1 Corinthians iv.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. Mysteries of God. That is, the dogmas of faith, revealed by the Almighty. (Estius)

Ver. 3. Or by human judgment. Literally, by human day. The sense, says St. Jerome, is, by any human judgment, or by men, whose judgment is in the day, or time of this life: but God judges in his day, after this life, and chiefly at the last day of judgment. — Neither do I judge myself, so as to look upon myself absolutely certain of the state of my soul, or that I am for certain justified, though I am not conscious to myself of any thing, because I am to be judged by an omniscient God, the great searcher of hearts, who perhaps may discover faults, which I, partial to myself, overlook. Now if St. Paul durst not say, he was justified, what presumption is it for others to pretend to an absolute certainty, that they are just in the sight of God! (Witham)

Ver. 4. For I am not conscious. This great apostle of the Gentiles, though conscious to himself of no breach of duty, still does not dare to call himself just. How different is the conduct of this apostle, from those wicked impostors, who teach, that a man is justified by believing himself so. (Estius) — If this privileged apostle was afraid to from any judgment of his own heart and thoughts, whether they were pure or not, but left the trial thereof to the day of judgment, the day of his death, how presumptuous are they, who dare to pronounce on their election and predestination!

Ver. 5. Judge not, &c. He gives them an admonition against rash and false judgments, and hints at those among them, who said, this man is better, this man is greater than such a one, &c. See St. Chrysostom. (Witham)

Ver. 6. These things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself, and to Apollo. Literally, these things have I transfigured in me and Apollo, that is, I have represented the divisions and disputes among you, as if it were by your contending, whether I, or Apollo, or Cephas were the best preachers, without naming those, as I might do, who are the true causes of these divisions, by striving who should be thought men of the greatest and brightest parts. — That in us, and by our example, who have no such proud disputes, you might learn that one be not puffed up against the other, and above that which is written, against the admonitions given in the holy Scriptures of being humble: or against what I have now written to you, that we must strive for nothing, but to be the faithful ministers of God, and not seek the esteem of men. (Witham) — It is the opinion of St. Thomas Aquinas and likewise of Estius, that St. Paul, Apollo, and Cephas were not the real causes of the divisions that existed amongst the new converts at Corinth, but that in making use of these names, he wished to teach them, that if it was unlawful to keep up these divisions even for the sake of the apostles, how far should they be from doing any thing of this kind for those whose authority was much less in the Church. But Calmet is of opinion, that the divisions amongst the Corinthians were certainly on account of Paul, Apollo, Cephas, and perhaps some others, whose names are not mentioned.

Ver. 7. For who distinguisheth, or hath distinguished thee from another? He speaks particularly to those proud, vain preachers: if thou hast greater talents than another man, who hath given them to thee, or to any one, but God, who is the giver, and the author of every gift and perfection? This is not only true of the gift of preaching, but of all gifts and graces; so that St. Augustine makes use of it in several places against the Pelagians, to shew that it is by grace only, that one man is preferred before another, and not by, or for his own merits. (Witham)

Ver. 8. Now you are satiated, &c. You great, vain preachers, you are rich in every kind, blessed with all gifts, &c. You reign over the minds of the people, without us, you stand not in need of our assistance. And I would to God you did reign, that we also might reign with you. I wish your reigning and governing the people were well grounded on virtue and truth, that we might be sharers of the like happiness. St. Chrysostom takes notice, that St. Paul speaks thus, meaning the contrary, by the figure called irony: and so also St. Chrysostom understands the two following verses, as if St. Paul only represented what those vain preachers said with contempt of him, as if he were only an apostle of an inferior rank, not one of the chief, nor of the twelve. And when he says, we are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise: it is certain the apostles were not fools, nor these preachers whom he blames, wise, especially in Christ. But though the apostle partly use this figure of irony, intermixing it in his discourse, yet he also represents the condition of all true apostles, and preachers of Christ crucified, whose persons and doctrine were slighted, ridiculed, and laughed at by men that were wise only with worldly wisdom, especially by profane libertines, and atheistical men, that make a jest of all revealed religion. To go about preaching in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, in want, under afflictions and persecutions, is what they think is to be miserable: they despise such men as the out-cast, the dross,[1] and the dregs of mankind. (See the Greek text.) (Witham) — He speaks to the Corinthians, who forgetting their first fervour, and the Christian modesty which St. Paul had taught them, both by word and example, were endeavouring to distinguish themselves by the reputation and honour of the apostle, who had converted them, by their antiquity of faith, and by other things more frivolous. (Calmet)

Ver. 9. Made a spectacle. It is evident from the writings of St. Paul, and from innumerable other records, that the apostles were made a spectacle to the world and to men; but how, some one may perhaps ask, were they made a spectacle to angels? St. Chrysostom, Theod. [Theodoret?], and many others think, that the apostle is here speaking of the good angels, who behold with pleasure the labours and afflictions of the saints, knowing that it will prove a source of glory; but Estius, Vat. [Vatable?], and some others, are of opinion, that the wicked angels are here spoken of, who rejoice at the persecutions of God’s servants, and wish to revenge themselves for the destruction of their empire.

Ver. 14-17. I write not. St. Paul here insinuates to the Corinthians, that they ought to blush with shame for neglecting the apostles, who had suffered so many hardships for them, to follow after teachers void of honour, and to glory in being called the disciples of such men. (Estius) — I admonish you as my dearest children, of what is for your good, and I may take this liberty, as being your spiritual father in Christ, by whom you were first made Christians. Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ: follow the doctrine of Christ, which I follow, and taught you. Timothy, my beloved son in the Lord, whom I send to you, will put you in mind of what I teach, and of what I practise. (Witham)

Ver. 18. &c. Some of those new doctors and preachers are so puffed up, that they pretend I dare not come to you any more, nor defend myself: he may also mean the man that lived in incest, his companions and his flatterers. — But I will come to you shortly, and then I shall use my authority in taking notice of their vain talk, they shall find and experience that power, which God hath given me by the gifts of the Holy Ghost, and of working miracles. (Witham) — But I will come. The good effect which this letter produced amongst the Corinthians retarded his intended journey, so that he did not go to Corinth till one or two years after this letter was written. He wrote his second epistle to the same before he paid them a visit, to apply a soothing remedy to their minds and hearts, sorely afflicted with his charitably severe corrections contained in this his first epistle. (Haydock) — What will you; or what disposition shall I find in you? let it not be necessary for me to use the chastising rod by excommunications, and other spiritual arms, but be so reformed before I come, that I may come to you in the spirit of mildness, as I wish to do. (Witham)


[1] Ver. 8. Tanquam purgamenta, omnium peripsema, os perikatharmata, Sordes, quisquiliæ, panton peripsema, Scobes, ramentum. See Mr. Legh, Crit. Sacra.

Bible Text & Cross-references:

God’s ministers are not to be judged. He reprehends their boasting of their preachers: and describes the treatment the apostles ever where met with..

1 Let *a man so look upon us as the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God.

2 Here now it is required among the dispensers, that a man be found faithful.

3 But as to me, it is a thing of the least account to be judged by you, or by man’s judgment: for neither do I judge myself.

4 For I am not conscious to myself of any thing: yet hereby I am not justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.

5 Therefore judge not before the time: until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise from God.

6 But these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollo, for your sakes: that in us you may learn, that one be not puffed up against the other for another, above that which is written.

7 For who distinguisheth thee? And what hast thou that thou hast not received? And if thou hast received, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received?

8 Now you are satiated, now you are become rich: you reign without us: and I would to God you did reign, that we also might reign with you.

9 For I think that God hath set forth us apostles the last, as men condemned to death: because we are made a spectacle to the world, and to Angels, and to men.

10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ: we are weak, but you are strong; you are honourable, but we without honour.

11 Even unto this hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no fixed abode;

12 *And we labour, working with our own hands: we are reviled, and we bless: we are persecuted, and we suffer it.

13 We are slandered, and we intreat: we are made as the refuse of this world, the off-scouring of all even till now.

14 I write not these things to confound you: but I admonish you as my dearest children:

15 For if you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet not many fathers. For in Christ Jesus I have begotten you by the gospel:

16 Wherefore, I beseech you, be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ.

17 For this cause have I sent to you Timothy, who is my dearest son, and faithful in the Lord: who will put you in mind of my ways, which are in Christ Jesus, as I teach every where in every church.

18 Some are so puffed up, as though I would not come to you.

19 But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will: and I will know, not the speech of them who are puffed up, but the power.

20 For the kingdom of God is not in speech, but in power.

21 What will you? shall I come to you with a rod; or in charity, and in the spirit of meekness?



1: 2 Corinthians vi. 4.

12: Acts xx. 34.; 1 Thessalonians ii. 9.; 2 Thessalonians iii. 8.