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Vincent's Word Studies, by Marvin R. Vincent, [1886], at

1 Corinthians Chapter 4

1 Corinthians 4:1

co1 4:1

Ministers (ὑπηρέτας)

See on officer, Mat 5:25. Only here in Paul's epistles.


See on Luk 16:1.

1 Corinthians 4:2

co1 4:2

It is required (ζητεῖται)

Lit., it is sought for; thus agreeing with found in the following clause.

1 Corinthians 4:3

co1 4:3

A very small thing (εἰς ἐλάχιστον)

Lit., unto a very small thing: it amounts to very little.


See on Co1 2:14. Rev., in margin, examined.

Man's judgment (ἀνθρωπίνης ἡμέρας)

Lit., man's day, in contrast with the day of the Lord (Co1 4:5).

1 Corinthians 4:5

co1 4:5

Judge (κρίνετε)

See on Co1 2:14. The change of the verb favors the rendering examine for ἀνακρίνω. The Lord is the only competent examiner therefore do not judge until He comes to judgment. Even I myself am not competent to institute a conclusive examination, for the absence of condemnation from my conscience does not absolutely acquit me. See the critical note on Jo1 3:19-22.

1 Corinthians 4:6

co1 4:6

I have in a figure transferred (μετασχημάτισας)

From μετά, denoting exchange, and σχῆμα outward fashion. Here the fashion in which Paul expresses himself. See on transfigured, Mat 17:2.

Not to go beyond the things which are written (τὸ μὴ ὑπὲρ ἃ γέγραπται)

Lit. (that ye might learn) the not beyond what stands written. The article the introduces a proverbial expression. The impersonal it is written is commonly used of Old-Testament references.

Be puffed up (φυσιοῦσθε)

Used only by Paul in Corinthians and Colossians. From φῦσα a pair of bellows.

1 Corinthians 4:8

co1 4:8

Now ye are full (ἤδη κεκορεσμένοι ἐστέ)

Rev., better, filled. Ironical contrast between their attitude and that of the apostle in Co1 4:3, Co1 4:4. We are hungering for further revelations; ye are already filled without waiting for the Lord's coming.

Ye have reigned (ἐβασιλεύσατε)

American Rev., better, ye have come to reign; attained to dominion, that kingship which will be bestowed on Christians only at Christ's coming.

Without us

Though it is through us that you are Christians at all.

1 Corinthians 4:9

co1 4:9


Introducing a contrast between the inflated self-satisfaction of the Corinthians and the actual condition of their teachers. You have come to reign, but the case is very different with us, for I think, etc.

Hath set forth (ἀπέδειξεν)

Only twice in Paul's writings; here, and Th2 2:4. See on approved, Act 2:22. In classical Greek used of publishing a law; shewing forth, and therefore naming or creating a king or military leader; bringing forward testimony; displaying treasure, etc. So here, exhibiting.

Last (ἐσχάτους)

As in Mar 9:35, of relative rank and condition: as having in men's eyes the basest lot of all.

Appointed to death (ἐπιθανατίους)

Rev., doomed. Only here in the New Testament. Probably an allusion to the practice of exposing condemned criminals in the amphitheatre to fight with beasts or with one another as gladiators. The gladiators, on entering the arena, saluted the presiding officer with the words Nos morituri salutamus, We who are to die greet you. Tertullian paraphrases this passage, God hath chosen us apostles last as beast-fighters. "The vast range of an amphitheatre under the open sky, well represents the magnificent vision of all created things, from men up to angels, gazing on the dreadful death-struggle; and then the contrast of the selfish Corinthians sitting by unconcerned and unmoved by the awful spectacle" (Stanley). For a similar image of spectators watching the contest in the arena, see Heb 12:1. Compare also Co1 15:32.

Spectacle (θέατρον)

Primarily, a theatre; then that which is exhibited. Compare the kindred verb θεατριζόμενοι being made a gazing-stock, Heb 10:33.

Unto the world (τῷ κόσμω)

The universe, a sense not usual with Paul; compare Co1 8:4. The words to angels and to men define world; so that the rendering of the American Rev. is preferable, both to angels and men. Principal Edwards remarks: "This comprehensive use of the word kosmos is remarkable, because, on the one hand, it is an advance on the Old-Testament conception of two separate spheres of existence, heaven and earth, not comprehended under any wider designation; and, on the other, because it differs from the meaning attached to the word among the Greeks; inasmuch as the apostle uses it of the spiritual as well as the physical totality of existence." The spiritual oneness of the universe is a conception eminently characteristic of St. Paul; but it is foreshadowed by Plato. "Communion and friendship and orderliness and temperance and justice bind together heaven and earth and gods and men; and this universe is therefore called kosmos or order; not disorder or misrule" ("Gorgias," 508).

1 Corinthians 4:10

co1 4:10

For Christ's sake - in Christ (δια Χριστόν - ἐν Χριστῷ)

We apostles are fools in the world's eyes on account of (διὰ) Christ, because we know and preach nothing but Christ: You are wise in Christ, as Christians, making your Christianity a means to your worldly greatness - union with Christ the basis of worldly wisdom. "Wise men are ye in your connection with Christ! Sagacious, enlightened Christians!" (Meyer).

Honorable (ἔνδοξοι)

With a suggestion of display and splendor. Right honorable are ye!

1 Corinthians 4:11

co1 4:11

We have no certain dwelling-place (ἀστατοῦμεν)

From ἄστατος unstable, strolling about. Only here in the New Testament. Compare Mat 8:20; Mat 10:23; Heb 11:37. Wyc., we ben unstable.

1 Corinthians 4:12

co1 4:12

Labor (κοπιῶμεν)

Rev., toil. Unto weariness. See on Luk 5:5.

Reviled (λοιδορούμενοι)

See on Act 23:4.

We bless (εὐλογοῦμεν)

See on blessed, Joh 12:13.

We suffer (ἀνεχόμεθα)

Lit., we hold or bear up.

1 Corinthians 4:13

co1 4:13

Defamed (δυσφημούμενοι)

Publicly slandered; while reviled refers to personal abuse.

Intreat (παρακαλοῦμεν)

See on consolation, Luk 6:24, and see on comfort, Act 9:31. The sense is, we strive to appease by entreaty.

Filth - offscouring (περικαθάρματα - περίψημα)

The former word is from περικαθαίρω to cleanse all round. Hence that which is thrown off in cleansing; refuse. Κάθαρμα the refuse of a sacrifice. So Aeschylus. Electra says: "Should I, like one who has carried away refuse (καθάρμαθ) from a purification, after tossing away the urn, go back again with unturned eyes?" ("Choephoroe," 90). In Pro 21:18, Sept., it occurs in the sense of ransom. Some find an allusion here to an ancient Athenian custom of throwing certain worthless persons into the sea in case of plague or famine, saying Be our offscouring! These persons were called περικαθάρματα offscourings, or περιψήματα scrapings, in the belief that they would wipe away the nation's guilt. Ignatius says to the Ephesians, περίψημα ὑμῶν I am your offscouring. The sense is twofold: I am as the meanest among you; and I devote my life for you. In the middle of the third century, περίψημά σου had become a common expression of formal compliment: your humble servant. See Lightfoot, "Apostolic Fathers," on Ignatius to the Ephesians, 8. "Compare Lam 3:45, and Tobit 5:18. Περίψημα that which is scraped or scoured off. Both words only here in the New Testament.

This tremendous piece of irony justifies the numerous allusions which have been made to Paul's vehemence and severity. Thus Dante, in his vision of the Earthly Paradise, pictures Paul:

"Two old men I beheld, unlike in habit,

But like in gait, each dignified and grave.

One (Luke) showed himself as one of the disciples

Of that supreme Hippocrates whom Nature

Made for the animals she holds most dear,

Contrary care the other (Paul) manifested,

With sword so shining and so sharp, it caused

Terror to me on this side of the river."

"Purgatorio," xxix., 134-141.

"His words, indeed, seem to be those of a simple, and, as it were, an innocent and rustic man, who knows neither how to frame nor to avoid wiles; but whithersoever you look, there are thunderbolts" (Jerome). "Paul thunders, lightens, utters pure flames" (Erasmus). See a collection of quotations in Farrar's "Life and Work of St. Paul," i., 619.

1 Corinthians 4:14

co1 4:14

To shame (ἐντρέπων)

Lit., as shaming. See on Mat 21:37. The verb means to turn about, hence to turn one upon himself; put him to shame. Compare Th2 3:14; Tit 2:8. Also, in the middle voice, in the sense of reverence; to turn one's self toward another. See Mar 12:6; Luk 18:2. The kindred noun ἐντροπή occurs twice: Co1 6:5; Co1 15:34. Compare Sophocles: "Think you he will have any regard (ἐντροπὴν) for the blind man" ("Oedipus at Colonos," 299).

1 Corinthians 4:15

co1 4:15

Tutors (παιδαγωγοὺς)

From παῖς boy and ἀγωγός leader. The Paedagogus was a slave to whom boys were entrusted on leaving the care of the females, which was somewhere about their sixteenth year. He was often a foreigner, sometimes educated and refined, but often otherwise; for Plutarch complains that seamen, traders, usurers, and farmers are engaged in this capacity. The office was one of general guardianship, not of instruction, though sometimes the paedagogus acted as teacher. He accompanied the boy to school, carrying his books, etc., and attended him to the gymnasium and elsewhere. See, further, on Gal 3:24.

Next: 1 Corinthians Chapter 5