1 Corinthians


3. Maintaining unity in the Church, 1:11-4:21

iv] Have regard for your apostle, 4:1-21

b) The apostles as models of the wisdom of the cross


Paul now spells out what he has been getting at in 1:10-4:5. He is not particularly criticizing the ministry of Apollos or Peter, or anyone, but as Kuck puts it in Paul and Pastoral Ambition, 1992, he is into "discussing Apollos and himself in order to admonish the Corinthian congregation as a whole."


i] Context: See 4:1-5.


ii] Background: See 1:11-17.


iii] Structure: The marks of true apostleship:


The Apollos / Paul analogies

are for the benefit of the Corinthian church, v6.

Rhetorical questions, v7:

Those who are "puffed up" against him are out of line.

Argument - ad hominem:

"We are weak, but you are strong", v8-10;

The argument serves to expose self-deception.

The tribulations of Christ, v11-13;

Paul's arguments serve to shame

his opponents with an account of true apostleship.


iv] Interpretation:

In 4:1-5 Paul encouraged the dissident cliques in the Corinthian congregation not get into a negative critique of his apostolic ministry. Now he establishes, first and foremost, the necessity for a minister of the gospel to stand firm in gospel truth (a} gegraptai, "the writings" / record / tradition = the gospel). A preacher / teacher, not grounded firmly in the gospel, will tend to be full of arrogance, favoring one minister while disparaging another. A minister of the gospel who disparages a fellow minister is no different to a corrupt secular orator. It is not possible to claim superiority when a minister's gifts are from God, so why boast as if they are not a gift?

Paul goes on in v8-13 to facetiously contrast his apostolic credentials with those of the leaders / teachers / preachers of the "status-groupings" (Thiselton) in the Corinthian congregation. Unlike these preachers of wisdom who have arrived / are wise, Paul still struggles / is a fool. It would be wonderful if these enthusiasts have discovered the secret to a victorious Christian life in the here and now, because Paul would happily join them. The reality for Paul is anything but victory; trouble and strife, that's the reality.


Apollos the troublemaker? Apollos may indeed by a leader of one of the cliques in Corinth (so Barnett), but then, the mention of his name may just be a device to enable Paul not to name the teacher, or teachers, who are causing trouble in the Corinthian church. Either way, Paul doesn't want to shame these teachers of worldly wisdom who are leading the believers astray, rather, he wants to draw them back to the true wisdom of the gospel, of Christ crucified. This seems to be his point in v6.

Text - 4:6

Fools for Christ's sake, v6-13: i] The Apollos / Paul analogies are for the benefit of the Corinthian church, v6.

de "Now" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument.

meteschmatisa (metaschmatizw) aor. "I have applied" - [these things brothers] i made into a figure, transformed, changed into a figure of speech. "I have showed you how these things pertain to Apollos and me."

tauta pro. "these things" - The pronoun serves as a substantive, accusative direct object of the verb "to transform." The "all this", TEV, is possibly the illustrations on gardening, building and stewardship in the previous passage, but probably in a wider sense, all the "instruction on the authority and responsibility of Christ's servants (ministers)", Pfitzner.

eiV + acc. "to" - into = with respect to [myself and apollos]. Adverbial, reference / respect; "with respect to myself and Apollos." A collective sense seems likely, rather than a distributive sense, "to myself and to Apollos" (the preposition may repeat, given the presence of kai). Paul has applied the "all this" with respect to particular individuals, mentioning here himself and Apollos, but now he extends the "instruction". Barnett suggests that the "Apollos" faction are the "teachers of wisdom"

di (dia) + acc. "for [your] benefit" - because of = for [you]. Here causal, "for the sake of", leaning toward benefit, as NIV. "In all that I have said up to now, it may seem that I have been talking only about Apollos and myself, but what I have said can be applied more widely, namely to you readers", TH.

iJna + subj. "so that" - that [you may learn]. Introducing a final clause expressing purpose; "in order that ..."

en + dat. "from [us]" - in = by [us]. Instrumental, expressing means, "by / through us."

to "the meaning of the saying ['Do not go beyond what is written']" - the [not to go beyond what things have been written]. Technically the article serves as a nominalizer turning the prepositional phrase "not beyond what has been written" into a substantive. An ellipsis is possible with the article standing in for an articular infinitive serving to introduce a dependent statement of perception expressing what the readers should learn, "not to go beyond what things have been written." Of itself, the article may serve to introduce a saying, a kind of inverted comers, or even "namely" for a more general statement. The NIV has opted for a quotation, a common saying, a kind of "keep within the rules / keep within your boundaries", so Barnett, Barrett, Bruce, Fee, ... Blomberg may be closer to the mark when he suggest that a} gegraptai, "what things have been written", refers to the scriptures, so Paul encourages the readers "to remain within biblical standards", or even more specifically to adhere to the scriptures, a kind of "keep to the book", Bruce (obviously the OT); "See from our example that God's will expressed in Scripture is still valid", Pfitzner. Given the focus on gospel truth in these early chapters, it quite possible that Paul is referring to the gospel record / tradition, written or otherwise - the word has a wider sense than just a written document. The "teachers of wisdom" reject Paul's exposition of the gospel, disparaging its simplicity (free grace always seems too simple to be true).

mh uJper + acc. "do not go beyond" - not beyond. Comparative; "more than / beyond."

iJna mh + subj. "then you will not [take pride / be puffed up]" - lest [you are inflated with pride]. Introducing a negated purpose clause, "in order that not" = "lest"; "lest you should be proud of one person and despise another."

uJper + gen. "over against [the other]" - [one] for [the one]. Here expressing advantage / benefit, "on behalf of, for the sake of"; "one in favor of one against another." "Puffed up with rivalry over one teacher (preacher) as against another", Moffatt.

kata + gen. "against [the other]" - Here expressing opposition; "one against another", ESV.


ii] The destroying power of pride, v6-7.

gar "for" - Expressing reason rather than cause, the reason why the Corinthians should not be proud.

tiV "who" - who [discriminates, distinguishes you from others]? Interrogative pronoun introducing a rhetorical question. Probably with the sense "who makes you superior to anyone else in the church?"; "who singles you out as a leader?", Barnett. The answer is no one; certainly God doesn't.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument, here the next rhetorical question; "furthermore", B&L.

ti "what" - what [do you have which you did not receive]? Interrogative pronoun introducing a rhetorical question. Presumably "receive from God", and best expressed as a statement tied to the third question, "everything you have you received from God so why boast about it?"

de kai "and" - but/and even. The de is again transition, and kai is ascensive, "but even if ....", or adjunctive, "and also if ...."

ei "if" - if [you received it, why do you boast]. Introducing a 1st. class conditional clause where the proposed condition is assumed to be true, here for argument sake; "if, as is the case for argument sake, you received it, then why do you boast as not having received it?"

wJV "as though" - as if. The comparative particle here expresses a characteristic quality, in this context a subjective thought, "with the thought that", cf., BDF #425.3.

labwn (lambanw) aor. part. "you did [not]" - having [not] received it? The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of the boast.


iii] Lowliness in Christ, v8-13: a) The self-deception / delusion of Paul's opponents, v8-10. "One of the consequences of this jockeying for pre-eminence based on competing teachers is that Paul himself has been marginalized in the church", Barnett.

hdh adv. "already" - Temporal adverb. We have a hint here of the line adopted by at least one of the "status-groupings", namely, perfectionism, but it is only a hint. "These sound like the proud claims of enthusiasts who maintain that the possession of the Spirit has lifted them beyond this normal world, so that everything promised in the gospel is a complete present reality, already here and now", Pfitzner. Of course, in one sense a believer is perfect in Christ, justified and sanctified, even now reigning with Christ, but while on this earth the struggle goes on. The kingdom of God is a now / not yet reality, both inaugurated and realized. As Luther said, "the old Adam retains his power until he is deposited in the grave".

kekoresmenoi (korennumi) perf. mid./pas. part. "you have all you want" - you have been filled, had your fill, satiated, you have had enough, [already you are rich]. The participle may be taken with the present tense verb to-be este to form a periphrastic perfect construction, possibly emphasizing aspect, or to stand by itself as a predicate adjective. Paul is being facetious.

ebasileusate (basileuw) aor. "you have become kings / you have begun to reign" - [without us] you became kings. The aorist leans toward the sense "reign". The second use of the verb in "how I wish you really have gained a kingdom / reigned" is taken by the NIV as ingressive such that the focus is on the point where the action begins.

cwriV + gen. "and that without [us]" - without [us]. Spacial, expressing separation; "without our company."

iJna + subj. "so that" - [and i would wish that really you became kings] that. Introducing a final clause expressing purpose, "in order that we also might become kings / reign with you", or better, consecutive, expressing result, "with the result that we also might reign with you", B&L.

kai "also" - and. Adjunctive, "also", as NIV.

uJmin dat. "you" - [we might reign with] you. Dative of direct object after the sun prefix verb "to reign with" / association. "I would to God you were really kings in God's sight so that we might reign with you", Phillips.


Unlike the victorious life claimed by the preachers of wisdom, the apostles are escatouV, "last / last of all / last in rank." The apostles preach Christ crucified, "a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles"; it brings anything but victory to those who preach it.

gar "for" - Here introducing a causal clause explaining why Paul wishes the Corinthian perfectionists had discovered a genuine realized eschatology in the here and now, because he and the other apostles would love to join them rather than struggle on as they do in the present.

apedeixen (apodeiknumi) aor. "[God] has put [us apostles] on display" - [i think = it seems to me that god] showed forth, demonstrated, exhibited. Sometimes with the sense "commend", extending to "appoint", but "exhibited" is probably best, of someone of low rank being cast into the theatre of the gladiatorial games; "God has exhibited us as lowly contenders, like second-rate gladiators about to die in the arena."

touV apostolouV (oV) "us apostles" - [us] the apostles [last = last in rank]. Standing in apposition to the direct object "us". Here Paul specifies the plural "we / us" as "the apostles." It may well be that Paul's use of "we / us" is referring to the apostles all along, although in 4:1ff he seems to have in mind "stewards" / ministers of the gospel, and he includes Apollos in this category. In the earlier chapters Paul is probably referring to himself and his ministry team, but possibly the "we" is a royal / editorial plural, and of course, Paul may similarly be using "us apostles" here to refer to himself; the matter remains unclear; see 2:6, "we speak." In the present passage Paul has in mind the suffering and persecution of the apostles, so "us, the apostles", or "us apostles."

wJV "like" - like, as. The comparative particle here introduces a concrete example; "as for example, those sentenced to death."

epiqanatiouV adj. "those condemned to die in the arena" - sentenced to death. The adjective serves as a substantive.

oJti "-" - because [we have become a theatrical spectacle]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why the apostles are like a team of second-rate gladiators, "because ..."

tw/ kosmw/ (oV) dat. "to the whole universe" - to the world. Dative of indirect object / reference, respect.

kai ..... kai "... as well as ...." - both [to angels] and [to men (human beings)]. Forming a correlative construction; "to men and angels alike", Cassirer.


The three sets of comparatives possibly express teaching, demeanor and worldly status, so Thiselton.

hJmeiV .... umeiV de "we .... but you ..." - In this paired comparative series, the pronouns serve as nominative subjects of an implied verb to-be, with the de transitional, indicating a step to a contrast, "but".

dia + acc. "for [Christ]" - [we are foolish] because of, for the sake of [christ]. The translation "for the sake of" = "for", pushes toward benefit, but the preposition here is more likely causal, so Fitzmyer; "because of" = "because of our relationship with Christ."

en + dat. "in [Christ]" - [but you are wise] in [christ]. Paul commonly uses this preposition to express incorporative union with Christ, in consortes convenit, but that is surely not the sense here. The preposition here probably doesn't carry much weight at all, as with dia above. So, something like "in your relationship with Christ" will suffice. "Our form of Christianity is viewed as stupidity, yours, on the other hand, is so sophisticated and acceptable."

endoxoi adj. "honored" - [we are weak, but you are strong; you are] honored, eminent [but we are without honor, obscure = dishonored]. "You might be sure of yourselves, but we live in the midst of frailties and uncertainties. You might be well-thought-of by others, but we're mostly kicked around", Peterson.


The life of an apostle, as experienced by Paul over the last twenty years, v11-13. First, six descriptives: hungry, thirsty ....... through to v12a. Then, three vindictive affronts to which the apostles (Paul) respond kindly, v12b-13a. Finally, a general overview of apostolic humiliation, v13b.

acri + gen. "to [this very hour]" - until = up to [the now = present hour]. Temporal construction; "up to the present we ....."

kai .... kai ... kai ... "-" - [we] and = both [hunger] and [thirst] and [are naked] and [are beaten] and. Correlative use of the conjunction / polysyndeton; "we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked and are beaten ...."

astatoumen (astatew) pres. "we are homeless" - we are unstable = are always on the move, never standing still / homeless. Possibly, "we have no home to settle in", Cassirer, although we are not sure of that fact, so better "wandering from place to place", Junkins.


ergazomenoi (ergazomai) pres. part. "[we work] hard" - [and] we labor [working]. The participle is adverbial, model, expressing the manner of the apostles' "work", or instrumental, expressing means, "by working with our hands."

taiV ... cersin (r roV) dat. "with [our own] hands" - [working] the [own] hands. The dative is instrumental, expressing means; "by means of ...." "We still have to work for our own living by manual labor", Phillips.

loidoroumenoi (loidorew) pres. mid./pas. part. "when we are cursed" - being insulted, cursed, reviled [we bless, being persecuted we bear, endure it]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, so also the participles "being persecuted" and v13, "being defamed", but possibly concessive, "although reviled ....." "We meet insult with blessing; persecution with endurance; slander with appeal (conciliation)", Barclay.


wJV "-" - [being defamed we comfort, we become] as. The comparative here expresses a characteristic quality such that the apostles / Paul is not like refuse, but is treated as refuse; "To this hour we are treated as scum of the earth, the very refuse of the world", Moffatt - like one would treat the scum of the earth.

tou kosmou (oV) gen. "of the earth / world" - [refuse] of the world, [we become refuse of all things]. The genitive is adjectival, partitive; so also pantwn, "all things."

eJwV "right up to [this moment]" - until = up to [now = present]. Temporal construction; "to this moment", Berkeley.


1 Corinthians Introduction


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