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1 Corinthians 4:6

ESV I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.
NIV Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, 'Do not go beyond what is written.' Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other.
NASB Now these things, brothers and sisters, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos on your account, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.
CSB Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying: "Nothing beyond what is written." The purpose is that none of you will be arrogant, favoring one person over another.
NLT Dear brothers and sisters, I have used Apollos and myself to illustrate what I’ve been saying. If you pay attention to what I have quoted from the Scriptures, you won’t be proud of one of your leaders at the expense of another.
KJV 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.

What does 1 Corinthians 4:6 mean?

Paul continues to mention an issue dividing the Corinthian church. They have separated into factions based on which Christian teacher they follow, and which ones they don't. Put another way, they have made themselves judges of those who minister to them, deciding which is faithful and effective and which is not. If it's enough to make them separate into bickering factions, then such judgment must be strong. The believers of Corinth are giving a great deal of weight to their personal views.

Paul has written in the previous verses that only God is qualified to judge the work of His servants. Humans cannot see into the heart of a person, so the Corinthians must stop pronouncing judgment in this way.

Paul now shows that, for their benefit, he has applied his own teaching to himself and Apollos. He is showing them, by his example, how not to declare themselves judges. This is an important concept. To judge another person, when that is not your role, is an act of pride. We puff ourselves up in arrogance when we decide our vote about who is better is what matters most. In truth, this division among the Corinthians existed because of pride and selfishness. It wasn't because of any meaningful differences between those who served as ministers (Romans 14:1; Titus 3:9; Galatians 1:8–9).

Also crucial, Paul has established an example for how to follow the written word given by God, and not to go beyond it. This is a clear statement of a doctrine referred to as sola scriptura, or "Scripture alone." The believers of Corinth are treating their preferences and opinions as if they were more important than the objective written Word of God. Paul explicitly tells them that their own leaders—men like Paul and Apollos—don't presume to go outside of the bounds of Scripture, and neither should they.

This concept is fundamental to our understanding of doctrine and the Christian life. No other source is as authoritative as the Bible, since it's the unchanging message of God accessible to all people. Feelings, opinions, spiritual experiences, philosophical arguments, and human traditions cannot outweigh the Word of God. That which is not biblical is not true, period.
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