1 Corinthians 4

1 Cor. 4:2-7 Paul Paraphrased

Bruce R. McConkie

"As a steward and having received revelation, I have been faithful; nevertheless you have judged me, but that is of no moment. I do not even judge myself, nor would I be justified in so doing, though I am not aware of any fault, for judgment is the Lord's. I pass judgment on none of you, until the Lord comes. Then he shall reveal your hidden acts and make manifest what is in your hearts; then shall those who are saints be rewarded. I speak of myself, and of Apollos, but the principle applies to all of you. You must learn not to think too highly of men, simply because they have gained the wisdom of the world. After all, where did they get the ability to excel? For that matter, what have any of us that did not come from God; and if something comes by inheritance, as a gift, why should we boast about having it?" (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 2: 330.)

1 Cor. 4:4 he that judgeth me is the Lord

"Paul asked the Corinthians to whom stewards were accountable. He noted that priesthood leaders are 'the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God' (1 Cor. 4:1). The Corinthians, Paul said, had no right to judge him, for 'He who judges me is the Lord' (1 Cor. 4:4, NKJB). In the Early Church men were appointed to low and high office by divine authority, and apostleship was delegated from God. The agent was responsible to the one who appointed him. Thus, backbiting could not diminish Paul's right to come and set affairs in order (1 Cor. 4:21): 'Shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love in the spirit of meekness?'

"Modern revelation teaches the balance between divine authority and common consent. After Joseph Smith's death, Brigham Young presented himself and the Twelve to the Church for sustaining, saying that the people had the right to accept or reject their leadership, but that the Twelve had authority and would, if necessary, raise up a people elsewhere. Yet Christ's priesthood is delegated with his example of forthright but unselfish leadership. Paul later taught that pure love is constant, and he refused to be rejected by those he was called to lead. Although he criticized them, they were literally 'his children' (tekna); he was their father in the gospel (1 Cor. 4:14-15). Parents are often hurt by rebelliousness and lack of appreciation by their children, but in that role Paul did not complain. He listed inconvenience, strain, and danger constantly suffered to bring the gospel to new souls. If they rejected him, he would speak plainly but not cease to love. He personifies the role of the priesthood (and by implication motherhood) repeatedly outlined by Jesus-the higher the office, the more generous the sacrifice of time and concern (Luke 22:26)." (Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 102.)

1 Cor. 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come

Hugh Nibley

"'He that rejecteth me . . . hath one that judgeth him [lit. "one to judge him"]: the word I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day' (John 12:47-48). No judgment now, but 'in the last day.' 'Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come,' writes Paul (1 Corinthians 4:5), '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' (italics added). The time of Christ and the apostles was not to be the time of judgment, but of testing; without the opportunity of freely accepting or rejecting, there could be no judgment...The world is not going to be converted, but it is going to be judged. The first act of the drama is all a preparation, not for the second act, but for the last one-the second coming and the judgment; on that time and event all the apostles fix their gaze as the reward and vindication of all they are doing. In between lies the dark and dismal interlude of the second act about which the Lord and the apostles have a great deal to say." (Mormonism and Early Christianity, edited by Todd M. Compton and Stephen D. Ricks [Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1987], 270.)

1 Cor. 4:9 God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death

"Paul compared the apostles to a parade of men 'appointed to death,' a spectacle in the world's theater on their way to execution. (1 Cor. 4:9.) James, brother of John, was executed in A.D. 44 (Acts 12:2), and James, brother of the Lord, followed in 62. Nero's persecution then destroyed Peter and Paul in 67. John outlived the rest but was not seen after the 'times of Trajan' (A.D. 98 to 117)." (Richard Lloyd Anderson, "Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp: Three Bishops between the Apostles and Apostasy," Ensign, Aug. 1976, 51)

1 Cor. 4:13 we are made as the filth of the world

Bruce R. McConkie

"In this brief life the prophets are persecuted. In this moment of mortality the apostles 'are made a spectacle unto the world,' are esteemed 'as the filth of the world,' and are deemed to be 'the offscouring of all things.' (1 Cor. 4:9, 13.) But what of the eternal days ahead?

"One who viewed within the veil and saw the end of those who had overcome the world was the Beloved John. As he beheld, an angelic ministrant asked: 'What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?' Answering his own question, the heavenly being proclaimed: 'These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.' (Rev. 7:13-15.)

"These are they who have been faithful and true in this mortal probation. These are they who have eternal life. These are they of whom the Lord Jesus said: 'And blessed are all they who are persecuted for my name's sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. And blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake; For ye shall have great joy and be exceeding glad, for great shall be your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you.' (3 Ne. 12:10-12.)

"Let us, then-and let all men who desire righteousness-accept the Lord and his prophets, hearken to their teachings and strive to be like them, for it is written: 'He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward.' (Matt. 10:41.) And a prophet's reward is eternal life in the kingdom of God." (The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978], 40-41.)

1 Cor. 4:15 ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet...not many fathers

"Paul delineated a parental pitfall when he commented that there were in the church 'ten thousand instructors,' but not many 'fathers.' (1 Cor. 4: 15.) The need, therefore, is not for parents who merely give facts, but for fathers who comfort and exhort 'as a father doth his children.' (1 Thes. 2:11.)" (Robert J. Matthews, "What the Scriptures Say about Rearing Children," Ensign, Dec. 1972, 35)

1 Cor. 4:15 I have begotten you through the gospel

We usually think of those who have been born again as children of Christ, 'because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you' (Mosiah 5:7). Certainly, Paul understood this concept, but he referred to those who he had converted as his own children in the gospel. In the church family, we speak of brothers and sisters all the time, but in Paul's day, one's converts were referred to as children. Hence, Paul refers to Timothy as 'my own son in the faith' (1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2). John similarly declared, 'I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth' (3 John 1:4). Paul and John were not claiming to have spiritually begotten their children, but rather they became a father figure to them by bringing 'them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord' (Eph 6:4).

1 Cor. 4:16 be ye followers of me

Bruce R. McConkie

"Jesus said: 'Follow thou me' (2 Ne. 31:10), and, 'What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.' (3 Ne. 27:27.) How glorious it would be if every shepherd, as Paul here does, could say the same to his flock." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 2: 333.)

1 Cor. 4:17 For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus

"When Paul was at Philippi on his third mission he wrote to the Corinthian Saints that he would send Timothy to minister to them. His confidence in Timothy's ability to properly represent him is very evident: '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' (1 Cor. 4:17). In the same epistle he added further: 'Now if Timotheus come, see that he may be with you without fear: for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do. Let no man therefore despise him: but conduct him forth in peace.' (1 Cor. 16:10-11.)" (Robert J. Matthews, Behold the Messiah [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1994], 330.)

1 Cor. 4:20 the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power

Bruce R. McConkie

"The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. O how this truth needs to be thundered into the ears of every living soul...It matters not that a people have the word of God, that the Bible is open before them, that they have a record of what God and angels have said, that they know what the doctrines of salvation are. There is no salvation in these things standing alone. Of course men must have the word, of course they must learn the doctrines of salvation. But men do not gain the kingdom...until they possess the power. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. There must be priesthood...or there is no kingdom of God, no Church of Jesus Christ, no saving gospel. Where God's power is manifest, there is the Church and kingdom of God on earth, and where his power is not found, there the Church and kingdom is not." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 2:333.)

Ezra Taft Benson

"The gospel of Jesus Christ certainly offers incentives to achieve and accomplish challenges which develop a person's inner powers. Only by daily applying its principles and teachings in our lives may the power which is inherent within us be released and made manifest among men. Thus may we achieve the ideal spoken of by Paul when he explained to the Corinthian Saints that 'the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power' (1 Corinthians 4:20)." (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 341.)