The Epistle of I CORINTHIANS

(Chapter Four)


1. Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.

Literal: We must be regarded as Christ's subordinates and as stewards of the mystery of God.

The word 'steward' is oikonomis which means to take care by using. We must put the mystery of God, Christ in us, to use in our lives. That is how we take care of it.

2. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

Literal: Well then, stewards are expected to show themselves trustworthy or faithful to God and the ministry.

3. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.

Literal: But to me, it is the smallest matter that I should be judged or examined by you. Why, I do not even pass judgement on myself.

The word 'judgement' is the word 'day'. It is now "man's day" which is during the age of the Church of the Body which is when men do the judging. The Lord's day of judgement is still future, which is called the "day of the Lord" or the "Lord's Day." We, the members of the church of the body let the Word of God do the judging. The "day of Christ" comes in the book of revelation. That is our hope. That is what keeps us motivated. Remember, if it were not man's day, a man would not be able to curse God, use His name in vain, nor live like the devil himself. In this Age of Grace, man is free, but there is another judgement coming as Revelation indicates.

Revelation 1: 10 -- I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,

This is the day in which the Lord does the judging. No one is going to nail him to a cross, curse him or mock him for his return will usher in the age of vengeance of our God spoken of in Isaiah 61.

4. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.

Literal: Interlinear -- For I am conscious of nothing in myself; but not by this have I been justified, but he who examines/judges me is the Lord.

New English Translation -- "...for I have nothing on my conscience; but that does not mean I stand acquitted. My judge is the Lord."

5. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

Literal: Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts, and then praise shall be to each from God.

New English Translation -- So pass no premature judgement; wait until the Lord comes. For He will bring to light what darkness hides, and disclose men's inward motives; then will be the time for each to receive from God such praise as he deserves.

You are not to judge anything but that doesn't mean you should not stay sharp. Christ is coming back and all your enemies will face God and their darkness will be brought out in the open. This is the day of vengeance of God and for you.

6. And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to  Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men  above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.

Literal: Now these things, brethren, I transferred to myself and to Apollos on account of you that in us you may learn not to think above what has been written, that no one of you be inflated with pride as you patronize one and show contempt for another.

Apparently the Corinthians were starting to respect persons and therefore judge one another. In the previous verses, Paul is talking about the mystery and how to take care of it, faithfulness, and not to judge others. Paul is saying that they should learn from their mistakes. The Corinthians can clearly see, by the example of Paul and Apollos, the transformation of what is wrong (what they are doing) and compare it to right doctrine (what Paul and Apollos are doing).

You should be able to understand the phrase "I have in a figure transferred . . . . ." which means "to transfer the thought as to one object to another which is an image of it." Paul and Apollos were the 'image' of what's right. They were working to transfer the image that was in their mind from what is wrong doctrine as to what was right doctrine according to the Word. Paul and Apollos are exhorting the Corinthians not to think more highly than they ought to think, but to think what the Word says. That way there is no favoritism, pride, or contempt. By taking sides, they were respecting persons and looking at personalities instead of focusing on the Christ in each other.

7. Who maketh thee to differ from another?  and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it,  why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?

Literal: New English Translation -- Who makes you, my friend, so important? What do you possess that was not given you? If then you really received it all as a gift, why take the credit to yourself?

No believer is more important than another believer because everything we have is given to us from God. If it is a gift, how can you take credit for yourself? This verse can help us to stay humble if understood.

8. Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you.

Literal: Interlinear -- Already satiated (full) you are; already you were enriched; apart from us you reigned; and I would surely you did reign, that we might reign with you also.

New English Translation -- All of you, no doubt, have everything you desire. You have come into your fortune already. You have come into your kingdom and left us out. How I wish you had indeed won your kingdom; then you might share it with us!

This verse contains the following four (4) Figures of Speech:

The first figure is Asyndeton (no ands) where the conclusion of the verse is stressed. Note that there are no "ands" in the verse but each thought is separated by a comma instead, leading up to the conclusion.

The second figure is Gradual Ascent where the discourse ascends up step by step, each with an increase of emphasis or sense. -- ''Now ye are full, Now ye are rich, Ye have reigned as kings without us: . . . . . "

The third figure is Irony which helps to understand the full meaning of this verse, without which it is difficult to understand. Irony is "the expression of thought in a form that naturally conveys its opposite." This is when the speaker intends to convey a sense contrary to the strict signification of the words employed not with the intention of concealing the real meaning, BUT FOR THE PURPOSE OF ADDING GREATER FORCE TO IT. Paul is telling the Corinthians in the previous verses that they must be faithful and stop judging one another and having respect of persons. Then all of a sudden, he is telling them they are rich and are living like kings! To better understand this figure of speech, here is a modern day example:

Someone you know is constantly making the same mistake over and over again and they still think they are doing the right thing. In an attempt to help them, you say: "Boy, you are great, aren't you? You really know what you are doing, don't you?" You are expressing your point in this sarcastic manner for the purpose of adding greater force to it. The truth of the matter is they are not great at all and don't know what they are doing.

The fourth figure is Concession (or Admission) which is "making a concession of one point to gain another." In this verse, Paul concedes the point as to their desire to reign, but ironically adds, "I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you." He concedes one point to gain another.

This verse eight (8), which you may never have given much emphasis to, contains FOUR FIGURES OF SPEECH which is the markings of the Holy Spirit as to the great importance of the verse.

9. For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.

Literal: For it seems to me that God has made us apostles the most abject of mankind. We are like men condemned to death in the arena, a spectacle to the whole universe -- angels as well as men.

The center references states 'spectacle' as being like a 'theatre'.

10. We are  fools for Christ's sake, but ye are  wise in Christ; we are  weak, but ye are  strong; ye are  honourable, but we are  despised.

Literal: We are fools on account of Christ, but ye are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are honored and glorious but we are without honor.

11. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace;

Literal: To the present hour we both hunger and thirst and are scantily clad, and are buffeted (to be struck with a fist), and wander from place to place without a home.

In this verse, there are two figures of speech: 1) SYNECDOCHE OR TRANSFER AND 2) RESUMPTION. The first figure, SYNECDOCHE is "the exchange of one idea for another associated idea." In the verse 'naked' is being used for being 'scantily clad'.

The second figure, RESUMPTION, is "the repetition of the same word after a break, or parenthesis." This is where the words "unto this present hour" are taken up again at the end of verse 13, "unto this day." 

12. And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:

Literal: And labor with our own hands to the point of being weary; railed at and being reviled, we bless (speak well of, praise); being persecuted, we suffer it.

This is how you defeat your personal adversary -- by overcoming evil with good. If Satan knows he is getting under your skin, he will not let up. You must start applying this principle in your renewed mind if you are ever to be victorious. Thinking good thoughts or no thoughts at all of people who think evil of you is like putting water on a fire. I cannot stress enough the importance of this Biblical principle.

Romans 12: 21 -- Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

You can waste years of your life fighting the enemy by letting him aggravate and agitate you. Develop of the art of ignoring him by resisting him with God's Word and he will eventually flee.

James 4: 7 -- Submit [addict] yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Try to think the best of everything and everyone no matter how people act towards you. And whatever you do, NEVER SEEK REVENGE!!! It's a trick that will come back to haunt you for a long time. Revenge is a tool of the devil.

Romans 12: 19 -- Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather  give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is  mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

Remember, don't let the enemy upset you. Think AND DO what the Word says. If your thinking bothers you, stop thinking about that situation or subject -- control your thinking. Think about one thing at a time -- that's all your mind can think on. Don't get sidetracked by trying to learn too many things at one time.

Regarding the phrase, "being persecuted, we suffer it". The word 'suffer' here means "to hold one's self upright, bear up, hold out, endure, bear patiently, have patience with, put up with." THIS IS WHAT GOD EXPECTS YOU TO DO WHEN YOU ARE PERSECUTED. We must listen to God and having patience, endure, and put up with it. You must hold yourself upright and hold out knowing that the blessings will surely follow. You must learn to put up with persecution and still keep your peace. You MUST avoid all activities and people that tend to make you negative. While the world says we must force ourselves to do things that we hate to do, the Word of God teaches the opposite.

13. Been defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are  the offscouring of all things unto this day.

Literal: Even though we are spoken evil of, we try to help, comfort and exhort: we are treated as the refuse of the world, and we are treated as the scum or filth of all things until now (unto this day).

[Remember, this last phrase "unto this day" is the RESUMPTION of what was said in verse 11 - "unto this present hour."]

When you get the right opportunity, you must put this principle into operation and try to help, comfort, and exhort. Aren't we treated like we are worthless at times by others? If I tell people I teach God's Word, it hardly registers. Most people couldn't care less about God, but only about themselves. The Word says that all other previous prophets and disciples suffered the same afflictions so we should rejoice to be in such company. You stand right there with the apostles who suffered and endured the same things.

14. I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.

Literal: Interlinear -- Not shaming you do I write these things, but as my beloved children, I admonish you.

New English Translation -- I am not writing thus to shame you, but to bring you to reason; for you are my dear children.

'Warn', from the King James Version, means to put in mind or to admonish which means to counsel against something; caution; warn. This is an epistle of reproof and Paul is saying that he is not trying to put anyone down, but he is warning them about how they will be treated and how to react to that unjust persecution [see the previous five verses]. So often, words you say are taken as criticism when they are meant only to admonish, caution and warn. Remember, this epistle is a reproof epistle and corrects practical error.

15. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye  not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.

Literal: For if you should have 10,000 tutors in Christ, but you have only one father; for in Christ Jesus you are my offspring, and mine alone, through the preaching of the gospel.

Until we can walk on our own, we are to imitate leaders who walk with God. We are not to imitate their faults or shortcomings or take on our leader's idiosyncrasies. We imitate men and women of God as we see them practicing the truth. We are to imitate the lives of those whom God has set in His household as leaders and overseers. They are imitating Christ by walking faithfully on God's Word and therefore we are all imitating God. In these next three verses, Paul is setting this pattern of imitation very clearly to the Corinthians.

Paul had fathered them through the preaching of the Word. If you witness to someone and get them involved in God's Word then it can be said that you 'fathered' them in the Word. You are then responsible to God for these people's lives. Although you can't believe and act for them, you can still set an example for them by your own walk with God.

16. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.

Literal: Therefore, I call you to my aid, be imitators [mimetes] of me.

Here, we can see that Paul comes right out and tells us to clearly be an imitator of his walk with God. Remember from verse 15, that we are to imitate a leader's spiritual walk with God. At times, a leader can make mistakes and we must be there to help that leader with reproof and correction from God's Word. I was fortunate to once have this experience with a leader from my area. This person did not realize that he was coming to fellowship a few minutes late each week. I sat down with this great leader and from the Word of God I showed him where he was making a mistake. I did this with as much love and gentleness as I possibly could and the results were simply tremendous. The person was a brother in Christ and he sat there and did not say a word, but listened intently. He then thanked me for telling him his mistake and he changed his behavior as a result of what I had spoken to him from God's Word. This was quite a rewarding experience for both of us and one that I seem to never forget.

17. For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church.

Literal: Because I have asked you to follow my example, I have sent to you Timothy who is faithful in the Lord and a most trustworthy Christian, who will remind you of my ways in Christ of which you are to imitate -- ways which I teach in every church.

This is a great example of how the leadership of believers operated in the first century church. Even though Paul was a tremendous man of God, at times, he needed someone to help him. Whether we want to admit it or not, we all need someone to help us every once in awhile. That help could sometimes simply be a prayer for another believer, but we all need one another. Timothy was a great leader and Paul trusted him with the Church at Corinth.

At one time, I was extremely independent. I would never even ask someone to pray for me. This was something I had to learn to get over and to change. I do not hesitate to ask another trustworthy believer to pray for me in certain situations. God has designed the Body of Christ to function at its highest point when we all work together. When you find someone who studies God's Word that you can trust with your whole heart, you should treasure and protect that relationship and be very thankful for that person. For me, that type of person comes along only once in a great while.

Many times, a person who is called by God to teach His Word and to serve fellow-believers spends much of his or her time alone with God. As the adversary tries his very best to disrupt this person's ministry, he almost always will work through other people to do this. This is why many leaders or teachers of God's Word seem to be loners and keep mainly to themselves. Oftentimes, this is not completely by choice, but it seems to be the only way that a leader can stay peaceful and concentrate on his or her work for God. A believer, whether he is a leader or not, must stay peaceful. Many teachers or ministers of God's Word are under what seems to be constant attack from the enemy. And as I said before, this enemy almost always uses people as his tool to be a thorn in the flesh to God's most faithful ministers of His Word. I spend much time minding my own business and keeping to myself so that I can continue to be peaceful and to concentrate on teaching the rightly divided Word of God. That is the most important thing that matters to me and that should be only thing that matters the most to you. What is this life to all eternity? Keeping God first is the best life anyway.

18. Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you.

Literal: Now there are some believers whose minds are inflated with pride and self importance and for some reason, they think that I am not coming to Corinth.

Sometimes, we all think believers are perfect, but many of us are not. Every Christian usually has some area in which they can improve and needs to renew their mind to the Word of God in that area. We need to do our very best to see only the best in our brothers and sisters and not to look at the shortcomings that we all have. It is very important to confess what the Word says about our situation and not what the world or our five senses are trying to tell us. This is such an important point that I can stress it for a month. Confess what the Word of God says about your situation, believe it, and God must bring it to pass.

19. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power.

Literal: New English Translation -- I shall come very soon, if the Lord will; and then I shall take the measure of these self-important people, not by what they say, but by what power is in them.

20. For the kingdom of God is  not in word, but in power.

Literal: God's kingdom is not made manifest only by words, but by inherent power which is capable of anything.

21. What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in  the spirit [pneuma] of meekness?

Literal: Then, what is your choice? Shall I come to you with a rod in my hand or with the love of God in the renewed mind in manifestation -- with a heart of gentleness?

You may remember from previous teachings that there are many different usages for the word 'spirit’ [pneuma]. In this final verse, the word 'spirit' is referring to the individual entity or self -- the innermost part of the mind called the heart.


If you remember anything about the book of Corinthians, you should understand that this epistle is an epistle of REPROOF. It is designed to correct the practical error that crept into the Church at Corinth as a result of not adhering to the basic doctrine that is taught in the book of Romans. Paul was sent to the Corinthians to make sure that the believers there got back on track and were practicing right doctrine instead of error.


At least for the time being, this will conclude our work in the Epistle of I Corinthians.  We have taken about one year of research from typed notes using the above pattern of study to cover the Epistle of James, Colossians, Romans, and the first four Chapters in I Corinthians.