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Thursday, July 18th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 4

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-21

1 Corinthians 4:1 . Let a man, yea every one of you, however biassed by parties, so account of us, though servants for your sakes, as ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God, as illustrated in Romans 16:25. Those mysteries are called “wisdom” in the preseding chapter; here they are regarded as the secrets and doctrines of the gospel; as mysteries hid in ages past, but now made manifest to us the apostles, prophets, and evangelists of Christ. If the ministers are degraded, Christ is degraded, and the cause destroyed. The elders that rule well are worthy of double honour.

1 Corinthians 4:6 . These things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos, as labourers in the vineyard, and as stewards of the household of Christ; that in the humble and laborious sphere in which we move, you might find no cause to be vainly puffed up one against another, for what is the gift that you have not received? Paul often puts hard things in a figure, as the carnal man, in the seventh chapter to the Romans.

1 Corinthians 4:9 . I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last. You have houses, you have riches, you are citizens, enjoying every worldly comfort; you have reigned as kings, while we are accounted fools for Christ, partially suffering from hunger and cold. All men seem to have more joy in their professions than the missionaries of Christ. The farmer grows rich in corn and cattle, the physician rises in practice, the merchant is aggrandized with wealth, while we are accounted the pests of society, and the offscouring of all things. How admirable are these eloquent appeals. The apostle concedes all the excellencies of which they had vainly boasted, and heightens the portrait by the darker shades of his own trials and afflictions in the work of the Lord. What a master of oratory: how he plays with argument, how he wounds and heals.

1 Corinthians 4:14 . I write not these things to shame you for past discords, for with good men, on perceiving their errors, the point is gained. Therefore, as my beloved children, I warn you, and warn you as your only father, having laboured among you and in Achaia for three years.

1 Corinthians 4:17 . For this cause, of healing and harmony, have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son. In hearing Timothy, the Corinthians would still hear Paul, because he was perfectly acquainted with the apostle’s sentiments, with his words, and discipline. They would crowd the auditories of Timothy, and the spirit of discord would melt away before the warmer beams of charity.

1 Corinthians 4:19 . But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will. It appears however that this promise was delayed by such hindrances as caused the second epistle to follow in the course of the year. 2 Corinthians 1:17-24. On coming, he would not regard the oratory of those that were puffed up above holy discipline, but the power of the gospel in regenerating the heart, in all the hallowing influence of the inward kingdom of God.

1 Corinthians 4:21 . What will ye? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love? Take your choice. They knew that he had the keys of the church, and that the husbandman has a right to make a fence; if otherwise, to plow and sow would be of small avail; but the rod of the church must be in a father’s hand.


Just and proper ideas of the christian ministry are laid down here. A minister is a steward of the mysteries of God. He has an office, a charge, a dread responsibility. God will require at his hands the souls of the people. The Corinthians in their parties were lowering their ideas of the ministry, and those who despise ambassadors, despise the sovereigns whose commands they execute. If ministers are degraded by factions, the christian church suffers a severe eclipse.

It was however no small glory, that amid the scrutinies of parties, the apostle could say, I know nothing by myself, either in moral character, or in the faithful discharge of duty. He had the same charity for the Corinthian pastors. Evil surmisings in regard of character, destitute of proof, must be left to the final decision of the great day. Meanwhile, it is encumbent on every one to shun the appearance of evil; and in a minister, such appearances destroy his usefulness.

In the parties at Corinth, some of them had begun to talk rather high, and to speak in the first person. Ye have reigned as kings without us; and I would to God that ye did reign, in all the power of righteousness, and in excellence of the christian temper. But their reign was inglorious, while the fetters of parties adhered to their feet.

We must equally admire the superior wisdom of Paul, in sending Timothy, who would be so likely to conciliate existing differences. They would gather about his ministry, and pay deep attention to his advice, as the representative of the holy apostle, who had been their spiritual father. A happy way of giving a diversion to church factions, and directing their minds to the true principles of the gospel, that the kingdom of God was not in word, but in power. It is piety that gives unity and strength to the church. The children love to gather around the fire of the altar.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/1-corinthians-4.html. 1835.
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