1 Corinthians 4:6
And these things, brothers, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes…
One can but be struck with the prudence and delicacy of the apostle in not mentioning the actual names of the party leaders at Corinth, but illustrating his principle from such more prominent names as his own, that of St. Peter, and that of Apollos. He avoids any charge of personality; and names only the greater leaders, that the Corinthians might learn not to be puffed up for any minister. All teachers are but men, and all are to be esteemed for the Divine gifts that may be entrusted to their charge. We may not "glory in man," only in God, who distributeth to each man severally as he wills, using this man and that for whatever service he may please. F.W. Robertson, speaking of the Christian ministry, well says, "The qualities which are requisite for the higher part of the ministry are - great powers of sympathy; a mind masculine in its power, feminine in its tenderness; humbleness; wisdom to direct; that knowledge of the world which the Bible calls the wisdom of the serpent; and a knowledge of evil that comes rather from repulsion from it than from personal contact with it. But those qualifications which adapt a man for the merely showy parts of the Christian ministry are of an inferior order - fluency, self confidence, tact, a certain histrionic power of conceiving feelings, and expressing them. Now, it was precisely to this class of qualities that Christianity opened a new field in places such as Corinth. Men who had been unknown in their trades suddenly found an opportunity for public addresses, for activity, and for leadership. They became fluent and ready talkers; and the more shallow and self sufficient they were, the more likely it was that they would become the leaders of a faction." The correction of this evil is indicated in our text. The humble sense of grace received, and the burden of responsibility in so high a trust, should keep all Christian teachers in their right place. Recognizing the differences of men's gifts according to the grace they have received, we should value each man for what gift and grace he may have; but we should take care never to make contrasting estimates, nor allow ourselves to be "puffed up for one against another." The following points may receive illustration from other portions of St. Paul's Epistles, especially from the two to the Corinthians, and from those known as the "Pastoral Epistles" (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus): -
I. THE DIVERSITY OF GIFTS ENTRUSTED TO CHRISTIAN TEACHERS, The work to which they are called is very various in its forms and demands. In the family there must be a variety of services, and ability for each; and in the state a variety of offices, and a fitness for each. So in the Christian Church. For its upbuilding there is needed the gift of architect, and carver, and mason, and labourer, and carpenter. The gift of the preacher differs from that of the teacher, and that again from the gift of the organizer. If we once fully admit that all gifts are of grace, and each an unspeakable honour and an overwhelming responsibility for him to whom it is entrusted, envy of each other would pass for ever away, and we should thankfully use each man for the service God has fitted him to render.
II. ALL DIVINE GIFTS ARE UNTO EDIFICATION. God never bestows anything on any man that he may get praise of men or worldly honour for it. All God's gifts are for use. All are entrusted to us for the sake of others. All bear upon the "fully furnishing of our fellow men unto all good works."
III. ALL, TOGETHER, WILL BE FOUND TO MAKE UP A COMPLETE CIRCLE OF THE MEANS OF GRACE. We fail in:
1. The effort to bring out the various gifts of men into use. The Church is everywhere rich with the gifted unknowns, and the gifted idler.
2. In the due recognition of the spiritual completeness which God, in his providential leadings, brings to our Churches.
3. In the consequent freeing of men from duties for which they are unfitted, that they may fully cultivate and use their special gift. Impress that the thankful recipiency and use of the Divine provisions for our spiritual needs should master all personal feeling towards individuals. We should honour the Master who arranges the gifts, and honour the servants only for his sake. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: Now these things, brothers, I have in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that in us you might learn not to think beyond the things which are written, that none of you be puffed up against one another.