1 Corinthians 4:21


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.



1 Corinthians 4:20


Monday, 2 June 2014

For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. 1 Corinthians 4:20

“For” refers directly back to what was just stated about Paul’s coming to Corinth and his discernment of the power rather than in puffed up words. Those who were puffed up were divisive and they were filled with words without substance. On the contrary, Paul was filled with the power of the Spirit and the ability to affect real change in the lives around him.

Of course he did this with the miraculous – healings and the like, but more than that, he did it by the power of the words he spoke. The words of the gospel, both then and now, effect real change in those who hear them. Drunkards turn into solid citizens, prostitutes become princesses, and the proud turn and humble themselves before God. There is great power in the words of the gospel, words to which the puffed up boastings of the world can never attain because the gospel is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes.

This then is “the kingdom of God.” It is not an earthly kingdom, but a spiritual one. It is a group of called-out believers who have put their faith in Jesus Christ. Someday, this kingdom will be physical as Christ sits on His throne and rules among His people, but at this time, it is a kingdom of faith in Him and in the surety of God’s word.

Life application: There is power in the gospel message, but the power is of no use if it isn’t shared. The world is quickly getting darker as the church age comes to its close. Before that terrible Day which will fall upon all the unrepentant, isn’t it right that we open our mouths and share? Go forth in the power of the gospel!

Heavenly Father, there is no power like that of the gospel. Even the most debased sinner can have a change of  heart and direction through the saving message of Christ. What is perceived of by the world as bondage is actually the greatest freedom of all. To be found in Him, pardoned from a life of sin and covered by the blood of Christ is to be heaven bound and eternally secure. Thank You for allowing me to share such awesome and glorious power! Amen.



1 Corinthians 4:19


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.

1 Corinthians 4:18


Saturday, 31 May 2014

Now some are puffed up, as though I were not coming to you. 1 Corinthians 4:18

In the previous verse, Paul noted that he was sending Timothy to those in Corinth for a reminder of his consistent message which he teaches everywhere he goes. Having said this, he already knows that “some are puffed up.” The idea, as noted previously, is that of pride. When yeast is put into dough, it causes the bread to rise, thus picturing being prideful, full of boasting, or arrogant. And some translations do use the term “arrogant,” but by doing this, the imagery is lost. It will be more especially the case as Paul will use the example of dough puffing up in chapter 5.

He then notes the reason for some being puffed up by saying it is “as though I were not coming to you.” Those who were involved in these divisions and who took the side of Apollos would certainly say, “See, he’s afraid to come himself and so he’s sending Timothy instead of coming personally.” It would then be a poke in the eye to those who claimed Paul was their man. And thus, the divisions would continue. This is why he has preempted them in his letter with this statement. He in fact has plans already to come to Corinth, but there were also other things on his plate before he could. This will be explained to them at the end of the letter in chapter 16 –

“Now I will come to you when I pass through Macedonia (for I am passing through Macedonia). And it may be that I will remain, or even spend the winter with you, that you may send me on my journey, wherever I go. For I do not wish to see you now on the way; but I hope to stay a while with you, if the Lord permits. But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” 1 Corinthians 16:5-9

Life application: An effective way of dispelling problems is to think in advance what other issues may arise and then preempt them with words of surety about the resolution to those issues. In doing this, it may completely alleviate the necessity to fix a problem that otherwise could have been avoided.

Wonderful Creator – my Lord and my God. Thank you for the unimaginable beauty you’ve given to us in this world – from sandy beaches and high mountain peaks, to trees of immense wonder and animals with such splendid diversity. There are a thousand shades of color when I look in any direction and there are tastes which delight my tongue. The smells of nature often overwhelm me with joy. Sometimes, it’s more than I can contemplate. Thank You for every wonderful blessing of life. Amen.


1 Corinthians 4:17


Friday, 30 May 2014

For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church. 1 Corinthians 4:17

“For this reason” here will explain Paul’s previous statement which said, “Therefore I urge you, imitate me.” As it was noted, Paul wasn’t trying to cause a greater division by having those at Corinth imitate him over some other apostle. Rather, he was asking them to imitate him because he was an imitator of Christ, something they lacked and wouldn’t get right unless they had a proper example.

In support of that reason, he told them he has “sent Timothy to you.” Timothy was Paul’s protégé and would fill the need of the Corinthians on Paul’s behalf. This Timothy, Paul states, “is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord.” Like those in Corinth whom Paul called his “beloved children” in verse 14, Timothy was also. Because Paul looked at all of them as sons, he felt that Timothy would be a great help in understanding what he was conveying. However, later in this letter, it still seems unsure if Timothy would actually make it to Corinth or not because he uses the word “if” concerning his travels –

“And if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear; for he does the work of the Lord, as I also do. Therefore let no one despise him. But send him on his journey in peace, that he may come to me; for I am waiting for him with the brethren.” 1 Corinthians 16:10, 11

Should he make it as planned, Paul says that he “will remind you of my ways in Christ.” In other words, we can look at his petition to “imitate me” from verse 16 as a sound request because of his “ways in Christ.” Paul wasn’t trying to misdirect the Corinthians, he was trying to properly direct them. With Timothy confirming this, they could be certain that they were imitating that which was proper and their faith wouldn’t be misdirected.

In fact, their doctrine and practice would be in a manner harmonious with all of the churches which had been established because Paul claimed that his teaching was the same “as I teach everywhere in every church.” He was consistent in his proclamation of Christ, consistent in his doctrine, and determined to follow up to ensure that these things continued properly.

How nice it would be today if all seminaries taught a proper message of Christ and then occasionally stopped by to check up on the doctrine of their graduates! What we fail to do, Paul carefully and meticulously accomplished.

Life application. Discipleship is an immensely important aspect of the faith. Leading people to Christ is only the beginning of a life-long journey of discovery. If you have the necessary training to teach others what is right and sound about Christ, make an effort to impart that to those who are less informed. Paul deemed this immensely important and so should we.

My Precious Lord, You have led me all the days of my life, even when I didn’t know You were there. You’ve tended to my needs, cared for my heart, and directed my every step toward a good end. Those times I’ve erred have been used to mold me. They were times I can learn from and teach to others so they can avoid the same pitfalls. Help me to use my time wisely, assisting in this manner, correcting those who need support, and continuing to grow in You as I go. Thank You for hearing my prayer. Amen.