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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 4

Vincent's Word StudiesVincent's Studies

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Verse 1

Ministers [υπηρετας] . See on officer, Matthew 5:25. Only here in Paul 's epistles.

Stewards. See on Luke 16:1.

Verse 2

It is required [ζητειται] . Lit., it is sought for; thus agreeing with found in the following clause.

Verse 3

A very small thing [εις ελαχιστον] . Lit., unto a very small thing : it amounts to very little.

Judged. See on ch. 1 Corinthians 2:14. Rev., in margin, examined.

Man's judgment [ανθρωπινης ημερας] . Lit., man's day, in contrast with the day of the Lord (ver. 5).

Verse 5

Judge [κρινετε] . See on ch. 1 Corinthians 2:14. The change of the verb favors the rendering examine for ajnakrinw. The Lord is the only competent examiner therefore do not judge until He comes to judgment. Even I myself am not competent to institute a conclusive examination, for the absence of condemnation from my conscience does not absolutely acquit me. See the critical note on 1 John 3:19-22.

Verse 6

I have in a figure transferred [μετασχηματισασ] . From meta, denoting exchange, and schma outward fashion. Here the fashion in which Paul expresses himself. See on transfigured, Matthew 17:2.

Not to go beyond the things which are written [το μη υπερ α γεγραπται] . Lit. (that ye might learn) the not beyond what stands written. The article the introduces a proverbial expression. The impersonal it is written is commonly used of Old - Testament references.

Be puffed up [φυσιουσθε] . Used only by Paul in Corinthians and Colossians. From fusa a pair of bellows.

Verse 8

Now ye are full [ηδη κεκορεσμενοι εστε] . Rev., better, filled. Ironical contrast between their attitude and that of the apostle in vers. 3, 4. We are hungering for further revelations; ye are already filled without waiting for the Lord 's coming.

Ye have reigned [εβασιλευσατε] . American Rev., better, ye have come to reign; attained to dominion, that kingship which will be bestowed on Christians only at Christ 's coming.

Without us. Though it is through us that you are Christians at all.

Verse 9

For. Introducing a contrast between the inflated self - satisfaction of the Corinthians and the actual condition of their teachers. You have come to reign, but the case is very different with us, for I think, etc.

Hath set forth [απεδειξεν] . Only twice in Paul 's writings; here, and 2 Thessalonians 2:4. See on approved, Acts 2:22. In classical Greek used of publishing a law; shewing forth, and therefore naming or creating a king or military leader; bringing forward testimony; displaying treasure, etc. So here, exhibiting.

Last [εσχατους] . As in Mark 9:35, of relative rank and condition : as having in men's eyes the basest lot of all.

Appointed to death [επιθανατιους] . Rev., doomed. Only here in the New Testament. Probably an allusion to the practice of exposing condemned criminals in the amphitheatre to fight with beasts or with one another as gladiators. The gladiators, on entering the arena, saluted the presiding officer with the words Nos morituri salutamus, We who are to die greet you. Tertullian paraphrases this passage, God hath chosen us apostles last as beast - fighters. "The vast range of an amphitheatre under the open sky, well represents the magnificent vision of all created things, from men up to angels, gazing on the dreadful death - struggle; and then the contrast of the selfish Corinthians sitting by unconcerned and unmoved by the awful spectacle" (Stanley). For a similar image of spectators watching the contest in the arena, see Hebrews 12:1. Compare also 1 Corinthians 14:32.

Spectacle [θεατρον] . Primarily, a theatre; then that which is exhibited. Compare the kindred verb qeatrizomenoi being made a gazing - stock, Hebrews 10:33.

Unto the world [τω κοσμω] . The universe, a sense not usual with Paul; compare ch. 8 4. The words to angels and to men define world; so that the rendering of the American Rev. is preferable, both to angels and men. Principal Edwards remarks : "This comprehensive use of the word kosmos is remarkable, because, on the one hand, it is an advance on the Old - Testament conception of two separate spheres of existence, heaven and earth, not comprehended under any wider designation; and, on the other, because it differs from the meaning attached to the word among the Greeks; inasmuch as the apostle uses it of the spiritual as well as the physical totality of existence." The spiritual oneness of the universe is a conception eminently characteristic of St. Paul; but it is foreshadowed by Plato. "Communion and friendship and orderliness and temperance and justice bind together heaven and earth and gods and men; and this universe is therefore called kosmos or order; not disorder or misrule" (" Gorgias, " 508).

Verse 10

For Christ 's sake - in Christ [δια χριστον - εν χριστω] . We apostles are fools in the world 's eyes on account of [δια] Christ, because we know and preach nothing but Christ : You are wise in Christ, as Christians, making your Christianity a means to your worldly greatness - union with Christ the basis of worldly wisdom. "Wise men are ye in your connection with Christ ! Sagacious, enlightened Christians !" (Meyer). Honorable [ενδοξοι] . With a suggestion of display and splendor. Right honorable are ye!

Verse 11

We have no certain dwelling - place [αστατουμεν] . From astatov unstable, strolling about. Only here in the New Testament. Compare Matthew 8:20; Matthew 10:23; Hebrews 11:37. Wyc., we ben unstable.

Verse 12

Labor [κοπιωμεν] . Rev., toil. Unto weariness. See on Luke 5:5. Reviled [λοιδορουμενοι] . See on Acts 23:4.

We bless [ευλογουμεν] . See on blessed, John 12:13.

We suffer [ανεχομεθα] . Lit., we hold or bear up.

Verse 13

Defamed [δυσφημουμενοι] . Publicly slandered; while reviled refers to personal abuse.

Intreat [παρακαλουμεν] . See on consolation, Luke 6:24, and comfort, Acts 9:31. The sense is, we strive to appease by entreaty.

Filth - offscouring [περικαθαρματα - περιψημα] . The former word is from perikaqairw to cleanse all round. Hence that which is thrown off in cleansing; refuse. Kaqarma the refuse of a sacrifice. So Aeschylus. Electra says : "Should I, like one who has carried away refuse [καθαρμαθ] from a purification, after tossing away the urn, go back again with unturned eyes ?" (" Choephoroe, "90). In Proverbs 21:18, Sept., it occurs in the sense of ransom. Some find an allusion here to an ancient Athenian custom of throwing certain worthless persons into the sea in case of plague or famine, saying Be our offscouring! These persons were called perikaqarmata offscourings, or periyhmata scrapings, in the belief that they would wipe away the nation 's guilt. Ignatius says to the Ephesians, periyhma uJmwn I am your offscouring. The sense is twofold : I am as the meanest among you; and I devote my life for you. In the middle of the third century, periyhma sou had become a common expression of formal compliment : your humble servant. See Lightfoot," Apostolic Fathers, "on Ignatius to the Ephesians, 8." Compare Lamentations 3:45, and Tobit 5 18. Periyhma that which is scraped or scoured off. Both words only here in the New Testament.

This tremendous piece of irony justifies the numerous allusions which have been made to Paul 's vehemence and severity. Thus Dante, in his vision of the Earthly Paradise, pictures Paul :

" Two old men I beheld, unlike in habit, But like in gait, each dignified and grave.

One (Luke) showed himself as one of the disciples Of that supreme Hippocrates whom Nature Made for the animals she holds most dear, Contrary care the other (Paul) manifested, With sword so shining and so sharp, it caused Terror to me on this side of the river. "" Purgatorio," 29, 134 - 141.

"His words, indeed, seem to be those of a simple, and, as it were, an innocent and rustic man, who knows neither how to frame nor to avoid wiles; but whithersoever you look, there are thunderbolts" (Jerome). "Paul thunders, lightens, utters pure flames" (Erasmus). See a collection of quotations in Farrar's "Life and Work of St. Paul," 1, 619. 86

Verse 14

To shame [εντρεπων] . Lit., as shaming. See on Matthew 21:37. The verb means to turn about, hence to turn one upon himself; put him to shame. Compare 2 Thessalonians 3:14; Titus 2:8. Also, in the middle voice, in the sense of reverence; to turn one's self toward another. See Mark 12:6; Luke 18:2. The kindred noun ejntroph occurs twice : 1 Corinthians 6:5; 1 Corinthians 14:34. Compare Sophocles : "Think you he will have any regard [εντροπην] for the blind man" (" Oedipus at Colonos, " 299).

Verse 15

Tutors [παιδαγωγους] . From paiv boy and ajgwgov leader. The Paedagogus was a slave to whom boys were entrusted on leaving the care of the females, which was somewhere about their sixteenth year. He was often a foreigner, sometimes educated and refined, but often otherwise; for Plutarch complains that seamen, traders, usurers, and farmers are engaged in this capacity. The office was one of general guardianship, not of instruction, though sometimes the paedagogus acted as teacher. He accompanied the boy to school, carrying his books, etc., and attended him to the gymnasium and elsewhere. 87 See, further, on Galatians 3:24.

Bibliographical Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/vnt/1-corinthians-4.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.
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