even unto this present hour we…..labour, working with our own hands.”

Acts 18:1-3, “After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them. And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.”

Acts 20:34-35, “Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Goodspeed, citing Justin Martyr, makes an important note that the Jewish rabbis taught without pay, while the Greek lecturer expected a fee from his class. [117]

[117] Justin Martyr writes, “I left him and betook myself to another, who was called a Peripatetic, and as he fancied, shrewd. And this man, after having entertained me for the first few days, requested me to settle the fee, in order that our intercourse might not be unprofitable.” ( Dialogue of Justin 2.3) See Edgar J. Goodspeed, An Introduction to the New Testament (Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1937), 49.

1 Corinthians 4:13 Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.

Verses 14-21

Paul Declares His Spiritual Authority Over the Corinthians In 1 Corinthians 4:14-21 Paul the apostle declares his spiritual authority over the church at Corinth because he brought them to faith in Christ.

1 Corinthians 4:14 I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.

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

1 Corinthians 4:15 Comments - A father is a man who has first learned to be a son, submitting himself to his own father. For example, Jesus Christ was first submitted to His own earthly parents for the first thirty years of His life before entering into His three and a half years of earthy ministry.

1 Corinthians 4:16 Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.

1 Corinthians 4:17 For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, 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 4:18 Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you.

1 Corinthians 4:19 But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power.

1 Corinthians 4:19 Comments While we all have dreams and goals that we want to strive to reach in this life, the mature Christian knows that yielding to God’s will and plan is the best decision in life. Thus, we should always undergird our prayers with a willingness to accept God’s will for our lives. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed to the Father to be delivered from the Cross, but followed this request by consecrating Himself to God’s will (Luke 22:42). Paul makes a similar statement in his plans to visit the Corinthians by saying, “I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will…” (1 Corinthians 4:19) James 4:15 describes the pray of consecration as well, saying, “For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.”

Luke 22:42, “Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”

James 4:15, “For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.”

1 Corinthians 4:17-19 Comments - Paul’s Travel Plans In 1 Corinthians 4:17-19 Paul explains his upcoming travel plans for himself and Timothy. This event very likely corresponds to Acts 19:21-22; for we know that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians from Ephesus.

Acts 19:21-22, “After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome. So he sent into Macedonia two of them that ministered unto him, Timotheus and Erastus; but he himself stayed in Asia for a season.”

1 Corinthians 4:20 For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.

1 Corinthians 4:21 What will ye? shall 1 Come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?

Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 4". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/1-corinthians-4.html. 2013.
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