October 8, 2012

Commentary on First Corinthians
By: Tom Lowe
Topic #2: The Problem of Divisions, 1 Corinthians 1.10-4.21



Lesson 2.9: The Corinthians and Their Apostles
 Scripture: 1 Corinthians 4.5-4.13

1 Cor 4.5-13 (KJV)

5 Therefore judge nothing 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 of God.
6 And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.
7 For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?
8 Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you.
9 For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.
10 We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised.
11 Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace;
12 And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:
13 Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.


5 Therefore judge nothing 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 of God.

As we mentioned in the previous chapter, verses 4 and 5 should probably be considered together, but we have established a policy of unraveling one verse at a time. With that in mind, verse 5 may seem out of place with the other verses in this chapter.

Therefore judge nothing before the time,
Paul says this to prevent rash and hasty judgment, and it agrees with that well known Jewish adage, “be slow in judgment;” not quick to pass sentence; it is best to leave things to the great day of accounting, than to be hasty in finding fault with one another. There is a time "preset" for the awful judgment, which has existed from eternity past, and no man knows what day it is.

Therefore—In view of the danger of being deceived in your judgment, and the impossibility of knowing with certainty the failings of another’s heart.

Judge nothing—Here the apostle instills in them an important lesson; in fact it is one of the most important lessons of Christianity—not to adopt a harsh opinion regarding the conduct of any man, since there are so many things that go into making up his character, which we have no way of knowing, because there are so many secret failings and motives which are all concealed from us. The “Golden Rule” that should be applied to passing judgment is “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matt 7:1; ASV). This statement by our Lord does not necessarily refer a derogatory judgment, nor does it refer to simple judging at all, whether favorable or unfavorable. The context of His comment makes it clear that the thing condemned here is that character trait of looking unfavorably on the character and actions of others, which leads invariably to announcing rash, unjust, and unpleasant judgments against them. No doubt it is the judgments made and declared which Jesus is talking about; but what our Lord aims at is the spirit from which they spring. Only if we steer clear of this obnoxious spirit, can we rightfully sit in judgment of a brother's character and actions. It is the “critical” disposition that violates the law of love, which is what He condemns here. And the argument against it "that ye be not judged"—confirms this: "that your own character and actions not be condemned with the same severity"; that is, at the judgment of the great day.

before the time—God, the righteous Judge, will determine everything at the time appointed for judging all men; therefore judge nothing before that time.  It is as if Paul were saying, "You Corinthians act like judges at athletic events, qualified to give some the trophy and to send others away as losers. But Jesus is the only judge, and you are judging before the events are over." Note: Jesus is the One who will judge. If we sit in judgment on someone else, we are taking the Lord’s place. This is why we should not react to insults or criticism by fighting back. God will judge us fairly, and He knows all the facts. (Anyway, we probably know worse things about ourselves than the person who is criticizing us does!)

Men often show such bad judgment that it gets comical at times; here is a case in point. It started off as an unbelievable email, but that story about shooting dead chickens through windshields is actually true. NASA developed a gun to launch dead chickens nineteen thousand miles per hour at windshields of space shuttles to test their strength. Britain borrowed the gun to test it on their high-speed trains. When they fired it, the chicken smashed the windshield, ripped off the engineer’s backrest, and embedded itself in the back wall of the cabin. The British went to the Americans and asked, “What went wrong?” The American scientists simply replied, “Thaw the chicken.” NASA spokesman Mike Braukus confirmed the story is indeed true. He said, “That happened a year ago (1999).” We all know the drill . . . “when all else fails read the directions.” With God’s Word, we demonstrate wisdom by reading the directions first so “all else” won’t fail. (Houston Chronicle, Feb. 6, 2000, p. 20A)

until the Lord come,
This is the Second Coming, and the date for Christ’s appearance has been determined and set by God; but no man knows the day and hour. When He returns, it will be the Day of Judgment, when all secrets will be revealed, and a true judgment will be passed on all men. Each person will be judged as he deserves. Only then can the Corinthians form an infallibly correct opinion of their religious teachers; until then it is impossible to form a righteous judgment.

It is a mistake to read into this passage and similar ones such as 1 Cor. 15:51 (“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed”), that Paul evidently expected the Advent of Christ within his lifetime, and that of his converts. Since the time of the Second Advent was unknown by all of the apostolic preachers, and not even known by the Lord himself, while he existed as a man—“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matt 24:36; KJV), it can be said with absolute certainty that the INEVITABILITY of that event (whenever it was to come) was a legitimate basis of motivation for Christians of EVERY generation, including the first. It is a positive certainty that both Christ and his apostles taught that the Second Coming was an event to be expected at a very remote time in the future, although it could happen at ANY TIME. Paul's great prophecy of the apostasy—“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand” (2 Thess 2:1-2; KJV), makes it certain that he did not expect the coming of Christ in his own lifetime; and the apostle John devoted the last chapter of his gospel to shooting down the proposition that Jesus had promised to come in John's lifetime: “Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” (John 21:23; KJV). This is spoken about John, and the words have caused a lot of discussion. They surely convey the idea that John would remain on the earth, after the other apostles depart, until the Lord came once more. He did linger long after all the other apostles were gone. It is the testimony of church history that he did not die until about the close of the first century, many years after the other apostles were at rest. He tarried; did the Lord come to him? At least sixty years after the Lord spoke these words John was an exile on the isle of Patmos. There on the Lord's day he writes: “I heard a great voice,” and “I saw one like the Son of man,” blazing in such glory that filled with awe, he “fell at his feet as dead.” This was a visible coming and John tarried until that coming. He alone of the Twelve saw the Lord, after his ascension, once more on the earth.

who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness,
There is a time coming when the Lord will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the heart’s deeds of darkness that are now done in secret, and all the secret inclinations, purposes, and intentions, of the hidden man of the heart. The judge will bring these things to light. Those things that will be brought to light are not only vices, immoralities, and wickedness of all sorts committed in the dark, and which are tied to a deep feeling of shame, at least for the moral man; but there are also those hidden things of dishonesty, those secret skills and private methods which false teachers have made use of to conceal their false doctrines, and carry on their sordid plans to harm the truth, the souls of men, and the cause of Christ; these will be brought into the light in the presence of Jesus Christ.

Who both will bring to light the things which are now covered with impenetrable darkness?
The hidden things of darkness is the secret things of the heart, which is hidden in a place too dark to see. The next clause shows that this is the sense. He does not refer to the deeds that are done at night, or those proceedings which were acted out in the secret places of idolatry, but to the secret desires of the heart; and perhaps he means to gently insinuate that there were many things about the character and feelings of his enemies which would not stand up well to the revelations of that Day; the things now hidden in darkness. But the context here would indicate that the former is what the apostle intends. This includes acts which are now unknown and those principles of action which lie concealed in the recesses of the heart, where no human eye can reach them. When Jesus judges, it will be according to the motives of the heart, not only the outward action. This is another reason why human judgment is often wrong, and why Paul feels free to disregard the harsh judgment of the Corinthian Christians towards him.

and will make manifest the counsels of the heart:
The counsels of the heart were the views, intentions, ambitions, and the goals of these men who became preachers of the word. On the Day of Judgment, Jesus will reveal that these were not working for the glory of God, and the good of the souls of men, but for filthy lucre, popular applause, or some such mercenary view, or sinister purpose. It is a fearful and alarming truth, that no man can conceal his intentions beyond the Day of Judgment.

Our judgments now (like those of the Corinthians with regard to their teachers) are necessarily defective; because we can only see the outward acts, we cannot see their motives. "Faithfulness" (Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful;” 1 Cor 4:2; KJV) will have to be estimated, and the "Lord" will "justify," or reverse our judgments (“For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord;” 1 Cor 4:4; KJV), according to the state of the heart.

The Lord Jesus Christ will manifest the counsels of the heart, of all hearts. Note, The Lord Jesus Christ must have the knowledge of the counsels of the heart, or else he could not make them manifest. This is a divine prerogative (“I, Jehovah, search the mind, I try the heart, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings;” Jer 17:10; ASV), and yet it is what our Savior takes upon himself in a very peculiar manner (“And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works” Rev 2:23; KJV). Note, We should be very careful how we fault others, and how we live today when we have to appear before a Judge from whom we cannot conceal ourselves.

God is the ultimate source of all good. He is in Christ; and Christ is in God. As the final judge, Christ is the representative of the Godhead, so his decisions and awards are the decisions and awards of God. What the apostle says about his independence from human judgment, and his command not to anticipate the judgment of the Lord (“But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man” 1 Cor 2:15, KJV.), is consistent with his frequent recognition of the right and duty of the church to sit in judgment on the qualifications of her own members. Here he is speaking about the heart. The church cannot judge the heart. Whether someone is sincere or insincere in his professions, whether his experience is genuine or fake, only God can decide. The church can only judge what is external. If anyone claims to be holy, and yet is immoral, the church is bound to reject him, as Paul clearly teaches in a later chapter. Or if someone professes to be a Christian and yet rejects Christianity, or any of its essential doctrines, he cannot be received (A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject” Titus 3:10, KJV.). But only the Searcher of hearts can judge the purposes of the heart. The hidden things ...

There must have been a very considerable group of church leaders, Paul's own converts, who, in Paul's absence, had become influential and self-important, and were trying to run away with the church. They had become haughty, overbearing, and boastful in their attitude toward Paul.

and then shall every man have praise of God.
This is a remarkable statement: “then shall every man have praise of God.” I believe that He is going to find something for which He can praise every saint of God. “Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: but each shall receive his own reward according to his own labor,” (1 Cor 3:8; ASV). The word rendered in this clause as "praise" is “epainos,” which should be translated “reward,” or that which is due to him; the sentence which he deserves and ought to be pronounced on his character. It does not mean as our translation would imply, that every man will receive the divine approval at the Judgment which will not be true; but that every man will receive what is due him based upon his character, whether good or evil. This verse along with the preceding chapter (vv. 1-4) teaches the following:
1. That we should not be guilty of the harsh judgment of others.

a. The reason is that we cannot know their feelings and motives.

2. That all secret things will be revealed on the great Day, and nothing can be concealed beyond that time.

a. That every man will receive justice there. He will be treated as he ought to be. The destiny of no one will be decided by the opinions of people; but the doom of all will be decided by God. Therefore, how important is it that we are prepared for that Day; and how important is it for us to cherish feelings, and make plans, that do not involve us in shame and contempt!

3. A third reason arises from a conclusion reached as a result of the previous reasons. It is God's responsibility to appreciate every man according to his value, because he knows the secrets of the heart, which men for the most part are ignorant of. Therefore this judgment does not pertain to you. Only the lost (unbelievers) are present at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

a. One could not be praised above the rest, without the others being blamed: and he mentions praise rather than lack of praise, because the beginning of this dispute was this, that they gave more praise to some men than was appropriate.

4. And then everyone who appears at the “Bema Seat of Christ”—every faithful steward, will receive praise and rewards from God; rather, "his due praise and rewards," not exaggerated praise, such as the Corinthians heaped on their favorite teachers; "the praise" (according to the Greek) due for acts predicated on their motives. Then, not before: therefore wait till then—"Be patient therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it, until it receive the early and latter rain,” (James 5:7; ASV).

Shore's perceptive comment on this clause is: "God, unlike man who selects only someone for praise, will give to every worker his own share of approval." Moreover, it must not be thought that no blame will be assigned in the Judgment, because "The word rendered praise means “reward” in this place," indicating that God will reward every man according to his works "whether good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10). Some get the wrong impression from this clause and say that the apostle is teaching universal salvation; Johnson, for example remarked, "Wonder of wonders—every man shall have some praise from God!" However, with regard to Paul's probable reason for stressing praise rather than blame in this verse, is noted by Farrar:
He was thinking of faithful teachers like Cephas, Apollos and himself, who were underrated by rival factions; and like all the apostles, he had a consistent tendency to allude to the bright side, rather than the dark side of judgment.

In the Book of Revelation Christ has a word of commendation for each of the seven churches of Asia Minor—with the exception of Laodicea, which was probably not really His church anyway. He had words of commendation for those churches in spite of their faults. And I think He will be equally gracious to each individual saint.

A dear little lady in church years ago always had something good to say about everybody, especially the preacher. One day they had a visiting preacher who delivered the most miserable sermon they had ever heard. The people wondered what in the world the dear little lady would say about such a sermon, and they gathered around her, as she went out. She smiled and shook hands with the preacher, and then she said, “Oh, pastor, you had a wonderful text today!” And, my friend, I think our Lord is going to find something praiseworthy in each of us!

The significance of this verse, according to Morris, can be stated with two words: "Stop judging!" This command is necessary because: (1) the only judgment that matters will be announced by the Lord at the final judgment and, besides that; (2) people do not have sufficient information or competence to judge one another, or even themselves.


6 And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.

Humility is the subject of verses 6-9. Life is a gift, so be humble. Your abilities and blessings came from God; you cannot take credit for them. They are God’s gift to you, and your use of them is your gift to God. It is sinful to contrast various Christian workers—“Now this I mean, that each one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos: and I of Cephas; and I of Christ;” (1 Cor 1:12; ASV)—because only God knows their hearts.

And these things, brethren,

And these things are the things which I have written relating to religious teachers, and the impropriety of forming sects called after their names. Some of these things are:
• “that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. We speak wisdom, however, among them that are fullgrown: yet a wisdom not of this world, nor of the rulers of this world, who are coming to nought” (1 Cor 2:5-6; ASV).
• “But we received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God; that we might know the things that were freely given to us of God” (1 Cor 2:12; ASV).
• “What then is Apollos? and what is Paul? Ministers through whom ye believed; and each as the Lord gave to him” (1 Cor 3:5; ASV).
• “Now I beseech you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor 1:10; ASV).

I have in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos
The Arabic version reads it thus: that he had "brought these comparisons", concerning himself and Apollos; namely, that one was a planter, and the other a waterer; that they were laborers and builders, ministers or servants, and stewards.

The word that is translated “transferred” is meteschēmatisa (it always seems like the Greeks cram as many letters as they can into a word), which means, “to put on another form or figure” or "to change"—“Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Phil 3:21; KJV); or to "transform"—“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ” (2 Cor 11:13; KJV).

This clause may mean that neither Paul, Apollos, or Peter, were set up among the Corinthians as heads of parties, but that here Paul made use of their names to show how improper it would be to make them the head of a party, and therefore, how improper it was to make any religious teacher the head of a party; or Paul may mean to say that he had mentioned himself and Apollos principally, to show the impropriety of what had been done; since, if it was improper to make them heads of parties, it was even more improper to make inferior teachers the leaders of factions. Locke adopts the former interpretation. The latter is probably the true interpretation, since it is evident from 1 Corinthians 1:12-13—“Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?”, that there were parties in the church at Corinth that were called by the names of Paul, and Apollos, and Peter; and Paul's object here was to show the impropriety of this by mentioning himself, Apollos, and Peter, and by this means transferring the whole discussion from inferior teachers and leaders to show the offensiveness of it. He might have argued against the immodesty of following other leaders. He might have mentioned their names. But this would have been hateful and tactless. It would have made them angry. He therefore says that he had transferred it all to himself and Apollos; and in that  way he implied that if it was wrong to split themselves up into factions with them as leaders, it would be worse to follow others; that is, it was wrong to form any party at all in the church. He avoided mentioning the names of the other party leaders—And this was one of the instances in which Paul showed great tact in accomplishing his object, and avoiding offending anyone.

Bishop Pearce paraphrases the verse thus: "I have made use of my own and Apollos' name in my arguments against your divisions, because I would spare to name those teachers among you who are guilty of making and heading parties; and because I would have you, by our example, not to value them above what I have said of teachers in general in this epistle.”

Having rejected their judgment, he again makes himself an example of modesty by concealing in this epistle those teacher's names who formed factions, he did not hesitate to put down his own name and Apollos' in their place, and he took their shame upon him. And this shows how far he was he from preferring himself to any of the other apostles, teachers and anyone else.

It should be noted that when the Corinthians made Paul and Apollos heads of factions within the church that it was without their consent and knowledge.

for your sakes;
For your sakes means to spare your feelings; or to show you in an inoffensive manner what I mean. And he particularly wanted to teach them not to place an unwarranted value on people.
Here the apostle lets us in on the reason why he had used his own name and that of Apollos in this dissertation of his. He had done it for their sakes. He chose to mention his own name, and the name of a faithful fellow-laborer, rather than the names of any heads of factions among them, so that he might avoid provoking anger among them, and perhaps to gain their respect from his advice. Note, Ministers should use discretion when giving advice and reprimands, but especially in their reprimands, in case they might lose one of their flock. If possible, the offender should be made to see how Jesus views their words or actions, and hopefully they will agree with your judgment, which is also Christ’s.

that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written,
That ye might learn in us means, “That you might learn from our example and views; that is, from what has been said about us, who, however prominent we may be, are mere instruments in God's hand.”

Above what is here written means “above what scripture warrants”—“So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase” (1 Cor 3:7; KJV).

Not to think or since you see the approach we want to take; since you see that we who have the standing of apostles, and have been so exceedingly favored with gifts and success, do not wish to form parties, then you may also have the same views in regard to others (false teachers who have been installed as leaders of factions. The best manuscripts omit "think," which gives this translation "That in us (as your example) you might learn (this), not (to go) beyond what is written." Revere the difficult things of the Holy Writings, as much as its vivid declarations: so you will not be mislead by what is not expressly revealed: “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut 29:29; KJV).
Of men—We must be very careful not to transfer the honor and authority of the Master to his servant. We must call no man Master on earth; one is our Master, even Christ: “But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren” (Matt 23:8; KJV). We must not think of men above what is written in the scriptures. The word of God is the best measure by which to judge men. It is important that we judge others correctly, and not judge anyone more highly than is appropriate, since that is one way to prevent quarrels and contentions in the churches. Pride commonly lies at the bottom of these quarrels. Self-conceit contributes very much to our flattering appreciation of our teachers, as well as ourselves. Our praise for our own taste and judgment commonly goes along with our unreasonable applause and divisive loyalty to one teacher, in opposition to others that may be equally faithful and well qualified.

Above that which is written, probably refers to what he had said in:
• 1 Cor 3:5-9 (ASV) “What then is Apollos? and what is Paul? Ministers through whom ye believed; and each as the Lord gave to him. I planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: but each shall receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow-workers: ye are God's husbandry, God's building.”
• 1 Cor 3:21 (KJV) “Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours.”
• 1 Cor 4:1 (KJV) “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.”
Or it may refer to the general theme of Scripture requiring the children of God to be modest and humble.

The advice the apostle attempted to instill by this means was that they might learn not to think of men above what is written (above what he had been writing), or be puffed up for one teacher in opposition to another, and that they should live their lives according to God’s word, and nothing beyond that. Apostles were not to be honored more than planters or waterers in God's husbandry, and master-builders in his building, and stewards of his mysteries, and servants of Christ. Russell declared the meaning to be: "The things which are written ... no special text, but the teaching of the scriptures as a whole, which no leader, however gifted, may supersede."  And, of course, it was precisely this matter of going beyond the word of God that the factions in Corinth had developed. They were evaluating the word and authority of people like it was on par with the Holy Scriptures, thinking of people more highly than they should, and rejecting the meekness and humility taught throughout the Bible. Grosheide said, "The whole question of factions was raised to a higher level," namely that of violating the scriptural rule of faith for the believer. “It is not his own words that Paul insists that the Corinthians must not go beyond; it is the word of God."  But Paul hopes his writing will help the Corinthian Christians learn to keep their thinking Biblical, and to not use standards beyond the Word of God to judge him or the other apostles.

Many people today evaluate a pastor or a minister on unbiblical standards. They judge him on the basis of his humor, or entertainment value, his appearance, or his skill at marketing and sales. But this is thinking beyond what is written in the sense Paul means it here. In a broader sense, it is an important lesson: not to think beyond what is written; we must take our every cue from Scripture. It used to be that something was considered Biblical if it came from the Bible; today, people say things are "Biblical" if they can't find a verse which specifically condemns it. This is thinking beyond what is written.

that no one of you be puffed up for one against the other.
How can anyone become “puffed up” when they are all one, bear the same character, are in the same office, and are jointly concerned with the same common cause of Christ and the good of immortal souls.

That no one of you be puffed up means that no one should be proud or exalted in self-estimation above his neighbor. That no one should be inclined to look upon others with contempt, and seek to put-them-down and humiliate them. They should regard themselves as brethren, and as having the same rank. The argument here is that if Paul and Apollos did not think that they had a right to put themselves at the head of parties, how much less any of them had a right to do so. The doctrine is:
1. That parties are improper in the church.
2. That Christians should regard themselves on the same level.
3. That no one Christian should regard others beneath him, or make them the object of contempt.
4. In other words, learn to live by the Book, and stop following men.

So, none of you ought to be bragging about one leader while putting-down another. No doubt there were persons at Corinth who, taking advantage of this spirit of unwarranted admiration among that people, established themselves as teachers, and endeavored to draw disciples after them. And perhaps some of them were even valued more by the fickle multitude than the apostles by whom they had been brought out of heathenish darkness into the marvelous light of the Gospel. I have already said that I supposed it was possible that Diotrephes was one of the ringleaders in these divisions at Corinth. See comments on 1 Corinthians 1:14.

Notice that instead of puffing up their favorite teachers, it was themselves which had become puffed up! This is a sure result of a person thinking more of himself than he should. When the Corinthian Christians were using unbiblical standards to judge the apostles, they could easily like one and detest another based on bad standards. But if they would learn to not think beyond what is written, they wouldn't have become proud and taken sides behind certain apostles; as in 1 Corinthians 3:4—“ For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?”


7 For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?

For who maketh thee to differ from another?
This question, and the two that follow it, are asked of the members of this church, who were glorying in, and boasting of the ministers under whom they were converted, and by whom they were baptized, and it shows their contempt for others. The apostle wants them reflect on the difference between them and others that was made, not by man, but God; that whatever benefits they had enjoyed under their respective ministers came from God; and therefore they should not gloat and take pride in themselves, or in their ministers; but they should be proud of God, who had singled them out through those benefits. Whatever difference is made among men, is made by God; He is the one that makes them different from the rest of creation; from angels, to whom they are inferior; and from animals, to whom they are superior; and from one another in their personality, size, shape, and facial features, which is a physical or natural difference. It is God that makes them differ from one another in such things as their civil nature; as kings and subjects, masters and servants, high and low, rich and poor, slave and free, which may be called a political, or civil difference. And there is an ecclesiastical difference which God makes in his own people, who have received gifts that differ from one to another; there are diversities of gifts, yet they all come from the same Spirit: but the grand distinction God has made among men, lies in his special, distinguishing, and everlasting love for some, and not for others; which is perceived in His choice of them in Christ to obtain everlasting salvation; in the gift of them to Christ in the eternal covenant; in the redemption of them by his blood; in his powerful and on-going intercession for them; in God's effectual calling of them by his grace; in his resurrection of them from the dead to everlasting life, placing them at Christ's right hand, and granting them entrance into everlasting glory. And their distinctiveness, as in the above instances, will be maintained, throughout the endless ages of eternity; all which is due to the free grace, sovereign will, and good pleasure of God; and nothing to do with what any man deserves. There is no room for pride and self-conceit, when the distinctiveness of individuals is fashioned by God. “One pompous candidate made a quick run through a nursing home in a final attempt to secure some last-minute votes. His bubble of pride was burst when he engaged a very witty retiree. As he approached her wheelchair, he extended his hand and asked in a very loud voice, “Do you know who I am?” She graciously took his hand, took a few seconds to examine his face, then replied, ‘No, but if you stop at that desk over there, they’ll tell you who you are.’” {Reminisce, March/April 1997, p. 61}

The apostle, almost certainly, has the teachers in the church of Corinth in mind, and he intends to show them that there was no justification for pride or feelings of superiority with regard to their attainments in piety, talents, or knowledge. Since all that they possessed had been given to them by God, it could not be the basis for boasting or self-confidence. “For who maketh thee to differ from another?” is a question that can be applied to native intelligence; to opportunities for education; to the measures by which one rises in the world; to health; to property; to piety; to prominence and effectiveness in the church. It is God who makes anyone differ from others, in any of these respects; and it is especially true in regard to personal piety. Had God not interfered and made a difference, all mankind would have remained the same; under sin. The human-race would have rejected his mercy, because it is only by his distinguishing love that any are lead to believe and be saved.

The doctrine presented here by the apostle is this: God is the foundation of all good; no man possesses any good except that which he has derived from God; the ultimate gift being that grace which saves him from the horrors of hell—let him consider that he has received it as a mere free gift from God's mercy. Let him not despise his neighbor who does not have it; there was a time when he himself did not possess it.

And what hast thou that thou didst not receive?
Whatever mercies and blessings men enjoy, they have, in one way or another, received them from God; the Father of all mercies. All physical, spiritual and earthly mercies are received from Him; even things regarding the body, the substance, form, and shape of it, perfection of limbs, health, strength, food, clothing, preservation of life, and all the comforts of life. And there are also things that relate to the soul; its formation by the Father of Spirits, and its powers and faculties. Then there is reason, and understanding, with all that they provide of abilities, and sharpness of wit; so that no man ought to glory in his wisdom, as if it began and grew naturally within him, when it all comes as a gift from God. All supernatural and spiritual blessings are received from God; such as a justifying righteousness, sanctifying grace, remission of sin, the new name of adoption, strength to perform good works, to bear and suffer reproach and persecution for Christ, and a right and title to eternal glory.

My friend, whatever you may have of talent, piety, ability, opportunity, health, strength, personality, and learning; everything you are and have, including your gifts in the ministry —and by whatever means you may have obtained it, it has been the gift of God, and so there is no reason for pride. All that the apostle has said can be applied to men in general, but at the time he wrote this he was aiming these words at the ministers who set themselves at the head of these factions, and then they encouraged and assisted the people in those feuds.

Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?
“Why dost thou glory”—why do you boast as if it were the result of your own skill or effort. This is not designed to discourage human effort; but to discourage a spirit of arrogance and boasting. A man who makes the most laborious and faithful effort to obtain anything good, will, if successful, trace his success to God. He will realize that it is God who gave him the character, the time, the strength, the success. And he will be grateful that he was enabled to make the effort; not vain, or proud, or boastful, because he was successful. This passage states a general doctrine, that the reason why one man differs from another is to be traced to God; and that this fact should suppress all boasting and pride, and produce true humility in the minds of Christians. It may be observed, however, that it is as true of intellectual rank, of health, of wealth, of food, of clothing, of liberty, of peace, as it is of religion, that everything good comes from God; and knowing this fact which is so obvious and well known, does not stifle the efforts of people to preserve their health and to obtain property, so it should not repress their efforts to obtain salvation. God governs the world by applying the same good principles everywhere; and the fact that he is the source of all blessings, should not act to discourage anyone, but should trigger human effort. The hope of his aid and blessing is the only ground of encouragement in any undertaking.

The Corinthians viewed their gifts as personal accomplishments, and they were critical of others, particularly Paul. But what did they (the Corinthian teachers, who were heads of factions) have to blow their own horn about, when all their distinctive gifts were from God? They had received them, and could not boast of them being their own, without wronging God. At the time when they reflected on them to feed their vanity, they should have considered them as so many debts and obligations to divine grace. But it may be taken as a general principle: We have no reason to be proud of our achievements, because all that we have, or are, or do, that is good, is the result of the free and rich grace of God. Boasting is excluded forever. There is nothing we have that we can properly call our own; those who receive all should be proud of nothing: “Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake” (Psalms 115:1; KJV). Beggars may take delight in the charity they receive; but to be delighted in themselves is to be proud of their poverty, helplessness, and need. Note, Giving due attention to our obligations to divine grace would cure us of arrogance and self-conceit.

The three questions found in this verse should prompt other questions in my heart: do I truly give God the credit for my salvation? Do I live with a spirit of humble gratitude? Seeing that I have received much from God, what can I give to Him? Paul was as much self-made as any man ever was, and yet he said, “By the grace of God I am what I am.”

Research of the Inc. 500 companies revealed that among fast-growing companies, “95 percent of the failures are due to internal problems.” The same dynamic that hamstrings industry also cripples church growth. Although there may exist the perception that some external source is preventing growth, it is usually internal problems that impede growth and create a stagnant congregation. I bring this up only because the Corinthian Church was being damaged from within by the various factions, as most churches are, even today.

To take personal pride in anything is tantamount to insulting God. Do you have a gift? You may have a very outstanding gift, but you have nothing to boast about because God gave it to you. You are not the originator of your gift. We ought to thank God for our gifts. They are God’s gift to you, and your use of them is your gift to God.

8 Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you.

The first three clauses are directed against the false teachers, who had promoted themselves in the eyes of their admirers, were receiving honors and compensation from them, and some were at the head of a sect bearing their name. They became conceited and put on the airs of "important men," not merely in the church, but throughout the whole city. The final two causes are spoken in sarcasm and disapproval; the true state of such impostors is far different from what they imagined.

Now ye are full,
Today, one might say, “Already you are filled up (with spiritual food).” The Corinthians received an abundance of spiritual gifts; and so did the apostles: but the apostles were kept from self-complacency by recurrent privation and suffering. The Corinthians, on the other hand, did not suffer at all, because they had plenty of things to make their lives comfortable, and they were pleased with themselves because they thought they had earned it all, and if God chose to bless them it was only because they deserved it.

When the apostle declares “Now ye are full,”  he is not being sincere, since he knew they were not full of God, and divine things; or of Christ, and His grace; or of the Holy Ghost, and of faith, as Stephen and Barnabas are said to be; or of joy and peace; or of goodness and spiritual knowledge; but they were full of themselves, and they were puffed up in their carnal minds with an overrated opinion of the abilities, learning, oratory, and eloquence, of their ministers, and of their own great progress in spiritual knowledge under their ministry. They fancied themselves as having arrived at a place of perfect knowledge and that they were brim full of it. These people loathed the apostle's ministry, and the pure preaching of the Gospel; imagining that they had arrived at something above it, and consequently thought they didn’t need it; but regrettably they were more like babies, children in their understanding, and they needed to be fed milk instead of strong meat; that is how far they were from being what they thought themselves to be. If only they wanted their inheritance more than what they had on earth, “To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4; KJV).

“Now ye are full” is an indignant sarcasm voiced against the false and self-confident teachers in Corinth. The apostle does not talk like this very often, so he must have been very upset with them. He uses sarcasm for the purpose of contrasting them with the apostles; to show how self-confident and vain the false teachers were, and how hard working and selfless the apostles were; and impress upon them how trifling their claim to authority in the church was, and how real the apostles claim was, which they had as a result of their self-denials.and hard work. The whole passage is a case of cutting sarcasm, and it shows that there may be occasions when sarcasm may be acceptable, but it should be rare. The word translated "ye are full," occurs only here, and in Acts 27:38—"And when they had eaten enough." It is usually applied to a feast, and denotes those who are full or satisfied. So here it means, "You think you have enough. You are satisfied with your own knowledge, and do not feel you need anything more than that.”

Now ye are rich,
Paul has just rebuked their glorying over gifts bestowed upon them. Now he uses a burst of irony when he says, “Now ye are rich,” but not in faith; or in good works; or in spiritual gifts and knowledge, although some among them were; but that is not what is intended here: the meaning here is—they imagined or fancied they were rich and full of knowledge. Like the Laodiceans, they considered themselves to be rich and prosperous, when they were poor, and wretched, and miserable. Although they had received from God all the grace they had, they were still dependent and needy, and they boasted as if they had it in themselves all along. The apostles had spiritual gifts, but were poor and persecuted; the Corinthians had these gifts, imparted by God through the ministry of Paul. They were puffed up, and felt, in his absence, that they were full, and had all they needed; were rich in the world’s goods, and so they did not feel the need to have any more.

I am of the opinion that the apostle intends here to make a strong statement, full of irony; and one which, when taken in conjunction with what he had said before, must have stung them to the heart. It is not an unusual thing for many people to forget, if not despise, the men by whom they were brought to the knowledge of the truth; and take up with others to whom, in the things of God, they owe nothing. Friend, could this be your case?

Ye have reigned as kings without us:
“Ye have reigned as kings” is a proverbial expression, denoting the most wonderful and lavish circumstances. The apostle uses it simply to carry forward the idea he just stated; but here it is in the form of a climax. The first metaphor is taken from a person filled with food; the second from those who are so rich that they do not want any more; the third from those who are elevated to a throne, which is at the highest elevation, and one where there was nothing further to be accomplished or desired. And the phrase means, that they had been totally satisfied with their condition and accomplishment, with their knowledge and power, that they lived like rich men and princes live—doing what they want to do, and carrying on as if they did not have a care in the world.

“Without us” means without our guidance and help. In other words, “You have taken it all on yourselves, without any regard for our advice and authority. You did not think you needed our help; and you had no regard for our authority. You supposed you could get along as well without us, as with us.”

This is like the first two clauses in that it is full of irony, and he uses it to push them to recognize that they have a Christian duty to remain humble; it was a very smart use of irony because it takes them to task for their pride and self-conceit: "You are full, you are rich, you have reigned as kings without us. You have an abundance of spiritual gifts at your disposal; but you have made them objects of pride and boasting, since we are no longer there with you. There is a very well-designed progression from adequacy to wealth, and then to royalty, to indicate how much the Corinthians were elated by the abundance of their wisdom and spiritual gifts, which was an absurdity that prevailed among them while the apostle was away from them, and made them forget what an interest and investment he had in all of them. From where we stand, 2100 years later, it is easy to see how apt pride is to overrate benefits and overlook the benefactor, and to become “puffed up” over possessions and forget from whom they come: "You have reigned as kings,’’ says the apostle, "that is, in your own conceit.”

But, remember this; the saints, in the best sense, are kings, made so by Christ; and they have not only the name, and the symbols of royalty, such as the crowns and thrones prepared for them, but kingdoms also—they have a kingdom of grace, which they enjoy now, and which will never be removed; where they reign as kings under the influence of the Spirit of God, over the corruptions of their own hearts, which are positioned under the restraints of mighty grace; and over the world, which they have under their feet; and over Satan, who is dethroned and cast out of them; and they will inherit the kingdom of glory in the future; but nothing of this kind is intended here. The sense of the words used here is, that these persons imagined that they had arrived to such a pinnacle of knowledge, that they were independent of the apostles. They no longer needed the apostles’ guidance and help, and they had the peace of mind that comes from outward prosperity, and so they lived as kings, and enjoyed a very happy life; upon which the apostle gave his best wishes.

“Ye have reigned as kings without us;” or “ye have seated yourselves upon your throne as kings, without us." The emphasis is on "already" and "without us"; you act as if you no longer needed to "hunger and thirst after righteousness," and as if you have already reached the "kingdom" for which Christians have to strive and suffer. You are so puffed up with your favorite teachers, and your own imagined spiritual accomplishments and knowledge through them, that you feel like those which have eaten until they are full at a feast, or you feel like a "rich" man who takes pride in himself and his riches: so you feel that you can do "without us," who are your first spiritual fathers—“For even if you had ten thousand others to teach you about Christ, you have only one spiritual father. For I became your father in Christ Jesus when I preached the Good News to you, (1 Cor 4:15; NLT). They forgot that before the "kingdom" and the "fullness of joy," at the marriage feast of the Lamb, must come the cross, and suffering, to every true believer—“Faithful is the saying: For if we died with him, we shall also live with him: if we endure, we shall also reign with him: if we shall deny him, he also will deny us,” (2 Tim 2:11-12; ASV).

and I would to God ye did reign;
Paul is not saying that he wished they already enjoyed carnal security, and lived in the privileged circumstances of worldly riches, since the apostle did not want these things for himself, and his fellow ministers; and he does not mean it in a spiritual sense, merely as believers in the faith they had in common; but he wished they lived with Christ in his kingdom state here on earth.

Many interpreters (such as: Grotius, Whitby, Locke, Rosenmuller, and Doddridge) have understood this clause to include Paul’s expressed desire that they were literal princes, so they could protect him from persecution and troubles which he must constantly face. But the most likely interpretation is that here Paul drops the sarcasm, and addresses them in a serious manner. It is the expression of a wish that they were as truly happy and blessed as they thought themselves to be. "I wish that you were blessed with all spiritual gifts and were as full and as rich as princes, needing nothing, and that when I come to you, I might be able to partake of your joy,” is how it is interpreted by Calvin, Lightfoot, and Bloomfield. It implies:
1. a wish that they were truly happy and blessed.
2. a doubt; whether they were then so happy and blessed.
3.  a desire on the part of Paul to partake of their real and true joy, instead of being compelled to come to them with the language of reprimand—“But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power … What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?” (1 Cor 4:19, 21; KJV).

that we also might reign with you.
The first time Christ came it was as a humble child, and the purpose of His coming was “to seek and to save that which was lost.” The next time He comes it will be with great power and glory, and He will put down all rebellion, and He will rule and rein over the entire world. All of the saints will be together when Christ takes to himself his great power, and reigns; they will all reign with him on earth for a thousand years. There is nothing that can be said, that is truer and more certain than this: those that suffer with him will also reign with him; and not just a part of his people only, but the whole body of born-again believers. That will be such a wonderful and exciting time that the apostle wishes, that this reigning period for the church of Christ was already here, then he and the rest of the apostles would also reign: but, regrettably! That long anticipated event is still in the future. We are still waiting along with the apostles, but we are more certain than ever that Jesus will return. Paul may have had the Second Coming in mind when he said; “And I do all things for the gospel's sake, that I may be a joint partaker thereof” (1 Cor 9:23; ASV). Do you see how patient the apostle was with these Corinthian believers; He loved them, since he was the spiritual father of many of them. He wanted to see them, and he gives the reason for this earnest desire; “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?” (1 Thess 2:19; KJV). When Jesus comes they will be the apostle’s hope, joy, and crown of rejoicing. The "hope" here is Paul’s hope that his converts will be found to be in Christ at His advent; “to the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” (1 Thess 3:13; ASV). Paul's chief "hope" was JESUS CHRIST—“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Saviour, and Christ Jesus our hope” (1 Tim 1:1; ASV).

The Corinthians might have reigned, and the apostle with them, if they had not been puffed up with an imaginary self-righteousness that put them on par with royalty. Note, Pride is a great obstacle to our improvement. Anyone who thinks they have risen to the top echelon; full, rich, a king; is stopped from growing wiser or better. In the next verse, Paul describes his own circumstances and those of the other apostles: “For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.” Paul and his fellow apostles were exposed to great hardships. Never were any men in this world so hunted and harassed. I believe there is still some sarcasm in his words, and I wish I could hear how he said it. You are already full! You are already rich! You have reigned as kings without us: "My, you Corinthians seem to have it all! Isn't it funny that we apostles have nothing!" Although Paul is using strong sarcasm, his purpose isn't to make fun of the Corinthians. His purpose is to shake them out of their proud self-willed thinking. "He was laughing at them with holy laughter, and yet with utter contempt for what they had been doing." (Morgan) The Corinthians had already arrived while the apostle was still waiting (v. 5)!

9 For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.

Beginning here and continuing through verse 17 Paul’s subject is the humility, patience, and suffering of the apostles.

For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last,
Here the apostle begins the process of setting forth himself and his fellow missionaries in contrast with the conceited, self-satisfied members of the assembly at Corinth. He turns on the Corinthians with a scathing irony.  He compares their pride, their self-satisfaction, their feeling of superiority with the life that an apostle lives. He provides us with a vivid picture in the three clauses that make up this verse. The picture here is of a Roman general who has won a great victory. He was allowed to parade his victorious army through the streets of the city with all the trophies that he had won; he was allowed to demonstrate his triumph and achievement; the whole procession was called a Triumph. But at the end there came a little group of captives who were reserved for the last; they were laughed at, ridiculed and pelted with stones. How ridiculous it was for those Corinthians to assume that they can be at ease in Heaven while the apostle is fighting for his life in the arena. You see the apostles were like the captives and the Corinthians were like the triumphant general at the head of his army. The apostles were not called to live a comfortable life and boast of a lordly kingdom, but his lot in life was to offer himself in service to the King, whose disciples are regarded as fools, weak, and disgraceful—“Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise” (1 Cor 3:18; KJV)—'Let no one doubt the truth of what I have said about the worthlessness of human wisdom, and of the danger of substituting it for God's wisdom. If he does, he will find himself mistaken.’

as it were appointed to death:
We said that the little group of captives represented the apostles. Here it says they were appointed to death or “doomed to death.” The Holy Spirit uses this phrase because they were men doomed to death. The picture we have envisioned shows that the captives are brought into the arena to fight with the beasts, and of course to die. The Corinthians in their blatant pride were like the conquering general displaying the trophies of his victory; the apostles were like the little group of captives doomed to die. To the Corinthians the Christian life meant flaunting their privileges and crowing about their achievements; to Paul it meant humble service and a readiness to die for Christ. Men, who understand the meaning of the service of discipleship, see it not so much in terms of what they have gained for themselves but of what are theirs to give to others.

For we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.

The word rendered “spectacle” is literally “theatre.” While the word is frequently used for a place (a building or an arena), here it is used for the persons exhibited—God’s apostles. They were a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. The picture set forth here corresponds to the multitudes of spectators gathered around the amphitheatres in Rome. They cheered for the beasts as they tore men and women into pieces. I read that sometimes Christians were forced to wear animal skins when they were thrown into the arena to be torn apart by wild animals.

The apostles’ life is marked by privation, rejection and toil, and is molded by the Spirit of Jesus, who is despised and rejected by men. The Christian becomes a spectacle because he is out of place in the world; he is a citizen of heaven and a sojourner or temporary resident of this world. Men may think he is odd, since he does not curse or spread rumors or cheat on his taxes; and he speaks well of every man, reads the Bible and prays. He is a sinner, saved by grace and expecting Jesus to return. Jesus is a Christian’s perfect example and He was hated, ridiculed, and crucified by men; can we expect to be treated better than our Lord?

All young men who feel God’s call to the ministry and all young women who feel God’s call to the mission field should study these verses carefully, ponder them prayerfully, and search deeply into their meaning. Salvation is free—the gift of God; but apostleship is costly and many times calls for much suffering—sometimes to the sealing of a testimony with one’s lifeblood.


10 We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised.

We are fools for Christ's sake,
In this and the following statements Paul sets forth in detail a series of caustic contrasts between the true servant of God who suffers because of his stand for the Gospel, and the conditions that existed at that time in the assembly at Corinth; also he continues to introduce sarcasm into his comments. The apostles were “fools” on account of Christ and their stand on the Gospel. Because of their preaching and their manner of daily living for Christ, they were looked upon as being stupid, “fools for Christ’s sake.” Compare the following with this verse:
• (1 Cor 1:21-23; KJV) “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness.”
• (2 Cor 4:11; KJV) “For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.” Although we are preserved alive, we are in such continual dangers that we carry our life in our hands, and are constantly in the spirit of sacrifice. But the life—the preserving power of Christ is manifest in our continual support.
Paul was a fool according to the standards of men. If he had remained a rabbi he would have attained great influence within the Jewish religious system—“and I advanced in the Jews' religion beyond many of mine own age among my countrymen, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers” (Gal 1:14; ASV). He was the most outstanding Jew of his time, well-known throughout the country, and the man entrusted with the task of eradicating the Christian religion. Had he sided with the Jewish legalist in the Jerusalem Church and not ministered to the Gentiles, he could have avoided a great deal of persecution.

but ye are wise in Christ;
There is no doubt that there is irony, and a touch of sarcasm, in this statement. These individuals whom Paul is scolding were so full of conceit and self-esteem that even in the virtue of their union with Christ they regarded themselves as being possessed with wonderful, extraordinary powers of discernment and wisdom.

Anyone who truly possesses the wisdom of Christ does not display conceit or strive to glorify themselves. The Lord Jesus Christ was the most humble person who ever walked upon the face of this earth, and all believers are urged to follow in His steps.

The Corinthians were wise in their own eyes, but they were actually fools in God’s eyes. By depending on the wisdom and standards of the world, they were acting like fools. The way to become spiritual wise is to become a fool in the eyes of the world—“Let no man deceive himself. If any man thinketh that he is wise among you in this world, let him become a fool, that he may become wise” (1 Cor 3:18; ASV). In the words of the Martyred Jim Elliot, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Wise: is not the word Paul used in previous chapters; here it should be translated “sensible” or “prudent.”

A lot of smart people, in reality, are not wise; here are some examples. “Attorneys are the primary professionals who draft wills. Ironically, though, 80 percent of the lawyers who die in America haven’t taken heed to the wisdom of their own field and die without a valid will. Recent studies have also revealed that those who fight germs the most, doctors, often fail to observe the wisdom of the American Medical Association. Doctors wash their hands less than 50 percent of the time before seeing a patient. Ministers are likewise suspect of neglecting the wisdom of their field. Research on the clergy unearthed the fact that 27 percent of pastors don’t tithe. Wisdom involves doing what you know to be right.” (The Complete Financial Guide for Young Couples, Larry Burkett)

we are weak, But ye are strong;
What Paul is saying is, “We apostles suffer many things as we labor in our service for the Lord Jesus Christ, however, you act with vitality and make public a supposed spiritual strength.” But the Corinthians were deceived, because they were neither strong or wise.

There was a time when Paul gloried in his strengths; but then he met Jesus on the road to Damascus and discovered that what he thought were assets were in really liabilities (See Phil. 3). It was through his own personal sufferings that Paul discovered that his spiritual strength was the result of personal weakness—“ And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor 12:7-10; KJV). Strength that knows itself to be strength is weakness; but weakness that knows itself to be weakness, becomes strength—“For we rejoice, when we are weak, and ye are strong: this we also pray for, even your perfecting.” (2 Cor 13:9; ASV). It will give me indescribable pleasure that I should still appear to be poor, despicable, and destitute of this extraordinary power with which God has clothed me, so that you may be strong in all the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit.

ye are honourable, but we are despised.
The literal rendering would be “Ye are glorious, but we are without honor.” The word of God declares, “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26; KJV). Jesus Christ did not receive honor and glory from all men; the masses rejected Him; only a minority accepted Him. The same can be said for the minister of the Gospel. There are preachers who would rather have the praise of men than to have the honor of God upon their ministry. They prefer to compromise and to stand in the good graces of men rather than to preach the pure Gospel of the grace of God and endure the persecution that comes with such a ministry, even though they are winning souls for the Lord Jesus Christ.

The masses followed Jesus as long as He fed them loaves and fishes, healed their sick, opened the eyes of the blind, and raised the dead; but when he fell beneath the cross, it was necessary for the soldiers to force Simon the Cyrene to carry the cross the rest of the way for Him. The masses have always followed the way of least resistance; it is the minority who prove faithful.

Everyone who says “Lord, Lord,” will not enter heaven; but only those who do the will of the heavenly Father; and it is the will of God that we believe in His Son Jesus Christ, and put our faith in His finished work, and shed blood—not in the ability of men seeking glory and honor from other men.

This is the crux of the whole matter: the Christians in Corinth wanted the honor that comes from men, not the honor that comes from God. They were trying to borrow glory by associating with “great men.” Paul answered, “If you associate with us, you had better be ready for suffering. We apostles are not held in honor—we are despised; “… but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible” (2 Cor 10:10b; KJV). Paul will describe the sufferings of an apostle in verses 11-13.

11 Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace;

Even unto this present hour
At the close of verse 13 there is practically the same statement, but there it is used with greater emphasis.  This present hour indicates that Paul had suffered, and was still suffering as he wrote to the believers at Corinth. He was no fool. He did not like suffering. The apostles followed the path of Christ’s humiliation. As he marched a parade route to his death, so did they—“ Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place” (2 Cor 2:14; KJV). Paul regarded himself as a trophy of God's victorious power in Christ. His Almighty Conqueror was leading him about, through all the cities of the Greek and Roman world, as an illustrious example of His power to both overcome and to save. The foe of Christ was now the servant of Christ. Just as it is a horrible experience to be a captive on display, so it is a glorious experience to be led in triumph by God. Our only true triumphs are God's triumphs over us. His defeats of us are our only true victories [ALFORD]. Just as Christ had suffered deprivation and slander, so did his servants, and in His Spirit they endured and responded with grace—“And Jesus said, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And parting his garments among them, they cast lots” (Luke 23:34; ASV). The apostles lived out the message of the Cross. But the Corinthians were complacent and secure with their “theology of the palace”—“ Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, and to them that are secure in the mountain of Samaria, the notable men of the chief of the nations, to whom the house of Israel come! Pass ye unto Calneh, and see; and from thence go ye to Hamath the great; then go down to Gath of the Philistines: are they better than these kingdoms? or is their border greater than your border?--ye that put far away the evil day, and cause the seat of violence to come near; that lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall; that sing idle songs to the sound of the viol; that invent for themselves instruments of music, like David; that drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief oils; but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph. Therefore shall they now go captive with the first that go captive; and the revelry of them that stretched themselves shall pass away” (Amos 6:1-7; ASV).

we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted,
The Greek word translated “naked” literally means “to be scantily clothed,” and it is used only here in the New Testament. The word “buffeted” means “to strike with clinched hands, to buffet with fists.” The same word is used to describe the treatment given to the Lord Jesus as recorded in Matthew 26.67—“Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands;” and Mark 14.65—“And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him, and to say unto him, Prophesy: and the servants did strike him with the palms of their hands.” It is also used to describe treatment given to slaves in 1 Peter 2.20—“For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.”

The apostle mentions here his personal suffering,—“Instantly Ananias the high priest commanded those close to Paul to slap him on the mouth” (Acts 23:2; NLT); but it is something all the apostles had in common; and it is the reverse of the state of the Corinthians, who were “reigning as kings.” Likewise, Paul’s Master before him was slapped like a slave when He was about to die—“Then they began to spit in Jesus’ face and beat him with their fists. And some slapped him” (Matt 26:67; NLT).

And have no certain dwelling place;
The meaning of this phrase is “to wander about as a vagabond.” The meaning does not indicate instability, but rather of having no permanent home. In that respect, he is very much like his Master—“And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Luke 9:58; KJV). Paul did not have a permanent home on earth—he spent almost as much time in a jail cell as he did any place! When he went into a city, to conduct services, they did not need to make reservations for him in a hotel or the inn, because he knew sooner or later he would be spending his nights in jail. Probably no person except the Lord Jesus Christ ever suffered for the sake of the Gospel quite as much as Paul suffered. Those who suffer for the sake of Christ and the Gospel can claim the promise of God’s provision of  “some better thing”—“And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect” (Heb 11:36-40; KJV).

The apostles and early preachers lived at the lowest levels of society. While the Corinthian believers thought they were kings (v. 8), the apostle knew he was a suffering slave—“For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead” (2 Cor 1:8-9; KJV).

Paul’s profession was “tent maker,” so he might have carried a tent with him, and that tent served as his home; however, the fact that he worked with his hands could have lowered him in the eyes of many, because the Greeks despised manual labor.

12 And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:

And labour, working with our own hands:
The Greek word used here is “kopiao” and its use suggests “labor that causes weariness.” Paul was not simply earning a living—he was undergoing hardship in the process. In 1 Thessalonians 2.9 the apostle says, “For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you …” (1 Thess 2:9a; KJV). From this it appears that St. Paul spent much more time at Thessalonica than is generally supposed; since the expressions in this verse denotes a long continuance of a constantly exercised ministry, interrupted only by manual labor for their own support; laboring night and day, because we would not be chargeable to you. Probably Paul and his companions worked with their hands by day, and spent a considerable part of the night, or evenings, in preaching Christ to the people. We know that Paul did not work twenty-four hours a day, but his work was a daily task, continuous—not spasmodic, part time work—and the type of work that left a man worn out.

In his youth he had been taught the trade of tentmaking: “and because he was of the same trade, he abode with them, and they wrought, for by their trade they were tentmakers” (Acts 18:3; ASV). The tents were made of goat’s hair, and the weaving was hard work. Manual labor was dishonorable and dispised among the Greeks, and the fact that Paul did such labor in Corinth caused some misunderstanding among the believers: “Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely?” (2 Cor 11:7; KJV). Have I abased (or degraded) myself by waving my right to support from the church, and instead supporting myself by manual labor; perhaps with slaves as his fellow laborers. He also said: “I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:33-35; KJV).

The word of God clearly teaches that the laborer is worthy of his hire: “And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire” (Luke 10:7; KJV); and that a preacher should be supported by his church: “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel” (1 Cor 9:14; KJV). It was a saying among the Jews, "that the inhabitants of a town where a wise man had made his abode should support him, because he had forsaken the world and its pleasures to study those things by which he might please God and be useful to men." I believe that where possible a church should pay its pastor a living wage in order for him to be free to spend his time looking after the flock, visiting the sick and widows, winning souls in the home, and preparing for services with the congregation. But it is a matter of historical record that Paul and his fellow ministers worked to support themselves while they ministered in Corinth. It is not a disgrace for a minister to do secular work or manual labor, even if it is the type of work than brings on great weariness, if circumstances demand it, and it is necessary in order to win souls and further the Gospel. Paul said, “I become as all men are, that I might win some.” We should be willing to follow his example to the glory of God, and for the sake of souls finding Jesus as their Savior.

Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:
Because the Greeks considered it a disgrace to do manual labor, they abused the apostles, heaped contempt upon them, and aroused prejudice against them. But Paul and his helpers were acting in conformity with instructions given by the One who had called them, ordained them, and sent them to preach the Gospel:
• “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matt 5:44; (KJV).

oLove your enemies—this is the most inspirational piece of morality ever given to man. But it has appeared unreasonable and absurd to some? And why is that? Because it is natural for man to avenge himself, and hurt those who hurt him; and he can always find plenty of excuses for his conduct. Jesus Christ’s intention is to make men happy; but anyone who hates another is, of necessity, miserable. Our Lord prohibits only that which, from its nature, is opposed to man's happiness. This is therefore one of the most reasonable principles in the universe.
o Bless them that curse you—give them good words for their bad words.
o Do good to them that hate you—Give your enemy proof that you love him. We must not love with words only, but in deed and in truth.
o Pray for them which despitefully use you—those who are continually opposing you, and constantly harassing and maligning you. This is another exquisitely reasonable precept.
o And persecute you—those who hate you and treat you cruelly with repeated acts of hostility.

• “Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not” (Romans 12:14; KJV). Give good words, or pray for them that give you bad words, who curse you and may even injure you. Bless them, pray for them, and do not curse them, whatever the provocation may be. Have the loving, forgiving mind that was in your Lord.

Paul meant what he said because this is the way he treated everybody. He is simply stating how he responded to the way people treated him, and this, in itself, helped to make him great. What life does to us depends on what life finds in us. When Paul was reviled, he blessed, just as Jesus commanded in Mathew 5.44 (above). When persecuted, he endured it by the grace of God and he did not retaliate. When he was slandered he tried to conciliate. In all things he tried to respond in love.


13 Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.

Being defamed, we intreat:
The Greek word used here has several meanings, but in this instance it seems to signify “to beseech” (not beg); to request cessation of the slander. This humble, gentle way of meeting such treatment is contrary to the flesh and can be practiced only by spiritually minded believers. The flesh cries out, “Fight back! An eye for an eye!”—but the truly spiritual believer, like Stephen, prays, “Lay not this sin to their charge.” Such a spirit on the part of an individual finds its source in the grace of God—and ONLY in grace.

Being defamed. Blasphemed; spoken of and to, in a harsh, abusive, and accusing manner. The original and proper meaning of the word is, to speak in a disapproving manner of anyone, whether of God or man. It is usually leveled at God, but it may also be aimed at men.

We entreat. Either God on their behalf, praying for God to forgive them, or we entreat them to turn from their sins, and become converted to God. Probably the latter is the sense here. They urged them to examine more honestly their claims, instead of berating them; and to save their souls by embracing the Gospel, instead of destroying them by rejecting it with contempt and scorn.

This verse is a continuation of the preceding one and Paul is saying how he responded to the way people treated him. I wish I were more like him, that I was void of self-pride, jealousy and ambition and entirely committed to my Savior.

Next, we have the result of the apostles character, as he lived according to Christ’s directive—“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matt 5:44; (KJV).

we are made as the filth of the world,
Paul and his co-laborers were regarded as scum, rubbish—the offscouring (The sweepings thrown out after a cleaning.) and refuse of the world. Among the Greeks in Paul’s day, such language was applied to victims who were sacrificed as punishment, and also to describe criminals who were kept at public expense until they could be thrown into the sea or put to death in some other manner. Sacrifices were offered in this manner when there was an outbreak of pestilence, with the thought that it would cleans away the defilement of the nation. It was in this spirit that the refined, cultured Greeks looked upon Paul and his fellow ministers. The meaning of the Greek language here signifies refuse that must be removed or done away with, and in the eyes of the Greeks, Paul and his helpers must be disposed of in one way or another. They were royally hated and dispised.

The Jews hated Paul, because he had been a notable Rabbi, before Jesus sent him to the Gentiles to preach the Gospel; they even called for his death; “… and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live” (Acts 22:22b; KJV). Paul and the other disciples were treated just as their Lord was treated; but God vindicated them and brought glory to His name.

and are the offscouring of all things
The Greek word rendered here as “offscouring” is a synonym to the word rendered “filth,” meaning “that which was wiped off or removed from the midst of humanity; the sweepings thrown out after a cleaning.” This is another way of saying that they considered the apostle, and what he taught, worthless. We are not told how many held this opinion, but it was serious enough for Paul to write this letter, send Timothy to them, and make plans to visit them; God willing.

If the believers at Corinth took Paul’s words to heart, the description he gives here must be a strong rebuke to the self-conceit and pride of those who read the epistle.

unto this day.
This is a repetition of the statement in verse 11 and emphasizes the fact that Paul at that very moment, while writing the epistle, was suffering persecution and was looked upon as filth. You and I can’t imagine how the apostle Paul suffered in order to get out the gospel of Jesus Christ. He evangelized Asia Minor. We are told that in the province of Asia everyone, both Jew and Gentile, heard the Word of God!

Such passages as this show the great faith, the devotion, the heroism of men like Paul, and the debt we owe to them.