A verse by verse commentary on I Cor. 4, with quotations from many different authors.
- 1. I CORITHIAS 4 COMMETARYEdited by Glenn PeaseApostles of Christ1. So then, men ought to regard us as servants ofChrist and as those entrusted with the secretthings of God.1.CLARKE As of the ministers of Christ. The word means an under-rower, or one, who, in thetrireme, quadrireme, or quinquereme galleys, rowed in one of the undermostbenches; but it means also, as used by the Greek writers, any inferior officer orassistant. By the term here the apostle shows the Corinthians that, far from beingheads and chiefs, he and his fellow apostles considered themselves only as inferiorofficers, employed under Christ from whom alone they received their appointmenttheir work, and their recompense.2. JAMISON, stewards-- (Lu 12:42; 1Pe 4:10). Not the depositories of grace, butdispensers of it (rightly dividing or dispensing it), so far as God gives us it, toothers. The chazan, or overseer, in the synagogue answered to the bishop orangel of the Church, who called seven of the synagogue to read the law everysabbath, and oversaw them. The parnasin of the synagogue, like the ancientdeacon of the Church, took care of the poor (Ac 6:1-7) and subsequently preachedin subordination to the presbyters or bishops, as Stephen and Philip did. The Churchis not the appendage to the priesthood; but the minister is the steward of God to theChurch. Man shrinks from too close contact with God; hence he willingly puts apriesthood between, and would serve God by deputy. The pagan (like the modernRomish) priest was rather to conceal than to explain the mysteries of God. Theminister's office is to preach (literally, proclaim as a herald, Mt 10:27) the deeptruths of God (mysteries, heavenly truths, only known by revelation), so far as theyhave been revealed, and so far as his hearers are disposed to receive them. JOSEPHUSsays that the Jewish religion made known to all the people the mysteries of theirreligion, while the pagans concealed from all but the initiated few, the mysteries oftheirs
2. 3. GUZIKi. The word hyperetas literally means an under-rower, in the sense that someone is arower on a big galley ship. So, though it is not the most lowly word for a servant, itcertainly not a prestigious position. Under-rowers serve Christ the master-pilot, helpingforward the ship of the Church toward the haven of heaven. (Trapp)ii. Morgan describes this under-rower as one who acts under direction, and asks noquestions, one who does the thing he is appointed to do without hesitation, and one whoreports only to the One Who is over him.c. And stewards: In addition to a servant, Paul asks to be considered as a steward, whowas the manager of a household.i. In relation to the master of the house, the steward was a slave, but in relation to theother slaves, the steward was a master.ii. The steward . . . was the master's deputy in regulating the concerns of the family,providing food for the household, seeing it served out at proper times and seasons, and inproper quantities. He received all the cash, expended what was necessary for the supportof the family, and kept exact accounts, for which he was obliged at certain times to laybefore the master. (Clarke)d. And stewards of the mysteries of God: What did Paul and the other apostles managein the household of God? Among other things, they were stewards of the mysteries ofGod. They managed (in the sense of preserving and protecting) and dispensed (in thesense of distributing) the truth of God.i. Whenever Paul would hear criticism of his style or manner, he could simply ask Did Igive you the truth? As a good steward, that's all he really cared about.e. It is required in servants that one be found faithful: For stewards, the important thingwas faithfulness. They had to be efficient managers of the master's resources. A stewardnever owned the property or resource he dealt with; he simply managed them for hismaster and had to manage them faithfully.Stewards of the mysteries of God. , Economists of the Divine mysteries. See the explanationof the word steward in Clarke's note on Mt 24:45; Luke 8:3;; 12:42.The steward, or oikonomos, was the master's deputy in regulating the concerns of thefamily, providing food for the household, seeing it served out at the proper times andseasons, and in proper quantities. He received all the cash, expended what was necessary 3. for the support of the family, and kept exact accounts, which he was obliged at certaintimes to lay before the master. The mysteries, the doctrines of God, relative to thesalvation of the world by the passion and death of Christ; and the inspiration,illumination, and purification of the soul by the Spirit of Christ, constituted a principalpart of the Divine treasure intrusted to the hands of the stewards by their heavenlyMaster; as the food that was to be dispensed at proper times, seasons, and in properproportions to the children and domestics of the Church, which is the house of God.4. BARNES And stewards. Stewards were those who presided over the affairs of afamily, and made provision for it, etc. See Barnes Luke 16:1. It was an office ofmuch responsibility; and the apostle by using the term here seems to have designedto elevate those whom he seemed to have depreciated in 1 Corinthians 3:5.Of the mysteries of God. Of the gospel. See Barnes 1 Corinthians 2:7. The office ofsteward was to provide those things which were necessary for the use of a family.And so the office of a minister of the gospel, and a steward of its mysteries, is todispense such instructions, guidance, counsel, etc., as may be requisite to build upthe church of Christ; to make known those sublime truths which are contained in thegospel, but which had not been made known before the revelation of Jesus Christ,and which are, therefore, called mysteries. It is implied in this verse,(1.) that the office of a minister is one that is subordinate to Christ--they are hisservants.(2.) That those in the office should not attempt to be the head of sect or party in thechurch.(3.) That the office is honourable, as that of a steward is. And,(4.) that Christians should endeavour to form and cherish just ideas of ministers; togive them their true honour; but not to overrate their importance.5. GILL, Let a man so account of us,.... Though the apostle had before said that he,and other ministers of the Gospel, were not any thing with respect to God, and, withregard to the churches, were theirs, for their use and advantage; yet they were not to betrampled upon, and treated with contempt, but to be known, esteemed, and honouredfor their works' sake, and in their respective places, stations, and characters; and thoughthey were but men, yet were not to be considered as private men, and in a privatecapacity, but as in public office, and as public preachers of the word; and though theywere not to be regarded as lords and masters over God's heritage, but as servants, yet notas everyone's, or as any sort of servants, butas the ministers, or servants, of Christ; as qualified, called, and sent forth by him topreach his Gospel; as ambassadors in his name, standing in his place and stead, andrepresenting him, and therefore for his sake to be respected and esteemed; and as suchwho make him the subject of their ministry, preach him and him only, exalt him in hisperson, offices, blood, righteousness and sacrifice, and direct souls to him alone for lifeand salvation:and stewards of the mysteries of God; though they are not to be looked upon asmasters of the household, that have power to dispose of things in the family at their own 4. pleasure; yet they are to be regarded as stewards, the highest officers in the house ofGod; to whose care are committed the secret and hidden things of God; whose businessit is to dispense, and make known, the mysteries of divine grace; such as respect thedoctrine of the Trinity, the incarnation of Christ, the union of the two natures, divineand human, in his person, the church's union to him, and communion with him, withmany other things contained in the Gospel they are intrusted with.6. CALVINIn the first place, then, he teaches in what estimation every teacher in theChurch ought to be held. In this department he modifies his discourse insuch a manner as neither, on the one hand, to lower the credit of theministry, nor, on the other, to assign to man more than is expedient. Forboth of these things are exceedingly dangerous, because, when ministersare lowered, contempt of the word arises, 208208 Facilement on viendra amespriser la parole de Dieu ; They will readily come to despise theword of God. while, on the other hand, if they are extolled beyondmeasure, they abuse liberty, and become wanton against the Lord. (1Timothy 5:11.) Now the medium observed by Paul consists in this, that hecalls them ministers of Christ; by which he intimates, that they ought toapply themselves not to their own work but to that of the Lord, who hashired them as his servants, and that they are not appointed to bear rule inan authoritative manner in the Church, but are subject to Christs authority209209 Ils sont eux-mesmes comme les autres sous la domination deChrist ; They are themselves, in common with others, under thedominion of Christ. in short, that they are servants, not masters.As to what he adds stewards of the mysteries of God, he expresses herebythe kind of service. By this he intimates, that their office extends no farther thanthis, that they are stewards of the mysteries of God In other words, what theLord has committed to their charge they deliver over to men from hand to hand as the expression is 210210 Our Author makes use of the same expressionwhen commenting on 1 Corinthians 11:23 , and 1 Corinthians 15:3 . Ed . not what they themselves might choose. For this purpose has God chosen themas ministers of his Son, that he might through them communicate to men hisheavenly wisdom, and hence they ought not to move a step beyond this. Heappears, at the same time, to give