Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 4

Bengel's Gnomon of the New TestamentBengel's Gnomon

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Verse 1

1 Corinthians 4:1 . Οὕτως , so ) is determinative, and resumes the subject from what precedes. λογιζέσθω , account ) without glorying, 1 Corinthians 3:21 . ἄνθρωπος , a man) איש , any man, one like ourselves, 1 Corinthians 3:21 . ὑπηρτέτας , ministers) Luke 1:2 . Χριστοῦ , of Christ) in His office [as the only Great Mediator]; not [ministers] of men. οἰκονόμους μυστηρίων Θεοῦ , stewards of the mysteries of God) Paul, where he describes the ministers of the Gospel in the humblest language, still acknowledges them to be stewards: see Titus 1:7 , note; comp. of Christ, and, of God, with 1 Corinthians 3:23 . [Mysteries are heavenly doctrines, of which men are ignorant without the revelation of GOD. V. g.]

Verse 2

1 Corinthians 4:2 . Ὃ δὲ ) Furthermore what God requires , and men too, in their stewards , is, that a man be found faithful . 1Co 4:3 corresponds to this paraphrase. ζητεῖται , is inquired after [ is required ]) by investigation, when the time comes. The correlative is, may be found . πιστὸς , faithful ) The Corinthians were not content with that. εὑρεθῇ , may be found ) Every man in the mean time wishes to be thought faithful.

Verse 3

1 Corinthians 4:3 . Ἐμοὶ ) to me , for my part. δὲ ) but , although I be capable of being found faithful. εἰς , unto ) a particle of mitigation. I do not despise your judgment in itself; but when I think of the judgment of God, then yours comes almost to nothing. ἐλάχιστον , a very little thing ) The judgment of God alone should be held of great account. ὑφʼ ὑμῶν , by you ) privately. An antithesis to by human or man’s day of judgment , publicly. [ He limits what had been said at 1 Corinthians 3:21 , “All things are yours.” V. g.] ἀνακριθῶ , I should be judged ) whether I am faithful, or not. The Corinthians certainly appeared not to be contented with faithfulness alone, but the apostle cuts the matter short [agit ἀποτόμως ]. ἀνθρωπίνης , human ) This word has the effect of diminishing. [ All days previous to the day of the Lord are man’s days. V. g.]. ἡμέρας , day ) So he calls it as an antithesis to the day of the Lord: ἡμέρα , the day appointed for the trial. It is here the abstract for the concrete; compare, by you : it is likewise a hypothetical phrase; for none of the believers was likely to appoint a day for the trial of the apostle. ἀνακρίνω , I decide in judgment on ) for we ought not to decide in our own case, but to form a judgment of it. ἀνακρίσις , is the decision in judgment [dijudicatio] upon [of] one, in respect of others; κρίσις , simple judgment . Here we have set forth the happy forgetfulness of all that is good in one’s self. So the decision in judgment of the Corinthians respecting Paul is forcibly refuted.

Verse 4

1 Corinthians 4:4 . Οὐδὲν ) nothing , unfaithful: comp. faithful , 1 Corinthians 4:2 . So the LXX. οὐ γὰρ σύνοιδα ἐμαυτῷ ἄτοπα πράξας , Job 27:6 . He, whom conscience accuses, is held as deciding in judgment on himself. οὐκ ἐν τούτῳ δεδικαίωμαι ) I am not justified in this , if I decide in my own case. For the judgment remains. It is the Lord who will pronounce me justified, 1 Corinthians 4:5 . Paul may be regarded either as a judge, or a witness, in his own case. As a witness, he knows, that he is unconscious of any crime. As a judge, he dares not on that account decide in his own case, or pronounce himself to be justified. ἀνακρίνων με ) He who decides in my case , whose decision I do not decline, at His coming, 1 Corinthians 4:5 , and who declares me justified. [32]

[32] Κύριός ἐστιν , is the Lord ) Jesus Christ, 1 Corinthians 5:5 . He is mentioned along with God, as in ver. 1. V. g.

Verse 5

1 Corinthians 4:5 . Κρίνατε , judge ) He does not say ἀνακρίνατε , decide; he more closely alludes to the judgment, which the Lord will give. ὁ Κύριος , the Lord ) Jesus whom we serve, 1 Corinthians 4:1 . καὶ ) also: He will not only judge, but will bring forth to light His judgment. φωτίσει ) φωτίζειν is to throw light upon any object , for example, φωτίζειν τὴν νύκτα , to throw light upon the night , Exodus 14:20 , on the margin of the ed. Wech.: or to bring a thing to light , 2 Timothy 1:10 . Both of these will be done at that time. τὰ κρυπτὰ , the hidden things ) The heart of man is truly a hidden cavern [crypt]. τοῦ σκότους , of the darkness ) into which no human eye penetrates. φανερώσει , will make manifest ) so that you will then at length clearly know us. τὰς βουλὰς , the counsels ) showing, who hath been faithful or not. τῶν καρδιῶν , of the hearts ) according to the state of the heart , so the conduct is just [ justified , 1Co 4:4 ] and praiseworthy or the reverse. τότε , then ) Therefore wait. ἔπαινος , praise ) The world praises its princes, warlike leaders, ambassadors, wise men, artists: God will hereafter praise His ministers. ἑκάστῳ ) to every one , who is a praiseworthy , faithful steward; you only praise one, for example, Paul. So every one , 1 Corinthians 3:8 . Concerning praise from God, see Matthew 25:21 . Those too, who are not faithful, expect praise, but their praise will be reproach. Therefore the contrary is also included by implication in the word praise , which is a euphemism [the opposite of praise being not expressed, though implied]; so the euphemism in, shall try or prove , etc., c. 1Co 3:13 , 1 Corinthians 8:8 ; 1 Corinthians 8:10 , notes. So blessing also comprehends cursing , Genesis 49:28 ; Genesis 49:7 . There is a similar passage, 1 Samuel 26:23 (24).

Verse 6

1 Corinthians 4:6 . Ταῦτα ) these things , which are found from c. 1Co 1:10 and onward. μετεσχημάτισα , I have transferred ) Comp. 2 Samuel 14:20 . The figure [Schema] consists in this, that Paul wrote those things with a view to admonish the Corinthians, not only in the second, but chiefly in the first person, 1 Corinthians 4:3-4 : so that the reasons for moderate sentiments [ φρονεῖν ], by which Paul and Apollos were actuated, might also actuate the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 4:16 , and the Corinthians might think of Paul, as Paul thought of himself. μάθητε , ye might learn ) By this word Paul calms the puffed-up Corinthians. γέγραπται , [33] is written ) Comp. ככחוכ , 2 Chronicles 30:5 . Written, i.e. in the whole of Scripture, from which some quotations, 1 Corinthians 3:19-20 , have just been made: for we ought not to entertain any sentiment ( ΦΡΟΝΕῖΝ ) beside [ i.e. in disagreement with] it, and beyond it, Romans 12:3 ; Romans 15:4 . This is our rule in respect to all spiritual sentiments, and we are not allowed to depart from this rule, 2 Corinthians 10:13 . In Scripture, the archetype of which is in heaven, the general principle in relation to all believers is described, by which the Lord will judge each man, and by which every man ought to look up to Christ alone, and by which each ought to estimate himself, rather than by those gifts, wherein he excels, or thinks he excels, others (Luke 10:20 .) [ Add, that Scripture ascribes glory to GOD alone; to man no glory whatever , 1 Corinthians 1:31 : and therefore human glorying is contrary to Scripture and its universal feeling (sentiments), Luke 16:15-18 ; Luke 16:29 ; Isaiah 66:2 . V. g.] In accordance with this is the expression presently after, one [puffed up] for one . In this manner all good and bad men (Jude, 1Co 4:4 ) have long ago been respectively distinguished in Scripture. ΕἹς ὙΠῈΡ ΤΟῦ ἙΝῸς , one for the one ) The definition of a sect, where individuals admire and follow individuals. The article τοῦ adds emphasis. A single minister is not the only one. φυσιοῦσθε ) The subjunctive, for φυσιῶσθε , as ζηλοῦτε for ζηλῶτε , Galatians 4:17 . But that is an irregular form of the subjunctive, which some call the indicative. The mode of contraction is singular. For it is not credible, that, in these verbs only, the indicative is put for the subjunctive. ἑτέρου , another ) for example against Apollos.

[33] The author has omitted in the Germ. Vers. the verb φρονεῖν after γέγραπται , everywhere met with, but left as it were undecided by the margin of both editions. E. B.

ABD corrected later, G fg Vulg. omit φρονεῖν . Rec. Text reads it, in which it has the support only of C (as is probable, though not certain) of ancient authorities. ED.

Verse 7

1 Corinthians 4:7 . Τίς ) who? not thou, not another man; but even supposing thou hast some excellent gift, it is God alone [who maketh thee to differ]. σὲ , thee ) This word may be referred both to some one at Corinth and, by changing the figure of speech [ σχῆμα referring to μετεσχημάτισα ], to Paul: σε , thee , thyself, how great soever thou art: in antithesis to the gifts, which thou mayest or mayest not have received. διακρίνει , makes to differ ) or, peculiarly distinguishes by some difference. τί δὲ ἔχεις , ὃ οὐκ ἔλαβες , but what hast thou, which thou hast not received? ) The meaning is: whatever thou hast, thou hast received it, not from thyself, but from God: or, there are many things, which thou hast not received, and therefore thou hast them not and canst not boast of them: either thou hast, or hast not received; if thou hast not received, thou hast them not: if thou hast received, thou hast nothing but what has been received, without any cause for glorying . He, whom Paul here addresses, is a man; for example, Paul, whose way of thinking the Corinthians ought to take as a pattern. The latter sense renders the meaning of the καὶ , even , which immediately follows, more express, and shows the antanaclasis [34] in thou hast not received: [as if] not receiving . ὡς μὴ λαβὼν , as if thou hadst not received it ) as if thou hast it from thyself.

[34] See App. The same word in the same context twice, but in a different sense.

Verse 8

1 Corinthians 4:8 . Ἤδη , now ), in comparison with us. The words without us , which immediately after occur, agree with this. κεκορεσμένοι , full ) A gradation [ascending climax]: full, rich, kings . Its opposite is, we hunger , etc., 1 Corinthians 4:11-12 . As the two epistles to the Corinthians exhibit great variety in mental feeling [ ἦθος , Append.], incomparable urbanity [asteismus, Append.], and abundant and playful acuteness, so the passage before us is to such a degree remarkable for these qualities, that it should be understood, in respect either of the Corinthians or of the apostles, concerning their internal or external condition, concerning the facts themselves or concerning the puffed-up opinion of the Corinthians. The spiritual condition of the Corinthians was truly flourishing flourishing also was that of the apostles. This was right: but troubles [the cross] from without galled the apostles and prevented them from pleasing themselves on that account: the Corinthians, inasmuch as being in a flourishing state even in things external, were pleased with and were applauding themselves, which was wrong. Therefore, the Corinthians were imitating the conduct of sons, who, after they have become illustrious, care little for their humble parents: in consequence of fulness, they were fastidious; of opulence, they were insolent; of kingly power, they were proud. χωρὶς ἡμῶν , without us ) A new and apt ambiguity; you have not us as your partners; consequently you have not had us as your assistants; you have forgotten us, as the saying expresses it, “many pupils become superior to their teachers,” πολλοὶ μαθηταὶ κρείττονες διδασκάλων . ἐβασιλεύσατε , ye have reigned ) ye have come to your kingdom. In this is implied the majesty of Christians. καὶ ὄφελόν γε , and I wish ) i.e. I do not envy you, my only desire is, that it may really promote your best interests, 2 Corinthians 12:14-15 . ἵνα καὶ ἡμεῖς , that we also ) When you shall be perfected, the apostles will enjoy ease, and reach the end of all their troubles. συμβασιλεύσωμεν , we might reign together ) This is modestly said: with you; comp. 1 Corinthians 9:23 , 1 Corinthians 3:22 .

Verse 9

1 Corinthians 4:9 . Δοκῶ , I think ) A feeling of humility; a gentle mimesis. [35] The Corinthians thought [or, seemed to themselves, δοκεῖ , c. 1Co 3:18 ] that they excelled. ΤΟῪς ἈΠΟΣΤΌΛΟΝς , ἘΣΧΆΤΟΥς , the apostles, last ) ἐσχάτος , the most worthless , 1 Corinthians 4:10-11 . The antithetical words are put down in one and the same passage. The prophets also were afflicted, but the apostles much more; and the prophets were able to destroy their enemies, for example Elias [ and so greatly were they esteemed among men, that even the Nobles considered themselves bound to reverence them, and to follow or send for them with every mark of honour , 2 Kings 1:10 ; 2Ki 5:9 ; 2 Kings 8:9 ; 2 Kings 8:12 . V. g.], but it was the lot of the apostles to suffer and endure to the end. ἀπέδειξεν ) In Latin, munus ostendere, munus declarare , are the idiomatic expressions applied to the public shows among the Romans. ἐπιθανατίους ) ΠΡΟΣΔΟΚΩΜΈΝΟΥς ἈΠΟΘΑΝΕῖΝ , expecting to be put to death . See Hesychius. τῷ κόσμῳ , to the world ) which is immediately after divided into angels and men, without the repetition of the article. καὶ ἀγγέλοις καὶ ἀνθρώποις , to angels and men ) i.e. those that are good; but rather, those that are bad .

[35] See Appendix. A delicate allusion to the words of another whom we wish to set right: as the apostle’s δοκῶ here refers to the Corinthians’ δοκεῖ , chap. 1 Corinthians 3:18 . ED.

Verse 10

1 Corinthians 4:10 . Μωροὶ , fools ) 1 Corinthians 1:21 . διὰ Χριστὸν ἐν Χριστῳ , for Christ’s sake in Christ ) These words must be repeated in the two following clauses. Without any violation of the truth, different things may be predicated of one subject; or of different subjects, who are regarded as standing on the same footing; for example, of Paul and the Corinthians; according to the different point of view in which they are regarded, and which the words, for the sake of , and, in , here express; for the sake of is applied to slaves; in , to partners. ἔνδοξοι ) men in the highest estimation; but ἄτιμοι , applies to persons, who are deprived of even ordinary esteem. ἡμεῖς δὲ , but we ) Here the first person takes the second place, and so it goes on in the following verse.

Verse 11

1 Corinthians 4:11 . Γυμνητεύομεν , we are naked ) The highest degree of poverty, 2 Corinthians 11:27 . [ So far were the heralds of the kingdom of Christ from being adorned with any splendour. We imagine ourselves to be quite the reverse of all this . V. g.] κολαφιζόμεθα , we are buffeted ) as slaves, therefore we are not kings .

Verse 12

1 Corinthians 4:12 . Κοπιῶμεν , we labour ) as if compelled by necessity. Few of the Corinthians did so. εὐλογοῦμεν ἀνεχόμεθα , παρακαλοῦμεν , we bless we endure we entreat ) i.e. we do not return reproaches, persecution, evil speaking, but we only bless; nothing else is lawful; the world thinks that despicable.

Verse 13

1 Corinthians 4:13 . Περικαθάρματα περίψημα ) both words are used for filth , by which not only men utterly outcast, but those devoted as an expiation for others, are denoted. כפר , περικάθαρμα δικαίου , ἄνομος , the wicked shall be a ransom for the upright, Proverbs 21:18 . τὸ ἀργύριον περίψημα τοῦ παιδίον ἡμῶν γένοιτο , let money be as refuse in respect of our child, Tobit 5 :(18)26: add Jeremiah 22:28 , where עצב נכזה has been translated by some περίψημα φαῦλον , vile offscourings, Hesychius: περίψημα , περικατάμαγμα , ἀντίλυτρα , ἀντίψυχα , ἤ ὑπὸ τὰ ἴχνη πάντων . περίψημα in Eustathius is, σπόγγισμά τι , something wiped away with a sponge, and therefore more subtle [smaller and less perceptible] than λῦμα ; the latter word, λῦμα , is a less forcible term than κάθαρμα , the meaning of which the περὶ strengthens. Wherefore Paul calls himself and the apostles περικαθάρματα τοῦ κόσμου περίψημα , the offscouring not only of a persecuting world, but of all men [Engl. Vers. “of all things”], although they do not persecute us; the world hates us; all men despise us. ἕως ἄρτι , until now) an epanalepsis [a repetition of the same words in the beginning of a preceding member and in the end of the following member of a sentence. end.], comp. 1 Corinthians 4:11 , at the beginning.

Verse 14

1 Corinthians 4:14 . Οὐκ ἐντρέπων , not making ashamed ) An exquisite epitherapeia. [36] The dissimilarity between themselves and Paul, between the sons and the father, might have made the Corinthians ashamed . This Ἐντροπὴ , putting them to shame , in the mind of the apostle, was not an end, but a means, as he says also on another occasion, that he was unwilling to make them sad, though he had actually done so. The apostle often introduces a certain degree of refined pleasantry, without forgetting the apostolic gravity, for example, 2 Corinthians 12:13 , note. νουθετῶ , I warn ) you as a father, Ephesians 6:4 .

[36] See App. An after addition to words, which might give offence, and a kind of softening of what went before by a declaration of friendly feeling towards the persons addressed.

Verse 15

1 Corinthians 4:15 . Παιδαγωγοὺς , instructors ) however evangelical they are, being in Christ , not legal instructors. The antithetical terms respectively are, ‘planting,’ and ‘watering;’ “laying the foundation,” and “building upon it:” ‘begetting’ and ‘instructing.’ οὐ πολλοὺς , not many ) In like manner every regenerate man has not many fathers. Paul does not say, one Father; for that applies to God alone; not many , is however sufficiently explained by the following word, I . Not only Apollos, his successor, is excluded, but also his companions Silas and Timotheus, Acts 18:5 . Spiritual fatherhood has in it a peculiar tie of relationship and affection connected with it, above every other kind of propinquity. ἐν γὰρ Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ , for in Christ Jesus ) This is more express than the phrase above, in Christ , where he is speaking of other instructors.

Verse 16

1 Corinthians 4:16 . Παρακαλῶ , I exhort ) A short exhortation after a long and true account of his own example is valuable. μιμηταί μου , imitators of me ) as sons . Having laid aside pride, cultivate that feeling even without the cross, which is fostered in us by means of the cross. He proposes the imitation of himself to those, with whom he had been, Galatians 4:12 ; Philippians 3:17 .

Verse 17

1 Corinthians 4:17 . Τιμόθεον , Timotheus ) 1 Corinthians 16:10 . τέκνον μου , my son ) and therefore imitator . Paul calls Timothy his brother; see 2 Corinthians 1:1 , note; but in this passage the affection of the father is uppermost in his thought. ἀγαπητὸν , beloved ) to whom I have willingly committed the business. πιστὸν , faithful ) to whom I could safely commit the business. ἀναμνήσει , will remind you ) He does not say will teach . The Corinthians had knowledge; they had need of admonition. τὰς ὁδούς μου , my ways ) in which I walked whilst with you. καθὼς , even as ) as διάκονος , a minister . ἐκκλησίᾳ , in the church ) emphatically in the singular number.

Verse 18

1 Corinthians 4:18 . Ὡς , as though ) Because I send Timothy, they think, that I will not come. This is the meaning of the particle δὲ , but . ἐφυσιώθησάν τινες , some were puffed up ) Paul wrote this under Divine illumination, laying bare and clearly showing their thoughts, which would rise in their minds at the very time, when they were reading these words. They were puffed up about various things; see next verse, and ch. 1 Corinthians 5:2 . He says, I will restrain such persons, when I come. Perhaps also the apostle might have learned about this puffed up spirit of the Corinthians from the members of the house of Chloe ( 1Co 1:11 ). But the Corinthians seem to have been puffed up about the delay of the coming of Paul, not until after he had sent Timothy, his second self, with this very epistle. Then indeed these puffed up thoughts suddenly arose in their minds; Paul himself, then, will not come. A puffed up spirit was the frequent fault prevalent among the Corinthians.

Verse 19

1 Corinthians 4:19 . Ἐλεύσομαι , I will come ) Paul writes to the churches everywhere about his coming to them, and thus keeps them in the discharge of their duty. ἐὰν ὁ Κύριος θελήσῃ , if the Lord will ) He wisely adds this condition. Afterwards some things occurred to prevent his immediately going to them. γνώσομαι , will take cognizance ) A word used in courts of law. Here, and at 1 Corinthians 4:21 , the man, who was such an outcast abroad in the world, shows his paternal authority , see 1 Corinthians 4:9-10 . οὐ τὸν λόγον , not the speech ) big, but empty.

Verse 20

1 Corinthians 4:20 . Οὐ γὰρ , for not ) An axiom. ἐν δυνάμει , in power ) The absence of the article gives force to the meaning, as in Ephesians 4:21 . [ Weigh thoroughly that in which the power of thy Christianity consists . V.g.]

Verse 21

1 Corinthians 4:21 . Τί θέλετε , what will ye? ) Choose. [Comp. 2 Corinthians 13:3 . So this phrase , what wilt thou? is still of importance both as to the principal point, and as to its various accessory cases; see that you make room (that you choose rather to leave scope) for Love. V.g.] ἐν ῥάβδῳ , with a rod ) wielded by a father’s hand. Comp. Isaiah 11:4 . ἢ , or ) Paul would prefer the latter.

Bibliographical Information
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 4". Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.