But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power. 1 Corinthians 4:19
“But” is used to contrast his previous words saying “as though I were not coming to you.” He had no fear of discharging his duties as an apostle and he had no timidity in facing those who looked down on him. He intended to come and he eventually did make it back to Corinth. This occurred shortly after writing his second letter to them. However, at the time of writing, the future was unknown to him and so he uses a common term of the apostles, “If the Lord wills.”
Outside of the promises of the Lord, there can be no certainty in the future, not even the near future. James explains our utter dependence on God and His hand of providence quite well –
“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” James 4:13-16
This same attitude of looking to God’s will, even for the immediate future, is used elsewhere by the apostles and it shows that they were willing to allow the Spirit to lead them and they had resigned their ultimate end to the capable hands of the Lord. And so, “if the Lord wills” that Paul return to Corinth then at that time he indicates, “I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power.”
This final portion of the verse tells us that Paul would be willing to listen to the words of the various factions in Corinth, particularly the leaders of the divisions, and he would be able to tell which were merely puffed up orators without a firm grounding in the word as was given, and those who had considered the power of the gospel, the truth of Scripture, and the work of Jesus Christ and had presented it carefully. Those who did so were those filled with the power of the word, the power of the Spirit, and the power of proper influence over the flock.
Life application: Running ahead, without properly handling God’s word, has led to a breakdown in correct theology throughout the Christian world. Unfortunately, it is the flock who suffers the most. People have jobs, families, and responsibilities which consume their time. Therefore, their instruction comes not from self-studies, but from those who are supposed to be trained already. Extreme care and tender love and respect for the word of God is of paramount importance for the one who would be a teacher of it.
Heavenly Father, I look to the cross and see love. How can such love exist that You would send Your Son to die in my stead? Of what value is man that You look upon him in this way? Though I don’t understand it, I receive it in all its glory. My Substitute in punishment, my Hope in the resurrection, and my Desire for all eternity – my Lord and Savior; my Jesus! Thank You for my Jesus. Amen.