1Corinthians 4:11-16 Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the off scouring of all things unto this day. I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have you not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be you followers of me.
‘Naked’ [Greek: gumneteuo] scantily clothed.
‘Have no certain dwelling-place’ [Greek: astateo] to be a wanderer. They were mere itinerant preachers, not knowing where they would live.
‘Working with our own hands’ In Acts 18:3 we read that Paul was a tentmaker by trade. Among Jews, the boys were all compelled to learn trades. It was considered disreputable not to be acquainted with some branch of handicraft. Practical knowledge of trade was regarded as an asset of personal independence. The Rabbis said, “Whosoever does not teach his son a trade is as if he brought him up to be a robber.” Tentmakers wove the black cloth of goat or camel’s hair of which tents were made. Paul supported himself in certain places (4:12; Acts 20:34; 1Thess. 2:9; 2Thess. 3:8), and for reasons given in 2Corinthians 11:9-12. This was not the best policy in some places, as Paul later learned, for it did not properly train new converts to support the work (2Cor. 12:13; cp. Gal. 6:6).
‘Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it’ – only the grace of God can enable people to volunteer to suffer like this (1Cor. 4:12-13). The natural man avenges and repays all indignities against him, but Christians are not to retaliate (Rom. 12:17-21; Matt. 5:38-48).
‘Defamed’ [Greek: blasphemeo] blasphemed. ‘Filth’ [Greek: perikatharma] sweeping. The allusion here is to the wretched victims who were judged to be fit for nothing but to be offered as expiatory victims to infernal gods, for the safety of others.
‘I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.’ Paul did not write these things to find fault with them for not providing for him for the necessities of life, but to warn them not to be carried away by every pretender to apostleship and not to neglect those who are God-trusted and who have brought them the message of salvation (4:14-17).
‘Though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have you not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.’ Though you have many who offer their services as your instructors, you have only one by whom you were converted and who has a parental feeling for you.
‘Followers’ [Greek: mimetes] imitators. Follow or imitate me as I imitate Christ (4:16; 11:1; Eph. 5:1; 1Thess. 1:6; 2:14; Heb. 6:12; 1Pet. 2:21; 3:13).