Summary: In today's lesson we learn about the characteristics of a spiritual father.
We continue our study in The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians in a series I am calling Challenges Christians Face.
One of the challenges that Christians face is knowing the characteristics of a spiritual father. Let’s learn about this in a message I am calling, “Like Father, Like Children.”
Let’s read 1 Corinthians 4:14-21:
14 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. 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. 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? (1 Corinthians 4:14-21)
Several years ago the TV show 60 Minutes ran a segment that tells us something important about fatherlessness.
The park rangers at a South African wildlife preserve were concerned about the slaughter of 39 rare white rhinos in their park. It turned out that the rhinos were killed not by poachers but rather by juvenile delinquents—teen elephants.
The story began a decade earlier when the park could no longer sustain the increasing population of elephants. They decided to kill many of the adult elephants whose young were old enough to survive without them. And so, the young elephants grew up fatherless.
As time went on, many of these young elephants roamed together in gangs and began to do things elephants normally don’t do. They threw sticks and water at rhinos and acted like neighborhood bullies. Without dominant males, the young bulls became sexually active, producing excessive testosterone and exhibiting aggressive behavior. A few young males grew especially violent, knocking down rhinos and stepping or kneeling on them, crushing the life out of them. Mafuto, the gang leader, eventually had to be killed.
The park rangers theorized that these young teen-aged elephants were acting badly because they lacked role models. The solution was to bring in a large male to lead them and to counteract their bully behaviors. Soon the new male established dominance and put the young bulls in their places. The killing stopped. The young males were mentored—and saved.
The presence, participation, and power of a father cannot be overestimated. It is reported that:
• 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (Source: U.S. D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census)
• 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes
• 80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes (Source: Criminal Justice & Behavior, Vol. 14, pp. 403-26, 1978)
• 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes (Source: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Special Report, Sept. 1988)
• 85% of all youths sitting in prisons grew up in a fatherless home (Source: Fulton Co. Georgia jail populations, Texas Dept. of Corrections, 1992)
And what is true in the natural realm is also true in the spiritual realm. Christians are profoundly shaped and influenced by godly spiritual parenting.
The apostle Paul was keenly aware of that truth when he wrote to the Corinthians. They had slipped into various kinds of errors. He was rebuking the Corinthians because he loved them as a father loves his children.
In today’s passage Paul focused their attention on six characteristics of a faithful spiritual father. He teaches them the key elements in a vital and effective discipleship relationship. They are not in chronological order, but these are the essential elements.
And so, in today’s lesson we learn about the characteristics of a spiritual father.
Let’s use the following outline for today’s lesson:
1. A Spiritual Father Admonishes His Spiritual Children (4:14a)
2. A Spiritual Father Loves His Spiritual Children (4:14b)
3. A Spiritual Father Begets His Spiritual Children (4:15)
4. A Spiritual Father Sets and Example for His Spiritual Children (4:16-17a)
5. A Spiritual Father Teaches His Spiritual Children (4:17b)
6. A Spiritual Father Disciplines His Spiritual Children (4:18-21)
I. A Spiritual Father Admonishes His Spiritual Children (4:14a)
First, a spiritual father admonishes his spiritual children.
Paul said in verse 14a, “I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you. . . .”
Paul wrote to the Corinthians because they had slipped into all kinds of errors. They favored one preacher over another. They misunderstood the gospel. And they challenged Paul’s authority.