Summary: This 11th answer to division is the need to see and understand the spirit of God’s minister.
For the past 5 months we have been looking at Paul’s answers to some questions that the Corinthian church had asked him about how to reunite their divided church. Paul took each of 11 questions and addressed each one with a specific answer. Tonight, we look at the 11th answer from Paul before he then continues to offer other advice throughout this letter.
Paul had discussed the subject of division in the church thoroughly and leaves any church without excuse for allowing itself to become divided. This 11th answer to division is the need to see and understand the spirit of God’s minister.
The first thing we see is that God’s minister does not shame, but he warns his people as children. READ v. 14. Paul had been pretty strong in his answers to the Corinthian church. Some people were about to split and destroy the church. So a strong warning was necessary.
But note the warning was not given to shame the guilty, but to warn them. The warning was given in the spirit of a father that warns his children of the consequences if they continue to do wrong. The father is firm and decisive, he means what he says, but he still loves his children. Paul is warning them to keep them from destroying their lives, not to shame and embarrass them.
Churches really need to understand the spirit of a minister. No genuine minister would ever fail to warn his child of the consequences of misbehavior. Some got a little uptight over the message about sex last Sunday morning. But these are Scriptural warnings that the church needs to hear. And if I didn’t warn the church of the consequences of such a sin, I wouldn’t be doing what God called me to do.
No wise child or congregation would ever reject or attempt to silence the warning of a loving and caring father or minister.
READ v. 15. God’s minister shows a fatherly spirit, not an instructor’s spirit. The
“guardian or instructor” of Paul’s day was a trusted slave who was place in complete charge of a child’s welfare and growth. He was even in charge of escorting the child to school and seeing that no harm come to him. He was responsible for the growth and development of the child until he was grown.
Paul says that the Corinthian church had an unlimited number of capable instructors and teachers, but he alone was their spiritual father. He was the one who brought them to Christ Jesus for life, and gave birth to the church. God was using him to oversee the growth of the church. In saying that he became their father through the gospel, he was saying that he had more concern, more tenderness, and more caring for the church than anyone else.
Speaking of the spirit of a minister, the church must have instructors and teachers who take new and immature believers under their care to make sure they grow and develop. But the minister of God must be more than an instructor who makes disciples. He must be a minister with the spirit of a wise father, a spirit that shows love, care, interest, giving, acceptance and praise.
READ v. 16. God’s minister should set an unmatchable example. Every father should live such a life that his children could follow in his steps. This is what Paul is saying. He had lived a life of commitment and self-denial for the Lord Jesus Christ. He had given all he was and had to Christ. So he says, “Follow me. Follow my example. Imitate me. Commit your life to Christ. Deny yourself completely. Help me to reach the world for Christ Jesus.”
READ v. 17. God’s minister provides for the growth of his people. Paul was being attacked by some within the church who represented both the right and the left. The right included those who were strict traditionalists and conservatives, those who followed and exalted Peter as the epitome of preachers.
The left included those who were more liberal minded and interested in the wisdom of the world, those who followed and exalted Apollos as the greatest of preachers.
Note that the preachers themselves were not personally involved in the division. They weren’t at Corinth when all this was going on. The controversy concerned them, but they weren’t and wouldn’t have been involved in it. What a contrast between the preachers and their so-called followers. The followers were professing the merits of the preachers, but weren’t following their example. How easy it is to profess and not to do.
Straightening out the mess was Paul’s job. He was away on a mission trip at the time but was responsible for the church. He couldn’t leave the mission tour so he did the next best thing. He sat down and wrote this letter, dealing with their divisions, and sent it with one of his ablest assistants, Timothy. Timothy was to stay there until the mess was straightened out.