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Biblical Studies/New Testament Commentaries/1 Corinthians/Chapter 4

1 Corinthians 4:1-21 (New International Version)
Apostles of Christ
1So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. 2Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 3I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.
6Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, "Do not go beyond what is written." Then you will not take pride in one man over against another. 7For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
8Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have become kings—and that without us! How I wish that you really had become kings so that we might be kings with you! 9For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. 10We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.
14I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you, as my dear children. 15Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 17For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.
18Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you. 19But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have. 20For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. 21What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a whip, or in love and with a gentle spirit?



Background Information: [Behind the Text]Edit

Historical ContextEdit

CorinthEdit

The city of Corinth was a Roman colony. Most of the population was made up of roman citizens. There were also some Greeks and Jews. The city is located on an isthmus between the Bay of Corinth and the Saronic Bay. An isthmus is a small strip of land that connects two larger pieces of land. Corinth was very prosperous due to its heavy involvement in Mediterranean trade. It had gained a reputation of being unnecessarily luxurious and sexually loose. The city was backed up against the Acrocorinthus (similar to the acropolis in Athens). On the Acrocorinthus stood Aphrodite’s temple in which 1000 female slaves constantly worshiped. Corinth also housed a temple to Melicertes the patron of seafarers. All of these things made Corinth a popular stop for tourists which only added to its wealth. (Bruce 18-19, Sampley 773-783)

File:Map of Corinth.jpg

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The Corinthian ChurchEdit

The amount of international commerce brought all kinds of religions to Corinth. There were many temples and tributes including a Jewish synagogue. Paul started ministering at the synagogue since Jesus was the fulfillment of Jewish scripture. He spent 18 months in Corinth and probably left in A.D. 52. The church he founded was made up of Jews and Gentiles. Because of the ‘melting pot’ nature of the city there was surprisingly little struggle between the Jews and the Gentiles in the church. (Bruce 19-20, Sampley 773-783)

Literary ContextEdit

Structure of LetterEdit

1 Corinthians 5:9-11 suggests that Paul has written them a letter previous to 1 Corinthians. Scholars refer to this letter as ‘Corinthians A’.

9I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.

After writing Corinthians A, Paul received message from Chloe’s people about how the Corinthian church was dividing based on their judgments of the apostles. Paul wrote 1 Cor 1-4 as a response to this but before he could send it, he received more information about the troubles in Corinth. He must also have received a message from the church asking his advice on some issues they were having. He continued writing, responding to the new reports and giving advice. Most of the letter is, in fact, in response to this second set of information he received. The letter was probably sent around A.D. 55. (Bruce 23-24)


The basic structure of 1 Corinthians then goes as follows:

1. Introduction/Greeting
2. Response to report from Chloe’s People
3. Response to further reports
4. Conclusion/Farewell

Overview of PassageEdit

Summary of PassageEdit

Originally written in Greek, 1 Corinthians can be tricky to translate. The language Paul uses in chapter 4 is particularly awkward. Explanations of Greek terms are given throughout the commentary on this page to try to clarify as much of the translation issues as possible.


In chapter 4 Paul addresses the problem of rivalry. The Corinthian church had become preoccupied with pitting one church leader against another. The church was divided based on which apostle they most closely followed. The same competition was also seen on the local level. Leaders within the congregation were battling for popularity and prestige. Paul deals with the issue of the apostles and assumes that the Corinthians will also apply it to the local issues. His approach hopefully lessons the blow so that the Corinthians are more receptive to his message. Attacking them directly would likely put up their defenses, blocking their hearts from the truth that they need to hear.


1 Corinthians 4:1-13 can be broken into two sections. The first section (verses 1-5) is Paul’s admonishment on judging. The second section (verses 6-13) is Paul’s admonishment on the boasting the Corinthians have been doing based on their judging.

Basic Questions and ObservationsEdit

How were men regarding the apostles if not as servants?

Why was Paul concerned about the way the apostles were being regarded?

Why would God have secret things? Why would he not want to share it with everyone?

God does not show favoritism. So then how can he choose certain people to share his secrets with?

Who is requiring the entrusted to prove themselves?

What trust have they been given?

What is Paul saying about judging in general?

What are the implications of not judging others?

Is Paul’s self-judging similar to the way modern American Christians live with guilt?

Though he is against judging others or yourself, he does NOT suggest that there is not absolute right and wrong, his point is that God is the determiner, not any of us.

Life without judging is vulnerable.

It is interesting that Paul says God will bring to light what is hidden and that each will receive his praise from God. When I read ‘what is hidden’ I think of it as being a dirty secret, something to be ashamed of and punished for, but Paul says each will receive praise from God. That suggests that ‘what is hidden’ is a good thing.

Paul implies that God will not judge us according to our actions, but according to our motives. We should then be much more focused on the attitudes of our hearts and not on following rule sets.

Where is the saying ‘Do not go beyond what is written’ from and what does it mean?

Paul asks sarcastic rhetorical questions, were these types of questions common to any certain type of literary genre?

Were the Corinthian church members significantly different from their pagan or Jewish neighbors?

Were the Corinthians especially rich?

Were there a lot of poor people in Corinth?

Who were the Corinthians bragging to?

Why have the apostles been made a spectacle to angels?

What is Paul referencing “men condemned to die in the arena”? Were Christians already being sent to fight in the coliseum?

Who is Apollos?

Would the Corinthians want to be different from anyone else?

What did the Corinthians want? What makes them rich?

Why does Paul list good things he does right after he says not to boast?

What is boasting?

Were the apostles all homeless?

What work did the apostles do with their hands?

Where does it say we have ten thousand guardians in Christ? What does that mean?

What is the difference between a guardian and a father?

Paul implies that fathers are better than guardians.

Is it right to imitate Paul? Should we not imitate Christ directly?

Why doesn’t Paul say to imitate Christ?

Is it historically believed that Paul is proud, or that Paul is humble? His writing makes him seem proud, but he always says that he is humble.

Who is Timothy?

Structure of PassageEdit

I. How apostles should be regarded (4:1-2)

A. Servants of Christ
B. Those entrusted with the secret things of God
1. They have been given a trust
2. They must prove faithful

II. Judging (4:3-5)

A. Specific to Paul
1. Paul does not care if he is judged (4:3)
a. By the Corinthians
b. By any human court
2. Paul does not judge himself (4:3)
a. His conscience is clear
b. BUT that does not make him innocent because...
3. The Lord judges Paul (4:4)
B. In General (4:5)
1. Wait until the Lord comes
2. The Lord will judge
a. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness
b. He will expose the motives of men’s hearts
3. Each will receive his praise from God

III. Characteristics of the apostles and the Corinthians (4:6-13)

A. The apostles are an example for the Corinthians (4:6)
B. Everything has been given to them by God (4:7)
C. Paul’s sarcastic comparisons between the apostles and the Corinthians
1. Corinthians : rich like kings (4:8)/Apostles: refuse of the world (4:13)
2. Corinthians: wise/Apostles: fools (4:9)
3. Corinthians: strong/Apostles: weak (4:9)
4. Corinthians: honored/Apostles: dishonored (4:9)
D. The condition of the apostles (4:11-12)
1. Hungry and thirsty
2. In rags
3. Brutally treated
4. Homeless
5. Work hard with own hands
E. The reaction of the apostles (4:12-13)
1. Bless when cursed
2. Endure persecution
3. Kind when slandered

Word StudyEdit

Greek logizestho.jpg

(log-eez-es-tho)
Definition: to reckon, consider, reason, think about, ponder, meditate on, weigh, deliberate over, keep mental record, bear in mind, take into account, make account of, calculate, count,hold a view or opinion of, regard as.
Context in 1 Cor 4:1 So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God.
Occurences: The root of λογιζέσθω (λογιζομαι) occurs 41 times in the New Testament.
Translation: λογιζομαι is translated as 'think' 9 times, 'impute' 8 times, 'reckon' 6 times, 'count' 5 times, 'account' 4 times, 'suppose' 2 times, 'reason' 1 time, and other varied translations 6 times.
English Definition: 'regard' is defined in Webster's as: to consider and appraise usually from a particular point of view, to pay attention to, take into consideration or account, to show respect of consideration for, to hold in high esteem.

Greek uperetas.jpg

(oo-pay-reh-toss)
Definition: an under rower, a servant, one who acts under orders of another, assitant, helper, deputy, attendant, trusted servant, minister
Context in 1 Cor 4:1 So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God.
Occurences: The root of ύπηρέτας(ύπηρέτης) occurs 20 times in the New Testament.
Translation: ύπηρέτης is translated as 'officer' 11 times, 'minister' 5 times, and 'servant' 4 times.
English Definition: 'servant' is defined in Webster's as: one that serves others, one that performs duties about the person or home of a master or personal employeer.

Greek musterion.jpg

(myoo-stay-ree-own)
Definition: a mystery, secret, secret doctrine, what was not known before
Context in 1 Cor 4:1 So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God.
Occurences: The root of μυστήρίων (μυστήριον)occurs 27 times in the New Testament.
Translation: μυστήριον is translated as 'mystery' all 27 times.
English Definition: 'mystery' is defined in Webster's as: a religious truth that one can know only by revelation and cannot fully understand, any of the 15 events serving as a subject for meditation during the saying of the rosary, something not understood, a private secret, a profound, inexplicable, or secretiv quality or character. 'secret' is defined in Webster's as: something kept from knowledge or view, marked by the habit of discretion, working with hidden aims or methods, designed to elude observation or detection.

Greek boulas.jpg

(boo-loss)
Definition: counsel, plan, purpose, deliberation, motive, resolve, decision
Context in 1 Cor 4:5 He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.
Occurences: The root of βουλάς (βουλή) occurs 12 times in the New Testament.
Translation: βουλή is translated as 'counsel' 10 times, 'will' 1 time, and 'advise' 1 time.
English Definition: 'motive' is defined in Webster's as: something that causes a person to act.

Greek epainos.jpg

(ep-eye-noss)
Definition: praise, commendation, approval
Context in 1 Cor 4:5 He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.
Occurences: έπαινος occurs 11 times in the New Testament.
Translation: έπαινος is translated as 'praise' all 11 times.
English Definition: 'praise' is defined in Webster's as: to express a favorable judgment of, to glorify especially by the attribution of perfections.

Greek kekoresmevoi.jpg

(ke-kor-es-meh-noy)
Definition: to satisfy, be content, be filled, a full feeling in the stomach, satiate, get enough of, have all one wants of
Context in 1 Cor 4:8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich!
Occurences: The root of κεκορεσμένοι (κορέννυμι) occurs twice in the New Testament.
Translation: κορέννυμι is translated as 'eat enough' once and 'full' once.
English Definition: 'full' is defined in Webster's as: containing as much as is possible or normal, complete in detail, number, or duration, lacking restraint, having all distinguishing characteristics, enjoying all authorized rights and priviledges, not lacking in any essential, being at the highest or greatest degree, satisfied.

Greek eploutesate.jpg

(ep-loo-tay-saw-teh)
Definition: to become rich, have wealth, to prosper, have much of, abound in, be generous, give generously
Context in 1 Cor 4:8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich!
Occurences: The root of έπλουτήσατε (πλουτέω) occurs 12 times in the New Testament.
Translation: πλουτέω is translated as 'be rich' 7 times, 'be made rich' 2 times, 'rich' once, 'wax rich' once, and 'be increased with goods' once.
English Definition: 'rich' is defined in Webster's as: having abundant possessions and especially material wealth, having high value or quality, well supplied or endowed, impressive.

Explanation: [In the Text]Edit

CommentaryEdit

Verse 1

1So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God.

The word ‘regard’ in the Greek means to consider/meditate/reason or to account/keep record/hold as. This implies a two-step process. First a person must think through using logic then once a conclusion is reached the person must treat the conclusion as fact. They are not merely to act as if it were true, they are to believe it is because of their own convictions.
The word ‘servant’ in the Greek originally referred to the oarsmen who propelled boats by rowing (Metz 338). The more commonly understood definition, however, was a trusted assistant; a servant who holds a place of authority in their master’s house. They would often have administrative duties and power over other servants. They held position of privilege but were always accountable to their master. All of their power was given to them, they themselves had very low social standing. Bruce, page 46, stresses that they were not political leaders, even though they had power, they were first and foremost slaves. He emphasizes this in order to clarify Paul’s argument in this passage. Paul wants the Corinthians to understand that the apostles are not political leaders and the church members should not be choosing one apostle over another as if they were political candidates.
Social roles were a strict part of life. Personal identity did not exist outside of social roles. The role of a trusted servant therefore would have been very clearly understood by the Corinthians
The ‘secret things’ or ‘mysteries’ of God are the things that we could not understand without Him revealing them to us (cf. Soards 89). Webster’s even defines ‘mystery’ as ‘a religious truth that one can know only by revelations and cannot fully understand’. Translating the word as ‘mysteries’ is much more accurate than translating it as ‘secret things’. The Greek root is used in the New Testament 27 times and is translated as ‘mystery’ every time. ‘Secret’ in English carries the connotation of deception which is not intended in the original text.
Paul is not shy to claim his authority. He is confident even to scold the Corinthians.

Verse 2

2Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.

The most important attribute of a steward or servant of any kind is faithfulness. Wisdom, skills, and talent are worthless without faithfulness and therefore are not grounds for boasting.

Verse 3

3I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.

‘Judge’ means to examine and then to make decisions based on the examination (Mare 211). The Corinthian church has obviously been comparing Paul to the other apostles and criticizing him based on their conclusions. In this verse, Paul is responding to their criticism (cf Soards 86, Hays 66). A servant carries out his orders despite what others might think of him. Paul ministers to please his master and is unconcerned by the Corinthians critique (cf Bruce 47).

Verse 4

4My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.

With the Lord as our only judge we are FREE from worrying about judging ourselves or how others judge us (Soards 85). Paul is free from having to cater to the whims of the church. He does strive to live up to his own expectations but he does not bother trying to judge himself. He knows that God will judge him later based on His expectations. The human mind is capable of convincing itself of almost anything. Self-assessment is therefore rarely accurate. Having a clear conscience does not guarantee being right with God anyway. We can never fully understand God so of course we cannot predict the details of His judgment. Metz suggests that even with a clear conscience we are not free from guilt. I want to clarify that we ARE free from FEELING guilt. It is impossible to have a clear conscience and to feel guilty at the same time. But as Paul reminds the Corinthians, a clear conscience does not mean definite innocence.
The term ‘Lord’ could refer to God or to Jesus. Paul mentions God in 4:1 and 4:5 so it is likely that he is referring to God here. However, Paul also alludes to Christ being the Lord in 4:5 when he says “wait til the Lord comes”.
The Lord must be the judge because as the master of the servant the Lord is the only one who CAN be the judge.

Verse 5

5Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.

‘Therefore’ signifies that Paul is drawing a conclusion: stop judging! ‘judge nothing’ however, must not be taken out of context. Paul is referring the comparisons the Corinthians are making between church leaders. They are judging merely for the sake of boasting and it is utterly useless.
‘Motive’ is what causes a person to act. So it is logically to presume that God’s judgment is just because he is judging motives rather than actions. Men can only judge based on actions and that is one reason why their judgments are useless. Our own motives are often intangible even for ourselves to be to judge. Truly God alone can judge our unconscious motives, the motives of our heart.
The modern understanding of ‘heart’ is the place of emotions, but for the Corinthians it was the place of understanding and will (Bruce 47). It might appropriate to translate it as ‘mind’ instead of ‘heart’.
It is very interesting that after all of Paul’s talk about judging he states that each will receive his ‘praise’ from God. Praise is a positive word meaning approval or commendation. One of Webster’s definitions of praise is ‘favorable judgment’. The Corinthians then must have been making unfavorable judgments of the apostles and Paul wants them to know that they are absolutely wrong.

Verse 6

6Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, "Do not go beyond what is written." Then you will not take pride in one man over against another.

‘These things’ refers either to the argument Paul has been making since 3:5 or to everything Paul has been saying since chapter 1 where Apollos is first mentioned.
The phrase ‘Do not go beyond what is written’ is the most troubling phrase in chapter 4. Some scholars, such as Fee, have given up trying to interpret it. Paul seems to assume that the Corinthians will know what he means by it which suggests that it is an idiom or slogan of some kind. The problem with that solution is that the phrase is not found anywhere else (Garland 134). It is possible that Paul is referring to all the scripture he has cited, or to all scripture in general. Whatever the phrase means it is clear that the Corinthians have been putting too much importance on church leaders and not enough importance in ‘what is written’.
The phrase ‘take pride in one man over against another’ clearly exposes the problem the Corinthian church has had which is addressed throughout the entire passage.
Paul clears up the issue about comparing apostles. He also uses it alluding the the similar problems they have with their own church leaders. Garland suggests he does it to avoid using names; to ‘sugar coat’ the message and make it easier for them to swallow. He does not want them to get defensive because that makes it less likely that they will take his message to heart.

Verse 7

7For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

Paul chooses to make drive his point home using rhetorical questions (cf. Metz 341). The Corinthians thought they were special because they boastfully sided with a specific leader/apostle. In reality, the grace of God is the only thing that sets them apart. The grace of God is the only thing worth boasting about. Selfish ambition is the root of their boasting; they want to be regarded as special so they align themselves with whichever leader they think will bring them that recognition (cf. Garland 136). The ONLY reason they are saved is grace. Their own wisdom and skills cannot save them. Their leader cannot save them. God saves. God is the source of every good thing. Boasting about anything other than God’s grace is absolutely ridiculous.
Paul is obviously implying that the answer to the first question is God, the answer to the second question is nothing, and that there is not satisfactory answer to the third question.

Verse 8

8Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have become kings—and that without us! How I wish that you really had become kings so that we might be kings with you!

Paul changes from rhetorical questions to plain sarcasm in verse 8(cf. Hays 70). In this passage Paul states the apostles suffer while the Corinthians live as kings. If Christ’s example is to be followed then suffering must come before glory (Bruce 49).
The Corinthians see themselves in one of two ways:
1. They see themselves as already being perfected as if God’s judgment had already occurred (they were eschatologically jumping the gun) or
2. They are living with disregard to the coming of God’s judgment (they lack any sense of eschatology).
The first option is commonly accepted.

Verse 9

9For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men.

The language in Greek is not as specific as the English translation, but the English paints a better picture (Soards 95). The picture of the apostles being dragged through the streets like prisoners is in stark contrast to the picture of the Corinthians becoming kings.
Hays raises the question of who is making the apostles a spectacle, God or men?

Verse 10

10We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored!

Paul’s list is reminiscent of the Beatitudes in Matthew chapter 5 (cf. Garland 341).
Paul describes the apostles as all having the same experience, thus unifying them. His presentation the united apostles makes the squabbling over divisions in the Corinthian church look even more petty (Soards 94).
In ancient Mediterranean culture, wisdom was highly sought after and honor was of the utmost importance. Self-worth and social acknowledgment were built through honor. Honor is actualized by establishing and living up to a reputation. Some honor is ascribed by birth and some is personally achieved. Honor can be gained by responding to life's challenges in impressive and heroic ways. Honor is also accumulated through honesty, loyalty, and perseverance. For Americans, life runs on money. We work to make money. We need money to eat. Money is the pivotal value of our existence. For Ancient Mediterraneans, honor was the pivotal value. Their ability to stand out among their peers, to be successful, and to be happy, depended on the amount of honor they were able to collect.
Paul already discussed foolishness and weakness in chapter one verse twenty-five. When we as servants of God are weak, it provides room for God to use His strengths through us. It also makes it easier for the proper credit to be given to God.

Verse 11

11To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless.

Paul mentions the suffering of the apostles many times in his writings. Here are a couple of examples:
2 Corinthians 4:8-12
8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
2 Corinthians 6:4-5
4Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger;
The Greek for ‘brutally treated’ means ‘uncalled for, vulgar, physical abuse’. ‘Homeless’ means more than just not owning property. Homeless people were not welcomed and had no security. (Metz 343)

Verse 12

12We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it;

Greeks looked down on manual labor. They viewed manual laborers as people who were incapable of doing anything better. (Metz 343, Soards 100)
The gracious attitude of the apostles in the midst of the great suffering is the exact opposite of the petty squabbling of the Corinthians in their luxurious living. Christ responded to his oppressors with grace, all should follow His example.

Verse 13

13when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.

Christians are called to suffer just as Christ suffered.
Isaiah 53:3:
3he was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 4:1-13Edit

Apostles ought to be thought of as stewards of God. God is their master, they are owned by Him. They carry out His work. He has given them great responsibility and trusts them to do a good job. Without their effort, the work of God would be unfinished. Being a steward is a privilege. A steward is worthless if they disobey their orders. It is logical then, that the most important quality of a steward is faithfulness to their master. As a steward of God, the only person who has any power to judge me is my master. No person from your church, no officials of the law, no one at all has any power over me because they are not my master. Even my own opinions of myself are of no significance since it is the Lord who judges me. I do live up to my own standards, but I know that God will judge me by His standards in the end. Since God’s judgment is the only one that matters there is no point in any of you judging me. Comparing me to other apostles is fruitless. The Lord will judge later, do not worry about it right now. God will expose all the things that we try to hide from each other. He knows our unconscious desires even better than we do! He will judge us rightly and completely. When he does, we will all be commended for our stewardship.


My Corinthian brothers, I live by this so that you will live by it too! It will prevent you from getting all worked up about who is the best. God has given you everything you have and has made you who you are. His presence in your life is your only claim to greatness. You, therefore, have zero rights to brag about your success. You seem to think that you have already been judged and that God has given you His praise. You act as if your bellies are full while you should be hungering after Christ. You act as though you have already been recognized while you should continue in humble service. You think you have the power to rule, even though we apostles do not even rule! If you did have the power to rule, don’t you think the apostles would be ruling too? The judgment has not come yet. The apostles are not rulers and have not received an award. In fact, they are treated as convicted criminals. All of society looks down on us apostles. They view us as fools, while you are proud of your wisdom! We make ourselves weak in order to showcase the power of the Spirit while you brag of your strength. You collect honor here on earth while we invest in heavenly honor.


As I write this letter my stomach growls in hunger and my lips parch with thirst. We apostles have no proper clothes and no home to call our own. We are not welcomed; we are beaten. Even though it is not fashionable, we work with our hands because our work, our duty as stewards of God, is more important than any judgment we receive from men. We respond to our suffering with the grace of God. We do not retaliate against our offenders because we are responsible to God alone. We endure persecution, even blessing the people that curse us. We offer kind words to those that slander us. This very day we have been treated as lower than human. We are treated like filthy garbage; like gunk scraped off of the bottom of your shoes.

Implications: [From the Text]Edit

A few key applications of this passage are:

1. Christians are responsible only to God and should not be hindered by the judgments of others.

2. Faithfulness to God is more important than our talents or skills.

3. Christianity is a life suffering as Christ suffered.

BibliographyEdit

Bruce, F.F. I &II Corinthians. The New Century Bible Commentary. London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott Publ. Ltd., 1971. 46-50.

Garland, David E. 1 Corinthians. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003. 130-149.

Hays, Richard B. First Corinthians. Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1997. 64-79.

Mare, W. Harold. 1 Corinthians. The Expositor's Bible Commentary. Vol 10. Grand Rapids: Zondervan; 1979. 210-213.

Metz, Donald S. The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians. Beacon Bible Commentary. Vol 8. Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press; 1968. 338-344.

Sampley, J. Paul. The First Letter To The Corinthians. The New Interpreter's Bible. Vol X. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002.773-843.

Soards, Marion L. 1 Corinthians. New International Biblical Commentary. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishing; 1999. 85-100.