1 Corinthians 4* The true character of gospel ministers. (1-6) Cautions againstdespising the apostle. (7-13) He claims their regard as theirspiritual father in Christ, and shows his concern for them.(14-21)1-6 Apostles were no more than servants of Christ, but theywere not to be undervalued. They had a great trust, and for thatreason, had an honourable office. Paul had a just concern forhis own reputation, but he knew that he who chiefly aimed toplease men, would not prove himself a faithful servant ofChrist. It is a comfort that men are not to be our final judges.And it is not judging well of ourselves, or justifyingourselves, that will prove us safe and happy. Our own judgmentis not to be depended upon as to our faithfulness, any more thanour own works for our justification. There is a day coming, thatwill bring men's secret sins into open day, and discover thesecrets of their hearts. Then every slandered believer will bejustified, and every faithful servant approved and rewarded. Theword of God is the best rule by which to judge as to men. Pridecommonly is at the bottom of quarrels. Self-conceit contributesto produce undue esteem of our teachers, as well as ofourselves. We shall not be puffed up for one against another, ifwe remember that all are instruments, employed by God, andendowed by him with various talents. 7-13 We have no reason to be proud; all we have, or are, or do,that is good, is owing to the free and rich grace of God. Asinner snatched from destruction by sovereign grace alone, mustbe very absurd and inconsistent, if proud of the free gifts ofGod. St. Paul sets forth his own circumstances, ver. 9. Allusionis made to the cruel spectacles in the Roman games; where menwere forced to cut one another to pieces, to divert the people;and where the victor did not escape with his life, though heshould destroy his adversary, but was only kept for anothercombat, and must be killed at last. The thought that many eyesare upon believers, when struggling with difficulties ortemptations, should encourage constancy and patience. "We areweak, but ye are strong." All Christians are not alike exposed.Some suffer greater hardships than others. The apostle entersinto particulars of their sufferings. And how glorious thecharity and devotion that carried them through all thesehardships! They suffered in their persons and characters as theworst and vilest of men; as the very dirt of the world, that wasto be swept away: nay, as the offscouring of all things, thedross of all things. And every one who would be faithful inChrist Jesus, must be prepared for poverty and contempt.Whatever the disciples of Christ suffer from men, they mustfollow the example, and fulfil the will and precepts of theirLord. They must be content, with him and for him, to be despisedand abused. It is much better to be rejected, despised, and illused, as St. Paul was, than to have the good opinion and favourof the world. Though cast off by the world as vile, yet we maybe precious to God, gathered up with his own hand, and placedupon his throne. 14-21 In reproving for sin, we should distinguish betweensinners and their sins. Reproofs that kindly and affectionatelywarn, are likely to reform. Though the apostle spoke withauthority as a parent, he would rather beseech them in love. Andas ministers are to set an example, others must follow them, asfar as they follow Christ in faith and practice. Christians maymistake and differ in their views, but Christ and Christiantruth are the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. Whenever thegospel is effectual, it comes not in word only, but also inpower, by the Holy Spirit, quickening dead sinners, deliveringpersons from the slavery of sin and Satan, renewing them bothinwardly and outwardly, and comforting, strengthening, andestablishing the saints, which cannot be done by the persuasivelanguage of men, but by the power of God. And it is a happytemper, to have the spirit of love and meekness bear the rule,yet to maintain just authority.
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