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"Warnings to the Beloved Children"
1 Corinthians 4:14-21
Wednesday AM Bible Study
May 23, 2007
Theme: Paul expresses his concerns for the Corinthians out of a 'fatherly' heart of love for them.
Paul has just confronted an area of sin in the midst of the Corinthian believers (chapters 1-4). He is about to confront several others. But at this point in his letter, he becomes very personal; and reveals something of his fatherly heart toward those he is about to correct.
Paul was motivated by a great love for his dear fellow Christians. And as an apostle, he was willing to exhort, and comfort, and charge each one "as a father does his own children, that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory" (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12).
In this morning's passage, Paul reveals such a fatherly heart toward the Corinthians. Notice how we see . . .
I. PAUL'S FATHERLY MOTIVE: TO WARN HIS CHILDREN OF DANGER (vv. 14-15).
A. The Corinthians had been unduly esteeming "teachers" in the church—attaching themselves to them as the Greeks did to their philosophers. Paul countered this by showing the low esteem in which he and the other apostles were held by this world (4:9- 13). He stresses, however, that he doesn't say this (and perhaps all that remains in the letter) in order to shame the Corinthians. (He is not afraid at times to use "shame"; as is shown in 6:5 and 15:34. But that's not his motive here). "Shame" would not be productive; since he's not trying to hurt them. When ever someone tries to shame another in an unloving way, it's because he is trying to demoralize that person and put them under themselves. But when Paul "shames" the Corinthians, it's always by showing them the truth about their sinful behavior, so that they'll change.
B. Rather than "shaming" them, he shares these things in order to "warn" them. The word used (nougheteo) means "to admonish" or "warn". He does this as to those who are his "beloved children"—not as his adversaries.
C. Paul does not shy away from affirming that he has a unique right to be respected by them and to be considered "father" to them. (This is not in conflict with Jesus' warning to call no man 'father' (Matthew 23:9); because Paul qualifies this "fatherly" relationship as one in which he was used by God to bring them "new life" through the gospel. Since it was through him that the gospel first came to them, and since it was through his preaching of it that they became saved; he has a unique bond to them. He feels that he has a right over them because he had "begotten" them in Christ through the Gospel. They may have had many "teachers" (paidogogos, that is, household servants who were responsible for caring for the children of a rich man); but they only had one "father". This also underscores Paul's deep commitment to them; since a paidogogos might not have a deep love and commitment to the children, but a father does.
II. PAUL'S FATHERLY METHOD: TO SET AN EXAMPLE FOR HIS CHILDREN (vv. 16-17).
A. Because of his fatherly rights and responsibilities toward them, he calls them to "imitate" him (1 Cor. 11:1; Eph. 5:1; Phil. 4:9). A good father recognizes that, whether it is intended or not, his child will imitate him; so Paul seeks to set the example for the Corinthians.
B. It was for this reason—among others—that Paul had sent Timothy to them. Timothy was—himself—a spiritual "son" of Paul (1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; 2:1). He was both beloved and faithful in the Lord. He would set before the Corinthians everything that Paul did (1 Cor. 11:2; 2 Tim. 2:2, 13)..
C. Note the consistency of Paul's example. He was not like many of the false teachers who were plaguing the church—those who were accountable to no one, or who went from town to town in such a way that no one could see the way they lived or examine the things they taught. Timothy would go to the Corinthians and teach what Paul taught "in everywhere in every church". Paul's example was not separated from his teaching; nor was his teaching separated from his example. As an example, he was consistent. What an example Paul sets for us in being "examples" to others!
III. PAUL'S FATHERLY MANNER: TO USE HIS AUTHORITY WHEN OPPOSED (vv. 18-21).
A. Some were "puffed-up" (a favorite expression of Paul's in this letter; see 4:6; 5:2; 8:1; 13:4). They were "arrogant" and "defiant"; arguing that Paul would only send Timothy, but would never dare to show his face personally (see also 2 Corinthians 10:7-11). They were like brats that defied the one who was their father..
B. Paul affirms that he is under the leadership of Christ; so that, if he comes, it would only be "if the Lord wills" (see James 4:13). But if he is permitted by the Lord to come, he will put those who boast to the test (see 3 John 9-10) . He will see whether or not they are just words or if they are able to fulfill their threats; because, as he asserts, the kingdom of God is not all about words. It is about measurable, definable demonstrations of Christ's power (see 1 Corinthians 2:4-5).
C. Paul—speaking like a father—leaves it up to them to determine in what manner then he would come to them. Would they make it necessary for him to come with a rod? Would they make it possible for him to come in the manner he wished—that is, in love and in a spirit of gentleness? Clearly, he was not afraid to use the rod when it was needed (see 5:3-5).
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