1 Corinthians 4 Bible Commentary

The Geneva Study Bible

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

(1) He concludes the duty of the hearers towards their ministers: that they do not esteem them as lords. Yet nonetheless they are to give ear to them, as to those that are sent from Christ. Sent I say to this end and purpose, that they may receive as it were at their hands the treasure of salvation which is drawn out of the secrets of God.
(a) Every man.

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

(2) Last of all, he warns the ministers that they also do not behave themselves as lords, but as faithful servants, because they must render an account of their stewardship to God.

4:3 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, 4 or of man's b judgment: yea, 5 I judge not mine own self.

(3) In reprehending others, he sets himself for an example, and anticipates an objection. Using the gravity of an apostle, he shows that he does not care for the contrary judgments that those have of him, in that they esteemed him as a vile person, because he did not set forth himself as they did. And he brings good reasons why he was not moved with the judgments which they had of him. (4) First, because that which men judge in these cases of their own brains is not to be considered any more than when the unlearned judge of wisdom.
(b) Literally, "day", after the manner of Cilician speech. (5) Secondly, he says, how can you judge how much or how little I am to be made responsible for, seeing that I myself who know myself better than you do, and who dare profess that I have walked in my calling with a good conscience, dare not yet nonetheless claim anything to myself. Nonetheless, I know that I am not blameless: much less therefore should I flatter myself as you do.

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

(c) I submit myself to the Lord's judgment.

4:5 6 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 d praise of God.

(6) A third reason proceeding from a conclusion, as it were, out of the former reasons. It is God's office to esteem every man according to his value, because he knows the secrets of the heart, which men for the most part are ignorant of. Therefore this judgment does not pertain to you.
(d) One could not be praised above the rest, without the others being blamed: and he mentions praise rather than lack of praise, because the beginning of this dispute was this, that they gave more to some men than was appropriate.

4:6 7 And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and [to] Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn e in us not to think [of men] above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.

(7) Having rejected their judgment, he sets forth himself again as a singular example of modesty, as one who concealed in this epistle those factious teacher's names, did not hesitate to put down his own name and Apollos' in their place, and took upon him as it were their shame. And this shows how far was he from preferring himself to any.
(e) By our example, who choose rather to take other men's faults upon us, than to find fault with any by name.

4:7 8 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 f thou hadst not received [it]?

(8) He shows a good way to bridle pride. First, if you consider how it is wrong for you to exclude yourself from the number of others, seeing you are a man yourself. Second, if you consider that even though you have something more than other men have, yet you only have it by God's bountifulness. And what wise man is he that will brag of another's goodness, and that against God?
(f) There is nothing then in us by nature that is worthy of commendation: but all that we have, we have it of grace, which the Pelegians and semi-Pelegians will not confess.

4:8 9 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.

(9) He descends to a most grave mockery, to cause those glory-seeking men to blush, even though they did not want to.

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 g spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.

(g) He that thinks that Paul and the pope are alike, who lyingly boasts that he is his successor, let him compare the delicacies of the popish court with Paul's state as we see it here.

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

(h) Such as is gathered together by sweeping.

4:14 10 I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn [you].

(10) Moderating the sharpness of his mockery, he puts them in mind to remember of whom they were begotten in Christ, and that they should not doubt to follow him for an example. Even though he seems vile according to the outward show in respect of others, yet he is mighty by the efficacy of God's Spirit, as had been shown among themselves.

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 i ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church.

(i) What way and rule I follow everywhere in teaching the churches.

4:18 11 Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you.

(11) Last of all he descends also to apostolic threatenings, but yet chiding them as a father, lest by their disorder he was forced to come to punish some among them.

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

(k) By words, he means their fancy and elaborate type of eloquence, which he contrasts with the power of the Holy Spirit.

4:21 12 What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and [in] the l spirit of meekness?

(12) A passing over to another part of this epistle, in which he reprehends most sharply a very odious offence, showing the use of ecclesiastical correction.
(l) Acting meekly towards you.