Read 1 Corinthians 4:14-16 (ESV)
I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 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. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.
What do you think the apostle Paul would say to your local church? What issues do you think the church as a whole today needs to address?
I am the father of three active and rambunctious boys. They are good kids and I love them. And there’s nothing quite like receiving a good report from someone else about my kids. For example, it’s great to hear from their teachers when they are working hard at school. It’s awesome to hear from a coach that they have great attitudes and are working hard to improve. But like all parents, sometimes I receive reports from others about my kids that require me to take corrective measures and do some discipline. It’s part of being a parent. My kids are learning and growing and figuring out life. They need guidance and direction.
Because the apostle Paul founded and discipled so many churches, he was a spiritual father to many. Through his letters to those churches we see that sometimes Paul was like a proud father who sent encouragement to stay the course. But other times, like any father or authority figure, Paul had to take corrective measures and do some discipline. The early church needed guidance and direction.
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul was responding to reports that there were issues Paul needed to address in the Corinthian church. On Paul’s second missionary journey, he had founded the church at Corinth (Acts 18:1-18). But there were plenty of cultural challenges. Corinth was a Roman colony with a mixed population of Romans, Greeks, and Jews. It was a bustling commercial center with two key seaports and a lot of wealth.
But Corinth was also well-known as a center for pagan cult worship with the Temple of Aphrodite (the Greek goddess of love) being the most prominent. It is said there were a thousand male and female prostitutes dedicated to the service of Aphrodite. Needless to say, Corinthians were generally not known for their morality. The city was a hub of corrupt and perverse activities. It was in this type of environment that Paul sought to establish a Christian church in approximately 50 A.D. He taught and served in Corinth for 18 months, founding and growing the church before moving on.
By 55 A.D., Paul had received troubling reports about Corinth. Apparently, he also received a letter from the Corinthian church asking for his direction concerning specific controversial issues. Paul wrote the letter we now refer to as 1 Corinthians in response.
In chapters 1-4, Paul addressed reports of division within the church. “For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, ‘I follow Paul,’ or ‘I follow Apollos,” or I follow Cephas,’ or ‘I follow Christ’. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:11-13). In other words, the people were arguing about which church leader or apostle they followed with all of them assuming they were following the “right” leader. Of course, this led to arrogance and infighting. Paul’s response was that they shouldn’t be claiming to follow anyone except Christ because He is the only one who was crucified for them and it is in His name that they were baptized. They should be followers of Jesus Christ. Period.
Next, Paul tackled the issues of sexual immorality that were plaguing the church (chapters 5 and 6). Paul was justifiably frustrated because according to 1 Corinthians 5:9, he had already written to them about this issue in a previous letter (this would be a third letter to the Corinthians which has not been preserved for us). This time, he reminded them to “flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)
Finally, Paul responded to the letter of questions he’d received from them. Remember, the apostles had authority from Jesus Himself, so Paul’s counsel here has weight. He advised them on marital issues, food sacrificed to idols, giving offerings, and how to appropriately use and not abuse our Christian liberty and our spiritual gifts. In addition, he gave a defense of the resurrection.
Friends, it isn’t easy to be the one in charge of discipline and it isn’t easy to accept discipline. But we see examples of both in Scripture! We see how critical it is to keep calling people to put themselves under the authority of the Word of God! Remember, discipline that seeks to draw us closer to God and make us more like Christ is not hateful. Rather, it is the most loving thing a Christian leader or a parent can do.
Lord, thank You for the authoritative guidance, direction, and discipline found in Your Word. Help me to be humble and teachable. Help me also patiently, gently, and lovingly correct those under my spiritual authority. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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