1 Corinthians 4:1-13

The Nature of True Apostleship

1 This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.
2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.
3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.
4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.
5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
6 Now, brothers and sisters, 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 be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other.
7 For 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?
8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign—and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you!
9 For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings.
10 We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored!
11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless.
12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it;
13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.

1 Corinthians 4:1 in Other Translations

KJV
1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.
ESV
1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.
NLT
1 So look at Apollos and me as mere servants of Christ who have been put in charge of explaining God’s mysteries.
MSG
1 Don't imagine us leaders to be something we aren't. We are servants of Christ, not his masters. We are guides into God's most sublime secrets, not security guards posted to protect them.
CSB
1 A person should consider us in this way: as servants of Christ and managers of God's mysteries.

1 Corinthians 4:1-13 Meaning and Commentary

INTRODUCTION TO 1 CORINTHIANS 4

The chief heads of this chapter are the account that ought to be had of the ministers of the Gospel; cautions against censoriousness, rash judgment, pride, and self-conceit; the uncomfortable circumstances and situation of the ministers of the Gospel for the sake of preaching it; the apostle's fatherly affection to the Corinthians, and his authority over them; his resolution in submission to the will of God of coming to them, and the manner in which it might be expected he would come. The apostle exhorts to have in proper esteem the preachers of the Gospel, and that because they are Christ's ministers and stewards of his grace, and faithful in the discharge of their duty, 1Co 4:1,2. And as for himself, whom he includes in the number of the faithful dispensers of the word, he cared not what judgment was passed upon him; nor should he think fit to be set down by it, partly because it was human, and arose from an ill spirit; and partly because he judged himself; as also because his conscience testified that he faithfully discharged his office; and besides, the Lord was his judge, 1Co 4:3,4 who in his own time would judge him; and he, as every other faithful minister, shall have praise of God, and therefore before that time judgment was not to be passed by men, 1Co 4:5 and then gives a reason why he had mentioned his own name, and the name of Apollos, under such figurative expressions as he had done in the preceding chapter, that they might be examples of modesty and humility for others to follow, 1Co 4:6 and expostulates with those who were vainly puffed up in their fleshly minds; that seeing they were no better than others, and what gifts they had were not of themselves, but of God, they had no reason to glory and vaunt it over others, 1Co 4:7 and in an ironical way expresses the exalted and flourishing condition they were in, and which he rather wishes than asserts, and which carries in it a sort of a denial of it, 1Co 4:8 and goes on to represent the miserable condition that the faithful preachers and followers of Christ were in, and that in order to abate the pride and swelling vanity of these men, 1Co 4:9-13 showing, that it was far from being a reigning time in the churches of Christ; his end in mentioning which, as well as the sharpness he had used in reproving, were not in order to expose them to shame, but for their admonition, 1Co 4:14 and that he did not take too much upon him in dealing thus freely and roundly with them, appears from the spiritual relation he stood in to them, as a father, 1Co 4:15 and therefore it became them as children to submit to him, and imitate him, 1Co 4:16 and an instance of his paternal care of them, and love to them, was his sending Timothy among them, whose character he gives, and whose work and usefulness he points out to them, 1Co 4:17, and closes the chapter with a promise of coming to them, if it was agreeable to the will of God; and the rather he was bent upon it, because some had given out he would not come, and rejoiced at it; wherefore, in order to try them, whether they were only verbal or powerful professors, he was desirous of coming to them, 1Co 4:18,19 since religion did not lie in talking, but in an inward powerful experience of things, 1Co 4:20 which he feared was wanting in some by their outward conversation; and therefore puts a question in what way they would chose he should come unto them, and hence should accordingly order their conversation and behaviour, 1Co 4:21.

1 Corinthians 4:1-13 In-Context

1 This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.
2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.
3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.
4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.
5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
6 Now, brothers and sisters, 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 be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other.
7 For 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?
8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign—and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you!
9 For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings.
10 We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored!
11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless.
12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it;
13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.
14 I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children.
15 Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.
16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me.
17 For this reason I have sent 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.

Cross References 24

  • 1. S 1 Corinthians 3:5
  • 2. 1 Corinthians 9:17; Titus 1:7
  • 3. S Romans 16:25
  • 4. S Acts 23:1
  • 5. Romans 2:13
  • 6. 2 Corinthians 10:18
  • 7. S Matthew 7:1,2; Romans 2:1
  • 8. S 1 Thessalonians 2:19
  • 9. Job 12:22; Psalms 90:8; 1 Corinthians 3:13
  • 10. S Romans 2:29
  • 11. 1 Corinthians 1:19,31; 1 Corinthians 3:19,20
  • 12. 1 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 3:4
  • 13. John 3:27; Romans 12:3,6
  • 14. Revelation 3:17,18
  • 15. S Romans 8:36
  • 16. Psalms 71:7; Hebrews 10:33
  • 17. S 1 Corinthians 1:18; Acts 17:18; Acts 26:24
  • 18. 1 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Corinthians 11:19
  • 19. S 1 Corinthians 2:3
  • 20. Romans 8:35; 2 Corinthians 11:23-27
  • 21. S Acts 18:3
  • 22. Romans 12:14; 1 Peter 3:9
  • 23. S Matthew 5:44
  • 24. Jeremiah 20:18; Lamentations 3:45
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