1 Corinthians 4

1 Corinthians 4:1

Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.

The mysteries of God refer to the purposes of God and the realities of his kingdom which remain unknown to the natural mind but which are revealed to his children (1 Cor. 2:11–14). Those who reject Jesus, reject the Source of all spiritual wealth (Col. 2:3). But those who receive Jesus, receive the Spirit of Christ who teaches us all things (John 14:26, 1 Cor. 2:10).

The New Testament speaks of the mysteries of the kingdom (Matt. 13:11, Mark 4:11, Luke 8:10), the mysteries of God and his will (1 Cor. 4:1, Eph. 1:9), the mystery of Christ (Eph. 3:4, Col. 4:3), the mystery of the gospel (Eph. 6:19), the mystery of faith (1 Tim. 3:9) and the mystery of godliness (1 Tim. 3:16).

See entry for Mysteries of God.

1 Corinthians 4:3

But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself.

(a) Examined by you. Paul had been unjustly examined or scrutinized by Felix (Acts 24:8) and Festus (Acts 28:18). He did not care to be examined by the Corinthians (1 Cor. 9:3).

(b) I do not even examine myself. We are to examine ourselves to see whether we’re in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5), but if Christ is in you, there is no further need for self-examination. Believers who examine themselves may find flaws that distract them from the Lord. You do not need to examine yourself for unconfessed sin or fruit. All your attention needs to be on Jesus who approves you. Examine him.

1 Corinthians 4:4

For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.

The one who examines me. Paul was often subject to unjust scrutiny. He was brought before magistrates and governors on typically trumped-up charges. He did not care to be examined by men (see previous verse). “The one who examines me is the Lord, and if God is for me who can be against me” (Rom. 8:31).

1 Corinthians 4:5

Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.

(a) Wait until the Lord comes; see entry for 1 Cor. 1:7.

(b) Bring to light. On the day he returns, the Lord will judge the secrets of our hearts (see entry for Rom. 2:16). Nothing will be hidden from his sight (Heb. 4:13).

1 Corinthians 4:12

and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure;

Working with our own hands. When Paul first came to Corinth he supported himself by making tents (Acts 18:3). Paul worked day and night in order not to be a burden to small and young churches (1 Th. 2:9, 2 Th. 3:8).

1 Corinthians 4:14

I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children.

Beloved children. The original word (agapetos) means dearly loved, esteemed, favorite and worthy of love. It is closely related to a verb (agapao) that means to be well pleased or fond of or contented. This word captures God’s heart for you. Your heavenly Father is fond of you. You are his esteemed favorite and he is well pleased with you. He looks at you with a feeling of deep contentment knowing that you are his dearly loved child. All the epistle writers referred to believers as the beloved or dearly-loved children of God (see entry for Rom. 1:7).

1 Corinthians 4:15

For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.

(a) I became your father through the gospel. Paul had no interest in worldly wealth that rusts and fades away. He desired spiritual offspring. As a result of his labor he became a father to the Corinthians, and he called men like Timothy and Onesimus his sons in the Lord (1 Tim. 1:2, Phm. 1:10).

(b) The gospel refers to the gospel of Christ or the gospel of God or the gospel of the kingdom. These are all different labels for what Paul referred to as “my gospel” or the gospel of grace. See entry for The Gospel.

1 Corinthians 4:20

For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power.

(a) The kingdom of God is synonymous with the kingdom of heaven; see entry for Matt. 3:2.

(b) Power. Any false apostle or teacher can talk a good line, but the evidence of the gospel is the supernatural power to save, heal, and deliver people (Rom. 1:17). Wherever Paul travelled, lives were transformed. People were added to the kingdom of God, sick people were healed, and the oppressed were set free (2 Cor. 12:12).

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