Tuesday, 3 June 2014
What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness? 1 Corinthians 4:21
After his many comments of chapter 4, which are tied in completely with the preceding chapters concerning “divisions” within the church, Paul asks in a forthright manner, “What do you want?” In essence, “The choice is up to you when I come and the results will be realized upon my arrival.” And the choices are given:
1) “Shall I come to you with a rod?” Is discipline necessary when I arrive? The idea of a using a rod is for one who needs correction and redirection. If it needs to be used in a harsh way, so be it. A rod can be employed for something as simple as redirecting the head of a lamb to move where the shepherd desires all the way to smashing one’s enemies with brutal force. “Is the rod what you wish?”
2) “Shall I come to you in love and a spirit of gentleness?” Paul writes about love later in 1 Corinthians 13 in a way that shows what he means. The demonstration of love is one which “does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:5, 6). Along with this would naturally come “a spirit of gentleness.” There would be no rod of correction, but gentle words of direction, guidance, and a harmonious spirit. “Would you prefer love and gentleness?”
Paul will continue to write in this manner in his second letter to them. In 2 Corinthians 10:2, he will tell them, “But I beg you that when I am present I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intend to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.”
And again in 2 Corinthians 13:10 he will be direct in his words to show that he is serious about what he has said –
“Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the authority which the Lord has given me for edification and not for destruction.”
Paul’s direction was always for edification, not destruction. But he also knew that a strong rod of correction may be needed. It must have broken his heart to have to speak in the manner he did, but in the end, strong words are occasionally needed for keeping the body united and working toward the common goal of spreading the good news in truth and in accord with the word.
Life application: Why should we butt our heads against the word of God? If Paul was set to correct those who were disobedient with a rod, how much more do we deserve correction – we who have the whole counsel of God in written format? Let us spend our time wisely, learning, loving, cherishing, and adhering to God’s precious word.
How precious is Your word to me O God!
More precious than oil upon my head
It is a light to my feet and a lamp for where I trod
Rather to have Your word, than all the world’s gold instead
Your word I have hidden in my heart
That I might not sin against You
Help me from this day forward to start
Pursuing Your word, even till my days are through
Heavenly Father, the minute care You have shown in the giving of Your word demonstrates how absolutely important it is to You. How can I spend my days playing, fiddling, and knitting when Your word sits unattended? Give me the wisdom to heed! To read! To learn! and To share! Give me this and in using it, I know with me You will be pleased. Thank You for Your word! Amen.