Monday, 8 June 2015
Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand. 2 Corinthians 1:24
Paul’s words here are given to explain his words of the previous verse. He just said, “…to spare you I came no more to Corinth.” He is qualifying that statement now so that his audience knows that neither he nor any of the apostles had “dominion over” their faith.
Each person comes to Christ in the same way, by grace through faith, and they have the right to grow in their own way. If they are “on-fire” for the Lord, or if they quietly follow Him in their hearts, they have dominion over their own faith. Although believers should be encouraged to attend Bible studies and worship services, it is not up to someone else to dictate to them whether they actually do. This is true even with Paul and the apostles, as he now notes.
Instead, they “are fellow workers for” their joy. They were to encourage, build up, correct in doctrine, etc. But they were not the lords over the faith of those they ministered to, and that same tradition carries on today between pastors and congregants within the church. This is explicitly noted by Peter in his first epistle –
“…nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” 1 Peter 5:3
Like Paul of the past, pastors are to be examples to the flock, not lords over them. Paul understood this and wanted those in Corinth to understand it as well. His cancelled visit to Corinth was to spare them from a loss of joy, not a loss of fellowship with Christ. And the reason for this is because for them, as with every true believer, it is “by faith that you stand.” How can someone else control the faith of another? They cannot! And therefore, they have no right to exercise dominion over that same faith. This notion that we are saved by faith is stated by Paul many times. The idea that we also stand by faith is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15 –
“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand.” 1 Corinthians 15:1
Life application: If you are in a church where the pastor wields too much authority over your spiritual life, you should be extremely careful. This can be, and has many times, turned into a cult with terrible consequences. Jim Jones, the Branch Davidians, the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and many other cults started with leaders that exercised dominion over their congregants. Many times in history it has ended badly for the lives of those people. And the eternal consequences of such a relationship lead in only one sad direction.
Heavenly Father, I am so thankful that I stand in my relationship to You by faith alone. There is nothing I need to do in order to be saved except to believe the gospel message of Christ. And there is nothing I need to do after that in order to remain saved. I stand by faith in that same wondrous Lord. Knowing this, I now ask for the heart to exercise that faith in the pursuit of knowledge and obedience to Your word, knowing that my eternal rewards or losses will be counted based on this. Give me a yearning to know and serve Jesus more! Amen.