1 Corinthians 4

* The true character of gospel ministers. (1-6) Cautions against

despising the apostle. (7-13) He claims their regard as their

spiritual father in Christ, and shows his concern for them.

(14-21)

1-6 Apostles were no more than servants of Christ, but they

were not to be undervalued. They had a great trust, and for that

reason, had an honourable office. Paul had a just concern for

his own reputation, but he knew that he who chiefly aimed to

please men, would not prove himself a faithful servant of

Christ. It is a comfort that men are not to be our final judges.

And it is not judging well of ourselves, or justifying

ourselves, that will prove us safe and happy. Our own judgment

is not to be depended upon as to our faithfulness, any more than

our own works for our justification. There is a day coming, that

will bring men's secret sins into open day, and discover the

secrets of their hearts. Then every slandered believer will be

justified, and every faithful servant approved and rewarded. The

word of God is the best rule by which to judge as to men. Pride

commonly is at the bottom of quarrels. Self-conceit contributes

to produce undue esteem of our teachers, as well as of

ourselves. We shall not be puffed up for one against another, if

we remember that all are instruments, employed by God, and

endowed 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. A

sinner snatched from destruction by sovereign grace alone, must

be very absurd and inconsistent, if proud of the free gifts of

God. St. Paul sets forth his own circumstances, ver. 9. Allusion

is made to the cruel spectacles in the Roman games; where men

were forced to cut one another to pieces, to divert the people;

and where the victor did not escape with his life, though he

should destroy his adversary, but was only kept for another

combat, and must be killed at last. The thought that many eyes

are upon believers, when struggling with difficulties or

temptations, should encourage constancy and patience. "We are

weak, but ye are strong." All Christians are not alike exposed.

Some suffer greater hardships than others. The apostle enters

into particulars of their sufferings. And how glorious the

charity and devotion that carried them through all these

hardships! They suffered in their persons and characters as the

worst and vilest of men; as the very dirt of the world, that was

to be swept away: nay, as the offscouring of all things, the

dross of all things. And every one who would be faithful in

Christ Jesus, must be prepared for poverty and contempt.

Whatever the disciples of Christ suffer from men, they must

follow the example, and fulfil the will and precepts of their

Lord. They must be content, with him and for him, to be despised

and abused. It is much better to be rejected, despised, and ill

used, as St. Paul was, than to have the good opinion and favour

of the world. Though cast off by the world as vile, yet we may

be precious to God, gathered up with his own hand, and placed

upon his throne.
14-21 In reproving for sin, we should distinguish between

sinners and their sins. Reproofs that kindly and affectionately

warn, are likely to reform. Though the apostle spoke with

authority as a parent, he would rather beseech them in love. And

as ministers are to set an example, others must follow them, as

far as they follow Christ in faith and practice. Christians may

mistake and differ in their views, but Christ and Christian

truth are the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. Whenever the

gospel is effectual, it comes not in word only, but also in

power, by the Holy Spirit, quickening dead sinners, delivering

persons from the slavery of sin and Satan, renewing them both

inwardly and outwardly, and comforting, strengthening, and

establishing the saints, which cannot be done by the persuasive

language of men, but by the power of God. And it is a happy

temper, to have the spirit of love and meekness bear the rule,

yet to maintain just authority.

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