The Paternal Pastor

The Paternal Pastor

Pastor Don Carpenter

A Beautiful Mess / 1 Corinthians 4:14–21

A young boy looked up at his grandfather and wondered aloud, “Grandpa, how do you live for Jesus?”

The respected grandfather stooped down and quietly told the boy, “Just watch.”

As the years went by the grandfather was an example to the boy of how to follow Jesus. He stayed rock-steady in living for Him. Yet the grandson often lived in a way that was not pleasing to God.

One day the young man visited his grandfather for what both knew would be the last time. As the older man lay dying, his grandson leaned over the bed and heard his grandpa whisper, “Did you watch?”

That was the turning point in the boy’s life. He understood that when his grandpa had said, “Just watch,” he meant, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” He vowed that from then on he would live as his grandfather did – striving to please Jesus. He had watched, and now he knew how to live.

(From a sermon by Ajai Prakash, Godly Dads, 6/13/2012)

With this passage, Paul brings to an end the section of the letter which deals directly with the dissensions and divisions at Corinth. It is as a father that he writes.

1 Barclay, W. (2002). The Letters to the Corinthians (3rd ed., p. 49). Westminster John Knox Press.

The conclusion to this rebuke is both tender and intense. It is because of the intimacy he has with the Corinthian believers, he can make his final plea with them.

Be Warned!

1 Corinthians 4:14 KJV

I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.

My Goal is not to shame you.

The very word which he uses in verse 14 for to warn (nouthetein) is the word regularly used to express the scolding and advice which a father gives his children (Ephesians 6:4). He may be speaking with the accents of severity; but it is not the severity which seeks to bring an unruly slave to heel, but the severity which seeks to put back on the right rails a foolish child who has gone astray.1

1 Barclay, W. (2002). The Letters to the Corinthians (3rd ed., p. 49). Westminster John Knox Press.

I Am More Than Your Teacher

1 Corinthians 4:15 KJV

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.

Galatians 4:19 KJV

My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,

Paul felt that he was in a unique position as regards the Corinthian church. The tutor (paidagogos: cf. Galatians 3:24) was not the teacher of the child. He was an old and trusted slave who each day took the child to school, who trained him in moral matters, cared for his character and tried to make a man of him. A child might have many tutors, but he had only one father. In the days to come, the Corinthians might have many tutors, but none of them could do what Paul had done; none of them could bring to birth in them new life in Christ Jesus.1

1 Barclay, W. (2002). The Letters to the Corinthians (3rd ed., p. 49). Westminster John Knox Press.

I led you to Christ, I am your spiritual father, therefore I love you as my child.

A child may have many guardians and teachers, but he can have only one father. He has a special relationship to his father that must not be preempted by anyone else. There had been no church in Corinth before Paul came, so that even the second-generation believers in the church were the results of Paul’s effective ministry.

Paul founded the church and Apollos followed him and taught the people. In some way that is not made clear in the Scriptures, Peter also ministered at Corinth. (Perhaps he had not been there personally, but other teachers from Jerusalem had ministered in Corinth as “representatives” of Peter.) God’s children need the ministry of different teachers, but they must never forget the “spiritual father” who brought them to Christ.

1 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 585). Victor Books.

Be Followers

1 Corinthians 4:16–17 KJV

Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. 

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.

Not out of fear but out of a two way love.

Philippians 4:9 KJV

Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

2 Timothy 1:7 KJV

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Then Paul says an amazing thing. In effect, he says: ‘I call upon my children to take after their father.’ It is so seldom that a father can say that. For the most part, it is too often true that a father’s hope and prayer is that a child will turn out to be all that he has never succeeded in being. Most of us who teach cannot help saying, not ‘Do as I do’ but ‘Do as I say.’ But Paul, not with pride, but with complete unselfconsciousness, can call upon his children in the faith to copy him.1

1 Barclay, W. (2002). The Letters to the Corinthians (3rd ed., p. 49). Westminster John Knox Press.

Children have a way of imitating their parents, either for good or for ill. Researchers tell us that teenagers learn to drink at home and not from their peers. My guess is that other bad habits are learned the same way.

The word followers literally is “mimics.” Paul gave the same admonition in Philippians 3:17, but we must not think that he was exalting himself. Little children learn first by example, then by explanation. When Paul pastored the church in Corinth, he set the example before them in love, devotion to Christ, sacrifice, and service. “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Paul was a good example because he was following the greatest Example of all, Jesus Christ.1

1 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 585). Victor Books

Timothy is Trained to Lead you in the Same Direction.

Then he pays them a delicate compliment. He says that he will send Timothy to remind them of his ways. In effect, he says that all their errors and mistaken ways are due not to deliberate rebellion but to the fact that they have forgotten. That is so true of human nature. So often, it is not that we rebel against Christ; it is simply that we forget him. So often, it is not that we deliberately turn our backs upon him; it is simply that we forget that he is in the scheme of things at all. Most of us need one thing above all—a deliberate effort to live in the conscious realization of the presence of Jesus Christ. It is not only at the sacrament but at every moment of every day that Jesus Christ is saying to us: ‘Remember me.’1

1 Barclay, W. (2002). The Letters to the Corinthians (3rd ed., pp. 49–50). Westminster John Knox Press.

Be Teachable

1 Corinthians 4:18–20 KJV

Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you. 

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. 

For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.

Those puffed up are not teachable

Paul moves on to a challenge. They need not say that because he is sending Timothy he is not coming himself. He will come if the way opens up; and then their test will come. These Corinthians can talk enough; but it is not their high-sounding words that matter, it is their deeds. Jesus never said: ‘You will know them by their words.’ He said: ‘You will know them by their fruits’ (cf. Matthew 7:16). The world is full of talk about Christianity, but one deed is worth 1,000 words.1

1 Barclay, W. (2002). The Letters to the Corinthians (3rd ed., p. 50). Westminster John Knox Press.

God’s power will inhabit truth, not pride.

1 Corinthians 2:4 KJV

And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:

2 Corinthians 10:2 KJV

But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.

1 Thessalonians 1:5 KJV

For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.

One way or another there will be an accounting of truth.

1 Corinthians 4:21 KJV

What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?

2 Corinthians 13:10 KJV

Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the power which the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction.

In the end, Paul demands to know whether he is to come to mete out discipline or to keep company with them in love. The love of Paul for his children in Christ throbs through every letter he wrote. That love was no blind, sentimental love; it was a love which knew that sometimes discipline was necessary and was prepared to exercise it. There is a love which can ruin people by shutting its eyes to their faults; and there is a love which can restore people because it sees them with the clarity of the eyes of Christ. Paul’s love was the love which knows that sometimes it has to hurt in order to put things right.1

1 Barclay, W. (2002). The Letters to the Corinthians (3rd ed., p. 50). Westminster John Knox Press.

Exported from Logos Bible Software, 6:49 PM March 24, 2022.