Summary: Men may have a great deal of doctrinal knowledge, yet be mere beginners in the life of faith and experience.
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.