The Corinthians and the Apostle Paul Page 1 of 5 (series: Lessons on 1 Cor.)
by John Lowe
October 18, 2012
Commentary on First Corinthians
By: Tom Lowe
Lesson 2.10: The Corinthians and the Apostle Paul
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 4.14-4.21
1 Cor 4.14-21 (KJV)
14 I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. 15 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.
16 Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.
17 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 every where in every church.
18 Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you.
19 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.
20 For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.
21 What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?
Paul chides the Corinthians as a loving but stern father.
The most simple truths of the gospel, as to man's sinfulness and God's mercy, repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, stated in the plainest language, suit the people better than deeper mysteries. Men may have a great deal of doctrinal knowledge, yet be mere beginners in the life of faith and experience. Contentions and quarrels about religion are sad evidences of carnality. True religion makes men peaceable, not contentious. But it is to be lamented, that many who should walk as Christians, live and act too much like other men. Many professors and preachers, show themselves to be carnal and arrogant by creating strife, being eager for heated discussions, and their readiness to despise and speak evil of others.
14 I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.
I write not these things to shame you,
In spite of Paul’s sternness in the preceding verses, we see tenderness here. The apostle loves the Corinthians, and for that reason he avows “I write not these things to shame you;” by which he means that he is not writing because he has found fault with them, even though there were plenty of things they should have been ashamed of. There were certainly things about them that would warrant him scolding them; since they did not provide him with the necessaries of life, which meant he was forced to support himself by doing physical labor, which was a disgrace to the Greeks; but he did it to warn them to act differently from now on; and not to be so easily drawn aside by every pretender to apostleship, and neglect those to whom, under God, they owed their salvation. Paul never planned to put them to shame by showing how little they suffered in comparison with him and his fellow ministers. “This is not our design, though it may have this effect. I have no wish to make you ashamed, to appear to triumph over you, or merely to taunt you. My desire for you is higher and nobler than this.” He wanted his children in the faith to enjoy their spiritual birthright, and he knew as long as they gave in to pride, self-esteem, and conceit, as long as they gave way to the flesh and the wisdom of the world, as long as they permitted religious clichés and a biased spirit in the church, they could not experience the full joy, which was their spiritual birthright.
but as my beloved sons I warn you.
The Corinthian believers were Paul’s children in the Lord, because he had preached the Gospel that led them to faith in Jesus Christ. He loves the Corinthian believers as a father loves his children. He knew they were living in God’s second best, while he wanted God’s best for them; but they were not pleasing God with their stewardship.
But as my beloved sons—as my dear children. “I speak as a father to his children, and I say these things for your good.” No father would want to make his children feel ashamed. He would have a higher purpose than that in the guidance, reprimands, and warnings he has for them: “As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children” (1 Thess 2:11; KJV). This is the work of every pastor; to shepherd his people, continually teach and instruct them, and give encouragement when they come under trials and temptations. He must continually witness to the people that all the threatenings and promises of God were true; that He required faith, love, and obedience; that he could not allow sin to go on unchecked;
that Jesus died to save them from their sins; and that, without holiness, it is impossible to see God. They did not just say all these things when preaching to them, but they spoke to every man; no one was ignored or overlooked. The spirit in which they performed all these services was one which insured success; they treated every member of the church, like a father treats his children.
I warn you—“I do not say these things in a harsh manner, with an enraged spirit of reprimand; but in order to warn you, offer advice, and to implant wisdom into your mind. I do not say these things to make you blush, but in the hope that they may be the means of your reformation and you will live a more holy life. No man, no minister, ought to criticize another merely to overwhelm him with shame, but the object should always be to make a brother better; and the warning should be meted out for this purpose only, not unpleasantly, but in a kind, tender, and affectionate manner.
15 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.
For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ,
The Greek word used here for instructor literally means “child leader” or “schoolmaster” and he is actually referring to “false teachers;” but for arguments sake, he calls them “instructors in Christ,” or ministers of Christ, like he did in 2 Corinthians 11:23—“Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as one beside himself)…”—and there were so many of them that the Corinthians boasted about it. Perhaps the apostle had in the back of his mind making some reference to the multitude of schoolmasters, tutors, and governors, who were also called "fathers," which those Jews that belonged to this church at Corinth had before they believed in Christ; these were the members of the great Sanhedrim, the vast number of doctors, wise men, Scribes and Pharisees, who pretended to instruct them: now though it should be pointed out, that the present teachers among them were instrumental in instructing them further in the knowledge of Christ; or as the Arabic version has it, "in the love of Christ"; yet none of these had anything to do with their conversion. The apostle was the first to preach the Gospel to them, and it was while they were under his ministry that they were born-again into the Kingdom of God. These teachers that he calls “instructors” at most built on his foundation with inferior teaching that he has labeled wood, hay, and stubble. They were more like schoolmasters than fathers; they taught with materialistic views, and for money, and with harshness, which is normal for this type; they had little concern for their well-being, and they lacked that tenderness and affection a parent has for his children, though Paul had that type of relationship with them.
Note, It is usually the case, and there always should be affection between faithful ministers and those they bring in faith to Jesus Christ through the gospel. They should love one another like parents love their children.
yet have ye not many fathers:
As it is in the natural world, so it is in grace; it does not matter how many counselors, therapists, or teachers a person may have, he has only one father. And with regards to believers, they may have many instructors to lead them on the walk of faith, or who pretend to lead them on to a further knowledge of Christ; yet they have only one spiritual father, who has been the happy instrument and means of their salvation, as the Apostle Paul was to the Corinthians.
Many offer to instruct you who have no parental feeling for you; and how can they? you are not their spiritual children, you stand in this relation to only one person; it was Jesus Christ by the power and influence of His Spirit, who has begotten you—But Paul can say, “I was the means of bringing you to faith in Christ through the Gospel message, so that you have been born again: you are my children in the Gospel.”
The importance of a father in a child’s life can never be overstated as this story will show. On February 27, 1993, Tim Burke walked away from his career in major league baseball. The all-star pitcher gave up the glamour of professional sports to spend more time with his wife, Christy, and their five children. Unable to have their children biologically, the Burkes have adopted their children. Each child was previously an orphan in another country. When Burke left the mound for home, he told the Los Angeles Times, “Baseball is going to do just fine without me, but I’m the only father my children have.” No wonder he’s known as the “Major League Dad.” (Ambassador Speaker Bureau, 1997, p. 17)