1 Corinthians 4:21

21 What do you wish? 1Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

1 Corinthians 4:21 Meaning and Commentary

1 Corinthians 4:21

What will ye?
&c.] Or "how will ye, that I should come unto you?" as the Arabic and Ethiopic versions read it: since the apostle had determined upon his coming to them: and had made mention of it, he puts it to them, in what manner they themselves would choose he should come unto them;

shall I come unto you with a rod;
either as a schoolmaster, as were their false teachers, with a "ferula"; or as a father with a rod of correction and chastisement, assuming his paternal authority, putting on severe looks, and using roughness; or rather as an apostle with the apostolical rod; by which is meant not excommunication, which is what belongs to a whole community, and not any single person; but a power of inflicting punishment on the bodies of delinquents, by smiting with diseases, and even with death itself; for as the prophets of the Old Testament had a power from God of inflicting diseases and death upon offenders; so had the apostles of the New, as appears from the instances of Ananias, and Sapphira, and Elymas the sorcerer:

or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?
with the affection of a father, with a pleasant countenance, and a meek spirit; in opposition to that roughness and sharpness, he had an authority, as an apostle of Christ, to use in proper cases; and therefore as the latter would be most eligible by them, his suggestion is, that they would behave accordingly, that there might be no occasion to come to them in the former manner, which was not desirable by him, There seems to be an allusion to a practice among the Jews, in the punishing of a drunkard or gluttonous person; the rule for which was this F23,

``they first correct him (jbvb wa Myrbdb) "with words", or "with a rod", as it is written, ( Deuteronomy 21:18 ) and have chastened him; but if he adds and repeats (i.e. goes on in his sin), then they stone him.''

Or rather the allusion is to the judges in the sanhedrim, one of the instruments or ensigns of whose office was "a rod or staff" to smite with; it is said F24 of R. Hona, when he went to the sanhedrim, he used to say, bring me the instruments of the Tabernae (the place where the sanhedrim sat); what are they? "the staff" (in Cocceius's edition it is (yrjwx) , "the rods", and the sandals, the trumpets, and the thongs); the gloss is, "the thong" for scourging, "the staff" (or rods) for beating the rebellious until they return, the "trumpets" for excommunication, and the "sandals" for plucking off the shoe; things in which the judges of the court were concerned, and here the apostle proposes to come as judge; see ( 1 Corinthians 5:3 1 Corinthians 5:12 ) .


F23 R. Elias in Adderet apud Trigland. de sect. Karaeor. c. 10. p. 161.
F24 T. Bab. Sanhedrim, fol. 7. 2.

1 Corinthians 4:21 In-Context

19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power.
20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.
21 What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

Cross References 1

  • 1. 2 Corinthians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 2:1, 3; 2 Corinthians 12:20; 2 Corinthians 13:2, 10
The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.