1 Corinthians 4:15
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.
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(15) For.—The reason why he has a right to address them as a father would his children. They may have had since their conversion a host of instructors, but they could have only one father who begot them in Jesus Christ. That father was Paul. “I have begotten you.” I, emphatic as opposed to “many.” The word rendered “instructors” originally signified the slave who led the child to school, but subsequently had the larger meaning, which we attach to the word pedagogue. (See Galatians 3:24-25.) There is a contrast implied between the harsh severity of a pedagogue and the loving tenderness of a father.

4:14-21 In reproving for sin, we should distinguish between sinners and their sins. Reproofs that kindly and affectionately warn, are likely to reform. Though the apostle spoke with authority as a parent, he would rather beseech them in love. And as ministers are to set an example, others must follow them, as far as they follow Christ in faith and practice. Christians may mistake and differ in their views, but Christ and Christian truth are the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. Whenever the gospel is effectual, it comes not in word only, but also in power, by the Holy Spirit, quickening dead sinners, delivering persons from the slavery of sin and Satan, renewing them both inwardly and outwardly, and comforting, strengthening, and establishing the saints, which cannot be done by the persuasive language of men, but by the power of God. And it is a happy temper, to have the spirit of love and meekness bear the rule, yet to maintain just authority.For though ye have ten thousand instructors - Though you may have or though you should have. It matters not how many you have, yet it is still true that I only sustain the relation to you of spiritual father, and whatever respect it is proper for you to have toward them, yet there is a special right which I have to admonish you, and a special deference which is due to me, from my early labors among you, and from the fact that you are my spiritual children.

Instructers - Greek: pedagogues; or those who conducted children to school, and who superintended their conduct out of school hours. Hence, those who had the care of children, or teachers (in general). It is then applied to instructors of any kind.

In Christ - In the Christian system or doctrine. The authority which Paul claims here, is that which a father has in preference to such an instructor.

Not many fathers - Spiritual fathers. That is, you have but one. You are to remember that however many teachers you have, yet that I alone am your spiritual father.

In Christ Jesus - By the aid and authority of Christ. I have begotten you by preaching his gospel and by his assistance.

I have begotten you - I was the instrument of your conversion.

Through the gospel - By means of the gospel; by preaching it to you, that is, by the truth.

15. ten thousand—implying that the Corinthians had more of them than was desirable.

instructors—tutors who had the care of rearing, but had not the rights, or peculiar affection, of the father, who alone had begotten them spiritually.

in Christ—Paul admits that these "instructors" were not mere legalists, but evangelical teachers. He uses, however, a stronger phrase of himself in begetting them spiritually, "In Christ Jesus," implying both the Saviour's office and person. As Paul was the means of spiritually regenerating them, and yet "baptized none of them save Crispus, Gaius, and the household of Stephanas," regeneration cannot be inseparably in and by baptism (1Co 1:14-17).

The great lesson of this text is: That people ought to have a tender respect for those ministers whom God hath hononred with their first conversion, and bringing them home to Christ. God may make use of a multitude of ministers to instruct Christians, and carry on his work in their souls to perfection; but he maketh use of some particular minister at first to convince them, and be an instrument in the changing of their hearts; such they ought to have a great value for, they are their spiritual fathers in a proper sense.

For, saith the apostle, in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel: where we have regeneration (as it signifieth a new state) set out in its causes. The principal efficient cause is Christ Jesus; the instrumental cause is the minister of the gospel; the means is the doctrine of the gospel, or the preaching of the gospel.

In Christ Jesus signifieth here by the grace of Christ Jesus; those who are born again, are not born of flesh or of blood, but of the will of God, John 1:13, and by the influence of Christ upon their hearts; though God makes use of the minister of the gospel as his instrument, and the minister makes use of the word and the preaching of the gospel, as the sacred means which God hath appointed to that end, 1 Peter 1:23. All these causes unite and concur in the work of regeneration.

For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ,.... Or "schoolmasters"; by whom he means the false teachers, whom, for argument sake, he admits to be instructors in Christ, or ministers of his, as in 2 Corinthians 11:23 and who were many, and of whose number the Corinthians boasted; though they were not so numerous as here supposed; for the expression is hyperbolical: perhaps some reference may be had to the multitude of schoolmasters, tutors, and governors, and who also were called "fathers", which those that were Jews of this church at Corinth had before they believed in Christ; as the members of the great sanhedrim, the great number of doctors, wise men, Scribes and Pharisees, who pretended to instruct them: now though it should be allowed, that the present teachers among them were instrumental in instructing them further in the knowledge of Christ; or as the Arabic version reads it, "in the love of Christ"; yet they had no hand in their conversion; the apostle first preached the Gospel to them, and ministerially laid Christ the foundation among them, and directed them unto him, and was the minister by whom they believed; these teachers at most and best built on his foundation, and that only wood, hay, and stubble; and whereas they were only a sort of schoolmasters, and not fathers, they taught with mercenary views, and for lucre's sake, and with severity, as such men do; and not with such a single eye to their good, and with that tenderness and affection a parent has, and in which relation he stood to them:

yet have ye not many fathers; as it is in nature, so it is in grace; how many masters and instructors soever a child may have, whether together or successively, he has but one father; and so how many after instructors, either nominally or really, believers may have to lead them on, or who pretend to lead them on to a further knowledge of Christ; yet have they but one spiritual father, who has been the happy instrument and means of their conversion, as the Apostle Paul was to the Corinthians;

for in Christ Jesus have I begotten you through the Gospel; which is to be understood of regeneration, a being born again, and from above; of being quickened when dead in trespasses and sins; of having Christ formed in the soul; of being made a partaker of the divine nature, and a new creature; which the apostle ascribes to himself, not as the efficient cause thereof, for regeneration is not of men but of God; not of the will of the flesh, of a man's own free will and power, nor of the will of any other man, or minister; but of the sovereign will, grace, and mercy of God, Father, Son, and Spirit. The Father of Christ beget us again according to his abundant mercy; and the Son quickens whom he will; and we are born again of water and of the Spirit, of the grace of the Spirit; hence the washing of regeneration, and renewing work are ascribed to him: but the apostle speaks this of himself, only as the instrument or means, which God made use of in doing this work upon the hearts of his people; and which the other phrases show: for he is said to do it "in Christ"; he preached Christ unto them, and salvation by him, and the necessity of faith in him; he directed them to him to believe in him, and was the means of bringing of them to the faith of Christ; and it was the power and grace of Christ accompanying his ministry, which made it an effectual means of their regeneration and conversion: and which were brought about "through the Gospel"; not through the preaching of the law; for though by that is the knowledge of sin, and convictions may be wrought by such means; yet these leave nothing but a sense of wrath and damnation; nor is the law any other than a killing letter: no regeneration, no quickening grace, no faith nor holiness come this way, but through the preaching of the Gospel; in and through which, as a vehicle, the Spirit of God conveys himself into the heart, as a spirit of regeneration and faith; and God of his own will and rich mercy, by the word of truth, by the Gospel of grace and truth, which came by Christ, so called in distinction from the law which came by Moses, begets us again as his new creatures; which shows the usefulness of the Gospel ministry, and in what account Gospel ministers are to be had, who are spiritual fathers, or the instruments of the conversion of men.

For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
1 Corinthians 4:15 justifies the ὡς τέκνα μου ἀγαπ. νουθετῶ.

For suppose ye have ten thousand tutors in Christ. On μυρίους,[704] compare Matthew 18:24; 1 Corinthians 14:19.

Respecting the paedagogi among the Greeks and Romans (comp אֹמֵן, 1 Chronicles 27:32; 2 Kings 10:1; 2 Kings 10:5; Esther 2:7; Rosenmüller, Morgenl. VI. p. 272), who, for the most part slaves, had it in charge to educate and give constant attendance upon boys till they came of age, see Wetstein and Hermann, Privatalterth. § 34. 15 ff. The name is here given figuratively to the later workers in the church, the ΠΟΤΊΖΟΝΤΕς (1 Corinthians 3:6-8), the ἘΠΟΙΚΟΔΟΜΟῦΝΤΕς (1 Corinthians 3:10 ff.), in respect of their carrying on its further Christian development, after Paul (its father) had founded it, had given to it Christian life, had begotten it spiritually. Since the essential nature of the delineation here allowed of no other word alongside of πατέρας except παιδαγ., and since, moreover, Apollos also was reckoned among the παιδαγώγοις, we are not warranted in finding here expressed the idea of imperious and arrogant leadership on the part of the heads of parties (Beza, Calvin, and others, including Pott, Heydenreich, de Wette, Osiander). Compare, too, Erasmus: “paedagogus saevit pro imperio.” It is not even the inferior love of the later teachers (Chrysostom, Theophylact) that Paul wishes to make his readers sensible of, but only his rights as a father, which can be in no way impaired by all who subsequently entered the same field.

ἈΛΛʼ Οὐ Π. ΠΑΤ.] sc[706] ἔχετε. The ἀλλά after a hypothetical protasis is the at of emphatic contrast, on the other hand (Nägelsbach on the Iliad, p. 43, ed. 3; Baeumlein, Partik. p. 11; Klotz, a[707] Devar. p. 93), and that, too, without a restrictive γέ, in the sense of at certe; see Kühner, a[708] Xen. Anab. vii. 7. 43.

ἐν γὰρ Χριστῷ κ.τ.λ[709]] i.e. for in the life-fellowship of Jesus Christ no other than I myself has begotten you, through the gospel. Just as ἐν Χριστῷ, in the first half of the verse, conveys the specific distinction of the ΠΑΙΔΑΓΏΓΟΥς ἜΧΕΙΝ; so here, and that with the emphatic addition of ἸΗΣΟῦ, it conveys that of the moral generation, which has taken place, not out of Christ, but in Him as the element of its being; and ΔΙᾺ ΤΟῦ ΕὐΑΓΓΕΛ. (comp 1 Peter 1:23) is the means whereby this establishment of their existence in the Christian sphere of life has been brought about. In both these respects it differs from physical generation. The antithetic emphasis of the ἘΓΏ forbids us to refer ἘΝ Χ. . to the person of the apostle: “in my fellowship with Christ, i.e. as His apostle” (de Wette, comp Grotius, Calovius, Flatt, al[712]).

ἘΓΈΝΝΗΣΑ] Comp 1 Corinthians 4:17; Philemon 1:10; Galatians 4:19. Sanhedr. f. 19. 2 : “Quicunque filium socii sui docet legem, ad eum scriptura refert, tanquam si eum genuisset.”

[704] The distinction drawn by the old grammarians between μύριοι (a numeral proper) and μυρίοι (an indefinitely large number) is without foundation. See Buttmann, ausführl. Sprachl. I. p. 284; Ellendt, Lex Soph. II. p. 144.

[706] c. scilicet.

[707] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[708] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[709] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[712] l. and others; and other passages; and other editions.

1 Corinthians 4:15. Reason for this lighter reproof, where stern censure was due—“For if you should have ten thousand tutors in Christ, yet (you have) not many fathers!” The relation of the ἐποικοδομοῦντες to the θεμέλιον τιθείς (1 Corinthians 3:10) is exchanged for that of the παιδαγωγοὶ to the πατήρ. The παιδαγωγός (boy-leader) was not the schoolmaster, but the home-tutor—a kind of nursery-governor—who had charge of the child from tender years, looking after his food and dress, speech and manners, and when he was old enough taking him to and from school (see Lt[762] on Galatians 3:24). This epithet has a touch of disparagement for the readers (cf. Galatians 3:25); as Or[763] says (Catena), referring to 1 Corinthians 3:1 f., οὐδεὶς ἀνὴρ παιδαγωγεῖται, ἀλλʼ εἴ τις νήπιος καὶ ἀτελής.—μυρίους (1 Corinthians 14:19) indicates the very many—probably too many—teachers busy in this Church (cf. Jam 3:1; Jam 3:18 above), in whose guidance the Cor[764] felt themselves “rich” and Apostolic direction superfluous (1 Corinthians 4:8).—ἀλλά (at certe) introduces an apodosis in salient contrast with its protasis: “You may have ever so many nurses, but only one father!” From this relationship “non solum Apollos excluditur, successor; sed etiam comites, Silas et Timotheus” (Bg[765]): ἐγώ (I and no other) ἐγέννησα ὑμᾶς (cf. Philemon 1:10, Galatians 4:19); in the Rabbinical treatise Sanhedrin, f., xix. 2, the like sentiment occurs, “Whoever teaches the son of his friend the law, it is as if he had begotten him”; similarly Philo, de Virtute, p. 1000.—διὰ τ. εὐαγγελίου: cf. 1 Peter 1:23; also 1 Corinthians 1:18 above, 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; John 6:63, etc.

[762] J. B. Lightfoot’s (posthumous) Notes on Epp. of St. Paul (1895).

[763] Origen.

[764] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[765] Bengel’s Gnomon Novi Testamenti.

15. yet have ye not many fathers] We have here an interesting example of the fact that the spirit rather than the letter of Christ’s commands is to be observed, and that one passage of Scripture is not to be strained so as to contradict another. ‘Call no man your father on earth,’ says Christ (St Matthew 23:9): that is, as explained by the present passage, in such a spirit as to forget Him from whom all being proceeds.

in Christ Jesus I have begotten you] i.e. because Jesus Christ dwells in His ministers, and their work is His. Cf. ch. 1 Corinthians 3:5-9.

1 Corinthians 4:15. Παιδαγωγοὺς, instructors) however evangelical they are, being in Christ, not legal instructors. The antithetical terms respectively are, ‘planting,’ and ‘watering;’ “laying the foundation,” and “building upon it:” ‘begetting’ and ‘instructing.’—οὐ πολλοὺς, not many) In like manner every regenerate man has not many fathers. Paul does not say, one Father; for that applies to God alone; not many, is however sufficiently explained by the following word, I. Not only Apollos, his successor, is excluded, but also his companions Silas and Timotheus, Acts 18:5. Spiritual fatherhood has in it a peculiar tie of relationship and affection connected with it, above every other kind of propinquity.—ἐν γὰρ Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, for in Christ Jesus) This is more express than the phrase above, in Christ, where he is speaking of other instructors.

Verse 15. - Ten thousand; never so many. The word in Greek is used indefinitely, but here implies a touch of impatience at the itch of teaching which seems to have prevailed at Corinth. Tutors; rather, pedagogues, in a technical sense. We have no exact equivalent in English to the paidagogos, the slave who led boys to school. The word also occurs in Galatians 3:24, 25. The father loves most, and has the nearer and dearer claim. In Christ. So he says, "The Law was our paidagogos to Christ." These guides or guardians were such "in Christ," i.e. in the sphere of Christian life. Not many fathers. St. Paul felt a yearning desire that his unique claim as the founder of their Church should not be so ungratefully overlooked, as though it were of no importance (comp. 1 Corinthians 3:6; 1 Corinthians 9:1, 2; Acts 18:11). I have begotten you. The word is here only used in a secondary and metaphoric sense, as in Philemon 1:10; Galatians 4:19. In the highest sense we are only begotten by the will of God, by that Word of truth (James 1:18), to which he alludes in the words "through the gospel." The "second birth" is, however a doctrine more dwelt on by St. John (John 3:3; 1 John 3:9; 1 John 5:1, etc.) than by St. Paul, who, as Mr. Beet observes, only refers to it in Titus 3:5. 1 Corinthians 4:15Tutors (παιδαγωγοὺς)

From παῖς boy and ἀγωγός leader. The Paedagogus was a slave to whom boys were entrusted on leaving the care of the females, which was somewhere about their sixteenth year. He was often a foreigner, sometimes educated and refined, but often otherwise; for Plutarch complains that seamen, traders, usurers, and farmers are engaged in this capacity. The office was one of general guardianship, not of instruction, though sometimes the paedagogus acted as teacher. He accompanied the boy to school, carrying his books, etc., and attended him to the gymnasium and elsewhere. See, further, on Galatians 3:24.

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