The Corinthians and Their Apostles: Page 3 of 10 (series: Lessons on 1 Cor.)
by John Lowe
A dear little lady in church years ago always had something good to say about everybody, especially the preacher. One day they had a visiting preacher who delivered the most miserable sermon they had ever heard. The people wondered what in the world the dear little lady would say about such a sermon, and they gathered around her, as she went out. She smiled and shook hands with the preacher, and then she said, “Oh, pastor, you had a wonderful text today!” And, my friend, I think our Lord is going to find something praiseworthy in each of us!
The significance of this verse, according to Morris, can be stated with two words: "Stop judging!" This command is necessary because: (1) the only judgment that matters will be announced by the Lord at the final judgment and, besides that; (2) people do not have sufficient information or competence to judge one another, or even themselves.
6 And 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.
Humility is the subject of verses 6-9. Life is a gift, so be humble. Your abilities and blessings came from God; you cannot take credit for them. They are God’s gift to you, and your use of them is your gift to God. It is sinful to contrast various Christian workers—“Now this I mean, that each one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos: and I of Cephas; and I of Christ;” (1 Cor 1:12; ASV)—because only God knows their hearts.
And these things, brethren,
And these things are the things which I have written relating to religious teachers, and the impropriety of forming sects called after their names. Some of these things are:
• “that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. We speak wisdom, however, among them that are fullgrown: yet a wisdom not of this world, nor of the rulers of this world, who are coming to nought” (1 Cor 2:5-6; ASV).
• “But we received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God; that we might know the things that were freely given to us of God” (1 Cor 2:12; ASV).
• “What then is Apollos? and what is Paul? Ministers through whom ye believed; and each as the Lord gave to him” (1 Cor 3:5; ASV).
• “Now I beseech you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor 1:10; ASV).
I have in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos
The Arabic version reads it thus: that he had "brought these comparisons", concerning himself and Apollos; namely, that one was a planter, and the other a waterer; that they were laborers and builders, ministers or servants, and stewards.
The word that is translated “transferred” is meteschēmatisa (it always seems like the Greeks cram as many letters as they can into a word), which means, “to put on another form or figure” or "to change"—“Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Phil 3:21; KJV); or to "transform"—“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ” (2 Cor 11:13; KJV).
This clause may mean that neither Paul, Apollos, or Peter, were set up among the Corinthians as heads of parties, but that here Paul made use of their names to show how improper it would be to make them the head of a party, and therefore, how improper it was to make any religious teacher the head of a party; or Paul may mean to say that he had mentioned himself and Apollos principally, to show the impropriety of what had been done; since, if it was improper to make them heads of parties, it was even more improper to make inferior teachers the leaders of factions. Locke adopts the former interpretation. The latter is probably the true interpretation, since it is evident from 1 Corinthians 1:12-13—“Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and
I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?”, that there were parties in the church at Corinth that were called by the names of Paul, and Apollos, and Peter; and Paul's object here was to show the impropriety of this by mentioning himself, Apollos, and Peter, and by this means transferring the whole discussion from inferior teachers and leaders to show the offensiveness of it. He might have argued against the immodesty of following other leaders. He might have mentioned their names. But this would have been hateful and tactless. It would have made them angry. He therefore says that he had transferred it all to himself and Apollos; and in that way he implied that if it was wrong to split themselves up into factions with them as leaders, it would be worse to follow others; that is, it was wrong to form any party at all in the church. He avoided mentioning the names of the other party leaders—And this was one of the instances in which Paul showed great tact in accomplishing his object, and avoiding offending anyone.
Bishop Pearce paraphrases the verse thus: "I have made use of my own and Apollos' name in my arguments against your divisions, because I would spare to name those teachers among you who are guilty of making and heading parties; and because I would have you, by our example, not to value them above what I have said of teachers in general in this epistle.”
Having rejected their judgment, he again makes himself an example of modesty by concealing in this epistle those teacher's names who formed factions, he did not hesitate to put down his own name and Apollos' in their place, and he took their shame upon him. And this shows how far he was he from preferring himself to any of the other apostles, teachers and anyone else.
It should be noted that when the Corinthians made Paul and Apollos heads of factions within the church that it was without their consent and knowledge.
for your sakes;
For your sakes means to spare your feelings; or to show you in an inoffensive manner what I mean. And he particularly wanted to teach them not to place an unwarranted value on people.
Here the apostle lets us in on the reason why he had used his own name and that of Apollos in this dissertation of his. He had done it for their sakes. He chose to mention his own name, and the name of a faithful fellow-laborer, rather than the names of any heads of factions among them, so that he might avoid provoking anger among them, and perhaps to gain their respect from his advice. Note, Ministers should use discretion when giving advice and reprimands, but especially in their reprimands, in case they might lose one of their flock. If possible, the offender should be made to see how Jesus views their words or actions, and hopefully they will agree with your judgment, which is also Christ’s.
that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written,
That ye might learn in us means, “That you might learn from our example and views; that is, from what has been said about us, who, however prominent we may be, are mere instruments in God's hand.”
Above what is here written means “above what scripture warrants”—“So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase” (1 Cor 3:7; KJV).
Not to think or since you see the approach we want to take; since you see that we who have the standing of apostles, and have been so exceedingly favored with gifts and success, do not wish to form parties, then you may also have the same views in regard to others (false teachers who have been installed as leaders of factions. The best manuscripts omit "think," which gives this translation "That in us (as your example) you might learn (this), not (to go) beyond what is written." Revere the difficult things of the Holy Writings, as much as its vivid declarations: so you will not be mislead by what is not expressly revealed: “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut 29:29; KJV).