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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 4

Trapp's Complete CommentaryTrapp's Commentary

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Verse 1

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

Let a man so accountQuasi dicat, though we are yours, as 1 Corinthians 3:22 , devoted to the service of your faith, yet are we not to be slighted, but respected as Christ’s high stewards.

Ministers of Christ — Gr. υπηρετας , "under rowers" to Christ the master pilot, helping forward the ship of the Church toward the haven of heaven.

Stewards of the mysteries — Dispensing all out of God’s goods, and not of our own; setting bread and salt upon the table (that is, preaching Christ crucified) whatever else there is.

Verse 2

Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

That a man be found faithful — Giving every man his due proportion of fit food, Matthew 24:45 , not as he in the emblem, that gave straw to the dog, and a bone to the ass.

Verse 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.

But with me it is, … — A good minister reviled, may reply, as once a steward did to his passionate lord, when he called him knave, … Your honour may speak as you please, but I believe not a word that you say; for I know myself an honest man. Non curo illos censores, qui vel non intelligendo reprehendunt, vel reprehendendo non intelligunt, saith Augustine. Angustus did but laugh at the satires and buffoonaries which they had published against him. Severus the emperor was careful of what was to be done by him, but careless what was said of him. εμμελης των πρακτεων, αμελης δε των περι αυτου λογοποιουμενων . (Dio.) Do well and bear ill is written upon heaven’s gates, said Mr Bradford the martyr. Thou art a heretic, said Woodroof the sheriff, to Mr Rogers the protomartyr, in Queen Mary’s days. That shall be known, quoth he, at the day of judgment. Some men flatter me, saith Politian, some others slander me, I think neither the better nor the worse of myself for that; no more than I think myself taller or lower for that my shadow is longer in the morning, and shorter at noon. A Spanish Jesuit, saith Beza (Epist. ad Calvin), disputing with us about the Eucharist, called us foxes, apes, serpents, … My answer was, that we believed it no more than we believed transubstantiation.

Verse 4

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

Yet am I not, … — Paul a chosen vessel, but yet an earthen vessel, knew well that he had his cracks and his flaws, which God could easily find out.

Verse 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.

Until the Lord comeTot argumeuta quot verba, saith Paraeus, every word here hath its weight. There shall be a resurrection one day of names as well as of bodies. Let that stay us when belied or misreported.

And then shall every man have praise of God — His faith (now haply hidden, or not noticed) shall then be "found to praise, honour, and glory," 1 Peter 1:7 , -praise from the mouth of the Judge, honour in the hearts of saints and angels, glory in the kingdom of heaven after the judgment ended. Christ shall then be not only his compurgator, A witness to character who swore along with the person accused, in order to the acquittal of the latter. ŒD but his encomiast (eulogizer).

Verse 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.

I have in a figure, …i.e. I have represented and reprehended your partialities under our names, when I brought you in saying, "I am of Paul, and I of Apollos," …, 1 Corinthians 1:12 . For the heads of your factions were your own ambitious doctors, whose names I yet spared, and took the business upon myself and Apollos, for your sakes.

Verse 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 ?

For who maketh thee — He directeth his speech to those Theologi gloriae, Preachers of praise, as Luther usually calleth such, those vain glorious, self-ascribing pastors at Corinth, that sought to bear away the bell from Paul, and would not stick to answer this demand of his, Quis te discernit? Who makes you to differ? As that insolent Arminian did, Ego meipsum discerno, I make myself to differ. (Greuinchovius.)

And what hast thou, … — There are those who would hammer out their own happiness, like the spider, climbing by the thread of her own weaving, with motto accordingly, Mihi soli debeo. I only give to myself.

Why dost thou glory — As great a folly as for the groom to be proud of his master’s horse, the stage player of his borrowed robes, or the mud wall of the sunshine. Of all the good that is in us, we may well say as the young man did of his hatchet, Alas, master, it was but borrowed.

Verse 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.

Now ye are richCrescit oratio, saith Piscator here. The apostle riseth in his expressions, and that all along by an ironic reprehension. These Corinthians had riches, and gifts, and learning; and carried aloft by these waxen wings, they domineered and despised others.

Verse 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.

As it were men appointed to death — As when he fought with beasts at Ephesus. The heathens in their public calamities would commonly call out, Christianos ad leones, To the lions with these Christians, as if they had been the cause. (Tertul. Apol. cap. xl.) Ignatius suffered in this sort.

A spectacle to the world — As those that were first led in triumph, and then had back again to the prison, there to be strangled. (Piscator.)

Verse 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.

We are fools, … — Not to the world only, but in your account too. For these Corinthians undervalued and depressed Paul under their silly shallow headed verbalists, not worthy to carry his books after him for sound and substantial learning.

Verse 11

Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace;

Even to this present — Thus he complaineth, not out of impatience (for he was active in his sufferings), but to stain their pride, that permitted it so to be, when it was in their power to have relieved him.

Verse 12

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

And labour, working, … — Whereas they might object, Are you hungry, thirsty, naked? It is because you are idle. No, saith he, "we labour, working with our hands" (a shame for you to suffer it), and yet can hardly sweat out a poor living. This one example of Paul is much pleaded in these times by men of perverse minds to dispute God out of his own. One apostle works with his hands, or two, now and then at pleasure; all the rest live upon the Church (for could those fishermen catch fish in the forests, deserts, or streets?), yet one Paul is set against all the rest of the apostles; yea, set together by the ears with himself; anything to save their purses.

Verse 13

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

Being defamed, we entreat — Though Luther call me devil, saith Calvin, yet I will honour him as a servant of God.

We are made as the filth of the worldq.d. The filth of filth; for the whole world lies in wickedness, as a foul sloven in a slough, or as a carrion in the slime of it. The word περικαθαρματα signifies, the sweepings of the world, or the dirt scraped off the pavement thereof.

And the offscouring of all thingsDetersorium, sordes, purgamenta, reiectamenta. Piaculares et abominabiles, saith Paraeus. The word signifies the dung cart, saith Mr Burroughs, that goes through the city, into which every one brings and casts his filth. Every one had some filth to cast upon Paul and the apostles. Constantine, a citizen of Rhoan, with three others, being for defence of the gospel condemned to be burned, were put into a dung cart, who thereat rejoicing, said that they were reputed here the excrements of the world, but yet their death was a sweet odour unto God. Budaeus is of the opinion that the apostle here alludeth to those expiations in use among the heathen, performed in this manner. Certain condemned persons were brought forth with garlands upon their heads in manner of sacrifices; these they would tumble from some steep places into the sea, offering them up to Neptune with this form of words, περιψημα ημων γενου , "Be thou a propitiation for us." (Bud. Pandec.) So for the removal of the pestilence they sacrificed certain men to their gods: these they called καθαρματα , filth, loading them with revilings and cursings. (Suidas in περιψημι .)

Verse 14

I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you .

To shame you — An innocent person sometimes, upon the fulness of an aspersion, may conceive shame, as David did, Psalms 44:15 , yet usually shame is the effect of an evil conscience, and may prove, by God’s blessing, a means of repentance, 2 Thessalonians 3:14 .

Verse 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.

Ten thousand instructors — Gr. pedagogues, who often prove orbiliusses, sharp and severe above measure, Verberibus pluunt, colaphis grandinant. So did these Corinthian school masters, 2 Corinthians 11:20 . They were also too well skilled in the Doric dialect, crying, Give, give; and taught little more than elegant elocution.

I have begotten you through the gospel — For together with the word there goeth forth a regenerating power, James 1:18 . The exhortations thereof are operative means of sanctification, and practical; as when God said, "Let there be light," or Christ said, "Lazarus, come forth." The Spirit maketh the seed of the word prolific and generative; and hence ministers are made fathers, as Moses was father to Aaron’s children, Numbers 3:1 , who are therefore there called "his generation." And as propriissimum opus viventis est, generare sibi simile, as saith the philosopher, it is the most proper work of every living thing to beget its like; so here.

Verse 16

Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.

Be ye followers of me — As dear children. A bove maiori discit arare minor. From the larger bull the smaller ones are taught to plough, (Ovid.) Constantine’s children resembled their father exactly, they put him wholly on, saith Eusebius, and were, as it were, very he, ολον ενεδυσαντο τον Κονσταντινον .

Verse 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.

For this cause — That ye may be followers of me, and know what I do.

Of my ways which be in Christ — It is of excellent use to know what good men, especially ministers, do, as well as what they say. Ministers’ lives should be a transcript of their sermons, or as so many sermons on the life of Christ.

Verse 18

Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you.

Now some are puffed up — Swelling in the body is an ill symptom. So it is in the soul. A swelling wall will shortly fall.

Verse 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.

Not the speech of them which are puffed upDicta factis deficientibus, erubescunt. Malo autem miserandum quam erubescendum, saith Tertullian, either add practice, or leave profession for shame.

Verse 20

For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.

The kingdom of Godi.e. The administration of his ordinances and government of the Church.

Verse 21

What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?

With a rod, or in love? — Both; but (as children) we think not so. Sed sinite virgam corripientem, ne sentiatis malleum conterentem, saith one father. (Bern.) Non erudit pater nisi quem amat, nec corripit nisi quem diligit, saith another. (Jerome.)

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 4". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/1-corinthians-4.html. 1865-1868.
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