Not to Shame You   2 comments

In 1 Corinthians 4:14-21, Paul proved himself a model leader. The Corinthians were choosing leaders to follow, but Paul was a very different leader from those.

14 I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16 I exhort you therefore, be imitators of me. 17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church. 18 Now some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant, but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in power. 21 What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod or with love and a spirit of gentleness?

Paul’s response to the Corinthians is nothing less than amazing, an example of what he had just said in verses 12 and 13.

The unholy leaders whom some find so appealing are authoritarian leaders were men who led in the same way the pagans ruled over others (see Mark 10:42). They pushed people around, and their followers loved it.

Paul’s words in verses 14-17 are a dramatic contrast to this kind of leadership. He didn’t seek to shame the Corinthians. Guilt is profitable when it is a response to sin, and when it leads to repentance. But church ministries are not fueled by guilt, but by grace. Paul’s letter wasn’t written to shame the Corinthians, but to warn them of the direction in which they were heading, and to urge them to turn around. Paul spoke to them not as a “lord,” but as their father, which he really was because so many in that church had come to faith through his ministry.

Paul could have commanded them to follow certain rules, but instead he exhorted them to follow him and his example (verse 16). While Paul couldn’t be present with the Corinthians, he sent his finest gift—Timothy (see Philippians 2:19-24). Timothy would remind them of what they had already seen and heard from Paul. He would remind them of Paul’s conduct and teaching, which were in Christ. Paul’s preaching was fleshed out by his practice. Paul practiced what he preached. Timothy would continue to speak the same message as he and Paul taught in any other church: “Just as I teach everywhere in every church.” This contradicts all those who tell us that Paul’s words to the Corinthian church are uniquely fashioned for this one situation, but not for other churches. That is not what Paul said. His teaching and his practice were consistent in every church.

Paul announced his intention to come as quickly to Corinth as he could. His desire was that the saints there had heeded his written warnings and made right the things in which they were wrong. If such is the case, Paul expected to come and be warmly received, forgetting the sins of the past. But if there was no repentance, if those who opposed him persisted, Paul would come in power use his apostolic authority to deal with them. The eloquent speech of these leaders would not be enough when Paul arrived, for he meant to expose their lack of real spiritual power.

By the way, if you read 2 Corinthians, you discover that the church at Corinth attempted to obey Paul, so that his visit would be a pleasant one.

Paul’s words to the Corinthians are for us as well. He speaks volumes on leadership. Sadly, most churches today seek their leadership guidance from the secular wisdom of this world. We seem to hear more from Peter Drucker than from Jesus or Paul. What is said that “sounds” spiritual is usually secular at its core—with a sugar coating of spiritual terminology, proof-texted by some passage, strained beyond its meaning or intent.

Paul cautions us about seeking to please people rather than God, and striving to do things that appear successful and worthwhile in the eyes of the world. There is a time to judge ourselves and others, but Paul warns of the danger of judging others by outward appearances. The Corinthians wanted to possess those spiritual gifts which are verbal and visible and that many think are the best. Paul challenged their system of evaluating the importance of the gifts in chapter 12. He sought to encourage those with seemingly insignificant gifts that they indeed play a most vital role in the body of Christ. Let us be careful that we do not gauge our effectiveness on the basis of what others say, or even on the basis of what we think or feel.

Our task is not to succeed, but to serve. Our work may not seem successful, significant, or effective, but neither did our Lord’s word win the approval of men. Paul looked like a miserable failure. But today is not the time to judge the results of our ministry, and we are not the ones to judge such things. Let us leave these matters to God and faithfully continue to fulfill our stewardship.

Paul exhorts us to live in the light of the Second Coming. To Paul, what we do in the present is very important, but only when considered in the light of eternity. The Corinthians erred in assuming that they presently possessed those blessings God provides and promises for the future. They failed to understand that men and women of faith must be willing to suffer for Christ’s sake in this age, so that they can enter into His glory in the next.

Paul’s teachings in the first four chapters of 1 Corinthians are an example of godly leadership and a model for us to deal with the problems of the church. Corinth had  lot of problem, but in the light of eternity, so does every church … including our own.

Finally, Paul’s teachings in Chapters 1-4 lay the foundation of what he will teach in the following chapters. There were many specific problems in Corinth which needed correction. The next matter Paul addressed was sexual immorality in the form of incest in the church (chapter 5). Why didn’t Paul start with this problem? Right thinking precedes right conduct. The Corinthians were misbehaving because they were weak in their grasp of the Word. Paul’s first four chapters are about the right foundation. The Corinthians needed to see God’s Word as true wisdom, and God’s power as displayed through human weakness. They must understand that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the foundation for all life and ministry in the church. Christ crucified is the foundation and the standard for all church life. And the good news of the gospel is that which humbles us, breaking our pride and arrogance. Only when these fundamental matters are set straight does Paul move on to address particular problems. Right thinking precedes right conduct. Right thinking comes from the Word of God as we are illuminated and empowered by the Spirit of God. May we be men and women of the Word, filled with His Spirit.

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Posted April 23, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

2 responses to “Not to Shame You

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  1. We are called to serve. Being obedient can still be a struggle. But eventually our hearts are touched and we do God’s will.

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