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|New American Bible|
2002 11 11
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Thus should one regard us: as servants of
Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.
Now it is of course required of stewards that
they be found trustworthy.
It does not concern me in the least that I be
judged by you or any human tribunal; I do not even pass judgment on myself;
I am not conscious of anything against me, but
I do not thereby stand acquitted; the one who judges me is the Lord.
Therefore, do not make any judgment before the
appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden
in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will
receive praise from God.
1 I have applied these things to myself and
Apollos for your benefit, brothers, so that you may learn from us not to go
beyond what is written, 2 so that none of you will be
inflated with pride in favor of one person over against another.
Who confers distinction upon you? What do you
possess that you have not received? But if you have received it, why are you
boasting as if you did not receive it?
You are already satisfied; you have already
grown rich; you have become kings 3 without us! Indeed, I
wish that you had become kings, so that we also might become kings with you.
4 For as I see it, God has exhibited us apostles
as the last of all, like people sentenced to death, since we have become a
spectacle to the world, to angels and human beings alike.
We are fools on Christ's account, but you are
wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are held in honor, but we
To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we
are poorly clad and roughly treated, we wander about homeless
and we toil, working with our own hands. When
ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure;
when slandered, we respond gently. We have
become like the world's rubbish, the scum of all, to this very moment.
I am writing you this not to shame you, but to admonish
you as my beloved children. 5
Even if you should have countless guides to
Christ, yet you do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ
Jesus through the gospel.
Therefore, I urge you, be imitators of me.
For this reason I am sending you Timothy, who
is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord; he will remind you of my ways in
Christ (Jesus), just as I teach them everywhere in every church.
6 Some have become inflated with pride, as if I
were not coming to you.
But I will come to you soon, if the Lord is
willing, and I shall ascertain not the talk of these inflated people but their
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk
but of power.
Which do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a
rod, or with love and a gentle spirit?
1 [6-21] This is an emotionally
charged peroration to the discussion about divisions. It contains several
exhortations and statements of Paul's purpose in writing (cf
⇒ 1 Cor 4:6, ⇒ 14-17,
⇒ 21) that counterbalance the initial exhortation
at ⇒ 1 Cor 1:10.
2  That you may learn from us not
to go beyond what is written: the words "to go" are not in the Greek,
but have here been added as the minimum necessary to elicit sense from this
difficult passage. It probably means that the Corinthians should avoid the
false wisdom of vain speculation, contenting themselves with Paul's
proclamation of the cross, which is the fulfillment of God's promises in the
Old Testament (what is written). Inflated with pride: literally, "puffed
up," i.e., arrogant, filled with a sense of self-importance. The term is
particularly Pauline, found in the New Testament only in ⇒ 1
Cor 4:6, ⇒ 18-19; ⇒ 5:2;
⇒ 8:1; ⇒ 13:4;
⇒ Col 2:18 (cf the related noun at
⇒ 2 Cor 12:20). It sometimes occurs in conjunction
with the theme of "boasting," as in ⇒ 1 Cor
3  Satisfied . . . rich . . .
kings: these three statements could also be punctuated as questions continuing
the series begun in v 7. In any case these expressions reflect a tendency at
Corinth toward an overrealized eschatology, a form of self-deception that draws
Paul's irony. The underlying attitude has implications for the Corinthians'
thinking about other issues, notably morality and the resurrection, that Paul
will address later in the letter.
4 [9-13] A rhetorically effective
catalogue of the circumstances of apostolic existence, in the course of which
Paul ironically contrasts his own sufferings with the Corinthians' illusion
that they have passed beyond the folly of the passion and have already reached
the condition of glory. His language echoes that of the beatitudes and woes,
which assert a future reversal of present conditions. Their present sufferings
("to this very hour," 11) place the apostles in the class of those to
whom the beatitudes promise future relief (⇒ Matthew
5:3-11; ⇒ Luke 6:20-23); whereas the
Corinthians' image of themselves as "already" filled, rich, ruling
(⇒ 1 Cor 4:8), as wise, strong, and honored
(⇒ 1 Cor 4:10) places them paradoxically in the
position of those whom the woes threaten with future undoing
(⇒ Luke 6:24-26). They have lost sight of the fact that
the reversal is predicted for the future.
5 [14-17] My beloved children: the
close of the argument is dominated by the tender metaphor of the father who not
only gives his children life but also educates them. Once he has begotten them
through his preaching, Paul continues to present the gospel to them
existentially, by his life as well as by his word, and they are to learn, as
children do, by imitating their parents (⇒ 1 Cor
4:16). The reference to the rod in ⇒ 1 Cor
4:21 belongs to the same image-complex. So does the image of the ways
in ⇒ 1 Cor 4:17: the ways that Paul teaches
everywhere, "his ways in Christ Jesus," mean a behavior pattern quite
different from the human ways along which the Corinthians are walking
(⇒ 1 Cor 3:3).
6 [18-21] ⇒ 1 Cor
4:20 picks up the contrast between a certain kind of talk (logos) and
true power (dynamis) from ⇒ 1 Cor 1:17-18 and
⇒ 1 Cor 2:4-5. The kingdom, which many of them
imagine to be fully present in their lives (⇒ 1 Cor
4:8), will be rather unexpectedly disclosed in the strength of Paul's
encounter with them, if they make a powerful intervention on his part
necessary. Compare the similar ending to an argument in ⇒ 2
Cor 13:1-4, ⇒ 10.
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