Summary: A study of church discipline by admonition.
It is time for discipline! Are you ready? For those of you who are church members, you have already vowed to submit yourselves to the discipline of the Church. That was covered under question number five of the membership questions that you affirmed before the church session: Do you submit yourselves to the government and discipline of the Church, and promise to study its purity and peace?
Get ready to receive your discipline now. Actually, you have been receiving it every Sunday. Every time I have preached, I have disciplined you, for I have instructed, admonished and exhorted you by the Word of God. We are going to learn more about discipline today and for two more Sundays as we go through chapter five.
I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
Paul has been rough with the Corinthians. From the moment he brought up the subject of their divisions in 1:10, he has hammered away at them, admonishing them for their prideful spirit. He has attacked their pride of wisdom and their pride in church leaders. His argument reached its highest peak in chapter 4, where he openly reveals his aggravation with them. Now he brings the issue to a conclusion. He is still upset, but he puts the tension between them and him in proper context.
I do not write these things to make you ashamed. I am not trying to beat you down. I do not gloat over your shame. [B]ut to admonish you as my beloved children. “My beloved children.” Now the reason for Paul’s rising emotion is becoming clear. This is not simply a church to Paul; this is a church of his children. 15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
Every parent understands Paul’s attitude towards the Corinthians. Many children wonder why all their friends’ parents are nice, except their own. All the other parents are nice when they come to visit. Why must their parents be so uptight? Because they are your parents! Paul is zealous for the glory of God. That alone is reason to rebuke the church as he has done. But he is also zealous for the welfare of his children. He loves them; he really does love them. It hurts that they are going astray, and it hurts that his children are rebelling against him. We are not reading a treatise, nor a letter written to the church-at-large for whoever might profit from his. We are reading a personal letter from a father to his wayward children, and that is why we are finding such strong emotion.
16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me. 17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.
As a good father, Paul has tried to set a worthy example for his children to emulate. In the letter so far, he has referred to his example. Are they enamored with worldly wisdom? He unashamedly proclaims what appears to be folly and is himself regarded as a fool. Are they promoting church leaders against each other? He and the other leaders regard themselves as simple servants. He wants them to have that same attitude about servanthood and that same confidence in the gospel.
Now, also like a father, he gets firm with his children: 18 Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. 21 What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?
Uh-oh! Dad’s coming home! It is evident that some members of the church have been fomenting the troubles that exist. They have talking big. Who is Paul anyway? I don’t remember him being so impressive. He can’t even touch Apollos as a speaker, and if we have to submit to anybody, it should be Peter. He is the real chief apostle. Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Paul. Has he not spoken through us also? Isn’t it time that he acknowledge us as grown up? By the way, where is he? Why hasn’t he come back for a visit? Could the mighty Paul actually be intimidated by us? He has good reason to be!