(1-5) The first five verses of this chapter contain a further argument against party-spirit as it existed in the Corinthian Church—viz., that God alone can judge of any man’s work whether it be worthy, and that God, unlike man, who selects only some one for praise, will give to every worker his own proper share of approval.
(1) Man.—In a generic sense means “every one” (as in 1 Corinthians 11:28, and Galatians 6:1).
Us—i.e., Paul himself and Apollos.
As of the ministers of Christ.—Better, as ministers of Christ. The word used for “ministers” here expresses more strongly the idea of subordination than the word which occurs in 1 Corinthians 3:5. It implies not only those who are under one superior, but those who are in a still inferior position—the officer who has to obey orders, as in Matthew 5:25—a “servant” (Matthew 26:58). Though servants, their office is one of great trust; they are “stewards” to whom the owner of the house has entrusted the care of those sacred things—“mysteries”—which heretofore have been hidden, but are now made known to them, his faithful subordinates. It is to be remembered that even the steward in a Greek household was generally a slave.
Man’s judgment.—The literal translation is man’s day. Some have thought they saw in it a provincialism or a Hebraism. Probably, however, the explanation is that St. Paul lived with the idea of the day of the Lord as the judgment day so constantly before him, that he uses the words as synonymous. (Comp. also 1 Corinthians 3:13, “the day shall declare it.”)
That ye might learn in us . . .—i.e., “by our examples” you should learn not to go beyond what is written in the Scriptures—not to be found in any one particular passage, but in the general tone and scope of the Old Testament writings, which ever ascribe glory to God alone (as found in the passages referred to in 1 Corinthians 1:19; 1 Corinthians 1:31; 1 Corinthians 3:19)—that none of you be puffed up on behalf of one (i.e., Apollos) against another (i.e., Paul), and vice versâ. The Apostle here touches on the fact that this exaltation of teachers was really a gratification of their own pride. It was not that they “puffed up” the teacher, but themselves.
Without us.—The Apostle would have his converts be to him as his crown of rejoicing; but they now assume to have “come into the kingdom” without any connection with him who had won them to God.
And I would to God.—Here the irony is dropped, and these words are written with intense feeling and humility. The Apostle, reminded, as it were, by the word “reign,” that the time will come when the war and controversies of the Church militant shall end, expresses his deep longing for that blessed change. (See 1 Corinthians 3:22; 1 Corinthians 9:23, where similarly the Apostle shows that in rebuking the folly of the Corinthian Church he does not under-estimate their privileges.)
Are naked.—The better reading is, we are in need of sufficient clothing (as 2 Corinthians 11:27).
Are buffeted—i.e., are treated like slaves, and not like “kings,” as you are.
Have no certain dwellingplace.—To be without a fixed home was a peculiar sign of want and degradation. (See Matthew 8:20; Matthew 10:23.)
Being reviled, we bless.—A striking contrast to the way in which the Corinthians would act under similar circumstances, and yet a literal obedience to the teaching of the Master (Matthew 5:39; Matthew 5:44). Thus the Apostle became in the eyes of the world, “a fool” for Christ’s sake.
This verse at once concludes this first part of the Epistle, in which the party-spirit and the evils resulting from it in Corinth are treated of, and naturally introduces the second topic to be discussed, viz., the case of incest which had occurred, it being one of the things which would compel the Apostle to visit Corinth, not “in love and in the spirit of meekness,” but “with a rod.”