1 Corinthians 4
Calvin's Commentaries
Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.

1. Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.

1. Sic nos aestimet homo ut ministros Christi, et dispensatores arcanorum Dei.

2. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

2. Caeterum in ministris hoc quaeritur, ut fidelis aliquis reperiatur.

3. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.

3. Mihi viro pro minimo est, a vobis diiudicari, aut ab humano die: [206] imo nec me ipsum diiudico.

4. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.

4. Nullius enim rei mihi sum conscius: sed non in hoc sum justificatus. Porro qui me diiudicat, Dominus est.

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.

5. Itaque ne ante tempus quicquam iudicetis, donec venerit Dominus, qui et illustrabit abscondita tenebrarum, et manifestabit consilia cordium; et tunc laus erit cuique a Deo.

1. Let a man so account of us As it was a matter of no little importance to see the Church in this manner torn by corrupt factions, from the likings or dislikings that were entertained towards individuals, he enters into a still more lengthened discussion as to the ministry of the word. Here there are three things to be considered in their order. In the first place, Paul describes the office of a pastor of the Church. Secondly, he shows, that it is not enough for any one to produce a title, or even to undertake the duty -- a faithful administration of the office being requisite. Thirdly, as the judgment formed of him by the Corinthians was preposterous, [207] he calls both himself and them to the judgment-seat of Christ. In the first place, then, he teaches in what estimation every teacher in the Church ought to be held. In this department he modifies his discourse in such a manner as neither, on the one hand, to lower the credit of the ministry, nor, on the other, to assign to man more than is expedient. For both of these things are exceedingly dangerous, because, when ministers are lowered, contempt of the word arises, [208] while, on the other hand, if they are extolled beyond measure, they abuse liberty, and become "wanton against the Lord." (1 Timothy 5:11.) Now the medium observed by Paul consists in this, that he calls them ministers of Christ; by which he intimates, that they ought to apply themselves not to their own work but to that of the Lord, who has hired them as his servants, and that they are not appointed to bear rule in an authoritative manner in the Church, but are subject to Christ's authority [209] -- in short, that they are servants, not masters.

As to what he adds -- stewards of the mysteries of God, he expresses hereby the kind of service. By this he intimates, that their office extends no farther than this, that they are stewards of the mysteries of God In other words, what the Lord has committed to their charge they deliver over to men from hand to hand -- as the expression is [210] -- not what they themselves might choose. "For this purpose has God chosen them as ministers of his Son, that he might through them communicate to men his heavenly wisdom, and hence they ought not to move a step beyond this." He appears, at the same time, to give a stroke indirectly to the Corinthians, who, leaving in the background the heavenly mysteries, had begun to hunt with excessive eagerness after strange inventions, and hence they valued their teachers for nothing but profane learning. It is an honorable distinction that he confers upon the gospel when he terms its contents the mysteries of God. But as the sacraments are connected with these mysteries as appendages, it follows, that those who have the charge of administering the word are the authorized stewards of them also.

2. But it is required in ministers [211] It is as though he had said, it is not enough to be a steward if there be not an upright stewardship. Now the rule of an upright stewardship, is to conduct one's self in it with fidelity. It is a passage that ought to be carefully observed, for we see how haughtily [212] Papists require that everything that they do and teach should have the authority of law, simply on the ground of their being called pastors. On the other hand, Paul is so far from being satisfied with the mere title, that, in his view, it is not even enough that there is a legitimate call, unless the person who is called conducts himself in the office with fidelity. On every occasion, therefore, on which Papists hold up before us the mask of a name, for the purpose of maintaining the tyranny of their idol, let our answer be, that Paul requires more than this from the ministers of Christ, though, at the same time, the Pope and his attendant train are wanting not merely in fidelity in the discharge of the office, but also in the ministry itself, if everything is duly considered.

This passage, however, militates, not merely against wicked teachers, but also against all that have any other object in view than the glory of Christ and the edification of the Church. For every one that teaches the truth is not necessarily faithful, but, only he who desires from the heart to serve the Lord and advance Christ's kingdom. Nor is it without good reason that Augustine assigns to hirelings, (John 10:12,) a middle place between the wolves and the good teachers. As to Christ's requiring wisdom also on the part of the good steward, (Luke 12:42,) he speaks, it is true, in that passage with greater clearness than Paul, but the meaning is the same. For the faithfulness of which Christ speaks is uprightness of conscience, which must be accompanied with sound and prudent counsel. By a faithful minister Paul means one who, with knowledge as well as uprightness, [213] discharges the office of a good and faithful minister.

3. But with me it is a very small thing It remained that he should bring before their view his faithfulness, that the Corinthians might judge of him from this, but, as their judgment was corrupted, he throws it aside and appeals to the judgment-seat of Christ. The Corinthians erred in this, that they looked with amazement at foreign masks, and gave no heed to the true and proper marks of distinction. [214] He, accordingly, declares with great confidence, that he despises a perverted and blind judgment of this sort. In this way, too, he, on the one hand, admirably exposes the vanity of the false Apostles who made the mere applause of men their aim, and reckoned themselves happy if they were held in admiration; and, on the other hand, he severely chastises the arrogance [215] of the Corinthians, which was the reason why they were so much blinded in their judgment.

But, it is asked, on what ground it was allowable for Paul, not merely to set aside the censure of one Church, but to set himself above the judgment of men? for this is a condition common to all pastors -- to be judged of by the Church. I answer, that it is the part of a good pastor to submit both his doctrine and his life for examination to the judgment of the Church, and that it is the sign of a good conscience not to shun the light of careful inspection. In this respect Paul, without doubt, was prepared for submitting himself to the judgment of the Corinthian Church, and for being called to render an account both of his life and of his doctrine, had there been among them a proper scrutiny, [216] as he often assigns them this power, and of his own accord entreats them to be prepared to judge aright. But when a faithful pastor sees that he is borne down by unreasonable and perverse affections, and that justice and truth have no place, he ought to appeal to God, and betake himself to his judgment-seat, regardless of human opinion, especially when he cannot secure that a true and proper knowledge of matters shall be arrived at.

If, then, the Lord's servants would bear in mind that they must act in this manner, let them allow their doctrine and life to be brought to the test, nay more, let them voluntarily present themselves for this purpose; and if anything is objected against them, let them not decline to answer. But if they see that they are condemned without being heard in their own defense, and that judgment is passed upon them without their being allowed a hearing, let them raise up their minds to such a pitch of magnanimity, as that, despising the opinions of men, they will fearlessly wait for God as their judge. In this manner the Prophets of old, having to do with refractory persons, [217] and such as had the audacity to despise the word of God in their administration of it, required to raise themselves aloft, in order to tread under foot that diabolical obstinacy, which manifestly tended to overthrow at once the authority of God and the light of truth. Should any one, however, when opportunity is given for defending himself, or at least when he has need to clear himself, appeal to God by way of subterfuge, he will not thereby make good his innocence, but will rather discover his consummate impudence. [218]

Or of man's day. While others explain it in another manner, the simpler way, in my opinion, is to understand the word day as used metaphorically to mean judgment, because there are stated days for administering justice, and the accused are summoned to appear on a certain day He calls it man's day [219] when judgment is pronounced, not according to truth, or in accordance with the word of the Lord, but according to the humor or rashness of men, [220] and in short, when God does not preside. "Let men," says he, "sit for judgment as they please: it is enough for me that God will annul whatever they have pronounced."

Nay, I judge not mine own self. The meaning is: "I do not venture to judge myself, though I know myself best; how then will you judge me, to whom I am less intimately known?" Now he proves that he does not venture to judge himself by this, that though he is not conscious to himself of anything wrong, he is not thereby acquitted in the sight of God. Hence he concludes, that what the Corinthians assume to themselves, belongs exclusively to God. "As for me," says he, "when I have carefully examined myself, I perceive that I am not so clear-sighted as to discern thoroughly my true character; and hence I leave this to the judgment of God, who alone can judge, and to whom this authority exclusively belongs. As for you, then, on what ground will you make pretensions to something more?"

As, however, it were very absurd to reject all kinds of judgment, whether of individuals respecting themselves, or of one individual respecting his brother, or of all together respecting their pastor, let it be understood that Paul speaks here not of the actions of men, which may be reckoned good or bad according to the word of the Lord, but of the eminence of each individual, which ought not to be estimated according to men's humors. It belongs to God alone to determine what distinction every one holds, and what honor he deserves. The Corinthians, however, despising Paul, groundlessly extolled others to the skies, as though they had at their command that knowledge which belonged exclusively to God. This is what he previously made mention of as man's day -- when men mount the throne of judgment, and, as if they were gods, anticipate the day of Christ, who alone is appointed by the Father as judge, allot to every one his station of honor, assign to some a high place, and degrade others to the lowest seats. But what rule of distinction do they observe? They look merely to what appears openly; and thus what in their view is high and honorable, is in many instances an abomination in the sight of God. (Luke 16:15.) If any one farther objects, that the ministers of the word may in this world be distinguished by their works, as trees by their fruits, (Matthew 7:16,) I admit that this is true, but we must consider with whom Paul had to deal. It was with persons who, in judging, looked to nothing but show and pomp, and arrogated to themselves a power which Christ., while in this world, refrained from using -- that of assigning to every one his seat in the kingdom of God. (Matthew 20:23.) He does not, therefore, prohibit us from esteeming those whom we have found to be faithful workmen, and pronouncing them to be such; nor, on the other hand, from judging persons to be bad workmen according to the word of God, but he condemns that rashness which is practiced, when some are preferred above others in a spirit of ambition -- not according to their merits, but without examination of the case. [221]

4. I am not conscious to myself of anything faulty. Let us observe that Paul speaks here not of his whole life, but simply of the office of apostleship. For if he had been altogether unconscious to himself of anything wrong, [222] that would have been a groundless complaint which he makes in Romans 7:15, where he laments that the evil which he would not, that he does, and that he is by sin kept back from giving himself up entirely to God. Paul, therefore, felt sin dwelling in him, and confessed it; but as to his apostleship, (which is the subject that is here treated of,) he had conducted himself with so much integrity and fidelity, that his conscience did not accuse him as to anything. This is a protestation of no common character, and of such a nature as clearly shows the piety and sanctity of his breast; [223] and yet he says that he is not thereby justified, that is, pure, and altogether free from guilt in the sight of God. Why? Assuredly, because God sees much more distinctly than we; and hence, what appears to us cleanest, is filthy in his eyes. Here we have a beautiful and singularly profitable admonition, not to measure the strictness of God's judgment by our own opinion; for we are dim-sighted, but God is preeminently discerning. We think of ourselves too indulgently, but God is a judge of the utmost strictness. Hence the truth of what Solomon says --

"Every man's ways appear right his own eyes, but the Lord pondereth the hearts." (Proverbs 21:2.)

Papists abuse this passage for the purpose of shaking the assurance of faith, and truly, I confess, that if their doctrine were admitted, we could do nothing but tremble in wretchedness during our whole life. For what tranquillity could our minds enjoy if it were to be determined from our works whether we are well-pleasing to God? I confess, therefore, that from the main foundation of Papists there follows nothing but continual disquietude for consciences; and, accordingly, we teach that we must have recourse to the free promise of mercy, which is offered to us in Christ, that we may be fully assured that we are accounted righteous by God.

5. Therefore judge nothing before the time From this conclusion it is manifest, that Paul did not mean to reprove every kind of judgment without exception, but only what is hasty and rash, without examination of the case. For the Corinthians did not mark with unjaundiced eye the character of each individual, but, blinded by ambition, groundlessly extolled one and depreciated another, and took upon themselves to mark out the dignity of each individual beyond what is lawful for men. Let us know, then, how much is allowed us, what is now within the sphere of our knowledge, and what is deferred until the day of Christ, and let us not attempt to go beyond these limits. For there are some things that are now seen openly, while there are others that lie buried in obscurity until the day of Christ.

Who will bring to light. If this is affirmed truly and properly respecting the day of Christ, it follows that matters are never so well regulated in this world but that many things are involved in darkness, and that there is never so much light, but that many things remain in obscurity. I speak of the life of men, and their actions. He explains in the second clause, what is the cause of the obscurity and confusion, so that all things are not now manifest. It is because there are wonderful recesses and deepest lurking-places in the hearts of men. Hence, until the thoughts of the hearts are brought to light, there will always be darkness.

And then shall every one have praise It is as though he had said, "You now, O Corinthians, as if you had the adjudging of the prizes, [224] crown some, and send away others with disgrace, but this right and office belong exclusively to Christ. You do that before the time -- before it has become manifest who is worthy to be crowned, but the Lord has appointed a day on which he will make it manifest." This statement takes its rise from the assurance of a good conscience, which brings us also this advantage, that committing our praises into the hands of God, we disregard the empty breath of human applause.


[206] "De iour humain -- c'est a dire, de iugement d'homme;" -- "Of man's day -- that is to say, of man's judgment."

[207] "Pource que les Corinthiens iugeoyent de luy d'vne mauuaise sorte, et bien inconsidereement;" -- "As the Corinthians judged of him in an unfavorable way, and very rashly."

[208] "Facilement on viendra a mespriser la parole de Dieu;" -- "They will readily come to despise the word of God."

[209] "Ils sont eux-mesmes comme les autres sous la domination de Christ;" -- "They are themselves, in common with others, under the dominion of Christ."

[210] Our Author makes use of the same expression when commenting on 1 Corinthians 6]11:23, and 1 Corinthians 7]15:3.--- Ed.

[211] "Entre les dispensateurs;" -- "Among stewards."

[212] "Et d'une facon magistrale;" -- "And with a magisterial air."

[213] "Auec science et bonne discretion, et d'vn coeur droit;" -- "With knowledge and good discretion, as well as with an upright heart."

[214] "Ils estoyent rauis en admiration de ces masques externes, comme gens tout transportez, et ne regardoyent point a discerner vrayement ne proprement;" -- "They were ravished with admiration of those foreign masks, as persons quite transported, and were not careful to distinguish truly or properly."

[215] "Et orgueil;" -- "And pride."

[216] "Si entr'eux fi y eust eu vne legitime et droite facon de iuger;" -- "If there had been among them a lawful and right method of judging."

[217] "Ils auoyent affaire a des gens opiniastres et pleins de rebellion;" -- "They had to do with persons that were obstinate, and full of rebellion."

[218] "Se demonstrera estre merueilleusement impudent;" -- "He will show himself to be marvellously impudent."

[219] The word day, which is the literal rendering of the original word (hemeras) is made use of in some of the old English versions. Thus in Wiclif's version, (1380,) the rendering is: "of mannes daie;" in Tyndale's, (1534,) "of man's daye;" and in the Rheims version, (1582,) "of man's day." -- Ed

[220] "Selon les sottes affections, ou les mouuemens temeraires des hommes;" -- "According to the foolish affections, or rash impulses of men."

[221] "Comme on dit;" -- "As they say."

[222] "Si nihil prorsus sibi consciret;" -- our author most probably had in his eye a well-known passage in Horace, (Ep. I. 1. 61,) "Nil conscire sibi;" -- "To be conscious to one's self of nothing wrong." -- Ed.

[223] "Combien sa conscience estoit pure et nette;" -- "How pure and clean his conscience was."

[224] "Tanquam agonothetos The allusion is to the presiding officers or umpires (agonothetai) who adjudged the prizes in the Grecian games. (See Herod. 6. 127.) -- Ed

Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.
But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.
For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.
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.
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.

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.

6. Haec autem, fratres, transfiguravi in me ipsum et Apollo propter vos, ut in nobis disceretis, quis supra id quod scriptum est, de se sentiat: ut ne quis pro hoc vel illo infletur adversus alterum.

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?

7. Quis enim to discernit? quid autem habes, quod non acceperis? si vero etiam acceperis, quid gloriaris tanquam non acceperis?

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.

8. Jam saturati estis, jam ditati estis, absque nobis regnum adepti estis; atque utinam sitis adepti ut et nos vobiscum regnemus.

6. I have in a figure transferred. Hence we may infer, that it was not those who were attached to Paul that gave rise to parties, as they, assuredly, had not. been so instructed, but those who had through ambition given themselves up to vain teachers. [225] But as he could more freely and less invidiously bring forward his own name, and that of his brethren, he preferred to point out in his own person the fault that existed in others. At the same time, he strikes a severe blow at the originators of the parties, and points his finger to the sources from which this deadly divorce took its rise. For he shows them, that if they had been satisfied with good teachers, they would have been exempted from this evil. [226]

That is us. Some manuscripts have it "that in you." Both readings suit well, and their is no difference of meaning; for what Paul intends is this -- "I have, for the sake of example, transferred these things to myself and Apollos, in order that you may transfer this example to yourselves." "Learn then in us," that is, "in that example which I have placed before you in our person as in a mirror;" or, "Learn in you," that is, "apply this example to yourselves." But what does he wish them to learn? That no one be puffed up for his own teacher against another, that is, that they be not lifted up with pride on account of their teachers, and do not abuse their names for the purpose of forming parties, and rending the Church asunder. Observe, too, that pride or haughtiness is the cause and commencement of all contentions, when every one, assuming to himself more than he is entitled to do, is eager to have others in subjection to him.

The clause above what is written may be explained in two ways -- either as referring to Paul's writings, or to the proofs from Scripture which he has brought forward. As this, however, is a matter of small moment, my readers may be left at liberty to take whichever they may prefer.

7. For who distinguisheth thee? The meaning is -- "Let that man come forward, whosoever he be, that is desirous of distinction, and troubles the Church by his ambition. I will demand of him who it is that makes him superior to others? That is, who it is that has conferred upon him the privilege of being taken out of the rank of the others, and made superior to others?" Now this whole reasoning depends on the order which the Lord has appointed in his Church -- that the members of Christ's body may be united together, and that every one of them may rest satisfied with his own place, his own rank, his own office, and his own honor. If one member is desirous to quit his place, that he may leap over into the place of another, and invade his office, what will become of the entire body? Let us know, then, that the Lord has so placed us in the Church, and has in such a manner assigned to every one his own station, that, being under one head, we may be mutually helpful to each other. Let us know, besides, that we have been endowed with a diversity of gifts, in order that we may serve the Lord with modesty and humility, and may endeavor to promote the glory of him who has conferred upon us everything that we have. This, then, was the best remedy for correcting the ambition of those who were desirous of distinction -- to call them back to God, in order that they might acknowledge that it was not according to any one's pleasure that he was placed in a high or a low station, but that this belonged to God alone; and farther, that God does not confer so much upon any one as to elevate him to the place of the Head, but distributes his gifts in such a manner, that He alone is glorified in all things.

To distinguish here means to render eminent. [227] Augustine, however, does not ineptly make frequent use of this declaration for maintaining, in opposition to the Pelagians, [228] that whatever there is of excellence in mankind, is not implanted in him by nature, so that it could be ascribed either to nature or to descent; and farther, that it is not acquired by free will, so as to bring God under obligation, but flows from his pure and undeserved mercy. For there can be no doubt that Paul here contrasts the grace of God with the merit or worthiness of men. [229]

And what hast thou? This is a confirmation of the preceding statement, for that man cannot on good ground extol himself, who has no superiority above others. For what greater vanity is there than that of boasting without any ground for it? Now, there is no man that has anything of excellency from himself; therefore the man that extols himself is a fool and an idiot. The true foundation of Christian modesty is this -- not to be self-complacent, as knowing that we are empty and void of everything good -- that, if God has implanted in us anything that is good, we are so much the more debtors to his grace; and in fine, that, as Cyprian says, we must glory in nothing, because there is nothing that is our own.

Why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it? Observe, that there remains no ground for our glorying, inasmuch as it is by

the grace of God that we are what we are,
(1 Corinthians 15:10.)

And this is what we had in the first chapter, that Christ is the source of all blessings to us, that we may learn to glory in the Lord, (1 Corinthians 1:30, 31,) and this we do, only when we renounce our own glory. For God does not obtain his due otherwise than by our being emptied, so that it may be seen that everything in us that is worthy of praise is derived.

8. Now ye are full Having in good earnest, and without the use of any figure, beat down their vain confidence, he now also ridicules it by way of irony, [230] because they are so self-complacent, as if they were the happiest persons in the world. He proceeds, too, step by step, in exposing their insolence. In the first place, he says, that they were full: this refers to the past. He then adds, Ye are rich: this applies to the future. Lastly, he says, that they had reigned as kings this is much more than either of those two. It is as though he had said, "What will you attain to, when you appear to be not merely full for the present, but are also rich for the future -- nay more, are kings?" At the same time, he tacitly upbraids them with ingratitude, because they had the audacity to despise him, or rather those, through means of whom they had obtained everything.

Without us, says he. "For Apollos and I are now esteemed nothing by you, though it is by our instrumentality that the Lord has conferred everything upon you. What inhumanity there is in resting with self-complacency in the gifts of God, while in the meantime you despise those through whose instrumentality you obtained them!"

And I would to God that ye did reign [231] Here he declares that he does not envy their felicity, (if indeed they have any,) and that from the beginning he has not sought to reign among them, but only to bring them to the kingdom of God. He intimates, however, on the other hand, that the kingdom in which they gloried was merely imaginary, and that their glorying was groundless and pernicious, [232] there being no true glorying but that which is enjoyed by all the sons of God in common, under Christ their Head, and every one of them according to the measure of the grace that has been given him.

For by these words that ye also may reign with us, he means this -- "You are so renowned in your own opinion that you do not hesitate to despise me, and those like me, but mark, how vain is your glorying. For you can have no glorying before God, in which we have not a share -- for if honor redounds to you from having the gospel of God, how much more to us, by whose ministry it was conveyed to you! And assuredly, this is a madness [233] that is common to all the proud, that by drawing everything to themselves, they strip themselves of every blessing -- nay more, they renounce the hope of everlasting salvation."


[225] "A ces docteurs pieins d'ostentation;" -- "To those teachers, full of ostentation."

[226] "S'ils se contentent de bons et fideles docteurs, ils seront hors de danger d'vn tel mal;" -- "If they had contented themselves with good and faithful teachers, they would have been beyond the risk of such an evil."

[227] "Rendre excellent, ou mettre en reputation;" -- "To render eminent, or exalt to fame."

[228] The reader will find a variety of passages of this tenor quoted from Augustine in the Institutes, volume 1.--- Ed.

[229] "Comme estans ehoses contraires;" -- "As being things opposite."

[230] "Vsant d'ironie, c'est a dire, d'vne facon de parler qui sonne en mocquerie;" -- "Making use of irony, that is to say, a form of speech that has a tone of mockery."

[231] "A bitter taunt," says Lightfoot, "chastising the boasting of the Corinthians, who had forgot from whom they had first received those evangelical privileges, concerning which they now prided themselves. They were enriched with spiritual gifts; they reigned, themselves being judges, in the very top of the dignity and happiness of the gospel; and that, without us,' saith the Apostle, as though ye owed nothing to us for these privileges,' and, O would to God ye did reign, and that it went so happily and well with you indeed, that we also might reign with you, and that we might partake of some happiness in this your promotion, and might be of some account among you!'" -- Ed.

[232] "Fausse et dangereuse:" -- "Groundless and dangerous."

[233] "C'est vne folie, et bestise;" -- "This is a folly and stupidity."

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?
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.
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.

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.

9. Existimo enim, quod Deus nos postremos Apostolos demonstraverit tanquam morti destinatos: nam theatrum facti sumus mundo,et angelis, et hominibus.

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.

10. Nos stulti propter Christum, vos autem prudentes in Christo: infirmi, vos autem robusti: vos gloriosi, nos autem ignobiles.

11. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place;

11. Ad hanc enim horam usque et sitimus, et esurimus, et nudi sumus, et colaphis caedimur.

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

12. Etcircumagimur, et laboramus operantes manibus propriis: maledictis lacessiti benedicimus: persequutionem patientes sustinemus:

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

13. Conviciis affecti obsecramus: quasi exsecrationes mundi facti sumus, omnium reiectamentum usque ad hunc diem.

14. I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you

14. Non quo pudorem vobis incutiam, haec scribo: sed ut filios meos dilectos admoneo.

15. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.

15. Nam etsi decem millia paedagogorum habueritis in Christo, non tamen multos patres; in Christo enim Iesu par Evangelium ego vos genui.

9. For I think, etc. It is uncertain whether he speaks of himself exclusively, or takes in at the same time Apollos and Silvanus, for he sometimes calls such persons apostles. I prefer, however, to understand it of himself exclusively. Should any one be inclined to extend it farther, I shall have no particular objection, provided only he does not understand it as Chrysostom does, to mean that the apostles were as if for the sake of ignominy reserved to the last place. [234] For there can be no doubt that by the term last, he means those who were admitted to the rank of apostles subsequently to the resurrection of Christ. Now, he admits that he is like those who are exhibited to the people when on the eve of being led forth to death. For such is the meaning of the word exhibited -- as those who on occasion of a triumph were led round [235] for the sake of show, and were afterwards hurried away to prison to be strangled.

This he expresses more distinctly by adding, that they were made a spectacle. "This," says he, "is my condition, that I exhibit to the world a spectacle of my miseries, like those who having been condemned to fight with wild beasts, [236] or to the games of the gladiators, or to some other mode of punishment, are brought forth to the view of the people, and that not before a few spectators, but before the whole world." Observe here the admirable steadfastness of Paul, who, while he saw himself to be dealt with by God in this manner, was nevertheless not broken or dispirited. For he does not impute it to the wantonness of the wicked, that he was, as it were, led forth with ignominy to the sport of the arena, but ascribes it wholly to the providence of God.

The second clause to angels and to men, I take to be expository in this sense -- "I am made a sport and spectacle, not merely to earth, but also to heaven." This passage has been commonly explained as referring to devils, from its seeming to be absurd to refer it to good angels. Paul, however, does not mean, that all who are witnesses of this calamity are gratified with such a spectacle He simply means, that the Lord has so ordered his lot that he seems as though he had been appointed to furnish sport to the whole world.

10. We are fools for Christ's sake This contrast is throughout ironical, and exceedingly pointed, it being unseemly and absurd that the Corinthians should be in every respect happy and honorable, according to the flesh, while in the meantime they beheld their master and father afflicted with the lowest ignominy, and with miseries of every kind. For those who are of opinion that Paul abases himself in this manner, in order that he may in earnestness ascribe to the Corinthians those things which he acknowledges himself to be in want of, may without any difficulty be refuted from the little clause that he afterwards subjoins. In speaking, therefore, of the Corinthians as wise in Christ, and strong, and honorable, he makes a concession ironically, as though he had said [237] -- "You desire, along with the gospel, to retain commendation for wisdom, [238] whereas I have not been able to preach Christ otherwise than by becoming a fool in this world. Now when I have willingly, on your account, submitted to be a fool, or to be reckoned such, consider whether it be reasonable that you should wish to be esteemed wise. How in these things consort -- that I who have been your master, am a fool for Christ's sake, and you, on the other hand, remain wise!" In this way, being wise in Christ is not taken here in a good sense, for he derides the Corinthians for wishing to mix up together Christ and the wisdom of the flesh, inasmuch as this were to endeavor to unite things directly contrary.

The case is the same as to the subsequent clauses -- "You are strong says he, and honorable, that is, you glory in the riches and resources of the world, you cannot endure the ignominy of the cross. In the meantime, is it reasonable that I should be on your account [239] mean and contemptible, and exposed to many infirmities? Now the complaint carries with it so much the more reproach [240] on this account, that even among themselves he was weak and contemptible. (2 Corinthians 10:10.) In fine, he derides their vanity in this respect, that, reversing the order of things, those who were sons and followers were desirous to be esteemed honorable and noble, while their father was in obscurity, and was exposed also to all the reproaches of the world.

11. For to this hour. The Apostle here describes his condition, as if in a picture, that the Corinthians may learn, from his example, to lay aside that loftiness of spirit, and embrace, as he did, the cross of Christ with meekness of spirit. He discovers the utmost dexterity in this respect, that in making mention of those things which had rendered him contemptible, he affords clear proof of his singular fidelity and indefatigable zeal for the advancement of the gospel; and, on the other hand, he tacitly reproves his rivals, who, while they had furnished no such proof, were desirous, nevertheless, to be held in the highest esteem. In the words themselves there is no obscurity, except that we must take notice of the distinction between those two participles -- loidoroumenoi kai blasphemoumenoi (reviled and defamed.) As loidoria means -- that harsher sort of raillery, which does not merely give a person a slight touch, but a sharp bite, and blackens his character by open contumely, there can be no doubt that loidorein means -- wounding a person with reproach as with a sting. [241] I have accordingly rendered it -- harassed with revilings Blasphemia signifies a more open reproach, when any one is severely and atrociously slandered. [242]

12. When he says that while persecuted he suffers it, and that he prays for his revilers, he intimates that he is not merely afflicted and abased by God, by means of the cross, but is also endowed with a disposition to abase himself willingly. In this, perhaps, he gives a stroke to the false apostles, who were so effeminate and tender, that they could not bear to be touched even with your little finger. In speaking of their laboring he adds -- with our own hands, to express more fully the meanness of his employments [243] -- "I do not merely gain a livelihood for myself by my own labor, but by mean labor, working with my own hands."

13. As the execrations of the world. He makes use of two terms, the former of which denotes a man who, by public execrations, is devoted, with the view to the cleansing of a city, [244] for such persons, on the ground of their cleansing the rest of the people, by receiving in themselves whatever there is in the city of crimes, and heinous offense, are called by the Greeks sometimes katharmoi, but more frequently katharmata. [245] Paul, in adding the preposition peri (around) seems to have had an eye to the expiatory rite itself, inasmuch as those unhappy men who were devoted to execrations were led round through the streets, that they might carry away with them whatever there was of evil [246] in any corner, that the cleansing might be the more complete. The plural number might seem to imply that he speaks not of himself exclusively, but also of the others who were his associates, and who were not less held in contempt by the Corinthians. There is, however, no urgent reason for regarding what he says as extending to more than himself. The other term -- peripsema, (offscouring,) denotes filings or scrapings of any kind, and also the sweepings that are cleared away with a brush. [247] As to both terms consult the annotations of Budaeus. [248]

In so far as concerns the meaning of the passage before us, Paul, with the view of expressing his extreme degradation, says that he is held in abomination by the whole world, like a man set apart for expiation, [249] and that, like offscourings, he is nauseous to all. At the same time he does not mean to say by the former comparison that he is all expiatory victim for sins, but simply means, that in respect of disgrace and reproaches he differs nothing from the man on whom the execrations of all are heaped up.

14. I write not these things to shame you As the foregoing instances of irony were very pointed, so that they might exasperate the minds of the Corinthians, he now obviates that dissatisfaction by declaring, that he had not said these things with a view to cover them with shame, but rather to admonish them with paternal affection. It is indeed certain that this is the nature and tendency of a father's chastisement, to make his son feel ashamed; for the first token of return to a right state of mind is the shame which the son begins to feel on being reproached for his fault. The object, then, which the father has in view when he chastises his son with reproofs, is that he may bring him to be displeased with himself. And we see that the tendency of what Paul has said hitherto, is to make the Corinthians ashamed of themselves. Nay more, we shall find him a little afterwards (1 Corinthians 6:5) declaring that he made mention of their faults in order that they may begin to be ashamed. Here, however, he simply means to intimate, that it was not his design to heap disgrace upon them, or to expose their sins publicly and openly with a view to their reproach. For he who admonishes in a friendly spirit, makes it his particular care that whatever there is of shame, may remain with the individual whom he admonishes, [250] and may in this manner be buried. On the other hand, the man who reproaches with a malignant disposition, inflicts disgrace upon the man whom he reproves for his fault, in such a manner as to hold him up to the reproach of all. Paul then simply affirms that what he had said, had been said by him, with no disposition to upbraid, or with any view to hurt their reputation, but, on the contrary, with paternal affection he admonished them as to what he saw to be defective in them.

But what was the design of this admonition? It was that the Corinthians, who were puffed up with mere empty notions, might learn to glory, as he did, in the abasement of the cross, and might no longer despise him on those grounds on which he was deservedly honorable in the sight of God and angels -- in fine, that, laying aside their accustomed haughtiness, they might set a higher value on those marks [251] of Christ (Galatians 6:17) that were upon him, than on the empty and counterfeit show of the false apostles. Let teachers [252] infer from this, that in reproofs they must always use such moderation as not to wound men's minds with excessive severity, and that, agreeably to the common proverb, they must mix honey or oil with vinegar -- that they must above all things take care not to appear to triumph over those whom they reprove, or to take delight in their disgrace -- nay more, that they must endeavor to make it understood that they seek nothing but that their welfare may be promoted. For what good will the teacher [253] do by mere bawling, if he does not season the sharpness of his reproof by that moderation of which I have spoken? Hence if we are desirous to do any good by correcting men's faults, we must distinctly give them to know, that our reproofs proceed from a friendly disposition.

15. For though you had ten thousand. He had called himself father, and now he shows that this title belongs to him peculiarly and specially, inasmuch as he alone has begotten them in Christ. In this comparison, however, he has an eye to the false apostles to whom the Corinthians showed all deference, so that Paul was now almost as nothing among them. Accordingly he admonishes them to consider what honor ought to be rendered to a father, and what to a pedagogue [254] "You entertain respect for those new teachers. To this I have no objection, provided you bear in mind that I am your father, while they are merely pedagogues." Now by claiming for himself authority, he intimates that he is actuated by a different kind of affection from that of those whom they so highly esteemed. "They take pains in instructing you. Be it so. Very different is the love of a father, very different his anxiety, very different his attachment from those of a pedagogue What if he should also make an allusion to that imperfection of faith [255] which he had previously found fault with? For while the Corinthians were giants in pride, they were children in faith, and are, therefore, with propriety, sent to pedagogues [256] He also reproves the absurd and base system of those teachers in keeping their followers in the mere first rudiments, with the view of keeping them always in bonds under their authority. [257]

For in Christ Here we have the reason why he alone ought to be esteemed as the father of the Corinthian Church -- because he had begotten it. And truly it is in most appropriate terms that he here describes spiritual generation, when he says that he has begotten them in Christ, who alone is the life of the soul, and makes the gospel the formal cause. [258] Let us observe, then, that we are then in the sight of God truly begotten, when we are engrafted into Christ, out of whom there will be found nothing but death, and that this is effected by means of the gospel, because, while we are by nature flesh and hay, the word of God, as Peter (1 Peter 1:24, 25) teaches from Isaiah, (Isaiah 40:6, 7, 8,) is the incorruptible seed by which we are renewed to eternal life. Take away the gospel, and we will all remain accursed and dead in the sight of God. That same word by which we are begotten is afterwards milk to us for nourishing us, and it is also solid food to sustain us for ever. [259]

Should any one bring forward this objection, "As new sons are begotten to God in the Church every day, why does Paul say that those who succeeded him were not fathers?" the answer is easy -- that he is here speaking of the commencement of the Church. For although many had been begotten by the ministry of others, this honor remained to Paul untouched -- that he had founded the Corinthian Church. Should any one, again, ask, "Ought not all pastors to be reckoned fathers, and if so, why does Paul deprive all others of this title, so as to claim it for himself exclusively?" I answer -- "He speaks here comparatively." Hence, however the title of fathers might be applicable to them in other respects, yet in respect of Paul, they were merely instructors We must also keep in mind what I touched upon a little ago, that he is not speaking of all, (for as to those who were like himself, as, for example, Apollos, Silvanus, and Timotheus, who aimed at nothing but the advancement of Christ's kingdom, he would have had no objection to their being so named, and having the highest honor assigned to them,) but is reproving those who, by a misdirected ambition, transferred to themselves the glory that belonged to another. Of this sort were those who robbed Paul of the honor that was due to him, that they might set themselves off in his spoils.

And, truly, the condition of the Church universal at this day is the same as that of the Corinthian Church was at that time. For how few are there that love the Churches with a fatherly, that is to say, a disinterested affection, and lay themselves out to promote their welfare! Meanwhile, there are very many pedagogues, who give out their services as hirelings, in such a manner as to discharge as it were a mere temporary office, and in the meantime hold the people in subjection and admiration. [260] At the same time, even in that case it is well when there are many pedagogues, who do good, at least, to some extent by teaching, and do not destroy the Church by the corruptions of false doctrine. For my part, when I complain of the multitude of pedagogues, I do not refer to Popish priests, (for I would not do them the honor of reckoning them in that number,) but those who, while agreeing with us in doctrine, employ themselves in taking care of their own affairs, rather than those of Christ. We all, it is true, wish to be reckoned fathers, and require from others the obedience of sons, but where is the man to be found who acts in such a manner as to show that he is a father? [261]

There remains another question of greater difficulty: As Christ forbids us to

call any one father upon earth, because we have one Father in heaven, (Matthew 23:9,)

how does Paul dare to take to himself the name of father? I answer, that, properly speaking, God alone is the Father, not merely of our soul, but also of our flesh. As, however, in so far as concerns the body, he communicates the honor of his paternal name to those to whom he gives offspring, while, as to souls, he reserves to himself exclusively the right and title of Father, I confess that, on this account, he is called in a peculiar sense the Father of spirits, and is distinguished from earthly fathers, as the Apostle speaks in Hebrews 12:9. As, however, notwithstanding that it is he alone who, by his own influence, begets souls, and regenerates and quickens them, he makes use of the ministry of his servants for this purpose, there is no harm in their being called fathers, in respect of this ministry, as this does not in any degree detract from the honor of God. The word, as I have said, is the spiritual seed. God alone by means of it regenerates our souls by his influence, but, at the same time, he does not exclude the efforts of ministers. If, therefore, you attentively consider, what God accomplishes by himself, and what he designs to be accomplished by ministers, you will easily understand in what sense he alone is worthy of the name of Father, and how far this name is applicable to his ministers, without any infringement upon his rights.


[234] "Et bien peu estimez;" -- "And very little esteemed."

[235] "On pourmenoit par toute la ville les poures prisonniers;" -- "They led the poor prisoners round the whole town."

[236] "Condamnez a seruir de passe-temps en combatrant contre des bestes;" -- "Condemned to serve as a pastime in fighting against wild beasts."

[237] "C'est une concession ironique, c'est a dire, qu'il accorde ce dont ils se vantoyent, mais c'est par mocquerie, comme s'il disoit;" -- "It is an ironical concession; that is to say -- he grants what they boast of, but it is in mockery, as though he had said."

[238] "En faisant profession de l'Euangile, vous voulez auec cela estre estimez prudens;" -- "In making a profession of the gospel, you wish, along with that, to be esteemed wise."

[239] "Pour l'amour de vous;" -- "From love to you."

[240] "Est d'autant plus picquante, et aigre;" -- "Is so much the more cutting and severe."

[241] loidoria, is supposed by Eustathius to be derived from logos, a word, and doru, a spear A similar figure is employed by the Psalmist, when he speaks of words that are drawn swords (Psalm 55:21.) -- Ed

[242] "Or le premier signifie non seulement se gaudir d'vn homme, mais aussi toucher son honneur comme en le blasonnant, et le naurer en termes picquans: ce que nous disons communement, Mordre en riant. Le second signifie quand on detracte apertement de quelqu'vn sans vser de couuerture de paroles;" -- "Now the first means not simply to make one's self merry at another's expense, but also to touch his reputation, as if with the view of blackening it, and wounding it by cutting expressions, as we commonly say -- to give a good humored bite. The second means when persons slander any one openly, without using any disguise of words."

[243] "Que c'estoit vn mestier ville, et mechanique;" -- "That it was a mean and mechanical occupation."

[244] "Comme c'estoit vne chose qui se faisoit anciennement entre les payens;" -- "As this was a thing that was practiced anciently among the heathens."

[245] The Scholiast on Aristophanes, Plut. 454, gives the following explanation of the term katharma: Katharmata elegonto hoi epi to katharsei loimou tinos etinos hetera; nasou thuomenoi tois theois. Touto de ethos kai para romaiois epekratese. Those were called cleansings who were sacrificed to the gods for the cleansing out of some famine, or some other calamity. This custom prevailed also among the Romans. -- Ed

[246] "De malediction;" -- "Of curse."

[247] "Les ballieures d'vne maison;" -- "The sweepings of a house."

[248] The view given by Budaeus of the former term (perikatharmata) is stated by Leigh in his Critica Sacra to be the following: That "the Apostle had allusion unto the expiations in use among the heathens, in time of any pestilence or contagious infection; for the removal of such diseases they then sacrificed certain men unto their gods, which men they termed katharmata. As if the Apostle had said -- We are as despicable and as odious in the sight of the people, as much loaded with the revilings and cursings of the multitude, as those condemned persons who were offered up by way of public expiation." The latter term (peripsema) Budaeus renders as follows: "Scobem aut ramentum et quicquid limando fleter;" -- "Filings or scrapings, or whatever is cleared off by filing." -- Ed

[249] "Destine a porter toutes les execrations et maudissons du monde;" -- "Set apart to bear all the execrations and curses of the world."

[250] "Tasche sur toutes choses que toute la honte demeure entre lui et celui lequel il admoneste;" -- "Endeavors above all things that the shame may remain between him and the person whom he admonishes."

[251] "Les marques et fietrisseurs de Christ en luy;" -- "The marks and brands of Christ in him." The allusion, as our Author himself remarks, when [8]commenting upon Galatians 6:17, is to "the marks with which barbarian slaves, or fugitives, or malefactors were branded." Hence the expression of Juvenal: stigmate dignum credere -- "to reckon one worthy of being branded as a slave." (Juv. 10. 183.) -- Ed.

[252] "Les docteurs et ministres;" -- "Teachers and ministers."

[253] "Le ministre:" -- "The minister."

[254] "The Greek word pedagogue," says Calmet, "now carries with it an idea approaching to contempt. With no other word to qualify it, it excites the idea of a pedant, who assumes an air of authority over others, which does not belong to him. But among the ancients a pedagogue was a person to whom they committed the care of their children, to lead them, to observe them, and to instruct them in their first rudiments. Thus the office of a pedagogue nearly answered to that of a governor or tutor, who constantly attends his pupil, teaches him, and forms his manners. Paul (1 Corinthians 4:15) says: "For though you have ten thousand instructors (pedagogues) in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers' -- representing himself as their father in the faith, since he had begotten them in the gospel. The pedagogue, indeed, may have some power and interest in his pupil, but he can never have the natural tenderness of a father for him." -- Ed.

[255] "Quel mal y auroit-il, quand nous dirions, qu'il fait aussi vne allusion a ceste petitesse et enfance en la foy?" -- "What harm were there, though we should say that he also makes an allusion to that littleness and childhood in the faith?"

[256] Our Author evidently alludes to the etymology of the original term paidagogous, as being derived from pais, a boy, and ago, to lead Such instructors were generally slaves, whose business it was to attend upon their youthful charge, to observe their behavior, and to lead them to and from school. (Herod. 8. 75, Eur. Ion, 725.) -- Ed

[257] "La mauuaise procedure et faqon d'enseigner des docteurs, d'autant qu'ils amusoyent leurs disciples aux premiers rudimens et petis commencemens, et les tenoyent tousiours la;" -- "The base procedure and method of instruction of the teachers, inasmuch as they amused their followers with the first rudiments and little beginnings, and kept them constantly there."

[258] "Qu'on appelle;" -- "As they call it."

[259] Our Author probably refers to what he had said when [9]commenting on 1 Corinthians 3:2.

[260] "Qui se loent, comme ouuriers a la iournee, pour exercer l'office a leur profit, ainsi qu'on feroit vne chose qu'on aura prise pour vn temps certain, et cependant, tenir le peuple en obeissance, et acquerir bruit, ou estre en admiration enuers iceluy;" -- "Who hire themselves out, as workmen for the day, in order to exercise the office to their own advantage, as if one were doing a thing that he had taken up for a certain time, and in the meantime to hold the people in subjection, and acquire fame, or be in admiration among them."

[261] "Combien yen a-t-il qui facent office de pere, et qui demonstrent par effet ce qu'ils vetdent estre appelez?" -- "How many are there of them that discharge the office of a father, and show in deeds what they wish to be called?"

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.
Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace;
And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:
Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.
I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.
For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.

16. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.

16. Adhortor ergo vos, imitatores mei estote.

17. For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church.

17. Hac de causa misi ad vos Timotheum, qui est filius meus dilectus et fidelis in Domino: qui vobis in memoriam reducat vias meas, quae sunt in Christo, quemadmodum ubique in omnibus Ecclesiis doceam.

18. Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you.

18. Perinde quasi non sum ad vos venturus, inflati sunt quidam:

19. 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.

19. Veniam autem brevi ad vos, si Dominus voluerit, et cognoscam non sermonem eorum qui sunt inflati, sed virtutem.

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

20. Neque enim in sermone regnum Dei est, sed in virtute.

21. What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?

21. Quid vultis? in virga veniam ad vos, an in dilectione spirituque mansuetudinis?

16. I exhort you. He now expresses also, in his own words, what he requires from them in his fatherly admonition -- that, being his sons, they do not degenerate from their father. For what is more reasonable than that sons endeavor to be as like as possible to their father. [262] At the same time he gives up something in respect of his own right, when he exhorts them to this, by way of entreaty rather than of command. But to what extent he wishes them to be imitators of him, he shows elsewhere, when he adds, as he was of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1.) This limitation must always be observed, so as not to follow any man, except in so far as he leads us to Christ. We know what he is here treating of. The Corinthians did not merely shun the abasement of the cross, but they also regarded their father with contempt, on this account, that, forgetting earthly glory, he gloried rather in reproaches for Christ; and they reckoned themselves and others fortunate in having nothing contemptible according to the flesh. He accordingly admonishes them to devote themselves, after his example, to the service of Christ, so as to endure all things patiently.

17. For this cause. The meaning is: "That you may know what my manner of life is, and whether I am worthy to be imitated, listen to what Timothy has to say, who will be prepared to be a faithful witness of these things. Now as there are two things that secure credit to a man's testimony -- a knowledge of the things which he relates, and fidelity -- he lets them know that Timothy possesses both of these things. For in calling him his dearly beloved son, he intimates that he knew him intimately, and was acquainted with all his affairs; and farther, he speaks of him as faithful in the Lord He gives also two things in charge to Timothy -- first, to recall to the recollection of the Corinthians those things which they should of themselves have had in remembrance, and in this he tacitly reproves them; and secondly, to testify to them, how uniform and steady his manner of teaching was in every place. Now it is probable that he had been assailed by the calumnies of the false apostles, as though he assumed more authority over the Corinthians than he did over others, or as though he conducted himself in a very different way in other places; for it is not without good reason that he wishes this to be testified to them. It is then the part of a prudent minister so to regulate his procedure, and to observe such a method of instruction, that no such objection may be brought against him, but he shall be prepared to answer on the same ground as Paul does.

18. As though I would not come to you This is the custom of the false apostles -- to take advantage of the absence of the good, that they may triumph and vaunt without any hindrance. Paul, accordingly, with the view of reproving their ill-regulated conscience, and repressing their insolence, tells them, that they cannot endure his presence. It happens sometimes, it is true, that wicked men, on finding opportunity of insulting, rise up openly with an iron front against the servants of Christ, but never do they come forward ingenuously to an equal combat, [263] but on the contrary, by sinister artifices they discover their want of confidence.

19. But I will come shortly. "They are in a mistake," says he, "in raising their crests during my absence, as though this were to be of long duration, for they shall in a short time perceive how vain their confidence has been." He has it not, however, so much in view to terrify them, as though he would on his arrival thunder forth against them, but rather presses and bears down upon their consciences, for, however they might disguise it, they were aware that he was furnished with divine influence.

The clause, if the Lord will, intimates, that we ought not to promise anything to others as to the future, or to determine with ourselves, without adding this limitation in so far as the Lord will permit Hence James with good reason derides the rashness of mankind (James 4:15) in planning what they are to do ten years afterwards, while they have not security for living even a single hour. We are not, it is true, bound by a constant necessity to the use of such forms of expression, but it is the better way to accustom ourselves carefully to them, that we may exercise our minds from time to time in this consideration -- that all our plans must be in subjection to the will of God.

And I will know not the speech By speech you must understand that prating in which the false apostles delighted themselves, for they excelled in a kind of dexterity and gracefulness of speech, while they were destitute of the zeal and efficacy of the Spirit. By the term power, he means that spiritual efficacy, with which those are endowed who dispense the word of the Lord with earnestness. [264] The meaning, therefore, is: "I shall see whether they have so much occasion for being puffed up; and I shall not judge of them by their mere outward talkativeness, in which they place the sum-total [265] of their glory, and on the ground of which they claim for themselves every honor. If they wish to have any honor from me, they must bring forward that power which distinguishes the true servants of Christ from the merely pretended: otherwise I shall despise them, with all their show. It is to no purpose, therefore, that they confide in their eloquence, for I shall reckon it nothing better than smoke."

20. For the kingdom of God is not in word As the Lord governs the Church by his word, as with a scepter, the administration of the gospel is often called the kingdom of God Here, then, we are to understand by the kingdom of God whatever tends in this direction, and is appointed for this purpose -- that God may reign among us. He says that this kingdom does not consist in word, for how small an affair is it for any one to have skill to prate eloquently, while he has nothing but empty tinkling. [266] Let us know, then, a mere outward gracefulness and dexterity in teaching is like a body that is elegant and of a beautiful color, while the power of which Paul here speaks is like the soul. We have already seen that the preaching of the gospel is of such a nature, that it is inwardly replete with a kind of solid majesty. This majesty shows itself, when a minister strives by means of power rather than of speech -- that is, when he does not place confidence in his own intellect, or eloquence, but, furnished with spiritual armor, consisting of zeal for maintaining the Lord's honor -- eagerness for the raising up of Christ's kingdom -- a desire to edify -- the fear of the Lord -- an invincible constancy -- purity of conscience, and other necessary endowments, he applies himself diligently to the Lord's work. Without this, preaching is dead, and has no strength, with whatever beauty it may be adorned. Hence in his second epistle, he says, that in Christ nothing avails but a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17) -- a statement which is to the same purpose. For he would have us not rest in outward masks, but depend solely on the internal power of the Holy Spirit.

But while in these words he represses the ambition of the false apostles, he at the same time reproves the Corinthians for their perverted judgment, in measuring the servants of Christ by what holds the lowest place among their excellences. Here we have a remarkable statement, and one that is not less applicable to us than to them. As to our gospel, of which we are proud, [267] where is it in most persons except in the tongue? Where is newness of life? Where is spiritual efficacy? Nor is it so among the people merely. [268] On the contrary, how many there are, who, while endeavoring to procure favor and applause from the gospel, as though it were some profane science, aim at nothing else than to speak with elegance and refinement! I do not approve of restricting the term power to miracles, for from the contrast we may readily gather that it has a more extensive import.

21. What will ye? The person who divided the Epistles into chapters ought to have made this the beginning of the fifth chapter. For having hitherto reproved the foolish pride of the Corinthians, their vain confidence, and their judgment as perverted and corrupted by ambition, he now makes mention of the vices with which they were infected, and on account of which they ought to be ashamed -- "You are puffed up, as though everything were on the best possible footing among you, but it were better if you did with shame and sighing acknowledge the unhappiness of your condition, for if you persist, I shall be under the necessity of laying aside mildness, and exercising towards you a paternal severity." There is, however, still more of emphasis in this threatening in which he gives them liberty to choose, for he declares that it does not depend upon himself whether he shall show himself agreeable and mild, but that it is their own fault that he is necessitated to use severity. "It is for you," says he, "to choose in what temper you would have me. As for me, I am prepared to be mild, but if you go on as you have done hitherto, I shall be under the necessity of taking up the rod." He thus takes higher ground, after having laid claim to fatherly authority over them, for it would have been absurd to set out with this threatening, without first opening up the way by what he said, and preparing them for entertaining fears.

By the term rod, he means that severity with which a pastor ought to correct his people's faults. He places in contrast with this, love, and the spirit of meekness -- not, as though the father hated the sons whom he chastises, for on the contrary the chastisement proceeds from love, but because by sadness of countenance and harshness of words, he appears as though he were angry with his son. To express myself more plainly -- in one word, a father always, whatever kind of look he may put on, regards his son with affection, but that affection he manifests when he teaches him pleasantly and lovingly; but when, on the other hand, being displeased with his faults, he chastises him in rather sharp terms, or even with the rod, he puts on the appearance of a person in a passion. As then love does not appear when severity of discipline is exercised, it is not without good reason, that Paul here conjoins love with a spirit of meekness There are some that understand the term rod to mean excommunication -- but, for my part, though I grant them that excommunication is a part of that severity with which Paul threatens the Corinthians, I at the same time extend it farther, so as to include all reproofs that are of a harsher kind.

Observe here what system a good pastor ought to observe; for he ought of his own accord to be inclined to mildness, with the view of drawing to Christ, rather than driving. This mildness, so far as in him lies, he ought to maintain, and never have recourse to bitterness, unless he be compelled to do so. On the other hand, he must not spare the rod, (Proverbs 13:24,) when there is need for it, for while those that are teachable and agreeable should be dealt with mildly, sharpness requires to be used in dealing with the refractory and contumacious. We see, too, that the Word of God does not contain mere doctrine, but contains an intermixture of bitter reproofs, so as to supply pastors with a rod For it often happens, through the obstinacy of the people, that those pastors who are naturally the mildest [269] are constrained to put on, as it were, the countenance of another, and act with rigor and severity.


[262] "Taschent a suyure les bonnes moeurs de lears peres;" -- "Endeavor to follow the good manners of their fathers."

[263] "Si est-ce que jamais ils ne vienent a combatre franchement, et s' ils ne voyent leur auantage: mats plustot en vsant de ruses et circuits obliques, ils monstrent leur deffiance, et comment ils sont mal asseurez;" -- "So it is, that they never come forward frankly to a combat, and unless they have a view to their own advantage; but on the contrary, by making use of tricks and indirect windings, they show their want of confidence, and how distrustful they are."

[264] "D'vn bon zele, et pure affection;" -- "With a right zeal and a pure affection."

[265] "Proram et puppim;" -- "Prow and stern."

[266] "Sqaura bien babiller et parler eloquemment, et cependant il n'aura rien qu'vn son retentissant en l'air;" -- "Has skill to prate well, and speak eloquently, and in the meantime has nothing but a sound tinkling in the air."

[267] "Duquel nous nous vantons et glorifions tant;" -- "Of which we boast and glory so much."

[268] "Et ce n'est point au peuple seulement qu'est ce defaut;" -- "And it is not among the people merely that this defect exists."

[269] "Qu'on pourra trouuer;" -- "That one could find."

For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church.
Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you.
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.
For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.
What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?
John Calvin's Commentaries
Text Courtesy of Christian Classics Etherial Library.

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