1 Corinthians Chapter 4:
Verse 6. "Now these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes; that in us ye might learn not to think of men above that which is written."
SO long as there was need of expressions as harsh as these, he refrained from drawing up the curtain, and went on arguing as if he were himself the person to whom they were addressed; in order that the dignity of the persons censured tending to counteract the censurers, no room might be left for flying out in wrath at the charges. But when the time came for a gentler process, then he strips it off, and removes the mask, and shows the persons concealed by the appellation of Paul and Apollos. And on this account he said, "These things, brethren, I have transferred in a figure unto myself and Apollos."
And as in the case of the sick, when the child being out of health kicks and turns away from the food offered by the physicians, the attendants call the father or the tutor, and bid them take the food from the physician's hands and bring it, so that out of fear towards them he may take it and be quiet: so also Paul, intending to censure them about certain other persons, of whom some, he thought, were injured, others honored above measure, did not set down the persons themselves, but conducted the argument in his own name and that of Apollos, in order that reverencing these they might receive his mode of cure. But that once received, he presently makes known in whose behalf he was so expressing himself.
Now this was not hypocrisy, but condescension and tact. For if he had said openly, "As for you, the men whom ye are judging are saints, and worthy of all admiration;" they might have taken it ill and started back. But now in saying, "But to me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you:" and again, "Who is Paul, and who is Apollos?" he rendered his speech easy of reception.
This, if you mark it, is the reason why he says here, "These things have I transferred in a figure unto myself for your sakes, that in us ye may learn not to be wise above what is written," signifying that if he had applied his argument in their persons, they would not have learnt all that they needed to learn, nor would have admitted the correction, being vexed at what was said. But as it was, revering Paul, they bore the rebuke well.
But what is the meaning of, "not to be wise above what is written?" It is written, "Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brothers's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" and "Judge not, that ye be not judged." For if we are one and are mutually bound together, it behooveth us not to rise up against one another. For "he that humbleth himself shall be exalted," saith he. And "He that will be first of all, let him be the servant of all." These are the things which "are written."
Ver. 6. (continued) "That no one of you be puffed up for one against another."
Again, having dismissed the teachers, he rebukes the disciples. For it was they who caused the former to be elated.
And besides, the leaders would not quietly receive that kind of speech because of their desire of outward glory: for they were even blinded with that passion. Whereas the disciples, as not reaping themselves the fruits of the glory, but procuring it for others, would both endure the chiding with more temper, and had it more in their power than the leading men to distroy the disease.
It seems then, that this also is a symptom of being "puffed up," to be elated on another's account, even though a man have no such feeling in regard of what is his own. For as he who is proud of another's wealth, is so out of arrogance; so also in the case of another's glory.
And he hath well called it "being puffed up." For when one particular member rises up over the rest, it is nothing else but inflammation and disease; since in no other way doth one member become higher than another, except when a swelling takes place. (So in English "proud flesh.") And so in the body of the Church also; whoever is inflamed and puffed up, he must be the diseased one; for he is swollen above the proportion of the rest. For this [disproportion] is what we mean by "swelling." And so comes it to pass in the body, when some spurious and evil humor gathers, instead of the wonted nourishment. So also arrogance is born; notions to which we have no right coming over us. And mark with what literal propriety he saith, be not "puffed up:" for that which is puffed up hath a certain tumor of spirit, from being filled with corrupt humor.
These things, however, he saith, not to preclude all soothing, but such soothing as leads to harm. "Wouldest thou wait upon this or that person? I forbid thee not: but do it not to the injury of another," For not that we might array ourselves one against another were teachers given us, but that we might all be mutually united. For so the general to this end is set over the host, that of those who are separate he may make one body. But if he is to break up the army, he stands in the place of an enemy rather than of a general.
Ver. 7. "For who maketh thee to differ? For what hast thou which thou didst not receive?"
From this point, dismissing the governed, he turns to the governors. What he saith comes to this: From whence is evident that thou art worthy of being praised? Why, hath any judgment taken place? any inquiry proceeded? any essay? any severe testing? Nay, thou canst not say it: and if men give their votes, their judgment is not upright. But let us suppose that thou really art worthy of praise and hast indeed the gracious gift, and that the judgment of men is not corrupt: yet not even in this case were it right to be high-minded; for thou hast nothing of thyself but from God didst receive it. Why then dost thou pretend to have that which thou hast not? Thou wilt say, "thou hast it:" and others have it with thee: well then, thou hast it upon receiving it: not merely this thing or that, but all things whatsoever thou hast.
For not to thee belong these excellencies, but to the grace of God. Whether you name faith, it came of His calling; or whether it be the forgiveness of sins which you speak of, or spiritual gifts, or the word of teaching, or the miracles; thou didst receive all from thence. Now what hast thou, tell me, which thou hast not received, but hast rather achieved of thine own self? Thou hast nothing to say. Well: thou hast received; and does that make thee high-minded? Nay, it ought to make thee shrink back into thyself. For it is not thine, what hath been given, but the giver's. What if thou didst receive it? thou receivedst it of him. And if thou receivedst of him, it was not thine which thou receivedst: and if thou didst but receive what was not thine own, why art thou exalted as if thou hadst something of thine own? Wherefore he added also,
Ver. 7 (continued) "Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?"
Thus having, you see, made good his argument by concession, he indicates that they have their deficiencies; and those not a few: and saith, "In the first place, though ye had received all things, it were not meet to glory, for nothing is your own; but as the case really stands there are many things of which ye are destitute." And in the beginning he did but hint at this, saying, "I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual:" and, "I determined to know nothing among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified." But here he doth it in a way to abash them, saying,
Ver. 8. "Already ye are filled, already ye are rich:"
That is, ye want nothing henceforth; ye are become perfect; ye have attained the very summit; ye stand, as ye think, in need of no one, either among Apostles or teachers.
"Already ye are filled." And well saith he "already;" pointing out, from the time, the incredibility of their statements and their unreasonable notion of themselves. It was therefore in mockery that he said to them, "So quickly have ye come to the end;" which thing was impossible in the time: for all the more perfect things wait long in futurity: but to be "full" with a little betokens a feeble soul; and from a little to imagine one's self "rich," a sick and miserable one. For piety is an insatiable thing; and it argues a childish mind to imagine from just the beginnings that you have obtained the whole: and for men who are not yet even in the prelude of a matter, to be high-minded as if they had laid hold of the end.
Then also by means of what followeth he puts them yet more out of countenance; for having said, "Already ye are full," he added,
Ver. 8. (continued) "ye are become rich, ye have reigned without us: yea and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you."
Full of great austerity is the speech: which is why it comes last, being introduced by him after that abundance of reproof. For then is our admonition respected and easily received, when after our accusations we introduce our humiliating expressions, For this were enough to repress even the shameless soul and strike it more sharply than direct accusation, and correct the bitterness and hardened feeling likely to arise from the charge brought. It being certain that this more than anything else is the admirable quality of those arguments which appeal to our sense of shame, that they possess two contrary advantages. On the one hand, one cuts deeper than by open invective: on the other hand, it causes the person reprimanded to bear that severer stab with more entire patience.
"Ye have reigned without us." Herein there is great force, as concerns both the teachers and the disciples: and their ignorance, too, of themselves is pointed out, and their great inconsideration. For what he saith is this: "In labors indeed," saith he, "all things are common both to us and to you, but in the rewards and the crowns ye are first. Not that I say this in vexation:" wherefore he added also, "I would indeed that ye did reign :" then, lest there should seem to be some irony, he added, "that we also might reign with you;" for, saith he, we also should be in possession of these blessings. Dost thou see how he shews in himself all at once his severity and his care over them and his self-denying mind? Dost thou see how he takes down their pride?
HOMILIES OF ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM ON THE FIRST EPISTLE OF ST. PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS, EXCERPT FROM HOMILY XII. (1 COR. 4)