Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 4

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

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Verses 1-13

1 Corinthians 4:1-13 . Paul will Accept no Judgment but Christ’ s. The Fortunate Lot of the Corinthians Contrasted with the Miserable Condition of the Apostles.— This section is concerned with the attitude of the Corinthians to Paul. Some were critical, there may have been a suggestion to put him on his trial before the church. He first states the criterion that ought to be applied in judging him and his colleagues. They are mere subordinates (a different Gr. word from that in 1 Corinthians 3:5), entrusted with a stewardship. The main qualification for such a position is not brilliant gift but incorruptible fidelity. However, what judgment they or any men pass upon him is a matter of indifference; he does not, though he knows himself so much more intimately than they can, venture to pass judgment even on himself. True, his conscience is clear, yet God alone is competent to pronounce him righteous. So they should not anticipate the Divine verdict by any premature judgment. He has used himself and Apollos (since they were friends, not rivals) as illustrations, to avoid introducing other names. (He does not mean that there were no parties of Paul and Apollos, the real parties being disguised under their names.) He has done this for their sakes that by this example he may teach them not to go beyond what is written (?) and boast in one leader against another. What exceptional qualification for such judgment does any of them possess? and whatever they have it is God’ s gift, and so no warrant for conceit. With bitter irony he punctures their self-esteem. They have already attained; how different from their sleek complacency is the actual lot of their teachers! If apostles are in such evil case is it likely that the fancied attainments of such novices are real? They are already filled to repletion, rolling in wealth, reigning in the Kingdom, without Paul’ s company to be sure! Would that their lordship over the world were a reality; he to whom they owe the Gospel, would not be left out, as he is. It would seem that he and the other apostles also have been shown by God to bring up the rear, gladiators who must fight on till they are killed, while the whole world, both ( mg.) angels and men, throngs the amphitheatre to watch the thrilling spectacle in the arena. What a contrast! for Christ’ s sake they are counted mad, they are weak and dishonoured; the Corinthians are shrewd, that is what union with Christ does for them, strong, of high repute. Privation in food and raiment, ill-treatment by the mob, homelessness, exhausting manual toil, such is the lot of the apostles. They meet insult with blessing, persecution with patient endurance, slander with friendly reply. They are like men offered as human sacrifices, wretched people who were chosen as sin-offerings, since the sacrificial death must be voluntarily accepted, inasmuch as they, whether on account of physical deformity, or poverty or sorrow, or as criminals, preferred death to life.

1 Corinthians 4:6 b. Very difficult. Gr. is elliptical and the meaning obscure. Apparently the point is, “ that you might learn not to transgress the injunction of Scripture.” The text is probably corrupt.

1 Corinthians 4:7 a. Possibly the point is, “ you owe your boasted faculty of discrimination to the teachers whom you despise.”

1 Corinthians 4:9 . apostles: primarily himself, but the plural is not equivalent to the singular. He may mean “ those who evangelised them”— himself, Silas, and Timothy.

1 Corinthians 4:13 . intreat: the precise meaning is uncertain.— filth, offscouring: used technically for the sacrificial victims described above.

Verses 14-21

1 Corinthians 4:14-21 . Fatherly Admonition, Entreaty, and Warning.— The tone of mingled severity, irony, and pathos disappears; yet the affection is combined with sternness, and he warns them not to presume on his mildness. He has no desire to shame them, but only to give them his paternal admonition. For he is their only begetter in Christ, though tutors in Christ they may have by the myriad. Let them take after him as good children should; he is sending Timothy, another of his dear children, but a loyal one, who will revive by his conduct their fading memories of their father’ s real character and behaviour. Some have been inflated by the news that Timothy is coming, as if Paul would not face the church himself. But he means to come, and try the issue with the boasters, not in word but in power, for power not utterance is the note of the Kingdom. It is for the church to decide whether he comes to chastise or in gentleness.

1 Corinthians 4:15 . tutors: we have no word to represent the Gr. which is the original of our “ pedagogue.” But the paidagogos was not a teacher, he was a slave entrusted with the supervision of the child’ s conduct. The office was temporary (till the child was sixteen), menial, and, of course, unpopular with its victims. Paul uses it to illustrate the temporary, servile, irksome, and disciplinary character of the Law in Galatians 3:24 f. :

1 Corinthians 4:17 . Timothy had apparently already started for Corinth, but was taking the land route through Macedonia, while the letter would be sent across the sea and arrive before him.

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 4". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.