Paul’s Paternal Love and Concern for the Corinthians
1 Corinthians 4:14-21 I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church. Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness? KJV
Paul now begins to speak to the Corinthian believers as any loving parent (father or mother) would do with their very own children whom they love. Paul declares what he has written to them describing the awful treatment he has undergone in stark contrast to the “ease and self-satisfaction of the Corinthian church” (F. B. Meyer) was not done by him to cause them “shame” but to lovingly warn them to not get caught up with the smooth talk or speech of men. Paul began his letter confronting them with the news he received of them becoming envious of one another and being filled with discord and bitter conflicts that quite often led to heated arguments and violent dissension. Paul (considering himself to be their spiritual father) brought the gospel of Christ to them and longed to see the fullness of Christ “formed in them” as any earthly parent wants to see their little babies grow up into adulthood healthy physically, emotionally, and spiritually and become productive members of society. Likewise the Apostle Paul longed to see these Corinthian believers grow up from “drinking milk” into “eating solid food” as Paul stated it this way as we read earlier in his letter, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3).
Paul wants to warn them that the path or road they are traveling on will not allow them to grow up spiritually but instead will keep them “babes in Christ” and prevent them from experiencing a deeper, more fulfilling, more loving, and more powerful walk and love relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul said it in this manner when writing to the Galatian believers, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” (Galatians 4:19). When Paul says here, “I travail in birth” he is saying that he feels the pains of child birth just as an expectant mother would just prior to giving birth to her baby, but obviously Paul is not speaking of feeling the pain in his physical body but instead he speaks of his “spirit man” his “inner man” the “real Paul” was in pain spiritually and emotionally longing to see them allowing Christ to “dwell in them richly” and be “settled down in them” ruling in them or umpiring in them, not only daily but moment by moment of everyday. Paul knew he was only a man but a man being led by God the Holy Spirit and he was confident that the life he lived before them for the year and a half (Acts 18:11) he spent with them teaching them the Word of God was one that honored our Lord Jesus Christ. Like a sandwich has two slices of bread and between it is the meat, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onions, so Paul has sandwiched between the Corinthians sectarian squabbles and divisive disputes and their indulgent immorality (1 Corinthians 5) an exhortation wanting to see “Christ formed in them” therefore, he says, “Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me” (1 Corinthians 4:16).
To some people this may sound arrogant of Paul, but Paul is not being arrogant for he has already said to them earlier this, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:2-5). Paul came to them not as some arrogant and boastful know it all but instead “in weakness and in fear and in much trembling” and so he wants them to “follow him” in the same manner he “follows Christ” working out the salvation our Lord Jesus placed “in them” with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Paul being so concerned with their walk with our Lord Jesus being lived out under God’s Agape Love and in truth, sends Timothy to refresh in their memory and understanding all that he had taught them when he was with them for the year and a half. Paul now declares for the second time in this chapter that some of them in the church in Corinth are “puffed up” and again this English phrase is translated by the Greek word phusioo which means to inflate; to make proud or haughty. Paul says to them that it is not the talk of the professing Christian but instead it is the walk or in the word that Paul uses here the “power” or as it is translated in Greek dunamis and this is the very word we get our English word dynamite. Dunamis is defined as miraculous power or by implication a miracle itself.
Paul wants them to know that when he comes he will not be swayed by the words spoken but by the life lived in the miraculous power of God administered in their daily lives by the Holy Spirit, as it is written here by Paul to the believers in Rome, “For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin” (Romans 6:5-7) and “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14) and “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18) and finally “For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life” (Romans 6:20-22).
Paul says to them your life should not be any longer dominated by the sins of the flesh (immorality) or the sins of the spirit (pride, envy, or strife) but their lives should be dominated by the Holy Spirit and His Power working in and through them that produces His Fruit, as it is written, “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth; Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret” (Ephesians 5:9-12). This is what he means here in 1 Corinthians 4:20 the same things he wrote to the Ephesians, for Paul was always consistent in his teaching and also repetitive. So he concludes by warning them that it is up to them to choose which side of Paul they were to be greeted by on his next visit to them, the loving embracing gentle Paul or the stern corrective Paul still done in love. Paul in his second letter written to them will express even in deeper detail the turmoil and despair of soul he underwent in writing the corrective truths to them here in this first letter.
“The relationship between the Apostle and his converts was very tender. They were his children. They might have instructors and tutors, but they could have but one father; and as father he might have to use the rod. Love can be stern and punitive. Spare the rod and spoil the child. It is not pure but selfish love that forbears to speak and act strongly when eternal interests are at stake. This is an aspect of God’s love which is likely to be overlooked. If we escape chastisement, we are bastards and not sons. “What son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” Hebrews 12:5-11.” F. B. Meyer
“No good loving Parent would allow their 7 year old son or daughter to repeatedly come down the stairs in the morning and get angry and break a dish or bowl served to them at breakfast without taking disciplinary corrective actions to stop that rebellious, hurtful, and sinful behavior, likewise Paul will not sit back and act as if the Corinthian believers envy, strife, immorality, and dissension is not sin without correcting them even if it caused them temporarily to be hurt.” Clifford D. Tate, Sr.
If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ and His amazing healing power, pray this from your heart to the Lord Jesus Christ (you speaking directly to Him), Dear Lord Jesus, I confess to You that I am a sinner and I need Your forgiveness. I believe You shed Your Blood and died for my sins. I believe that You rose from the dead proving that You alone are God. I repent of my sins. I want to turn from my sins. I ask You Dear Lord Jesus to come into my heart and take control of my life. I want You to be my Lord, Savior, and my God. Amen...
Sincerely in Christ,
Clifford D. Tate, Sr.
Author of “Silent Assassins of the Soul - Are you Broken by Pornography and Masturbation? You can be Restored by the Lord Jesus Christ and brought into Deliverance, Freedom, and Victory! A Guide for Men and Women in the Enemy’s Crosshairs” e-book available now @ Amazon Kindle, @ Apple I Bookstore for IPod, Barnes and Noble for Nook, Reader Store for Sony Reade, Kobo, Copia, Gardners, Baker and Taylor, and eBookPie…