1 Corinthians 4 – 2019-11-04
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1 CORINTHIANS 4 – COMMENTARY
“With this chapter Paul concludes his appeal for unity among the Corinthian factions. He brings the discussion full circle: having begun with the wrong way to treat the apostles (overly exalting them), he now elaborates the right ways to consider them. They are faithful servants (vv.1-5), to be judged by Scripture (vv.6-7), unjustly suffering (vv.8-13), even though specially related (vv.14-21).” 
“The key to applying this chapter lies in recognizing how Paul is correcting an imbalance in the Corinthians’ approach to leaders. Taken by itself, Paul’s corrective could lead to an equal but opposite imbalance. But in light of the entirety of Scripture, we can see church leaders as servants who nevertheless have authority (vv.1-5), as examples who deserve to be followed but not placed on a pedestal (vv.6-7), and as sufferers who also receive relief from affliction (vv.8-13). The parental balance between toughness and tenderness is already amply illustrated within this chapter (vv.14-21).
vv.1-4 “The second word, stewards, is fairly common in the New Testament. The Greek oikonomos was a housekeeper or overseer (often a slave), charged with providing the establishment of a large estate with food and all things needful. He was responsible, not to his fellows, but to his lord. He was not expected to exercise his own initiative, still less his own personal authority. He simply did his master’s bidding and looked after his affairs. So Paul sees himself as responsible, not to the Corinthians or to any human court (3), but to the Lord (4) alone. He is very much aware that he must render account of his stewardship, and this sensitivity keeps him more than alert to the needs of the Corinthians. He will not lord it over them […]. Like a good steward, he will ensure that the right nourishment is provided at the right time. He has nothing to give them except what he has himself received from his master. Paul’s supreme motivation as a minister of God to the Corinthians is this: ‘One day I will have to render account to God.’”
v.2 “Verse 2 underlines another crucial criterion for ministry—faithfulness. God does not require us to be successful, certainly not by worldly standards, and often he does not supply success even on a spiritual level as much as we might desire. Rather he calls us to constant faithfulness regardless of external results.”
v.4 “Greek and Roman philosophers (e.g. Plato and Seneca) regarded conscience as passing final judgment on a man. For Paul, only God can do this. The essential ground for Paul’s clear conscience is the fact that God ‘justifies the ungodly’ by virtue of the cross of Christ. So, when Paul says in verse 4 that, because there is nothing on his conscience, he is not thereby justified, he is actually pointing to the only grounds of justification and the only source of a clear conscience—Jesus Christ and him crucified. No wonder he made that the kernel of his preaching.”
“Conscience or moral awareness can play a very positive role in convicting individuals of sin and leading them to repentance. But consciences, like all other parts of the human person, have been corrupted by sin. A clear conscience may simply be the product of a faulty memory or, worse, a denial or suppression of moral failure. Conversely, some people’s consciences accuse them falsely (cf. I John 3:20), burdening them with undue guilt.”
v.8 “At the heart of the boasting at Corinth was the conviction that they were really a very successful, lively, mature and effective church. The Christians were satisfied with their spirituality, their leadership, and the general quality of their life together. They had settled down into the illusion that they had become the best they could be. They thought they had ‘arrived’. Hence the irony in Paul’s double Already in verse 8: ‘you are filled… you are rich… you are kings’—already! This word indicates Paul’s own conviction that this is a valid part of the Christian message, but it is not one to be fully experienced in this life on earth: we have been filled, enriched, lifted to reign with Christ (cf. 1:4-9); but we shall not enter fully into that inheritance here and now.”
v.11-13 “Sooner or later, though, all faithful believers who witness boldly will encounter opposition and hostility to their testimony (2 Tim. 3:12). Sharing in Christ’s sufferings thus becomes a prerequisite to sharing in his glory (Rom. 8:17). The nature of that opposition will vary widely and may at times be less physically severe than what Paul encountered (and for others it may be worse). But common features will doubtless include being thought foolish, weak and dishonorable (v.10) and being reviled and slandered (vv.12-13). Ministers and others prominent in Christian leadership should expect to receive the brunt of such opposition and must model appropriately gracious responses.”
vv.12-13 “Paul depicts himself and the other apostles (4:9-13) as unwilling to respond in kind to rejection by others. They respond by blessing, enduring, and speaking kindly. Our actions should always be governed by our being centered on Christ and should reflect that grace and love. The alternative would be for us to take our cues from those around us and respond to them as they relate to us. Such a course of action has nothing to interrupt it, but, feeding on itself, it could result in a spiral of violence. Grace interrupts and derails anger and its attendant violence.”
“For people, like the Corinthians, who are concerned for their own status, reputation and popularity, authentic Christian ministry is immensely difficult to accept, let alone to embrace. The truth that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness gets through to us very slowly.”
v.13 “In short, whereas the Corinthians think that their relatively prosperous conditions reflect God’s blessing, Paul points to his sufferings for the sake of the gospel as a more accurate measure of Christian faithfulness.”
vv.14-17 “As abruptly as Paul’s sarcasm began, it now equally abruptly gives way to tender tones. The right way for Corinth to view its apostles in general, and Paul in particular, is as special relatives. Their local leaders are only ‘guardians’ (literally, ‘pedagogues’—Greek slaves in charge of seeing that children got from home to school and back again safely), but Paul is their spiritual father (v.15). This parental imagery unites all of verses 14-21 and accounts for Paul’s concern and strong warnings. ‘Ten thousand’ in verse 15 translates the Greek word murios (‘myriad’), the highest named number and is equivalent to the old RSV’s ‘countless.’ ‘Not many’ is equally figurative. In fact, they have only one father, Paul (unless he is also thinking of other evangelists who have ministered in Corinth after him).”
v.16 “More striking is the image of parental modeling, to be imitated by the children. To command the Corinthians to ‘imitate me’ either represents the height of presumption or reflects one of the most profound and challenging insights of all time on how to reproduce Christian disciples. In light of the rest of Paul’s life and teaching, the latter is more probable. Progress along the road to sanctification demands that new believers have consistent, positive, mature Christian models to imitate in all aspects of daily life. This, in turn, implies that more mature Christians must make themselves accessible and transparent to younger believers around them. The ideal, as with Jesus and the Twelve and with Paul and his traveling companions, is for one believer to work with and even live with those he or she is discipling to such an extent that they can truly observe a godly lifestyle. This does not imply that such believers manifest perfection. How to deal with one’s sin—in repenting and seeking forgiveness—is as crucial to model as virtuous behavior.”
vv.18-21 “Children often make loud claims in a boastful way: it is a reflection of their immaturity. There is a lot of talk, and not very much power to put the big words into action. So Paul ends these two chapters in the same mood as he began—with a strong (and strongly-felt) plea to the Corinthians to stop boasting and to grow up: the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power (20).”
“Parental love earns the right to discipline. Paul warns us that our behavior ought to match our words. If not, then corrective action is required. Yet this corrective action must have the proper balance. All love without discipline produces a pampering permissiveness that leaves its recipients spoiled and still in their sins. Yet discipline untempered by love produces a harsh authoritarianism that drives people away from the church, and often from God, the minute they have the chance to escape.”
 Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994) 88.
 Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994) 92-93.
 John R.W. Stott, The Message of 1 Corinthians (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1985) 62.
 Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994) 93.
 John R.W. Stott, The Message of 1 Corinthians (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1985) 63.
 Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994) 94.
 John R.W. Stott, The Message of 1 Corinthians (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1985) 65.
 Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994) 95-96.
 Paul J. Sampley, “The First Letter to the Corinthians,” The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. X (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2002) 839.
 John R.W. Stott, The Message of 1 Corinthians (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1985) 67.
 Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994) 91.
 Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994) 91.
 Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994) 96.
 John R.W. Stott, The Message of 1 Corinthians (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1985) 69.
 Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994) 96-97.
1 Corinthians 4:1-7 (ESV)
1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.
6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?
God [What truths about God’s person, activity or character does the text reveal?]
Apply and Obey [How does today’s text apply to me? How will I obey or respond to the truths from today’s text?]