1 Corinthians 4:7
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?
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(7) For . . .—This is the explanation of why such “puffing up” is absurd. Even if one possess some gift or power, he has not attained it by his own excellence or power; it is the free gift of God.

4:7-13 We have no reason to be proud; all we have, or are, or do, that is good, is owing to the free and rich grace of God. A sinner snatched from destruction by sovereign grace alone, must be very absurd and inconsistent, if proud of the free gifts of God. St. Paul sets forth his own circumstances, ver. 9. Allusion is made to the cruel spectacles in the Roman games; where men were forced to cut one another to pieces, to divert the people; and where the victor did not escape with his life, though he should destroy his adversary, but was only kept for another combat, and must be killed at last. The thought that many eyes are upon believers, when struggling with difficulties or temptations, should encourage constancy and patience. We are weak, but ye are strong. All Christians are not alike exposed. Some suffer greater hardships than others. The apostle enters into particulars of their sufferings. And how glorious the charity and devotion that carried them through all these hardships! They suffered in their persons and characters as the worst and vilest of men; as the very dirt of the world, that was to be swept away: nay, as the offscouring of all things, the dross of all things. And every one who would be faithful in Christ Jesus, must be prepared for poverty and contempt. Whatever the disciples of Christ suffer from men, they must follow the example, and fulfil the will and precepts of their Lord. They must be content, with him and for him, to be despised and abused. It is much better to be rejected, despised, and ill used, as St. Paul was, than to have the good opinion and favour of the world. Though cast off by the world as vile, yet we may be precious to God, gathered up with his own hand, and placed upon his throne.For who maketh ... - This verse contains a reason for what Paul had just said; and the reason is, that all that any of them possessed had been derived from God, and no endowments whatever, which they had, could be laid as the foundation for self-congratulation and boasting. The apostle here doubtless has in his eye the teachers in the church of Corinth, and intends to show them that there was no occasion of pride or to assume pre-eminence. As all that they possessed had been given of God, it could not be the occasion of boasting or self-confidence.

To differ from another - Who has separateD you from another; or who has made you superior to others. This may refer to everything in which one was superior to others, or distinguished from them. The apostle doubtless has reference to those attainments in piety, talents, or knowledge by which one teacher was more eminent than others. But the same question may be applied to native endowments of mind; to opportunities of education; to the arrangements by which one rises in the world; to health; to property; to piety; to eminence and usefulness in the church. It is God who makes one, in any of these respects, to differ from others; and it is especially true in regard to personal piety. Had not God interfered and made a difference, all would have remained alike under sin. The race would have together rejected his mercy; and it is only by his distinguishing love that any are brought to believe and be saved.

And what hast thou - Either talent, piety, of learning.

That thou didst not receive - From God. By whatever means you have obtained it, it has been the gift of God.

Why dost thou glory ... - Why dost thou boast as if it were the result of your own toil, skill or endeavor. This is not designed to discourage human exertion; but to discourage a spirit of vain-glory and boasting. A man who makes the most painful and faithful effort to obtain anything good, will, if successful, trace his success to God. He will still feel that it is God who gave him the disposition, 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 that 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 repress all boasting and glorying, 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 raiment, of liberty, of peace, as it is of religion, that all come from God; and as this fact which is so obvious and well known, does not repress the exertions of people to preserve their health and to obtain property, so it should not repress their exertions to obtain salvation. God governs the world on the same good principles everywhere; and the fact that he is the source of all blessings, should not operate to discourage, but should prompt to human effort. The hope of his aid and blessing is the only ground of encouragement in any undertaking.

7. Translate, "Who distinguisheth thee (above another)?" Not thyself, but God.

glory, as if thou hadst not received it—as if it was to thyself, not to God, thou owest the receiving of it.

It is apparent that pride was the reigning sin of many in this church of Corinth; pride, by reason of those parts and gifts wherein they excelled, whether they were natural or acquired habits, or common gifts of the Spirit which were infused: to abate this tumour, the apostle minds them to consider, whence they had these gifts from which they took occasion so to exalt and prefer themselves; whether they were the authors of them to themselves, or did receive them from God.

Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? It became none of them to glory in what they had recieved from another, and were beholden to another for. What the apostle here speaketh concerning natural or spiritual abilities, is applicable to all good things; and the consideration here prompted, is a potent consideration to abate the pride and swelling of a man’s heart upon any account whatsoever; for there is nothing wherein a man differeth or is distinguished from another, or wherein he excelleth another, but it is given him from God; be it riches, honour, natural or spiritual gifts and abilities, they are all received from the gift of God, who gives a man power to get wealth, Deu 8:18; who putteth down one and setteth up another, Psalm 75:7: and, as the apostle saith in this Epistle, 1 Corinthians 12:7-9, gives the manifestation of the Spirit to every man to profit withal: to one by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge; to another faith; to another the gifts of healing, & c., all by the same Spirit.

For who maketh thee to differ from another,.... This question, and the following, are put to 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, to the neglect and contempt of others; when the apostle would have them consider, and whatever difference was made between them and others, was made, not by man, but God; that whatever good and benefit they had enjoyed under their respective ministers, were in a way of receiving, and from God; and therefore they ought not to glory in themselves, nor in their ministers, but in God, who had distinguished them by his favours: whatever difference is made among men, is of God; it is he that makes them to differ from the rest of the creation; from angels, to whom they are inferior; and from beasts, to whom they are superior; and from one another in their person, size, shape, and countenance, which is a physical, or natural difference. It is God that makes them to differ from one another in things of a civil nature; as kings and subjects, masters and servants, high and low, rich and poor, bond 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 gifts differing one from another; there are diversities of gifts, administrations, and operations among them, and all from the same spirit: but the grand distinction God has made among men, lies in his special, distinguishing, and everlasting love to some, and not others; in his choice of them in Christ unto 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 prevalent 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 their entrance into everlasting glory; when the distinction will be kept up, as in the above instances, throughout the endless ages of eternity; all which is owing, not to anything of man's, but to the free grace, sovereign will, and good pleasure of God.

And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? whatever mercies and blessings men enjoy, they have in a way of receiving, and from God the Father of all mercies: all natural and temporal mercies are received from him; even such as respect the body, the make, form, and shape of it, perfection of limbs, health, strength, food, raiment, preservation of life, continuance in being, with all the comforts of it: and such as relate to the soul, its formation, which is by the father of spirits, its powers and faculties, natural light, reason, and understanding, all its endowments, abilities, all natural parts, and sharpness of wit; so that no man ought to glory in his wisdom, as if it was owing to himself, when it is all of 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 to persevere to the end, with a right and title to eternal glory.

Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it? To glory in any mercy, favour, or blessing received from God, as if it was not received from him, but as owing to human power, care, and industry, betrays wretched vanity, stupid and more than brutish ignorance, horrid ingratitude, abominable pride and wickedness; and is contrary to the grace of God, which teaches men humility and thankfulness. To God alone should all the blessings of nature, providence, and grace be ascribed; he ought to have all the glory of them; and to him, and him only, praise is due for them. That proud Arminian, Grevinchovius (t), in answer to this text, said,

"I make myself to differ; since I could resist God, and divine predetermination, but have not resisted, why may not I glory in it as of my own?''

(t) Contr. Ames. p. 253.

{8} 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 {f} thou hadst not received it?

(8) He shows a good way to bridle pride. First, if you consider how it is wrong for you to exclude yourself from the number of others, seeing you are a man yourself. Second, if you consider that even though you have something more than other men have, yet you only have it by God's bountifulness. And what wise man is he that will brag of another's goodness, and that against God?

(f) There is nothing then in us by nature that is worthy of commendation: but all that we have, we have it of grace, which the Pelegians and semi-Pelegians will not confess.

1 Corinthians 4:7. The words ἵνα μὴἑτέρου are now justified by two considerations—(1) No one maketh thee to differ; it is a difference of thine own making, which thou settest between thee and others. (2) What thou possessest thou hast not from thyself, and it is absurd to boast thyself of it as though it were thine own work. Hofmann holds that Paul in his first proposition glances at his own difference from others, and in his second at the gifts of Apollos; but this is neither indicated in the text, nor would it accord with the fact that he and Apollos are to be examples of humility to the readers, but not examples to humble them—namely, by high position and gifts.

σέ] applies to each individual of the preceding ὑμεῖς, not therefore simply to the sectarian teachers (Pott, following Chrysostom and several of the old expositors).

The literal sense of διακρίνει is to be retained. The Vulgate rightly renders: “Quis enim te discernit?” Comp Acts 15:9; Homer, Od. iv. 179; Plato, Soph. p. 253 E, Charm. p. 171 C. This of course refers, in point of fact, to supposed pre-eminence; but Paul will not describe it as pre-eminence (contrary to the common rendering: Who maketh thee to differ for the better?).

τὶ δὲ ἔχεις κ.τ.λ[644]] ΔΈ, like that which follows, heaps question on question. See Hartung, Partikell. I. p. 169. To what Paul is pointing in the general: “But what possessest thou,” etc., their own conscience told his readers, and it is clear also from the next question, that, namely, of which they boasted, their Christian insight, wisdom, eloquence, and the like. He certainly did not think of himself and the other teachers as the source (ἔλαβες) of the gifts (Semler, Heydenreich, Pott), which would be quite contrary to his humble piety, but: οὐδὲν οἴκοθεν ἔχεις, ἀλλὰ παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ λαβών, Chrysostom. Comp 1 Corinthians 3:5, 1 Corinthians 12:6, 1 Corinthians 15:10.

ΕἸ ΔῈ ΚΑῚ ἜΛ.] again, even if thou hast received, even if thou hast been endowed with gifts, which I will by no means deny. Εἰ καί is not meant to represent the possession of them as problematical (Rückert), but is concessive. Comp 2 Corinthians 4:3. See Hermann, a[647] Viger. p. 832; comp Hartung, I. p. 140 f.; Klotz, a[649] Devar. p. 519 f.

ΤΊ ΚΑΥΧᾶΣΑΙ Κ.Τ.Λ[650]] οὐδεὶς ἐπʼ ἀλλοτρίαις παρακαταθήκαις μεγαφρονεῖ, ἐπαγρυπνεῖ δὲ ταύταις, ἵνα φυλάξῃ τῷ δεδωκότι, Theodoret.

[644] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

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

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

[650] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

1 Corinthians 4:7. τίς γάρ σε διακρίνει; “for who marks thee off?” (or “separates thee?—discernit, Vg[691]”)—what warrant for thy boasting, “I am of Paul,” etc., for ranging thyself in this coterie or that? “The διάκρισις was self-made” (El[692]). The other rendering, “Who makes thee to differ?” (to be superior: eximie distinguit, Bg[693])—sc. “who but God?”—suits the vb[694] διακρίνω, but is hardly relevant. This question stigmatises the partisan conceit of the Cor[695] as presumptuous; those that follow, τί δὲεἰ δὲ καὶ … marks it as ungrateful; both ways it is egotistic.—τί δὲ ἔχεις κ.τ.λ.: “what moreover hast thou that thou didst not receive?”—i.e., from God (1 Corinthians 1:4 f., 1 Corinthians 1:30, 1 Corinthians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 3:10, 1 Corinthians 12:6, etc.). For this pregnant sense of λαμβάνω, cf. Acts 20:35.—“But if indeed thou didst receive (it), why glory as one that had not received?” The receiver may boast of the Giver (1 Corinthians 1:31), not of anything as his own. καὶ lends actuality to the vb[696]; “εἰ καὶ, de re quam ita esse ut dicitur significamus” (Hermann); cf. 2 Corinthians 4:3. καυχᾶσαι, a rare form of 2nd sing[697] ind[698] mid[699]; Wr[700], p. 90. For ὡς with ptp[701], of point of view (perinde ac), see Bm[702], p. 307; cf. 1 Corinthians 4:3.

[691] Latin Vulgate Translation.

[692] C. J. Ellicott’s St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians.

[693] Bengel’s Gnomon Novi Testamenti.


[695] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[696] verb

[697]ing. singular number.

[698] indicative mood.

[699] middle voice.

[700] Winer-Moulton’s Grammar of N.T. Greek (8th ed., 1877).

[701] participle

[702] A. Buttmann’s Grammar of the N.T. Greek (Eng. Trans., 1873).

7. For who maketh thee to differ from another] Cf. St John 3:27; James 1:17. All the gifts they had received were of God, and this fact excluded as a matter of course all boasting or self-satisfaction. The Vulgate translates ‘maketh thee to differ’ by discerno, with the signification given above. This throws a light on the meaning of our English word discern in ch. 1 Corinthians 11:29, where see note.

glory] Rather, perhaps, boast. See note on ch. 1 Corinthians 5:6.

1 Corinthians 4:7. Τίς) who? not thou, not another man; but even supposing thou hast some excellent gift, it is God alone [who maketh thee to differ].—σὲ, thee) This word may be referred both to some one at Corinth and, by changing the figure of speech [σχῆμα referring to μετεσχημάτισα], to Paul: σε, thee, thyself, how great soever thou art: in antithesis to the gifts, which thou mayest or mayest not have received.—διακρίνει, makes to differ) or, peculiarly distinguishes by some difference.—τί δὲ ἔχεις, ὃ οὐκ ἔλαβες, but what hast thou, which thou hast not received?) The meaning is: whatever thou hast, thou hast received it, not from thyself, but from God: or, there are many things, which thou hast not received, and therefore thou hast them not and canst not boast of them: either thou hast, or hast not received; if thou hast not received, thou hast them not: if thou hast received, thou hast nothing but what has been received, without any cause for glorying. He, whom Paul here addresses, is a man; for example, Paul, whose way of thinking the Corinthians ought to take as a pattern. The latter sense renders the meaning of the καὶ, even, which immediately follows, more express, and shows the antanaclasis[34] in thou hast not received: [as if] not receiving.—ὡς μὴ λαβὼν, as if thou hadst not received it) as if thou hast it from thyself.

[34] See App. The same word in the same context twice, but in a different sense.

Verse 7. - Who maketh thee to differ? literally, Who distinguisheth thee? He means that this glorification and depreciation of rival views and rival teachers sprang from unwarrantable arrogance. It involved a claim to superiority, and a right to sit in judgment, which they did not possess. That thou didst not receive? Even supposing that you have some special gift, it is a gift, not a merit, and therefore it is a boon for which to be thankful, not a pre-eminence of which to boast.

"Satan, I know thy power, and thou know'st mine,
Neither our own, but given. What folly, then,
To try what arms can do!"

(Milton, 'Paradise Lost.') 1 Corinthians 4:7
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