1 Corinthians 4:15-21
1 Corinthians 4:15
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.
Paul was their spiritual father because it was him that brought the Gospel to Corinth. His statement about them having ten thousand instructors is embellishment of the true numbers. The word for “ten thousand” in the Greek is the highest number in the Greek language and can also be understood to mean “innumerable or countless.” No doubt Paul was telling them that part of their problem was that they had too many teachers and leaders. It seemed everyone was a leader and each one caused a faction in the church. Diverse teachings probably was the cause of so much division and problems. If you have twenty five teachers all teaching something different, then you will have massive confusion in the church which will lead to a feudal system within that congregation. Paul was reminding them that he is their spiritual father and he has the right to bring these concerns to them. He had birthed them to Christ through the true Gospel and now they seem to have become so divided that he is probably trying to get them back into line under the one true Gospel. This is what happens when church leaders do not check out their teaching staff, great division can happen and thus destroy the assembly. Paul’s desire is to see the one true Gospel unify this church.
1 Corinthians 4:16
Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.
Paul is not telling these people to follow him as if he is some cult leader, he is basically telling them to imitate his example as a father or mother is an example to their son or daughter. Paul doesn’t follow three different Gospels or teachings, he follows only one and this is what he wants the Corinthians to do also, because if they come together with the true Gospel, then unity will occur in this congregation. How strong the modern church would be if it threw out all the peripheral man-centered teaching and just taught and lived the Bible.
1 Corinthians 4:17
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.
For what cause? To help the Corinthian church revert to a unified congregation in the True Gospel, Timothy would be Paul’s emissary to help this church return to its biblical roots. When a church starts to go apostate, they forget where their roots are and sometimes their confusion is so dense, they cannot see where they came from.
(Rev 2:5 KJV) Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
Remembrance is a very biblical teaching. The word “remember” is used 148 times in the Scriptures. When we see the word “remember” it is basically telling us that we have gone off the straight and narrow and have turned on to the broad road. Christ is warning the church at Ephesus to remember where they fell from and to repent. This is the same desire that the Apostle Paul has for the Corinthian church. He wants them to remember their spiritual roots and their beginning, when it was a Godly congregation before the world had come through the front door like a tidal wave. In our own lives, we should use the principle of remembering our own spiritual roots and our beginning in the Christian walk. It can help bring us into perspective when we see ourselves drifting. Drifting is a very dangerous matter because it happens very slowly. A church may not be cognizant of the fact that they are drifting until one day they wind up in a situation like Corinth, then, if they are a true church, will repent of their deeds and return to Christ. This is what Paul was hoping that Timothy would do, to reverse the tide of factious troubles.
1 Corinthians 4:18
Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you.
Puffed Up - Arrogance, conceited, or self-important
There are those church leaders who feel accountability does not apply to them. Paul is saying that these leaders are so arrogant, they feel they will not be accountable to Paul for their actions. Just because he sent Timothy, these leaders maybe felt that Paul had feared to come to them and face them or it may be that they were hoping that Paul would not come and they feared accountability. (Isa 5:21 KJV) Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Church leaders must be wise in Christ and not wise in this world. Pride is probably the greatest deception that we eagerly partake of. (Prov 13:10 KJV) Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom. Pride is also a progenitor of contention which was rampant in the Corinthian church.
1 Corinthians 4:19
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.
Paul is laying down a practical test for the strength of the church. The Gospel is not a verbal theory or a philosophy. The Gospel test of any church is the power that the church exudes. That power is not signs, wonders, and tongues but it is the outworking of the Gospel in the lives of the individuals and the assembled church. A dead church creates a vacuum in the lives of its people. A living church, creates a vibrant filling in the lives of their people and those people become living witnesses for the Lord Jesus Christ. They are not only Christians in church, they are Christians outside the church and the world knows it. That is the difference between a church of speech and a church of power. When Paul arrives, he is not going to concern himself with those who have caused the problems, he is going to concern himself with the essence of the power of the church, which is the True Gospel.
1 Corinthians 4:20
For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.
The true kingdom of God is not those who claim they have the power but are really just church windbags. The Kingdom of God is power of the True Gospel flowing in the individual with the power of the Holy Spirit empowering the believers to be witnesses for Christ. That is how you know that you are in a church with true divine power, when you see the people being testimonies for Christ, not in just word but deed. Their actions will always back up their inward testimony. In your own life, if there is just words and no power in deeds to back up your words, then you are living a deceptive Christian walk, if indeed, you are a Christian. The true Christian is a walking testimony not a walking book report.
1 Corinthians 4:21
What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?
Since Paul was stirred up by their actions he wanted to know if he should come to them with discipline or gentleness but always in the context of love. In other words, when he comes to them will they have already attacked the problems which infiltrated that church or would he have to apply the board of education to the seat of knowledge of some of the leaders and others. Would the Corinthian church leaders be willing to start the healing process in the church or when Paul comes, will he have to pull off some beards of the leaders to get them to wake up?
How does the Lord come to us? He gives us the Scriptures to guide us back on the path and if we do not heed the gentle nudge, then we go into the furnace of affliction to be refined until the dross is removed.