1 Corinthians


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

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

c) An appeal to follow the example of their apostle


Paul has addressed his readers in Corinth with harsh and cutting words. He has sarcastically compared his with the self-satisfaction of the preacher/s of wisdom. Harsh words will never melt a hard heart, so Paul now addresses his readers as a father addresses his children. In fatherly love he pleads for the full appropriation of his apostolic gospel ministry. Finally, he warns that, if forced, he will act personally to confront those in the Corinthian church who are causing trouble.


i] Context: See 4:1-5.


ii] Background - Party spirit in Corinth; see 1:11-17.


iii] Structure: Paul's appeal to follow his example:

Fatherly exhortation to accept his authority, v14-17;

A warning of his coming visit to sort things out, v18-21.


iv] Interpretation:

The Corinthian believers have many preachers claiming status in the church, but they only have one father, one founding apostle, and they would do well to "imitate" him. The model for imitation is presumably the foolish wisdom of Christ crucified. Paul both preaches it and lives it and the Corinthian church, both the congregation and its leaders, would do well to walk the Christian walk with Paul rather than follow the wisdom of this age. Paul's aim is to restore unity in the church and the restoration of his standing in the congregation is a necessary element toward achieving that aim. In v18-21 Paul concludes his opening address on the problem of divided loyalties by focusing his words on the preacher/s of wisdom, these "arrogant upstarts who have usurped Paul's position within the church", Barnett. The church is not theirs to preach what they like and Paul warns that he intends to return to Corinth and confront them.

Text - 4:14

Paul's appeal to the Corinthian believers, v14-21: i] Many teachers, but only one father, v14-17. Paul assures his readers that his harsh language is not intending offend them.

entrepwn (entrepw) aor. part. "to shame [you]" - [i write these things not] shaming [you]. The participle is adverbial, final, expressing purpose, "in order not to shame you." Note the rare use of the negation ouk with the participle, possibly emphatic, "clear-cut and decisive", R&P.

all (alla) "but" - Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction, as NIV.

nouqetwn (nouqetew) pres. part. "to warn you" - warning, admonishing / teaching, exhorting. The participle as for "shaming".

wJV "as" - as [beloved children]. The comparative is best taken with tekna, "children", serving to express a characteristic quality rather than a comparison; "but to admonish / encourage you as if you were my own beloved children", as NIV.

mou gen. pro. "my" - of me. The genitive is relational.


Rather than seeking to offend his readers, Paul's love for them is that of a father for his children.

gar "-" - for, because. Here introducing a causal clause, "because", or possibly better, establishing ground / basis, "I say this on the ground that even if you have countless guides in Christ."

ean + subj. "even if" - if. Introducing a conditional clause 3rd. class where the condition has the possibility of coming true. The presence of the adversative alla, "but", heading the apodosis gives a concessive sense; "although, as the case may be, you may have innumerable teachers / guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers."

en + dat. "in [Christ]" - [ten thousand guides you have] in christ [but not many fathers]. Possibly here adverbial, expressing reference / respect, "with respect to / with regard to Christ", but this sense does not fit well with the second use in the verse and the context implies a similar sense. Paul commonly uses this prepositional construction to express incorporative union, in consortes convenit, so possibly "with respect to your Christian life in union with Christ ........ for with respect to my Christian life in union with Christ I became your spiritual father through the preaching of the gospel." This sense can be expressed more succinctly, eg., "as a Christian / as a believer"; "I say this on the ground that although you have countless guides as a believer ...."

gar "for" - for [i begot you (became your father) in christ jesus]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why the Corinthian believers do not have many spiritual fathers, because Paul is their father in the Lord through his evangelistic work among them.

dia + gen. "through [the gospel]" - through [the gospel]. Instrumental, expressing means, "by means of the gospel." Paul became their spiritual father in that he was the first to come to Corinth and proclaim the gospel of God's grace. In the power of the gospel many were saved, and so Paul rightly feels a paternal responsibility toward his converts - he is rightly their spiritual father.


"By your conduct emulate your parentage", R&P.

oun "therefore" - therefore [i exhort, encourage, urge you]. Inferential; drawing a logical conclusion.

mou gen. pro. "[imitate] me" - [become imitators, emulate] of me. The genitive is usually taken as verbal, objective, as NIV. Paul is encouraging his readers to become imitators of his good example. The example is not specified. Barnett suggest "his example of preaching Christ and him crucified as both the fundamental foundation and superstructure of the church." This seems the best approach, although Thiselton thinks it is more in terms of lifestyle, eg., Paul's practice of working for a living rather than looking to the church to fund him. Garland also opts for "lowliness", cf., Pickett, The Cross in Corinth: the Social Significance of the Death of Jesus, JSNT, Shefield, Supplement 143.


As an expression of his love for the Corinthian church, Paul has sent / is sending (possibly an epistolary aorist, "I am sending") Timothy to reassure them of his fatherly love toward them. Paul expresses a great affection for Timothy, one of his converts from his first missionary journey and now a member of his ministry team.

dia touto "for this reason" - The construction is inferential rather than causal, as NIV; "therefore, for this reason."

epemya (pempw) aor. "I have sent" - i sent [timothy]. Aspect is being emphasized in the use of the aorist here, punctiliar action rather than past time, so Paul has not previously sent Timothy, but is sending him to Corinth, in conjunction with his letter, to help sort out the problems evident in the congregation, "he will remind you (when he gets to Corinth - future) ...."

uJmin dat. pro. "to you" - to you [who is my beloved and trustworthy child]. Dative of indirect object.

en + dat. "in [the Lord]" - in [lord]. As in v15, the preposition here seems to function adverbially, reference / respect, "who is faithful with respect to his Christian life in union with the Lord." A local sense is also possibly, something like "in / under the authority of the Lord." "He is also my dear son and true to the Master", Peterson.

o}V pro. "He [will remind you]" - who [will remind you]. Introducing a relative clause, although the sense is final, expressing purpose, "to bring to mind the pattern of life which I live", Thiselton, ex. Funk.

mou gen. pro. "[of] my [way of life]" - [of the ways] of me. The genitive may be treated as adjectival, possessive, or idiomatic, "the lifestyle example which I set", or verbal, subjective, "the manner of life that I practice", B&L.

taV "-" - the [in christ jesus]. The article serves as an adjectivizer turning the prepositional phrase en Cristw/ Ihsou, "in Christ Jesus", into a relative clause, "which is in Christ Jesus." Again the preposition en functions adverbially, as with en kuriw/, "in the Lord", above. "He will remind you how I live as a Christian", Barclay.

kaqwV "which agrees with" - as, just as, like [i teach]. Adverbial, comparative / modal; "of the manner in which I teach everywhere", Cassirer.

en + dat. "in" - in [every church]. Local, expressing space. "Everywhere in every church" is somewhat emphatic, but unnecessary; "what I teach about Christ in every church", CEV.


ii] Paul's intention to personally address the preacher/s of wisdom in the Corinthian congregation, v18-21. The syntax of v18 is somewhat complex. Introducing the Gk. sentence we have the particle wJV. It carries numerous possible meanings, but particularly with a participle it may introduce a dependent statement, "on the assertion that, on the pretext that, with the thought that", cf., BDF 425(3). The negated genitive absolute participle that follows is probably causal, "because I am not coming." The following genitive personal pronoun stands in apposition to the genitive participle, "because I am not coming, I to you", or as the subject of the participle, "because of my not coming to you." The efusiwqhsan tineV, "some have become arrogant", is straightforward; "arrogant" because they think Paul is not strong enough to come himself to sort out the problems and so sends Timothy in his place, or that the preacher/s of wisdom are simply arrogant / puffed up in themselves. So, we end up with something like "Now (de), on the pretext that, because of my not coming to you, some have become arrogant." Then v19, de, adversative, "but" = "Well you're wrong, I will come to you soon." "I know there are some among you who are so full of themselves they never listen to anyone, let alone me. They don't think I'll ever show up in person. But I'll be there sooner than you think, God willing", Peterson.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional and so left untranslated, or "now ......"

mou gen. pro. "[some] of you" - [certain] of you [have become arrogant, conceited, puffed up]. As above.

wJV "as if" - Here possibly expressing a characteristic quality, "as if, as though I were not coming to you", but better as above. "Some of you have apparently grown conceited enough to think that I should (will) not visit you", Phillips.

mh ercomenou (ercomai) gen. pres. mid. part. "I were not coming [to you]" - Genitive absolute participle, causal.


Following Timothy's visit, Paul will visit Corinth and sort out the problems.

de "but" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument, here to a contrast, as NIV.

tacewV adv. "very soon" - [i will come to you] quickly, very soon and visit you. Modal adverb.

ean + subj. "if" - if [the lord may will]. Introducing a conditional clause 3rd. class where the condition has the possibility of coming true; "if, as the case may be, the Lord wills, then I will come to you soon, and then I will know ..." The conditional clause has two coordinate apodosis clauses.

kai "and then" - and [i will find out]. Here expressing result, "and so as a consequence / as a result."

twn pefusiwmenwn (pusiow) gen. perf. mid./pas. part. "these arrogant people" - [not the word = talk] of the ones having been puffed up. The genitive is usually treated as verbal, subjective; "I will discover, not how these inflated characters can talk, but what they can do", Barclay.

alla "but" - but. Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction, as NIV. They are "all hat, and no cattle."

thn dunamin (iV ewV) "of power / what power they have" - the power. Accusative direct object of the verb "to know." The teacher/s of wisdom can do the talk, but can they do the walk? Fee thinks "the power" is the "dynamic presence of the Spirit among them to save and to sanctify", but Garland may be closer to the mark. He suggests that the comparison is between two types of preaching, one which is all noise, nothing more than human wisdom, as compared with the message of the cross, "from which comes the true, spiritual power to transform people's lives."


The reign of God on earth is evident in the preaching of the cross and not in "empty words (theological slogans and prescriptions) and prideful boasts", Garland.

gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why Paul intends to visit Corinth and deal with the preacher/s of wisdom.

tou qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - [the kingdom] of god. If the stress is on dominion, rather than domain (usually eschatological), the genitive would be verbal, subjective; "the reign of God." Paul does not commonly use the phrase, unlike the gospels. See notes Matt.3:2.

en + dat. "[not] a matter of [talk]" - [is not] in [word = speech]. The preposition here is adverbial modal, expressing manner, or attendant circumstance, "in connection with"; "the kingdom of God does not consist in talk", ESV. A similar construction for en dunamei, "in power"; "the reign of God is in connection with power." The verb must be supplied.

all (alla) "but [of power]" - but [in power]. Strong adversative in a counterpoint construction, as NIV.


"Come he will, but it is for them to decide whether his visit will be a painful or a pleasant one", Bruce.

ti pro. "what" - what [do you will, desire]? Accusative direct object of the verb "to will"; interrogative, introducing a rhetorical question.

elqw (ercomai) aor. subj. "shall I come" - will i come [to you]. Deliberative subjunctive.

en + dat. "with" - in = with [a stick, staff, rod]. The preposition here, as with the one following, is adverbial, modal, expressing manner; "will I come to you with a rod or with love ...."

te "and" - [or in = with love] and. Coordinative.

prauthtoV (hV htoV) gen. "with a gentle [spirit]" - [a spirit] of gentleness, meekness. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "spirit", as NIV. "Do you want me to be hard on you or kind and gentle?" CEV. "Spirit" refers here to a person's being, their inner reasonings, possibly their attitude, here a gentle attitude; "do you want me to be hard on you or treat you gently?"


1 Corinthians Introduction


[Pumpkin Cottage]