1 Corinthians 4 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of 1 Corinthians 4)

Verse 1

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

Let a man account us, as servants of Christ — The original word properly signifies such servants as laboured at the oar in rowing vessels; and, accordingly, intimates the pains which every faithful minister takes in his Lord's work. O God, where are these ministers to be found? Lord, thou knowest.

And stewards of the mysteries of God — Dispenseth of the mysterious truths of the gospel.

Verse 3

[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.

Yea, I judge not myself — My final state is not to be determined by my own judgment.

Verse 4

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

I am not conscious to myself of anything evil; yet am I not hereby justified — I depend not on this, as a sufficient justification of myself in God's account.

But he that judgeth me is the Lord — By his sentence I am to stand or fall.

Verse 5

[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.

Therefore judge nothing before the time — Appointed for judging all men. Until the Lord come, who, in order to pass a righteous judgment, which otherwise would be impossible, will both bring to light the things which are now covered with impenetrable darkness, and manifest the most secret springs of action, the principles and intentions of every heart.

And then shall every one — Every faithful steward, have praise of God.

Verse 6

[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.

These things — Mentioned, 1 Corinthians 1:10, etc. I have by a very obvious figure transferred to myself and Apollos - And Cephas, instead of naming those particular preachers at Corinth, to whom ye are so fondly attached.

That ye may learn by us — From what has been said concerning us, who, however eminent we are, are mere instruments in God's hand. Not to think of any man above what is here written - Or above what scripture warrants. 1 Corinthians 3:7

Verse 7

[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?

Who maketh thee to differ — Either in gifts or graces.

As if thou hadst not received it — As if thou hadst it originally from thyself.

Verse 8

[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 full — The Corinthians abounded with spiritual gifts; and so did the apostles: but the apostles, by continual want and sufferings, were kept from self - complacency. The Corinthians suffering nothing, and having plenty of all things, were pleased with and applauded themselves; and they were like children who, being raised in the world, disregard their poor parents. Now ye are full, says the apostle, in a beautiful gradation, ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings - A proverbial expression, denoting the most splendid and plentiful circumstances.

Without any thought of us. And I would ye did reign — In the best sense: I would ye had attained the height of holiness.

That we might reign with you — Having no more sorrow on your account, but sharing in your happiness.

Verse 9

[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.

God hath set forth us last, as appointed to death — Alluding to the Roman custom of bringing forth those persons last on the stage, either to fight with each other, or with wild beasts, who were devoted to death; so that, if they escaped one day, they were brought out again and again, till they were killed.

Verse 10

[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, in the account of the world, for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ - Though ye are Christians, ye think yourselves wise; and ye have found means to make the world think you so too.

We are weak — In presence, in infirmities, in sufferings.

But ye are strong — In just opposite circumstances.

Verse 11

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

And are naked — Who can imagine a more glorious triumph of the truth, than that which is gained in these circumstances when St. Paul, with an impediment in his speech, and a person rather contemptible than graceful, appeared in a mean, perhaps tattered, dress before persons of the highest distinction, and yet commanded such attention. and made such deep impressions upon them!

Verse 12

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

We bless-suffer it-intreat — We do not return revilings, persecution, defamation; nothing but blessing.

Verse 13

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

We are made as the filth of the world, and offscouring of all things — Such were those poor wretches among the heathens, who were taken from the dregs of the people, to be offered as expiatory sacrifices to the infernal gods. They were loaded with curses, affronts, and injuries, all the way they went to the altars; and when the ashes of those unhappy men were thrown into the sea, these very names were given them in the ceremony.

Verse 14

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

I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you — It is with admirable prudence and sweetness the apostle adds this, to prevent any unkind construction of his words.

Verse 15

[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.

I have begotten you — This excludes not only Apollos, his successor, but also Silas and Timothy, his companions; and the relation between a spiritual father and his children brings with it an inexpressible nearness and affection.

Verse 16

[16] Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.

Be ye followers of me — In that spirit and behaviour which I have so largely declared.

Verse 17

[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.

My beloved son — Elsewhere he styles him "brother," 2 Corinthians 1:1; but here paternal affection takes place.

As I teach — No less by example than precept.

Verse 18

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

Now some are puffed up — St. Paul saw, by a divine light, the thoughts which would arise in their hearts.

As if I would not come — Because I send Timothy.

Verse 19

[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.

I will know — He here shows his fatherly authority Not the big, empty speech of these vain boasters, but how much of the power of God attends them.

Verse 20

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

For the kingdom of God — Real religion, does not consist in words, but in the power of God ruling the heart.

Verse 21

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

With a rod — That is, with severity.