Fr. de Piconio: Chapter 4. In this chapter the Apostle severely censures the conceited and presumptuous teachers who had undertaken the instruction of the Christians of Corinth, and threatens them with the Divine displeasure.
Fr. Callan: Thinking themselves capable of judging their spiritual teachers the Corinthians had made distinctions between them, preferring one to another and glorying in their choice. after having shown that their glorying was human and vain, the Apostle points out the true norm by which the preachers of the Gospel are to be judged, but at the same time he warns that only the Omniscient God is able to make use of that norm. The faithful, therefore, must refrain from judging their teachers, not putting one above another, but leaving all things for the final manifestation at the Last Judgment.
Notice that two different positions are being outlined above. Fr. de Piconio is of the opinion that the problem of coteries in Corinth is the result of teachers; Fr. Callan lays the blame upon the adherents of the various coteries rather than the teachers. My own opinion is that both are at fault. Most modern commentators would reject de Piconio's view, and, as a consequence, mine. The reason for the rejection is the fact that on the basis of 1 Cor 1:12 (cf. 1 Cor 3:5) the teachers in question are widely taken to be St. Paul, St. Peter, and St Apollo. In my opinion they are being used figuratively (see below on verse 6).
1 Cor 4:1. Thus let man esteem us, as ministers of Christ, and dispensers of the mysteries of God.
1 Cor 4:2. Now here it is required among dispensers, that one be found faithful.
Now here. The Greek has, for the rest. The Syriac version reads as the Vulgate. What is required of a steward is not eloquent language, rhetoric, or philosophy; but fidelity. This is certainly his principal recommendation. How do your teachers stand this test? Are they faithful to the ministry they exercise?
1 Cor 4:3. But to me it is of very little moment to be judged by you, or by a human day: but neither do I judge myself.
It is of very little moment to be judged by you. For the Corinthians were always discussing their teachers, and comparing them. They ridiculed men who were good and holy, for their simplicity; but they thought a great deal of others, who were evil and full of faults, on account of their power of speaking. Saint Chrysostom. To me, your judgment is a matter I cannot seriously regard; compared with God’s, it is nothing, a very little thing. Or by a human day. A trial before an earthly tribunal, from the day fixed for the hearing.
Jer 17:6. The day of man I have not desired. I have had no solicitude about earthly judgment and human opinion. I do not even judge myself, for I am often ignorant from what end I act, with what motive, with what degree of knowledge. I am not indeed conscious of having neglected the ministry entrusted to me. I am conscious of nothing to myself; but it does not follow from this that I am free from fault in the sight of God. Who understands his faults? Ps 18:13. He finds error in his angels, Job 4:18. Of the greater part of our offences against God we are absolutely ignorant. St. Basil, in const, monach. 1. It is God who will judge me; and he knows not only what I do, but all my thoughts, intentions, objects, and motives, of which I am very imperfectly cognizant myself, and of which others know nothing.
1 Cor 4:5. Therefore do not judge before the time, until the Lord come: who both will illuminate what is hidden in darkness, and manifest the counsels of hearts: and then shall be praise to everyone from God.
Therefore do not judge before the time. Suspend your judgment upon your teachers, until you learn what the judj:3fment of God will be at the last day. Until the Lord comes. Wait for the arrival of Christ, the Judge of all. He will throw the full light of day upon all the actions of men, whether good or evil; and bring into that light not actions only, but the counsels of hearts, the will, latent in the heart, the design and intention with which all was done. Then shall it appear what degree of praise is really due to each of us, whose merits you so eagerly and busily compare. That praise will be real and true, as coming from him who searches the hearts of all men. That which comes from man is vain and worthless.
1 Cor 4:6. And these things, brethren, I have transfigured to myself and Apollo, on your account: that you may learn in us not to be inflated against one another for another above what is written.
I have transfigured. The Greek, I have changed the appearance or figure of. In all these remarks, which I have made ostensibly and nominally in reference to myself and Apollo, I have not in reality intended to allude so much to myself and Apollo, who are thoroughly in harmony, the only difference between us being in our mode of instruction, according to individual difference of mental habit, or variety of circumstances. I intended in reality to designate under our names, several other teachers whom I do not name, who have established themselves as heads of rival parties, and the contentions among whose followers divide and trouble the Church of Corinth. And this on your account.
That you may learn in us, the Greek has, not to be wise above what is written. The Syriac, not to think of yourselves above what is written, and this is followed by the Arabic version, Saint Chrysostom, Theodoret, and Theophylact. This would mean that the teachers are not to arrogate to themselves more than I have accorded them in the words I have written above: nor you, their hearers, engage in party rivalry. The Vulgate omits to be wise, and reads as in the text; the meaning of which is that their followers were not to exalt their several leaders in opposition to one another in rivalry or contrast: championing against one another the cause of some favoured teacher. This, in the Greek, follows as an additional reason.