Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 4:1-5

This post begins with Father’s summary of chapter 4 to help provide context. His notes on verses 1-5 follow. I’ve also included his paraphrasing (in purple) of the text he is commenting on.

Summary of 1 Corinthians 4~The Apostle was well aware that both teachers and people at Corinth were to blame for the schism which he has been cndeacouring to cure. Hence, in this chapter, in which he closes the subject, he addresses, in turn, people and teachers. He first points out to the people in what light they are to view their teachers, and what degree of respect they should show them (verse 1), and then, he points out the principal duty of the teachers (2). In the next place, he instructs the teachers, by his own example, to despise the judgments of men, and not to seek praise from them (4, 5), and he instructs the people not to judge their teachers, but to leave all judgment to the Lord. He gives a reason, why it is, in treating of the Corinthian schism, he speaks of himself and Apollo only, as if they alone gave occasion to this evil, and the reason is made to apply to both teachers and people (6). Addressing himself to the teachers, he tells them that they had no grounds for glorying in their superior accomplishments, inasmuch as everything they possessed was purely the gift of God (7); and addressing them in a strain partly ironical, he shows how exaggerated were the notions which they formed of their own excellence (8). He points out the wretched condition of the true Apostles of Christ (9), and contrasting their condition with the worldly prosperity enjoyed by the Corinthians (10), he gives a glowing picture of the extreme wretchedness, want, and persecution which he himself and his fellow-Apostles were doomed to endure (11-13). He says that, in referring to this matter, he only has in view the correction and amendment of his dearest children (14), in whose regard he alone holds the endearing relation of spiritual father; and hence, he calls upon them faithfully to follow the example which he has set them (15, 16): it is in order to do so, that he has sent Timothy to them (17). He threatens some persons among them, that he shall soon come, and inquire into their conduct, and see how far they contribute by their zeal and good works to establish the kingdom of God in the hearts of men (18-20). Upon their reformation shall depend the manner in which the Apostle is to treat the Church of Corinth.

1Co 4:1  Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ and the dispensers of the mysteries of God.

Let each person regard us (teachers) in the proper light, viz., as ministers or servants of Christ, and stewards appointed to dispense his mysteries.

This verse is to he connected with chapter 1 Cor 3:21. The Corinthians should not glory in men, or pay them undue honour. They should view them in the light of ministers (in Greek, ὑπηρέτης = hupēretēs) of Christ.  As servants, they are not to be unduly valued, and, as servants of Christ, they are not to be disrespected.  Dispensers. The corresponding Greek word, οικονομους, means stewards, as in Luke 16: 1, 3, 8. Mysteries embrace all the doctrines of Christ, and under them the great channels of divine grace, viz., the sacraments; in a word, every spiritual gift dispensed
in the Church through the hands of her ministers. The minister of religion should be respected as the visible representative of Christ, and any insult offered to Christ’s anointed, is offered to his divine master, Christ himself.

1Co 4:2  Here now it is required among the dispensers that a man be found faithful.

Now the first quality,the distinguishing excellence of every steward is, fidelity the interest of his master.

In the preceding verse is pointed out the duty of well-ordered respect, which the people owe their pastors ; in this, the duty the pastors owe Christ, viz., fidelity, to seek his interests, and hence, to promote his glory and not their own.

1Co 4:3  But to me it is a very small thing to be judged by you or by man’s day. But neither do I judge my own self.

As for myself, I am not in the least concerned about the judgment which either you or any other human tribunal may pass on me; for, what concern should the judgment of others give me, when even I myself am unable to judge of my real state.

Or by man’s day. Day is put for the trial or judgment; probably, because a day was appointed for those who were cited to be tried in judgment. Hence, by a Hebrew idiom, the day is put for the judgment which is to take place on it. Besides, the phrase, man’s day, contains an allusion to the Lord’s day, which is put frequently in Scripture for the judgment of the Lord, with which human judgment is here contrasted. Similar is the expression of Jeremiah 17: and I have not desired the day of man.  From this we are not to infer that the Apostle was reckless about his good name, regarding which the Holy Ghost tells all to be solicitous: Take care of a good name; for this shall continue with thee more than a thousand treasures, precious and great. (Eccles 41:15). It is only in matters that fell not under human
cognizance, viz., how each one stands before his God, that he disregards the opinions of men.

1Co 4:4  For I am not conscious to myself of anything. Yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.

For although conscious to myself of no fault in the discharge of my duties, still, I am not, on that account, to regard myself as justified; the Lord alone can judge of that.

From this verse, it clearly follows that no one can be absolutely certain in this life whether he be in the state of grace or not. For, St. Paul says, it is only the Lord can judge of this, and that his judgment shall be unknown to others until the end of the world (verse 5). Hence, whether there be question of justification from faith or from good works, the general assertion of the Apostle holds true, from whatever source justification comes; the Apostle says, it is only the Lord that can judge, or (as the
Greek word, ανακρινων, means) discern our justification.

1Co 4:5  Therefore, judge not 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 from God.

Cease, therefore, from all judgment on this point, until in his own good time, at his final coming, the judge of all shall bring publicly to light, not only the most private actions, but the very intentions and motives conceived in the recesses of the human heart; and, then, shall it appear what degree of praise each one deserves at the hand of God.

They should not, therefore, anticipate the time when this judgment is to be made known; viz., the day of judgment, when the Lord shall come.  And then shall every man have praise from God, i.e., then it shall be seen what degree of praise is due to each one deserving of praise, not only before men, whose opinions are often times erroneous, but before God, the just judge of all. The Corinthians should, therefore, wait for this manifestation of the just judgment of God at the proper time, regarding a point which he alone can judge.

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One Response to Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 4:1-5

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time | stjoeofoblog

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