1 Corinthians 4:8
Already you have all you want. Already you have become rich. Without us, you have become kings. How I wish you really were kings, so that we might be kings with you.
Against Self ConceitH. Bremner 1 Corinthians 4:6-13
Irony in ReligionE. Hurndall 1 Corinthians 4:8-10
Suffering for Others a Proof of Interest in Their WelfareR. Tuck 1 Corinthians 4:8-12
A Spectacle to AngelsC. Wadsworth.1 Corinthians 4:8-13
A Vivid ContrastC. Lipscomb 1 Corinthians 4:8-13
A Wonderful SpectacleWeekly Pulpit1 Corinthians 4:8-13
Apostolic IronyJ. Lyth, D. D.1 Corinthians 4:8-13
Apostolic Treatment of VanityD. Thomas, D. D.1 Corinthians 4:8-13
Before the FootlightsW. Birch.1 Corinthians 4:8-13
Humanity Watched by AngelsD. Thomas, D. D.1 Corinthians 4:8-13
Man an Object of Angelic ObservationD. Thomas, D. D.1 Corinthians 4:8-13
The Difference Between the Counterfeit and the Real ChristianJ. Lyth, D. D.1 Corinthians 4:8-13
The State of the Corinthians Contrasted with that of the ApostlesJ. H. Tasson.1 Corinthians 4:8-13

Having shown that the Christian consciousness was a twofold realization of the worthlessness of whatever was its own, and the infinite worth of the "all things" in Christ, and having proceeded thence to the idea of stewardship and the urgent need of faithfulness, how can St. Paul withhold the stern application of such truths? Had it been a childish self complacency with which he was dealing, we know how he would have treated it. But it was an active jealousy, a pompons arrogance, a virulent self conceit, a carnal temper in which the natural man survived, that he had to combat. Now, therefore, he would show them what they were. The weapons of his warfare were not carnal, but, nevertheless, they were weapons, and withal such weapons as Elijah had employed, and even the Lord Jesus had not disdained to use. If, by means of contrast, we know everything external, and if thereby we know ourselves too and realize our identity by discriminating one mood of consciousness from another, it follows that irony has its legitimate place and may be sanctified to the best purposes, Men are acutely sensitive to its caustic probe, and, as they will not exercise it on themselves, its application is one of those offices, severe but humane, which must be performed on them. Is the conflict over and the victory won? Full and rich, lo! ye are reigning "as kings," and significantly enough, "without us," the apostles, the sent of God, in this movement. And what dominion is that from which we are excluded? Where are your apostles in this hour of your coronation as kings? "God hath set us forth" - a terrible contrast to their self glorification - at this instant are we so set forth, like criminals doomed to death, and made a spectacle as in a vast theatre, "unto the world, and to angels, and to men." Alas! the only use just then to which the great Apostle to the Gentiles could put his knowledge of Greek games in the amphitheatre was in an outburst of indignation and sorrow. And then follows one of his characteristic sentences, in which impassioned feeling is quite as condensed as strong thought: fools, weak, despised, are we the apostles, while ye are wise and strong and honorable. The formal contrast is dropped, and now, how like the rapid summation of his experience to the sufferings of his Lord? Fidelity in suffering, fidelity to suffering, reconciliation to it, acceptance of its law as basic to his life, not an exceptional thing occurring at rare intervals as most of our sad experiences, but common and habitual, wounds unhealed and yet deeper wounds, "even unto this present hour." Hunger and thirst, nakedness, buffetings, homeless, refusing all remuneration and earning our own support, returning good for evil and blessing for cursing, objects of persecution, denied recognition as the friends of humanity and lovers of their kind, abused and vilified, ay, treated in the centres of this world's intelligence and refinement as "the filth of the world and the offscouring of all things," and no break or cessation, "unto this day." The sameness of these sufferings is twice mentioned, and the wondrous biography, first and last, is one chapter of woes. Over all stands a single motto, which came and could only come from Christianity: "For Christ's sake." At this juncture, call to mind a fact of some moment. Men are wonderfully individualized by sufferings. Considering how suffering abounds, it is noticeable that few truly regard themselves as providential sufferers, and realize in their experience the Divine discipline they are appointed to undergo. There is much selfishness in our ways of enduring the ills of life, in the uses made of affliction, and the habits of intellect and sensibility growing therefrom; and St. Paul strikes the heart of the subjects when he connects his sufferings with "Christ's sake." This gives an instant pathos to the recital and an instant nobility to the apostle as a sufferer. Furthermore, only for "Christ's sake" does he go into this affecting detail of the number, variety, and continuation of iris sorrows. A noble sufferer like St. Paul could find no selfish pleasure in such an enumeration; nay, in itself it would be painful. Vain men, ignoble men. gratify their littleness in recounting what they have endured, and these pensioners of public opinion - it may be the public opinion of a very diminutive world - find their account in the illusory sense of sympathy. Far from this weakness - very far - was this heroic man, to whom it was a new suffering to tell his sufferings, but who, in the courage of humility, the most courageous of the virtues in a true man, was even ready to uncover a bleeding heart for "Christ's sake." We shall now see that his love for these erring Corinthians prompted him to make the narration of his sufferings. - L.

Now ye are full... rich... as kings.

1. Is so replenished with Divine knowledge that he needs no teacher.

2. Is so rich in grace that he exalts himself above the spiritually poor.

3. Is so confident in himself that he would rule the consciences of others.


1. Regards himself as the least (vers. 9, 10).

2. Submits willingly to toil and suffering for the sake of Christ.

3. Recompenses evil with good.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)


1. Full of the good things of this world.

2. As kings, reigning.

3. But their condition spiritually was such as to demand earnest prayer.


1. Poor in worldly things — rich in faith.

2. A spectacle both to angels and to men; a sight of misery to men; a spectacle of sorrow to angels. But their reward is not far distant.

(J. H. Tasson.)


1. It is empty, yet imagines itself full of wisdom.

2. Poor, yet regards itself as rich in every good gift.

3. Dependent, yet would reign as a king.


1. By an indirect assertion of its folly.

2. By an implied consciousness of personal insufficiency.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

Vanity is a state of mind at once the most prevalent and detestable, it is a plant that springs from self-ignorance, and is disgusting to the spectator in all its forms and fruits. The apostle treats it with —

I. WITHERING SARCASM. "Now ye are full," &c. The Bible furnishes us with many instances of irony (1 Kings 18:27; Job 12:2), but nowhere have we it more forceful than here. Here are three metaphors, the first taken from persons filled with food, the second from persons so rich that they required no more, the third from those who have reached the highest elevation, obtained a throne. Paul seems to say to these conceited teachers that they were so great that they did not require such services as his. We scarcely know of a more effective way of treating vanity than by sarcasm. Treat the vain, swaggering man before you not according to your judgment of him, but according to his estimate of himself. Speak to him as one as stupendous as he believes himself to be, and your irony will stab him to the quick. Sarcasm often becomes the instrument of a great manly soul roused into indignation.

II. A NOBLE GENEROSITY. "I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you." Here the north wind of sarcasm gives way to the south breezes of love. What he means is a wish that they were as truly full, rich, and royal as they thought themselves to be. The irony of a Christly man, however pungent, is not malign, but generous.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.
1. A man may imagine it to be an easy matter to appear before an audience; but to stand before the footlights, when every turn of one's features are plainly to be seen, is a strain on the nerves which is hard to bear.

2. The Christian life is, however, more trying than any performance on the stage. The actor appears before a few hundred spectators who are willing to be pleased, and he is under the glare of the footlights for only two or three hours at a time; but the Christian is a spectacle to his many neighbours and also to the angelic hosts, and his part continues for life.

3. The apostle refers to the spectacles in the Colosseum at Rome. On some days, when about eighty thousand persons were assembled in its galleries, the first show in the arena would be men fighting with hungry lions and tigers, but in this performance the men were allowed to wear armour. In the pause after the first show, the vast crowd would refresh themselves with grapes, wine, and food, and then the second performance began, consisting of naked men fighting with each other, and without anything to defend themselves except their swords, the result being that the slightest touch of their weapons inflicted a gash. The most horrid regulation, however, was that he who preserved his own life should not be released. but kept for slaughter another day. These men, therefore, that were actors in the last performance might well be called men appointed to death.

4. Of course everybody in his senses when he appears before the footlights of life, that is, when other people can see him, does his best. It is only the drunkard, the insane, or the woman that has lost all sense of shame, who label their sins before the eyes of others like a sign-board stating what they are. If an ordinary man have something that is bad within him, he tries to hide it from his fellow-men. Let the spectacle of your life be —


II. EXHIBIT THE ESSENCE OF TRUTH. Learn to love the truth because it is the truth, and do it because it is right. Some people are not afraid to do wrong; all they are afraid of is being "found out."

III. EMBODY CHARITY IN YOUR DEEDS TO YOUR FELLOW — MEN. Follow the charity of God, who keeps open the gates of heaven day and night.

(W. Birch.)

Weekly Pulpit.

1. The actors were Divinely called. They appeared on the stage in answer to the behest of the highest will, guided in the selection by perfect wisdom. He who called David from the flock to preside over Israel, called these men from their daily avocations to preside over the affairs of the kingdom of heaven.

2. The actors were Divinely commissioned. The mission of apostolic life was special (1 Corinthians 5:18-20).

3. The actors were subjected to intense sufferings, and to cruel death. This was not accidental, but a part of their mission. They suffered in the tragedy to enforce its lessons (Matthew 10:16-18). It is almost certain that they all suffered martyrdom, except St. John.


1. Angels. We cannot say how their pure minds were affected, or what emotions throbbed in their breast. It appears from Ephesians 3:10, 11, that they gather lessons from the life of the Church militant.(1) They saw the power of truth in lifting man above circumstances. By this they discovered that he had a nobler nature than they had been wont to ascribe to him.(2) The apostles gloried in tribulation, and this went beyond their experience and joy. They returned from the theatre inflamed with a greater degree of devotion.(3) That spectacle had something to do with their final safety. They had often ministered to the apostles in their trials, which taught them more .perfect submission, and warmer obedience. No part of the audience realised the spectacle better than the angels.

2. Men. We have no difficulty in understanding the lessons which apostolic life teach us.(1) Entire consecration of life to the service of Christ. The apostles were not half-hearted or indifferent, but threw their heart and soul into the work. Can we look at this spectacle, and not be moved?(2) That the Christian life will surely vanquish difficulties. The boldness of faith is the same as that which encouraged the apostles to say — "We cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard."

(Weekly Pulpit.)

In its widest reference the text teaches that our world is a theatre or arena, whereon men act their various parts, as in a drama — "a spectacle to angels." And this thought is at one with all Bible testimony. It teaches that from the first our planet has been an object of absorbing interest to all spiritual beings.

I. THE DRAMA OF HUMAN LIFE HAS BEEN CAST IN THREE GREAT MORAL ACTS. And as displaying the Divine attributes, the angels are represented as bending down to study all of them.

1. The first scene was one of blissful and holy human life. And endowed, as the first man was, with every power of perseverance in holiness, and plied with every motive to retain it, that first act in the drama of human life was fittingly "a spectacle to angels."

2. The second scene is a world apostate and accursed. An exhibition is now to be made of the terrible nature of sin, as seen alike in the malice of the tempter and the misery of the tempted. And when you consider the whole plot and progress of the drama — all the exhibitions of moral character under this fearful inspiration of sin, the whole wondrous development of redemption, from the first promise down through those ages of antediluvian depravity, through all those slowly evolving ritualisms to the tragic scene of Calvary, through all the gospel's subsequent triumphs — then this second act seems not unworthily "a spectacle to angels."

3. But on this scene the curtain falls. And when it rises again, it will be upon an arena worthier angelic regard. Out of the wreck and ruin of the present system of things, as a platform fitted for the manifestation of triumphant holiness, shall come forth the "new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness."

II. ITS SPECIAL AND PRACTICAL APPLICATION TO OURSELVES. It is a plain truth of revelation that these glorious beings are ever around us. They are represented not only as "ministering unto the heirs of salvation," but as watchful of even their seemingly most trivial interests, "bearing them up, lest they dash their foot against a stone." Let us consider this —

1. For encouragement and consolation amid the trials of life. This is the application Paul gives it in the context. In a life wherein so few occasions are ours to do great things for God, and whose great law is suffering, it is blessed to think that it is especially when in sorrow, and agony, and death, we are "a spectacle to angels." They come on their bright wings to our desolate homes, our sick-beds, our death-beds, and every whisper of submissive Christian love sounds out as a grand hallelujah to the Infinite Glory, and every gentle tear in the eye of faith flashes as a gem of immense price in the diadem of their God.

2. As a ground of exhortation. We are all "a spectacle to angels." And how are we acting?(1) You may be this day an impenitent man; and if so, the part you are acting is one solemn beyond all conception — the part of an imperilled man with an immortal soul to save! For just such acting is this life-stage fitted. Oh, what solemn scenery it arranges around you! Here Sinai with its fire, and there Calvary with its Cross. And now tell me, you that live as if there were no God, and no judgment, sporting with the soul and salvation, if you are acting well your part before this great cloud of witnesses! Hath it not been with gestures of astonishment and indignation they have watched you?(2) Or you may be a true child of God; and then the part you are acting, if less terrible, is scarcely less solemn; for it is that of a redeemed man in the service of the Redeemer. In reference to this thought, Paul speaks of the believer as having "put on Christ" — i e., as a tragedian assumes that of the hero he personates. Thus, to personate the Lord Jesus is the part you are to act, as "a spectacle to angels." And for such acting, also, is the world-stage fitted. For it is the self-same world wherein He personally acted. The same sinful and suffering humanity is ever around you. The same realities of eternity rise in transparencies beyond you. And tell me, if you seem unto yourselves acting your magnificent part well?

III. AS THUS A SPECTACLE TO ANGELS, IT MAY BE SAID, IN ONE SENSE, WE CAN CHOOSE THE PARTS WE ARE TO ACT IN THEIR PRESENCE. There are some things common and certain to us all, and in regard of them we can choose at least our own style of acting.

1. Take one set order —

1. A death-scene! A darkened chamber. A company of heartbroken relatives keeping watch. The actor is a poor lover of pleasure, who put his eternity carefully away from him, living only for this world. Now witness his acting as it seems unto angels. Behold those feeble hands, lifted as to repel some shape of terror. Listen! That cry of anguish: "Oh, do not let me die!" "I cannot die!" "I rejected the Saviour!" "I am lost, lost, lost!"(2) The next is a judgment scene! And again this poor worldling appears upon the stage, "a spectacle to angels." And see it — that look of hopeless anguish, as there falls on the shrinking sense the appalling sentence — "Depart! — depart!"(3) The last scene is in eternity! Go, ponder it as pictured in God's solemn Book.

2. This is one style of acting. Consider, in contrast, the other! The same stage; the same scenery; but all else different!(1) Again the death-scene! See the radiant fire in the eye! the rapturous smile on the lip! Hear those words, feeble, yet joyous in faith and love: "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death," &c. Behold that fixed look heavenward, as the ransomed spirit spreads wing for its place in the many mansions!(2) The same scene of judgment! Note that look of triumph, that cry of rapture, at the approving sentence: "Come, ye blessed of My Father," &c.(3) Again, a scene laid in eternity! But here, stage, scenery, acting, all different. Such, shortly, are the two styles of human action on the great theatre of life. And for each of us, just behind this massive curtain, are stage and scenery being prepared! And we are here to choose, each for himself, the style of his performance. And now, tell me how you will act your solemn part — O immortal man! as "a spectacle to angels."

(C. Wadsworth.)

The word spectacle is from the Greek word theatron.

I. IMPLIES THE EXISTENCE OF ANGELIC INTELLIGENCES. No one who believes in the Bible can doubt this. Its pages are almost as full of angels as those of Homer are full of gods. They are represented as —

1. Overwhelming in numbers of various orders and gradations, possessing life, power, intelligence, holiness, celerity, transcending all that is human.

2. As the special ministers of the Great Monarch of the universe, executing His judgment and distributing His favours. They have eyes to mark my movements, ears to catch my words, hearts to sympathise with my lonely history, and power to lift me up, or to press me down.

II. ARGUES THE IMPORTANCE OF HUMAN LIFE. Would those transcendent intelligences watch creatures of no or little worth?

1. They may know the extraordinary relation of man to God. Not merely the creatures of His power, the subject of His government, but the redeemed of His Son. They see human nature in personal connection with Christ, uplifted to the centre of the universe. Thus they study God through man, and through man they have loftier views of the Infinite, than from a universe of blazing systems, and of unfallen intelligences.

2. They may know the wonderful possibilities of his nature. What thoughts he can originate, what discoveries he can make, what works he can invent, what good he can accomplish, what evil he can effect.

3. They may know the influence of his life. They may see the thoughts and words and deeds of his life, spreading in ever widening circles over the great world of spirits. They may see from one man's life many hells created and many heavens produced. To our fellow-men we are insignificant, but to angels we are of transcendent importance.

III. URGES CIRCUMSPECTION IN HUMAN CONDUCT. Men are generally cautious in their conduct when they feel even a human eye upon them, especially if that eye be keen, intelligent, and pure. The unexpected glance of a child has paralysed the arm of a burglar before now. But who would not be circumspect if we felt that the eyes of angels were ever on us, on us in our most private chamber and in our public walks?

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

If the eye of such intelligences are constantly upon us, what are the practical conclusions?

I. THAT OUR CONDUCT HERE CONCERNS THE UNIVERSE. No man lives unto himself; each unit is a link in being's endless chain. His actions must tell banefully or beneficently on the creation; hence all loving and loyal intelligences direct their attention to him with deep and unabating interest. Besides, men and angels are offsprings of the same Father, participators of the same nature, subjects of the same moral government. No wonder they are so concerned.

II. THAT OUR PART SHOULD BE CAREFULLY PLAYED. It behoves every man to be cautious how he acts in the presence of his fellow-creatures, whether they are children or adults, plebeians or princes; but how much more cautious should he be when he knows that angels, whose pure natures loathe sin in all its forms, have their keenest gaze fastened ever on his life!

III. THAT THERE IS NO CHANCE OF CONCEALING OUR SIN. The attempt to cloak or dissemble our sins is absurdly futile. Whilst there is One who reads the heart, there may be millions who mark all our overt acts, whether in darkness or in light.

IV. THAT WE MAY EXPECT HELP IN ALL HOLY ENDEAVOURS. Those celestial spirits are sent forth to minister to the heirs of salvation. They helped Abraham on the plains of Mamre, and Lot in his flight towards Zoar; they freed the apostle from the prison; they bore the spirit of Lazarus to the bosom of Abraham.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

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