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1 Corinthians Chapter Four


1 Corinthians 4

As for the apostle and the labourers, they were to consider them as stewards employed by the Lord. And it was to Him that Paul committed the judgment of his conduct. He cared little for the judgment man might form respecting him. He was not conscious of anything wrong, but that did not justify him. He who judged (examined) him was the Lord. And, after all, who was it that gave to the one or to the other that which he could use in service?

Paul had thought well, in treating this subject, to use names that they were using in their carnal divisions, and those, especially himself and Apollos, which could not be used to pretend he was getting rid of others to set up himself; but what was the real state of the case? They had despised the apostle. Yes, he says, we have been put to shame, despised, persecuted, in distress; you have been at ease, like kings-a reproach in accordance with their own pretensions, their own reproaches-a reproach that touched them to the quick, if they had any feeling left. Paul and his companions had been as the offscouring of the earth for Christ's sake, while the Corinthians were reposing in the lap of luxury and ease. Even while writing to them, this was still his position. "Would to God," he says, "ye did reign" (that the day of Christ were come) "in order that we might reign with you." He felt his sufferings, although he bore them joyfully. They, the apostles, were set forth on God's part as though to be the last great spectacle in those marvellous games of which this world was the amphitheatre; and as His witnesses they were exposed to the fury of a brutal world. Patience and meekness were their only weapons.

Nevertheless he did not say these things to put them to shame, he warned them as his beloved sons; for his sons they were. Though they might have ten thousand teachers, he had begotten them all by the gospel. Let them then follow him. In all this there is the deep working of the affection of a noble heart, wounded to the utmost, but wounded in order to bring out an affection that rose above his grief. It is this which so strikingly distinguishes the work of the Spirit in the New Testament, as in Christ Himself. The Spirit has come into the bosom of the assembly, takes part in her afflictions-her difficulties. He fills the soul of one who cares for the assembly, [1] making him feel that which is going on-feel it according to God, but with a really human heart. Who could cause all this to be felt for strangers, except the Spirit of God? Who would enter into these things with all the perfection of the wisdom of God, in order to act upon the heart, to deliver the conscience, to form the understanding, and to set it free, except the Spirit of God? Still the apostolic individual bond was to be formed, to be strengthened. It was the essence of the work of the Holy Ghost in the assembly to bind all together in this way. We see the man: otherwise it would not have been Paul and his dear brethren. We see the Holy Ghost, whom the latter had grieved, no doubt, and who acts in the former with divine wisdom, to guide them in the right way with all the affection of their father in Christ. Timothy, his son in the faith and in heart, might meet the case. Paul had sent him; Paul himself would soon be there. Some said, No, he would not, and took occasion to magnify themselves in the absence of the apostle; but he would come himself and put everything to the test; for the kingdom of God was not in word, but in power. Did they wish him to come with a rod, or in love?

Here this part of the epistle ends. Admirable specimen of tenderness and of authority!-of authority sure enough of itself on the part of God, to be able to act with perfect tenderness towards those who were thoroughly dear to him, in the hope of not being forced to exercise itself in another way. The most powerful truths are unfolded in so doing.


[1] sunantilambanei tais astheneiais hemon ("The Spirit joins also its help to our weakness," Rom. 8:26.)

── John DarbySynopsis of 1 Corinthians


1 Corinthians 4

Chapter Contents

The true character of gospel ministers. (1-6) Cautions against despising the apostle. (7-13) He claims their regard as their spiritual father in Christ, and shows his concern for them. (14-21)

Commentary on 1 Corinthians 4:1-6

(Read 1 Corinthians 4:1-6)

Apostles were no more than servants of Christ, but they were not to be undervalued. They had a great trust, and for that reason, had an honourable office. Paul had a just concern for his own reputation, but he knew that he who chiefly aimed to please men, would not prove himself a faithful servant of Christ. It is a comfort that men are not to be our final judges. And it is not judging well of ourselves, or justifying ourselves, that will prove us safe and happy. Our own judgment is not to be depended upon as to our faithfulness, any more than our own works for our justification. There is a day coming, that will bring men's secret sins into open day, and discover the secrets of their hearts. Then every slandered believer will be justified, and every faithful servant approved and rewarded. The word of God is the best rule by which to judge as to men. Pride commonly is at the bottom of quarrels. Self-conceit contributes to produce undue esteem of our teachers, as well as of ourselves. We shall not be puffed up for one against another, if we remember that all are instruments, employed by God, and endowed by him with various talents.

Commentary on 1 Corinthians 4:7-13

(Read 1 Corinthians 4:7-13)

We have no reason to be proud; all we have, or are, or do, that is good, is owing to the free and rich grace of God. A sinner snatched from destruction by sovereign grace alone, must be very absurd and inconsistent, if proud of the free gifts of God. St. Paul sets forth his own circumstances, ver. 9. Allusion is made to the cruel spectacles in the Roman games; where men were forced to cut one another to pieces, to divert the people; and where the victor did not escape with his life, though he should destroy his adversary, but was only kept for another combat, and must be killed at last. The thought that many eyes are upon believers, when struggling with difficulties or temptations, should encourage constancy and patience. "We are weak, but ye are strong." All Christians are not alike exposed. Some suffer greater hardships than others. The apostle enters into particulars of their sufferings. And how glorious the charity and devotion that carried them through all these hardships! They suffered in their persons and characters as the worst and vilest of men; as the very dirt of the world, that was to be swept away: nay, as the offscouring of all things, the dross of all things. And every one who would be faithful in Christ Jesus, must be prepared for poverty and contempt. Whatever the disciples of Christ suffer from men, they must follow the example, and fulfil the will and precepts of their Lord. They must be content, with him and for him, to be despised and abused. It is much better to be rejected, despised, and ill used, as St. Paul was, than to have the good opinion and favour of the world. Though cast off by the world as vile, yet we may be precious to God, gathered up with his own hand, and placed upon his throne.

Commentary on 1 Corinthians 4:14-21

(Read 1 Corinthians 4:14-21)

In reproving for sin, we should distinguish between sinners and their sins. Reproofs that kindly and affectionately warn, are likely to reform. Though the apostle spoke with authority as a parent, he would rather beseech them in love. And as ministers are to set an example, others must follow them, as far as they follow Christ in faith and practice. Christians may mistake and differ in their views, but Christ and Christian truth are the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. Whenever the gospel is effectual, it comes not in word only, but also in power, by the Holy Spirit, quickening dead sinners, delivering persons from the slavery of sin and Satan, renewing them both inwardly and outwardly, and comforting, strengthening, and establishing the saints, which cannot be done by the persuasive language of men, but by the power of God. And it is a happy temper, to have the spirit of love and meekness bear the rule, yet to maintain just authority.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on 1 Corinthians


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.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on 1 Corinthians


Chapter 4. Faithful Steward

Ten Thousand Guardians
Not Many Fathers

I. Entrusted with the Secret Things of God

  1. Servants of God
  2. Do Not Judge
  3. Let the Lord Bring to Light

II. The Heart of Paul the Apostle

  1. Humble
  2. Sacrificial
  3. Suffering

III. Three Kinds of Different Believers

  1. Son of Gospel
  2. Son of the Faithful
  3. Son of the Arrogant
── Chih-Hsin ChangAn Outline of The New Testament
Chapter Four General Review
1) To learn further how we should regard preachers and teachers
2) To learn a lesson in humility by observing the examples of the
With this chapter Paul brings to a conclusion his treatment of the 
problem of division as it existed in the church at Corinth.  He 
describes the proper estimate one should have of those who serve God, 
and why we should leave the ultimate evaluation of such men to God 
(1-5).  Having already used himself and Apollos as examples to help 
them see the errors of their arrogance (cf. "puffed up"), Paul also 
uses the example of the apostles in a passage filled with irony (6-13).  
His purpose is not to shame them, but to warn them, for he is sending 
Timothy to remind them of what is proper, and he himself is coming to 
deal with those who are "puffed up", if necessary (14-21).
      1. Servants of Christ, stewards of the mysteries of God (1)
      2. Their chief responsibility:  faithfulness (2)
      1. Not Christians, or any human court (3a)
      2. Not even one's own self, but rather, the Lord (3b-4)
      3. Therefore leave it up to Him  (5)
      1. To learn in them not to think beyond what is written (6a)
      2. That none be "puffed up" on behalf of one against the other
      1. For they act as though they were the source of what they have
      2. With irony, Paul rebukes them (8)
      1. Made a "spectacle" to the world (9)
      2. Contrasted with the pride of the Corinthians, using more irony
      3. The plight of the apostles (11-13)
      1. Those whom he considers as beloved children (14)
      2. Those whom he has begotten through the gospel (15)
      3. Those whom he charges to imitate him (16)
      1. He is sending Timothy to remind them (17)
      2. He himself will soon come, Lord willing, to deal with those who
         are "puffed up" (18-21)
1) List the main points of this chapter
   - The Proper Estimate Of Paul And Others (1-5)
   - Lessons In Humility (6-13)
   - Paul's Purpose In Writing (14-21)
2) What two terms properly describe preachers of the gospel? (1)
   - Servants of Christ
   - Stewards of the mysteries of God
3) Who is to be the judge of those who serve the Lord? (3-5)
   - The Lord
4) Why was Paul writing these things? (6)
   - That none be "puffed up" on behalf of one against the other
5) What technique did Paul use in teaching lessons about humility?
   - Irony
6) Who did Paul use as an example of humility? (9-13)
   - The apostles
7) Why was Paul writing these things to them? (14)
   - To warn those he loved
8) How had Paul become like a "father" to them? (15)
   - Through teaching them the gospel by which they had been "begotten"
     in Christ Jesus
9) Why was he sending Timothy to them? (17)
   - To remind them of Paul's ways in Christ
10) What one phrase is used repeatedly in this chapter to describe some
    at Corinth? (6,18,19)
   - "puffed up"
11) What choices did Paul leave them as to how he might come to them?
   - With a rod
   - In love and a spirit of gentleness


--《Executable Outlines


Faithful Steward

Ten Thousand Guardians

Not Many Fathers


I.  Entrusted with the Secret Things of God

1.    Servants of God

2.    Do Not Judge

3.    Let the Lord Bring to Light

II.The Heart of Paul the Apostle

1.    Humble

2.    Sacrificial

3.    Suffering

III.       Three Kinds of Different Believers

1.    Son of Gospel

2.    Son of the Faithful

3.    Son of the Arrogant

-- Chih-Hsin ChangAn Outline of The New Testament