Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


1 Corinthians 4:4

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

For I know nothing by myself - Ουδεν γαρ εμαυτῳ συνοιδα· I am not conscious that I am guilty of any evil, or have neglected to fulfill faithfully the duty of a steward of Jesus Christ. The import of the verb συνειδειν is to be conscious of guilt; and conscire has the same meaning: so, in Horace, Nil Conscire sibi, to know nothing to one's self, is the same as nulla pellescere culpa, not to grow pale at being charged with a crime, through a consciousness of guilt.

Yet am I not hereby justified - I do not pretend to say that though I am not conscious of any offense towards God I must therefore be pronounced innocent; no: I leave those things to God; he shall pronounce in my favor, not I myself. By these words the apostle, in a very gentle yet effectual manner, censures those rash and precipitate judgments which the Corinthians were in the habit of pronouncing on both men and things - a conduct than which nothing is more reprehensible and dangerous.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

For I know nothing by myself - There is evidently here an ellipsis to be supplied, and it is well supplied by Grotius, Rosenmuller, Calvin, etc. “I am not conscious of evil, or unfaithfulness to myself; that is, in my ministerial life.” It is well remarked by Calvin, that Paul does not here refer to the whole of his life, but only to his apostleship. And the sense is, “I am conscious of integrity in this office. My own mind does not condemn me of ambition or unfaithfulness. Others may accuse me, but I am not conscious of that which should condemn me, or render me unworthy of this office.” This appeal Paul elsewhere makes to the integrity and faithfulness of his ministry. So his speech before the elders of Ephesus at Miletus; Acts 20:18-19, Acts 20:26-27; compare 2 Corinthians 7:2; 2 Corinthians 12:17. It was the appeal which a holy and faithful man could make to the integrity of his public life, and such as every minister of the gospel ought to be able to make.

Yet am I not hereby justified - I am not justified because I am not conscious of a failure in my duty. I know that God the judge may see imperfections where I see none. I know that I may be deceived; and therefore, I do not pronounce a judgment on myself as if it were infallible and final. It is not by the consciousness of integrity and faithfulness that I expect to be saved; and it does not follow that I claim to be free from all personal blame. I know that partiality to ourselves will often teach us to overlook many faults that others may discern in us.

He that judgeth me is the Lord - By his judgment I am to abide; and by his judgment I am to receive my eternal sentence, and not by my own view of myself. He searcheth the hearts. He may see evil where I see none. I would not, therefore, be self-confident; but would, with humility, refer the whole case to him. Perhaps there is here a gentle and tender reproof of the Corinthians, who were so confident in their own integrity; and a gentle admonition to them to be more cautious, as it was possible that the Lord would detect faults in them where they perceived none.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Apostles were no more than servants of Christ, but they were not to be undervalued. They had a great trust, and for that reason, had an honourable office. Paul had a just concern for his own reputation, but he knew that he who chiefly aimed to please men, would not prove himself a faithful servant of Christ. It is a comfort that men are not to be our final judges. And it is not judging well of ourselves, or justifying ourselves, that will prove us safe and happy. Our own judgment is not to be depended upon as to our faithfulness, any more than our own works for our justification. There is a day coming, that will bring men's secret sins into open day, and discover the secrets of their hearts. Then every slandered believer will be justified, and every faithful servant approved and rewarded. The word of God is the best rule by which to judge as to men. Pride commonly is at the bottom of quarrels. Self-conceit contributes to produce undue esteem of our teachers, as well as of ourselves. We shall not be puffed up for one against another, if we remember that all are instruments, employed by God, and endowed by him with various talents.
Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 276-7

These principles are dwelt upon at length in Paul's first letter to the Corinthian church. The apostle refers to “the ministers of Christ” as “stewards of the mysteries of God,” and of their work he declares: “It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet I am not hereby justified: but He that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing 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 of God.” 1 Corinthians 4:1-5. AA 276.1

It is not given to any human being to judge between the different servants of God. The Lord alone is the judge of man's work, and He will give to each his just reward. AA 276.2

The apostle, continuing, referred directly to the comparisons that had been made between his labors and those of Apollos: “These things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” Verses 6, 7. AA 276.3

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