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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

1 Corinthians 4



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Verse 1

even as we received mercy—not so much, mercy to “put us into the ministry,” as mercy for the courageous discharge of it (1 Timothy 1:12-14),—we faint not:(1)

Verse 1-2

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

1 Corinthians 4:2. Here, moreover,(1)i.e. in this matter of stewardship,—it is required in stewards that a man he found faithful. The figure here is warily changed in order to fasten attention on this property of a true servant of Christ, fidelity. Where this is found, the absence of much else can be borne with, but for the want of this in a steward nothing can compensate.

Verse 3

1 Corinthians 4:3. But and if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are perishing. It is veiled only in those who by their whole bearing towards the Gospel make it plain that they “are not willing to come to Christ that they may be saved” (John 5:40): see on chap. 2 Corinthians 2:13.

Verse 4

1 Corinthians 4:4. For I know nothing against myself. As this is clearly the intended sense, so our translators probably meant to express the same, using the word “by” in a now obsolete sense.

yet am I not hereby justified—all human judgments being but provisional.

but he that judgeth me is the Lord—the Lord Christ (as will presently appear).

Verse 5

1 Corinthians 4:5. Wherefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come (the second time), who will . . . make manifest the counsels of the hearts (Ecclesiastes 12:14; Romans 2:16), and then shall each man have his praise from God—according to his fidelity; for that is the one quality which the Judge Himself has announced that He will single out as the characteristic of His true servants—“Well done, good and faithful servant” (“good” because “faithful”), “thou hast been faithful over a few things,” etc.

Verse 6

1 Corinthians 4:6. Now these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes—putting ourselves forward merely as illustrations of great principles applicable to all—that in us ye might learn not to go beyond the things which are written (in such places as Jeremiah 9:23-24).

Verse 7

Verse 8

1 Corinthians 4:8. Now ye are filled, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: yea, and I would ye did reign, that we might reign with you. There is keen irony here: ‘A fine time of it ye have had since ye were relieved of our presence; we stood in your way, we kept you in bondage, it seems; but now ye breathe more freely, and your Christianity is an easy-going thing; ye have got past the suffering, and have reached the reigning period. Would that it were so indeed, for then were it our time to reign along with you as your father in Christ; but alas, the reverse of all this we daily and bitterly feel.’

Verse 9

1 Corinthians 4:9. For I think, God hath set forth us the apostles last of all, as men doomed to death ... a spectacle (to be gazed on as in a theatre) unto the world, and to angels, and to men—to exhibit men’s enmity to the truth.

Verse 10

1 Corinthians 4:10. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ—how enviable your lot, how pitiable ours! (irony, however, this is)—we weak, ye strong; ye have glory, we dishonour.

Verse 11

1 Corinthians 4:11. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place—having often scarce the necessaries of life.

Verse 12

1 Corinthians 4:12. and we toil, working with our own hands—see Acts 18:3; Acts 20:34; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8. Indeed be had to vindicate his liberty to preach at Corinth without hire (when that was ascribed to want of manly openness), and in order to do this he had to work for his own support (see chap. 1 Corinthians 9:6).

Verse 13

1 Corinthians 4:13. Being defamed, we intreat—in the sense of returning soft words for calumnies.(1)

we are made as the filth of the world, the off scouring of all things, even until now. As these are the strongest conceivable figures, so the element of duration, as extending through his whole apostolic life, is added to intensify the statement.

Verse 14

1 Corinthians 4:14. I write not these things to shame you—as if I thought your Christianity unreal, but that ye may be led to inquire whether it is not sitting too lightly upon you, and as to your preachers, whether their popularity is not due to their preaching an easy religion.

Verse 15

1 Corinthians 4:15. For if you should have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I begat you through the Gospel. Three agencies are named here as factors in conversion: Christ, as the proper Agent (through His Spirit); the Gospel, as the instrumental means; and the preacher who brings the message (in this case the apostle himself). Every spiritual father will feel something of the jealousy here expressed, in relation to others who after him have dealings with his converts; and all the more, since any insensibility to or forgetfulness of what they owe to their spiritual father argues either decline in their spiritual life, or some unwholesome influences operating upon them.

Verse 16

1 Corinthians 4:16. I beseech you therefore, be ye imitators of me—in preparedness to suffer for His name.

Verse 17

1 Corinthians 4:17. For this cause have I sent unto you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord—for he was his spiritual father as well as theirs (see 1 Timothy 1:2; 1 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2 l). The apostle’s plans at this time are stated in Acts 19:21-22 (see Paley’s Horae Paulinae, iii. 2).

who shall put you in remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, even as I teach everywhere in every church—for he would insist on nothing at Corinth but what he required of every church. Timothy, as his chosen companion in missionary travel, was fully cognizant of his whole principles and procedure, character and carriage, in everything. No fitter substitute, then, could have been sent.

Verse 18

1 Corinthians 4:18. Now some are puffed up as though I were not coming to you (afraid to shew myself).

Verse 19

1 Corinthians 4:19. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will (see 1 Corinthians 16:7-8); and this caveat he might well put in, for he had found already that his own plans were liable to be overruled by the plans of a Higher than he, at whose absolute disposal he desired ever to be.

and I will know, not the word of them which are puffed up (their swelling pretensions), but the power.

Verse 20

1 Corinthians 4:20. For the kingdom of God is not in word (empty plausibilities), but in power—and, in the case of preachers, seen in self-emptying consecration to the one end in view.

Verse 21

1 Corinthians 4:21. What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of meekness?—in severity of discipline, or the reverse?


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Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 4:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.

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