Lange Commentary - 1 Corinthians 4:6 - 4:13

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Lange Commentary - 1 Corinthians 4:6 - 4:13

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6And 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 [om. to think of men] above that which [the things which] is [are] written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. 7For 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? 8Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God [om. to God, and insert indeed, etc.] ye did reign, that we also might reign with you. 9For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle 10unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honorable, but we are despised. 11Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, 12and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; and labor, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: 13Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.


1Co_4:6. [Having laid down certain principles in regard to the Church and its relations to its teachers, and illustrated them in the case of Apollos and himself, Paul now proceeds to show their more general scope and bearing].—And. äÝ , [in the sense of now], indicates that he is approaching the close of what he has to say on party strifes.—these things. ôáῦôá , refers back to 1Co_3:5.—It is from that point that he has spoken of himself and Apollos. [So Hodge, de Wette, Meyer and others. But Alford says: “There is surely no reason for limiting its reference within that point.” He accordingly extends the reference back to 1Co_1:12, and infers that all the names mentioned there were only used “as samples,” behind which the real persons intended were hid].—brethren,—addressed to the Church as a whole, but primarily (de Wette) to the party leaders and their followers. “By this title he lays hearty hold upon the Corinthians, who had been showing themselves very un-brotherly.” Besser.—I have transferred in a figure,— ìåôåè÷çìÜôéóá . There is some difficulty in determining the sense of this word. It elsewhere appears with the meaning: to transform, to change, Php_3:21. The simple ó÷çìáôéæåéí is used to denote that form of speech, where a person, instead of saying directly what he means, hints it in ways for his hearers to reflect upon and puzzle out the meaning of—allegorizes. It is used also of transformations, false movements, feint attacks, disguises (comp. 2Co_11:13). Neander explains it: “to transfer something to any one by a figure of speech. The ìåôåó÷çìáôéóìüò here consists in this, that Paul develops in reference to himself and Apollos what holds good also of all the Corinthian teachers.” Hence arose the old interpretation, that Paul had only by supposition represented in himself and Apollos what really belonged to others who were the actual party leaders, putting his own name and that of his friend for theirs. But this is a groundless assumption, irreconcilable with i. 12.—Still less admissible is the idea that the word refers to the figures of “planting” and “watering,” under which he had exhibited the nature of his work (1Co_3:6); for these were used only for vividly illustrating his point, and had nothing to do with the main object in hand.—Undoubtedly he means “a transfer” of such a sort,—that, what was true of teachers in general, and so was calculated to bring down the pride of the party leaders at Corinth, he had applied especially to Apollos and himself. It was in fact a transforming of the general into the specific, the relation of which to the parties concerned is expressed by åἰò .—unto myself and Apollos, for your sakes,—Why he did this is at once explained,—in order that in us ye may learn.—By exhibiting himself and Apollos of so small account (suitably no doubt to the feelings of the latter also), he would by example teach them that modesty which does not seek to exalt itself.—not above what is written. ôὸ ìὴ ὑðὲñ ἅ ãÝãñáðôáé . Were öñïíåῖí genuine [see under the text], then it would read: “not to think of yourselves above,” etc. But, as it is, the brief clause, converted into a substantive by the article ôü , is very forcible, and is to be rendered imperatively: “not beyond what is written;” i.e., exceed not this measure, hold to the Scripture rule both in your inward judgments and in your pretensions. Thus this short expression, so abruptly brought in, conveys more than the gloss, “to think.” [“The ellipsis of the verb is significant as giving greater largeness and general comprehensiveness to the proverb, which would be limited by the insertion of a particular verb with a special idea. Compare a similar ellipse in Terence, ut nequid nimis, and in Milton: ‘Observe the rule of, not too much, by Temperance taught.’ ” Words.].—But what does he mean by ἅ ãÝãñáðôáé : “what things are or have been written?” Does he allude here to his own previous declarations? [as Luther and Calov. assert, and Calvin allows]. Hardly; for then it would have been ðñïÝãñáøá , I have before written (comp. Eph_3:3). According to Paul’s usage, the formula: “it is written,” refers to the Holy Scriptures, especially to the Old Testament: since we find no allusion to any New Testament, or to any life of Christ in any of Paul’s writings, [“though indeed, as Chrysostom supposes, St. Matthew’s Gospel had been written at this time, and there the Corinthians would find cautions from Christ himself against the sin of calling and being called, Rabbi.” Words.]. Undoubtedly Paul here has in mind, not individual expressions of Holy Writ, but its collective tenor, which all points to this truth: that all honor belongs to God; and that all self-boasting, all cleaving to men, and priding oneself in men, must be given up. This doctrine we find summed up in apophthegms like Jer_9:23, to which reference has already been made. The sense, therefore, cannot be doubtful. This is exhibited more clearly in what follows:—that ye be not puffed up one for one against another.—The Ind. öõóéïῦóèå after ἵíá occasions no little difficulty. The Ind. after ἵíá first appears in the later Greek, nowhere else in the New Testament. [Winer, however, adopts the view that it is the Ind. and is to be regarded as an impropriety of the later Greek, § 41:1. b.; and so does Jelf, Gr. Gram., § 806, 4:2.] Some (Bengel, Osiander) assume here a peculiar or mistaken form of contraction for öõóéῶóèå (as in æçëïῦå , Gal_4:17); others (Fritzche [Origen and Theod.] change ἵíá into ἕíá ; others give to ἵíá a local signification: where, whereby, under which circumstances, and render the clause: “in which case, i.e., while acting according to Scripture rule, ye are not puffed up,” (present for the future). So Meyer. Since the correction, which was designed to restore the supposed original text, is untenable,—for the reason that the change of ἕíá into ἵíá would have drawn the subjective after it (but which nowhere appears, save in one MS. of Chrysostom); and since the use of ἵíá , in the sense proposed by Meyer, does not reach back to the prose of this period, we must in consequence decide for Bengel’s view, and all the more, for the reason, that ἵíá stands just before in its telic sense. The second clause with ἵíá stands either coördinate with the first, or subordinate to it. The latter can be understood as denoting, equally with the former, the purpose of the Apostle, yet so as to be included in it—defining the point more exactly. [To avoid the appearance of solecism, Wordsworth suggests that öõóéïῦóèå be taken as imperative, thus involving a change from the indirect to the direct style. Examples of this sudden transition he finds in Act_1:4; Act_22:3; Act_23:32; Luk_5:14; Mar_6:9; also in this very Epistle, 1Co_1:31.—Accordingly he would translate: “in order that—(you may practice this precept)—be not ye puffed up.” This is ingenious, but harsh, especially as we have ἵíá with the subj. in the clause immediately preceding, and we would naturally look for the same construction here. Instead of “liveliness,” we should have “raggedness,” of style as the result.] The meaning, however, is plain. We have here a striking exhibition of the partisan spirit. “It is the definition of a sect, where individuals admire individuals.” Bengel. The adherents of one party are here represented as seeking mutually to exalt each other to the prejudice of those of another party (comp. ὐðὲñ ἀëëÞëùí , 1Th_5:11). ὐðÝñ : to the advantage of, in favor of (not [as Winer] “above the one,” both on account of the Gen. and of the contrast in Êáôὰ , against). Ôïῦ ἑíüò , the one, denotes a person belonging to the same party; ôïῦ ἑôÝñïí , the other, a person belonging to another party. Interpreting, however, in the light of facts, we must suppose that the leaders and not private members are particularly intended. ὙðÝñ then would stand as in 2Co_7:4. It implies that party pride which would prompt a person to puff his own chief and look down with contempt upon the chief of another party. De Wette, without sufficient grounds, insists on referring this to the Christ-party, who also had exalted their leaders above the others.

1Co_4:7. For.—Paul goes on to give the reason for his protest against their emulation, in the most energetic style, addressing a series of questions to those who were “puffed up.” The first,—Who maketh thee to differ?—“This has been commonly taken to imply distinction of some sort; either actual distinction, by office and the like, in which case the answer would be: ‘not thyself, but the Lord;’ or assumed distinction by a claim to preëminence, in which case he would imply: ‘no one does this, but thyself; it is an arbitrary self-promotion;’ or at least: ‘there is no judge qualified for doing this.’ But thus interpreted, the Apostle would be regarded as addressing properly the party leaders [so Words.], while it is clear that he was just before addressing the partisan followers. Besides, in the construction, first suggested above, the second question would be already anticipated. Finally, these interpretations would transcend the demonstrable use of äéáêñßíåéí , whether in the New Testament or elsewhere. The rendering best suited to usage and to the connection is: ‘Who separates you?’ This, then, would refer to the party position which the person spoken to assumed, and in which he proudly stood aloof from other parties and their leaders. What the Apostle means to ask is: ‘What is the reason you say’—or ‘Who justifies you in saying: “I am of Paul, and I of Apollos,” and in priding yourself in such partisanship? This party separation, in which you boast, is altogether arbitrary and unwarrantable.’ [Bengel, Words., Alf., Calv. give the meaning: ‘Who distinguisheth thee,’ as if by reason of some excellence which is supposed to exist. And for this use of äéáêñßíù Words, refers to Act_15:9. The propriety of this, also, Hodge concedes. And it was the construction on which Augustine proceeded in his argument with Pelagius, and in his maintenance of the doctrine of sovereign grace. It seems better, therefore, to abide by the ordinary interpretation given in the text].—In the second question,—What hast thou which thou didst not receive?—he alludes to the advantages which a person might possess, and which stood connected in some way with the quickening and informing influence of this or that teacher. [But is not this limiting the scope of the question too much? which plainly bears upon the leaders also]. ‘These advantages,’ he implies, ‘could only be the ground of pride in case they had been self-attained. But thou hast only what thou didst receive. All thine insight, thy gifts for speaking, etc., are a bestowment from God, even though imparted through human instrumentalities.’—To this question the next directly joins, since it presupposes that something has been received; and this not problematically, but as actually existing,—and yet it designates the boasting as something contradictory to this supposition, and therefore wholly unsuitable. Its import is,—if—as I grant—thou really didst receive—something—why dost thou boast, as if thou hadst not received it?—but all were due to thine own exertions or to thy connection with this or that teacher?’ The êáß here belongs, as usual (Passow II p. 1540), not to the entire hypothetical clause, but to ἕëáâåò , and may be translated, actually, indeed, really.—But may we not obtain a fuller meaning, and one more comporting with the words and aim of the Apostle, if we suppose the Apostle to imply in the second question that nothing had been received, by punctuating it, either so that ôé äὲ ἕ÷åéò shall be taken alone: ‘and what hast thou?’—or so that ôß äὲ shall stand separately: ‘how now?’ or: ‘what then? hast thou that which thou didst not receive?’ He would thus be pointing to their vain conceit, their empty boasting, their pride in the gifts of their teachers, in which they had no part themselves. The third question would then first treat of a case wherein they were supposed to have received something, and which as such excluded boasting. So Bengel: “There are many things, which thou has not received, and therefore thou hast not these things, and canst not boast of them; either thou hast received, or hast not received; if thou hast not received, thou possessest not; if thou hast received, thou possessest it not, except as received, and so without cause for glorying. The latter sense renders the meaning of êáß , even, which immediately follows, more expressive, and shows the antanaclasis (repetition in a modified form) in the clauses: ‘thou hast not received’ and ‘hadst not received.’ ”

1Co_4:8. Already ye are full, already ye are rich; ye have reigned as kings without us.—[Having before rebuked, he here proceeds to deride, as Calvin says,] their false contentment, vain self-sufficiency and lofty bearing, as if they had already reached the goal of all Christian hope and effort. Especially has he in mind certain persons who always aspired to pitch the tune, and the parasites, who were ever ready to strike in. The clauses here are not questions, but declarations charged with keenest irony. Only when so understood do the words carry their proper emphasis. To deny him the right to use such irony, and to impute lordly desires to Paul in consequence, is one of Rückert’s false assumptions. And to this Meyer fairly replies, that the Apostle must have been the best judge as to the mode in which it was necessary to discipline the Corinthians, and that it was precisely because of his very purity of conscience that he was able to yield to his justly roused feelings without rendering himself liable to suspicion. Neander says: “The conceit of a narrow-minded bigotry can best be attacked with irony and sarcasm;” and Besser: “The servant of Christ need not be ashamed of any outburst of indignation that springs from a hearty love, and the biting salt of derision, which spices his language, does not detract from his amiability;” [and Hodge: “The prophets especially employ these weapons freely in their endeavors to convince the people of the folly of idols”]: In what precedes, Paul has just exhorted them to modesty in accordance with the pattern set by himself and Apollos, and reminded them of their dependence on God for all their endowments—a dependence which excluded boasting. Now he reminds them, not only that they were unmindful of this dependence, but that they were also cradling themselves in the vain conceit of their own perfection—they, the very persons whom he had just before convicted of great imperfection and moral perversity.— Ἤäç , already, i. e., so long before the proper time for it. It points to a goal remote, and hints that all true satisfaction, and true riches, and true kingship, belonged not to the present period of the world; and hence it implies that they were vainly anticipating the glory which was to come hereafter. The word is put first for the sake of the emphasis.

The three verbs following form a climax: “ye have enough;” “ye enjoy a superfluity;” “you have attained to lordship.” êåêïñåóìÝíïé ἐóôÝ = ἐðëïõ Þóáôå (comp. Rev_3:17); the former implies the full possession and enjoyment of salvation; the latter, that they had this in superabundance. We have here a picture of that self-conceit, that sense of sufficiency and fulness which the sectarian spirit generally engenders, and by which all disposition to receive spiritual good from any quarter outside of the party circle, is entirely destroyed. The sectarian always feels himself perfectly supplied in all respects, and in no time or way needful of any thing further.—It must be acknowledged, indeed, that the Corinthians were enriched by God’s grace, “in all knowledge and in all spiritual gifts” (1Co_1:5-7), yet the consciousness of this fact was disfigured by their pride; and that sense of their poverty in themselves, and of their manifold defects, which ought to have kept them humble, was in like manner suppressed.—In the verbs åðëïõôÞóáôå and åâáóéëåýóáôå , the Aorist form leads us out of the idea of simple being into that of becoming (having become) comp. 2Co_8:9. By the word “reign” we are not to understand either the enjoyment of any high degree of knowledge, authority, safety and happiness [as Calvin and Barnes]; nor yet the supremacy attained by party leaders [as Billroth]; nor yet the preëminence of one party over another. Paul here refers to that regal state which Christians were to enjoy under the future reign of the Messiah, and which is alluded to in 2Ti_2:12; Rom_8:17; Joh_17:24; Rev_5:10; Rev_20:4;—a state in which they should be delivered from all the restraints of this life, and introduced into the full possession of all the gifts and powers of the heavenly kingdom. This it is which he says the Corinthians had begun to assume already, so prematurely. [So Alf., Stanley, Words., Hodge]. “That which afterwards developed itself in the Papacy on the one side, and in the fanatical sects, like that of the Anabaptists, on the other, had already begun to prevail in the Corinthian Church. When both the bottomless depths of sin and the glory of divine grace are alike uncomprehended, then people dream themselves into a supremacy, whose kingdom, with all its show of spirituality, is of this world, and where the holy Apostles enter not.” Besser.

There remains to be considered the cutting expression—without usi.e. without our presence or coöperation. He does not here mean to charge them with having given him any personal affront; but he only states with emphasis the fact as it was, viz., that in all their boasting, and in all their supposed attainment of their goal, himself and associates, [“who had been looking forward to present them on that day as their glory and joy” Alf.], had no part, and were not needed.

From this point he turns to speak in another tone [“and with solemnity” Alf.].—I would ὄöåëïí , according to later usage, a particle with the Indicative. [The addition “to God” found in our version, is not authorized, or at least not demanded by the original. The Scriptures do not authorize such appeals to God as seem to be in common, when our version was made” Hodge].—indeed; ãå strengthens the wish—that ye did reign.—The irony can hardly be supposed to continue here, as if he insinuated as the object of his wish: “that you might give us some share in your kingdom, [and that we might be of some account among you.” So Lightfoot, who interprets this as a “bitter taunt”]. This would have been indeed too bitter. Bather we must take it as the expression of a glorious and sincere wish, that they had already reached the goal; so that the Apostles, their teachers, might enjoy their glory with them, inasmuch as both parties were inseparable in their final fruition of glory when this was actually obtained. “When you shall be perfected, then we shall have ease, and the end of Apostolic trouble.” Bengel. This is implied in the clause—that we might reign with you.—In thus speaking of them as the original possessors of glory, and of the Apostles as only partners with them, he adopts a humble phraseology, which at the same time conveys an indirect rebuke at their pride (comp. Osiander in loco).

1Co_4:9. For.—He here proceeds to state what reason he had for the wish just expressed, and how closely it lay on his heart. This reason might be seen in the miserable condition which he and his fellow Apostles were in. The connection may be stated thus: ‘for we, the Apostles, (“founders of churches, which these high-swelling pseudo-apostles are not,” Osi.), are so persecuted and afflicted, that this fellowship in the kingdom cannot but be greatly desired by us.’ This is a more simple interpretation than to insert a parenthesis here, implying: ‘but this cannot happen until the kingdom of God is revealed; for I think,’ etc. Ruckert is mistaken in supposing that the irony is still continued, as if it meant: ‘very probably God has appointed us last; you naturally go in first, then, after all the rest, we follow suit.’ This interpretation (which supposes that what immediately precedes is ironical likewise) presents the Apostle in a too ignoble aspect for even the utmost candor to admit. There is no implication of this sort in the opening word:—I think äïêῶGod has exhibited. ἀðÝäåéîåí , as in 2Th_2:4, comp. èÝáôñïíus.—To interpret this of Paul alone [as Calvin, Beza] is forbidden by the article before ἀðïóôüëïõòthe Apostles.—And in case any would wish to translate: ‘God has appointed us, the last Apostles, unto death [as Calvin, Chrys.], an objection arises to this, apart from all other reasons, in the fact, that then the article would have been put before ἐó÷Üôïõò :—last.—In this word [which is here a predicate, attached to the verb defining its operation] there is expressed in a general manner what is after-wards stated more definitely—last, not in point of time, but in grade of society (homines infirnæ sortis).—as appointed unto death. ὠò ἐðéèáíáôßïõò , Chrys.: êáôáäßêïõò ; Suid.: ðñïóäïêßìïõò ôïῦ ἀðïèáíåῖí , comp. 2Co_11:23-27. No allusion is here made to bestiarii, or to gladiators [as Stanley after Tertullian, Chrys., Calvin and others]. That they, as malefactors condemned to death, were also exposed to public contempt, is still further set forth in a causal sentence—for we are become a spectacle. èÝáôñïí , which is elsewhere called èÝáìá . So èåáôñéæåóèáé , Heb_10:33to the world.—[“not to a single city, but to the whole world” Chrys.],—corresponding to the range of the Apostles’ labors, which embraced all nations and lands (see Col_1:6; Col_1:23; Rom_10:18).—But this general term is so specialized as to include also the dwellers in heaven, the angels; and so he seems here to pass, in thought, beyond the direct sphere of his personal activity.—As well to angels as to men.—By “angels” does he mean good or evil angels? Undoubtedly the former, since no epithet is applied; and, according to New Testament usage (with but one exception—1Co_6:3), the term denotes good angels, never the bad only, nor yet the two classes together. Only in case we take the word “spectacle” in a bad sense, indicating an object for mocking and malicious enjoyment, can we suppose bad angels to be intended. We should then be compelled to take the term “world” as a designation of the entire realm of beings hostile to tie Gospel. This, however, would be an arbitrary interpretation (see Meyer). While then by “men” we understand all on earth, of every sort, who observe the Apostles’ wants and suffering, the “angels” can only mean those who from above look down in loving sympathy and wonder at the Apostles’ steadfastness. Such are the cloud of witnesses in the midst of which Paul feels that he and his associates are exhibited for a spectacle. Comp. Osi., and passages like Luk_22:43; Mat_4:11; Heb_12:22; 1Pe_1:12. On the contrary, Luther, Neander, Bisping, Besser, interpret the word, of angels and men, both good and evil. Besser says: “So the world, both angels and men, are divided in respect to the Apostles and their ministry. It is a spiritual battle, to which the Gospel trumpet summons the hosts in heaven and on earth, in the atmosphere and the whole visible circuit. The scene presented to the eyes of men, is but an image of that which goes on behind the curtain.”

1Co_4:10. [“Again the bitterest irony: ‘how different our lot from yours! How are you to be envied—we to be pitied!’ Alford]. He begins with a contrast lying nearest his thought.—We, fools for Christ’s sake.—“Are” is understood. He means: ‘we pass for fools, because we preach Christ crucified, and propose to know nothing else.’ Osiander’s explanation transcends the simple meaning of the words: ‘I am content out of love for Christ and his cause to pass for a fool.’—but ye, wise in Christ,—i.e., they, in their union with Christ (not, “in the Church,” nor, “in the doctrine” of Christ), are very knowing, full of insight. This is ironical. They fancy themselves such, and seek to pass for such, in their efforts to combine Christianity and secular wisdom.—we, weak,— ἀóèåíåῖò signifies a lack of energy, which any superficial observer might suppose to characterize the Apostle, by reason of his modest reserve on the one hand, and of his suffering condition on the other. (Comp. 2Co_13:4; 2Co_10:10). “The word expresses the prevailing tone of the Apostle’s mind—a consciousness of weakness, by virtue of which he was the better able to receive strength from God.” Neander. (See 1Co_2:3).—but ye, strong. Ἰó÷õñïé suggests the idea of a bold, energetic forth-putting, which carried the appearance of assumption, and “a proud parade of abilities that were derived from the Lord.” With this, there is closely connected the condition, which, by reversing the order of the contrast, is presented first.—ye, glorious,— Ἔíäïîïé i.e., in honor and authority, by reason of your wisdom and power.—but we, despised. Ἅôéìïé , i.e., void of esteem, in disgrace, as seen in the shameful treatment received. To supply the words: “on account of Christ,” and: “in Christ,” in the second and third antithesis, is unnecessary, although it would yield fitting sense.

1Co_4:11-13.—He here leaves the antithesis, and goes on to enlarge upon the destitution and ignominy endured by the Apostles. [His irony, too, gives way to deep, earnest feeling, awakened in view of all he had encountered for Christ and for the Church; and his spirit mellows to the kindlier mood which speaks in 1Co_4:14].—unto this present hour.—The designation stands in contrast with the “already” of 1Co_4:8. [While they seemed to have got through trials into triumphs, he was still in the midst of trouble].—we both hunger and thirst and are in want of clothing. Ãõìíéôåýåéí , 2Co_11:27; Mat_25:36; Jam_2:15; Isa_58:7. [On the form of this verb see Winer, § xvi. “From ãõìíüò one would expect ãõìíßôçò and accordingly the best codd. have in this place, ãõìíßôåõïìåí , which we must not, with Fr. and Meyer, take for an orthographical error.”]:—and are buffetted. Êïëáöéæåóèáé , to be beaten with fists (comp. Mat_26:67; 1Pe_2:20.—and have no certain dwelling place. ἀóôáôïῦìåí . The word occurs only here,—lit., are without fixed abode—and points to flights amid persecutions [such as Paul often was obliged to make; and why not also to his perpetual journeyings, having given up home to be the continual missionary that he was?]—and we labor,—From pains he turns to toils. (Comp. 1Co_9:6; 2Co_11:7; 1Th_2:9; Act_18:3).—working,—i.e., as a hired person,—with our own hands.—According to Greek notions, this involved a sort of disgrace ( ἀôéìßá ).—Being reviled we bless.—He here goes on to exhibit his self-denial in still other forms, as shown in his deportment under ill usage. ‘In requital for wicked words of execration ( ëïéäïñåῖí ), we give good words of benediction ( åὐëïãåῖí ).’—Being persecuted we suffer it.i.e., under a persistent and active hostility ( äéùêåéí ) we exhibit a patience, which refrains from retaliation or resistence, and lets all pass ( ἀíå÷ἐóèáé ).—being defamed, we entreat.—For slanderous speeches ( äõóöçìåῖí ) we return dissuasions ( ðáñáêáëåῖí ), entreaties that such things may not happen, not intercessions before God [as Calvin; but Stanley says: (1) ‘we offer consolation,’ or (2) as in 1Co_4:16, ‘we entreat men to follow our example,’ comp. 2Co_1:3]. The reading âëáóöçìïýìåíïé , is indeed well supported [see under the text], and it means essentially the same thing.—Whether godless cursings are also therein implied, is at least doubtful, since this idea comes in only when God is the object of the blasphemy. [But why should not this idea enter here as well, when Paul carried on himself the name of Christ which was blasphemed in him? This was the sorest spot on which a true Apostle could be attacked. Hence in this word his statements reach a climax]. In these declarations Paul gives us to understand, not (as Meyer) that the Apostles were so very destitute of honor among men, that they did not care to vindicate themselves against their villifiers (as persons do who have honor to maintain), but that they sought honor itself by thus requiting and overcoming evil with good. (Comp. Mat_5:44; Luk_23:34; Act_7:60; Rom_7:14; Rom_7:17; 1Pe_3:9).

Finally, he returns to the simple exhibition of the dishonor into which they were cast, and seta it forth in deepest colors and at the extremest point.—as the refuse of the world have we become.—Mey.: ‘It is as if we were the scum, the vilest dregs of mankind.’ This idea, however, would not be lost if, with Luther and others, we were to translate the word ðåñéêáèÜñìáôá : sin offerings, in allusion to an ancient custom (the continuance of which, however, to the time of the Apostle cannot be confidently asserted, or that it was so far held in popular remembrance that the expression would be readily understood in this sense), viz., that of devoting to death the vilest men, such as slaves and malefactors, in seasons of public calamity, for the purpose of conducting off from the rest the wrath of the Deity. These homines piaculares were indeed designated by the simpler word êÜèáñìá ; but in Pro_21:18, the LXX. gives ðåñéêÜèáñìá for the Hebrew ëֹּôֶø ; sin offering. It denotes purification, remotely, expiation; but also, that which is purged away, filth, refuse, offal; in Arrian, a reprobate man, an outcast. [Calvin says that “Paul, in adding the preposition ðåñὶ , seems to have had an eye to the expiatory rite itself, inasmuch as those unhappy men, who were devoted to execrations, were led around through the streets, that they might carry away with them whatever there was of evil in any corner, that the cleansing might be more complete.” Hodge thinks any such allusion improbable, in consequence of the uncommonness of the custom. “Paul,” he says, “certainly did not consider himself or his sufferings as a propitiation for other men. The point of comparison, if there be any allusion to the custom in question, is to the vileness of the victims which were always chosen from the worthless and the despised.”] Luther’s interpretation, given above, accords well with what follows.—and of all things the off-scouring unto this day. ðåñßøçìá , that which is wiped off ( ðåñéøᾷí ) in cleansing, scrapings and filings. This word also occurs in the formula with which the human victims, who were put under the curse, were ordinarily consecrated: ðåñßøçìá ἡìùí ãßíïõ .— ἥôïé óùôçñßá êáὶ ἀðïëýôñùóéò : be thou our expiation, that which by us is set apart for the purification of the rest (Suidas). Meyer’s objection that in this case the plural, ðåñéøÞìáôá , would be required, because each individual would be regarded as a separate sin-offering, hardly suffices to set aside this objection, since all the Apostles may be taken collectively as composing one such offering. The Genitives, êüóìïõ ,— ðÜíïùí : the world’s,—of all (which stand first as emphatic) by this explanation, denote those whose curse lights on them, and in behalf of whom they are sacrificed. [In the second edition, which is posthumous, the editor adds], nevertheless without the ðåñé , in ðåñéêÜèáñìá , having anything to do with this (analogously with the phrase ðåñὶ ôῆò ἀìáñôßáò ), or without any support being given to the assumption of any expiatory virtue in the Apostle’s sufferings. But although the idea of expiation and deliverance through another’s sufferings, especially of the guilty party, comes elsewhere prominently forward, and this is the strongest designation of fellowship in the sufferings of Christ, who was reckoned among the transgressors; and although the Apostle speaks of his official sufferings in images drawn from the sacrificial phraseology, in order to express the greatness and sanctity of the end they furthered, viz., blessing for the Church and the world: yet this thought is foreign to our context, and, all things considered, the explanation given in the translation deserves the preference.—Here we have a description of the deepest disgrace. [Wordsworth ingeniously argues for the sacrificial idea].


[1. The promised glory of believers not to be realized here on earth, as the Corinthians seemed to imply by their conduct]. The true view of Christ and of Christianity combines an Idealism and a Realism. On the one hand, in Christ old things have passed away and all things become new. (2Co_5:17). He who believes in Christ has eternal life (Joh_3:36); God has quickened us in Christ, and has raised us up together, and made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ (Eph_2:5 ff.). But on the other hand, it doth not yet appear what we shall be (1Jn_3:2); our life is hid with Christ in God (Col_3:3); we here walk by faith, not by sight (2Co_5:7); we are indeed saved, but it is in hope (Rom_8:24).—This latter side of Christianity, which is betokened in the very cross-bearing character of Christ’s kingdom, is utterly, misapprehended by a false idealism, which would anticipate in this life the glory of Christ’s kingdom, shrinks from all manner of sufferings and trials, loves to luxuriate in self-satisfaction and in the enjoyment of the riches and the glory which are in Christ, and seeks to make an impression abroad with the show of higher learning and science, so that Christianity shall attain to honor and authority and influence in the world, in accordance with the truth that Christ is the Lord to whom all power in heaven and upon earth belongs—a truth, which it is claimed, must manifest itself more and more in the outward condition of those who are his. This idealism is the fruitful source of various forms of fanaticism, from the anticipation of the regal glory of Christ by the Romish hierarchy, and from the grossest Chiliasm which aims to set up a sort of secularized kingdom of God (as seen in the Anabaptists of the 16th century), down to the most refined theories of a progressive spiritual transformation, according to which Christianity is gradually to pervade the whole human race in all spheres of life, and to overcome all opposition, until at last it get possession of, and assimilate to itself, all governments and social customs, and art and science, and thus appear in full glory. In all this we see a Pelagianizing ignoring of the sharp contrast, which exists between the present condition of the world, rooted as it is the life of nature, and the spirit of Christ; also, a vain self-sufficiency, which hopes to find in the attainment of certain results, in the relative improvement of our earthly conditions, in the glow which the sun of truth and righteousness may cast over human affairs, in the reformation effected by the Gospel in all departments of human society,—in short, in the modification of the natural by the spiritual, a form of life springing out of, and developing itself from the spiritual unto the natural, and so dreams of a progressive realization of the kingdom of God on earth. Of an apostasy, of a fearful catastrophe, of antichrist and his overthrow, of a new heavens and a new earth following upon the destruction of the old, it evinces no knowledge. All this it quietly ignores. Hence all that glory which the promises of God’s Word exhibit to our hope, and reserve for a future age altogether different from the present, it assumes to have already in this, by a gradual, ceaseless, progressive development. The beginnings of such notions were already discernible in the Corinthian Church during the life of Paul, and with great soberness he encounters it by an exhibition of the actual state of things with the Apostles themselves—a state of things which was of a far different sort. According to the mind and precedent of Christ, he shows them that the passage to glory lies through sufferings. (Luk_14:27; Act_14:22; Joh_12:24). But this the worldly-minded would fain overleap, passing round the vale of humiliation, trouble, persecution and self-denial, to enter at once into the full possession of glory. They shrink from the cross. Hence when it comes to hard conflicts and severe tests, they are readily shaken, and are scandalized, and seduced into error, and exposed to apostasy.

2. A spectacle to angels. An encouraging thought, rooted in the idea of a one all-embracing kingdom of God. As in Christ and through Him and to Him all things were created, which are in heaven and on earth (Col_1:16 ff.), so has it pleased God to gather together in Him all things, which are in heaven and upon earth (Eph_1:10),—in Him, through whom the angelic as well as the human world shall be restored to their original harmony with God (comp. Meyer on Col_1:20),—and through whose church unto principalities and powers in heaven shall be made known the manifold wisdom of God (Eph_3:8; comp. 1Pe_1:12). Hence these heavenly spirits are full of liveliest interest in God’s redemptive work on earth. Those very beings, who have by God’s grace, been set in such close relations with earth’s little ones as to be called “their angels,” who have been sent “to minister for them who should be heirs of salvation,” and who “rejoice over the sinner that repenteth,” are also sympa thizing witnesses of the conflicts and sufferings of God’s co-laborers in the work of redemption. And while human observers are differently impressed with these same scenes, yet in this heavenly host there is felt nothing but astonishment and joy in view of the steadfastness and patience exhibited. Moreover, as an angel from heaven was seen to strengthen our Lord in the hour of His agony, so in the darkest hour of the conflict will angels be near to quicken and strengthen the soldiers of the cross. The encouragement and confirmation accruing to these oppressed sufferers and fighters of the good fight, from the consciousness of sympathy from such witnesses, corresponds to that which is said in Heb_12:1, in reference to the great cloud of witnesses, composed of the ancient heroes of the faith, and of the believers looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.


[1. Spiritual pride, self-sufficiency, vain-glorying, assumption of superiority, are so unbecoming and absurd as to be the: fit objects not only of severe rebuke, but also of ridicule; for: 1. they are contrary to a Christian’s dependence on God for what he is and has (1Co_4:7); 2. they proceed upon the false assumption, that the glory and the crown belong to the present age, whereas they are only to be enjoyed after Christ comes, and the whole church can possess them together (1Co_4:8); 3. they are contrary to apostolic example. The Apostles were cross-bearers all their lives through, and looked for the crown hereafter. (1Co_4:9-13)].

[2. Indignant reproof, irony, sarcasm, satire, are legitimate means for correction and discipline. But like the instruments of a surgeon, they are as dangerous as they are keen and useful, and can be safely employed only by skilful hands and loving hearts. When badly managed they kill rather than cure. Let none attempt to handle them, unless like Paul they are conscious only of the sincerest paternal affection towards those on whom they are used. Malice in the heart is sure to poison their edge, while love conveys healing balm through the wounds they make].


1Co_4:7. Whose is the fine plumage? Hast thou borrowed it? How then, supposing the wind should carry it away? Where is thy boasting then? Give then to God his own, and do not serve either thyself or the devil with thy gifts. (Hed.).

1Co_4:8. Desire not here in time what is only to be had yonder in Eternity. Here is strife; there alone is perfect rest and glory.

1Co_4:9. They who are adorned with greatest gifts, have the greatest trials for their humiliation.

1Co_4:10. External influence, happiness, glory, are no signs of a true Church. Who are the best Christians? The wise, the strong, the lordly? No. They are the weak, the despised, those who for Christ’s sake are willing to be as fools.

1Co_4:11. Thou complainest of persecution in thy office? Consider, has it come to hunger, thirst, nakedness, blows? Hast thou “resisted unto blood?” The crown is given to the soldier who has ‘endured hardness.’

1Co_4:12. A person is not required to preach without pay. Yet be content. Do not desert thy office because of a small salary. To do good and to suffer evil are the peculiar tokens of a true servant of Christ. The Christian’s proper weapons in persecution are patience and prayer.

1Co_4:13. The true children of God understand well the greatness of their spiritual nobility, and that this, so far from being sullied by the base treatment of the world, is only made more illustrious thereby.

Rieger:—Instead of courting admiration for Christianity, and admiring in turn those who admire us and our cause, it becomes us to root ourselves more deeply in a self-denying spirit. One chief characteristic of godlessness is lowliness of mind, which gives to God all the praise, and counts men for nothing.—When we are willing to rend the bond of peace for the sake of aught we prize, we act not as if we had received it from the Lord whose gifts are to be appropriated in love, but as if we were at liberty to turn it all to our own selfish uses and advantage.—Where danger is greatest, there oftentimes presumption and self-confidence are at the height. The faithful performance of duty in the midst of shame, and detraction, and persecution, is a spectacle which angels cannot but admire, and men regard with honor. How many are disposed to leave cross-bearing to the Apostles and early Christians, and to maintain a Christianity in which the world will find nothing to hate.


1Co_4:7. True humility springs from a sense of our absolute dependence on God. This guards from pride. With this there belongs also a clear recognition of God’s greatness and glory; we must feel that God is every thing, and we nothing. Only an exalted nature can be truly humble. How foolish our pride over advantages that we did not procure. The more gifts received from God, the greater the cause to be humble. Pride is not mere folly; it is wickedness also, because it robs God of His glory.

1Co_4:8. Judging from their outward condition, God appears often to treat believers, not as if they were His children, but as if they were the vilest of the race. But the more He puts on us, the more we are observed. The holy angels, unseen, rejoice when they see us victorious. Devils look on, hoping that we may succumb.

1Co_4:10. Christians, when most deserving, are often the most derided. The dishonor put upon the primitive believers is a mortifying rebuke to our pride. What a contrast between the cross-bearing Apostles and the later clergy, with their costly tables, splendid array, their pomp, and retinues, and palaces!

1Co_4:12. Paul an example of noble independence. He earned his own bread.


1Co_4:6. We were made to be humble, and should be kept short. Too much honor should not be shown us in this life. If you see a person exalting himself above others, look for no further evidence of his folly.

1Co_4:8. Even in our time, there are among the awakened some, who feel already perfect, and satisfied, and rich, from mere knowledge, while their fellowship with the Saviour and love for Him has grown cold.

1Co_4:11. The disciple of Jesus moves through this world always a stranger, nowhere tolerated, nowhere at home; and even should he settle any where, it is uncertain how long the world and his foes would allow him to remain. In such a case comfort comes from Christ.

1Co_4:13. It is better to be the offscouring, than the honored of the world; better a castaway, than the bosom-child of a wicked race. The Saviour chose shame, the Apostles also, and we should arm ourselves with the same mind.

W. T. Besser:

1Co_4:7. Nothing is mine but my sin; nothing, not saving knowledge and sanctifying wisdom, not repentance, not faith, nor love; in short, nothing Christian, have I from myself. It is all grace received—a gift from God (Jam_1:17). To have received and then to boast is a hateful inconsistency. Gratitude and praise alone are becoming to recipients—accordant praise from all recipients of the manifold grace of God. In scorning thy brother less gifted, take heed that thou findest not fault with God.

1Co_4:8. What, already satisfied! This is self-deception. Satisfaction, without hungering and thirsting, comes only when we behold God’s face in righteousness and awake in His likeness (Psa_17:15).

1Co_4:11. Christian fasting is of two kinds—one when a person fasts voluntarily for the sake of serving the Lord with lighter spirit; the other when one is compelled to it as a Christian for Christ’s sake (2Co_11:27).

1Co_4:12. If we cannot stop the mouths of our defamers with soft words of entreaty, we have still one resort: we can pray that God will ‘not lay the sin to their charge.’ The prosperity which the Corinthians sought upon earth was then, and is now, to be had only at the cost of separating from the Apostles and from the true Gospel.—While all the Corinthian glory is but as stubble, the crown of honor will rest ever fresh and green upon the heads of the despised Apostles, both in Heaven and upon earth.


1Co_4:6.—The öñïíåῖí of the received text is an old supplement, which is not to be found in good authorities [A. E. D.* E.* F. G. Cod. Sin., nor in the Vulgate, and is omitted by Lach., Tisch, Mey., Alf., Words, and Stanley].

1Co_4:6.—The Rec. has [according to D. F. L.]. The better authorities [A. B. C. Cod. Sin.] have , which reading is adopted by Lach. Tisch. [Words. Alf.]. Mey. thinks that is a correction to suit the ôáí ͂ ôá preceding.

1Co_4:11.—[The Rec. has ãõìíçôåýïìåí , with B.2 but A2. C. D. F. Cod. Sin. all have ãõìíéôåí ́ ïìåí . And this is the reading of all good editions now. See note].