Study Sheet for I Corinthians 4:14-21 (click here for Study Notes)
I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you, as my dear children. Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.
Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you. But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a whip, or in love and with a gentle spirit? (NIV)
1. Paul has just stressed that he and the other apostles are suffering for the gospel while the Corinthians are acting proud and are not experiencing the hardships he and the other apostles are enduring. (see I Cor. 4:1-13) Now he makes a point to say that he's not saying these things to shame them but to warn them. In other places Paul does say things to make the believers feel ashamed. (I Cor. 6:5; 15:34; II Th. 3:14) Why is Paul warning them here? Of what is he warning them? What are his feelings for the Corinthians?
2. What does Paul mean in verses 15 when he says, "I became your father through the gospel?" (see I Cor. 9:12, 13, 18, 23; 15:1) How is his role of "father" different from the roles of the "ten thousand guardians" (or tutors) he says the Corinthians have in Christ? Who might those guardians or tutors be?
3. Paul continues by saying he's sending Timothy, "my son whom I love," to them. He will "remind" them of the way Paul lives and teaches others to live in Christ Jesus. He rebukes them again, pointing out that some of them are arrogant, acting as if Paul was so far away they didn't have to be accountable for their attitudes about him. Some of the Corinthians were undercutting Paul's authority and suggesting he was unstable. (see I Cor. 9:1-3; II Cor. 1:17; II Cor. 10:10; Jer. 43:2) How is arrogance associated with a lack of honesty or integrity? Why might have these members been undercutting Paul?
4. Paul assure the Corinthians that he is planning to come to them. He plans to see for himself not only how the arrogant ones are talking, but he plans to see how much actual power they have. "The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power," he says. (See Romans 14:17 and Romans 15:13) What is the "kingdom of God"? In what kind of talk were the Corinthians apparently engaging? What does Paul mean when he says the kingdom is not a matter of talk but of power? What does he mean when he says he'll be coming to see what power "the arrogant people have"? What do you think he wanted to see when he came?
5. Paul feels intensely about the arrogance and criticism he senses among the Corinthians. In fact, his relationship with them was so tenuous that eventually he postponed visiting them because he didn't want to upset them. (See II Cor. 1:23; 2:1; 13:2) What do you think he means when he asks if they prefer that he "come to you with a whip, or in love and with a gentle spirit?"
6. Arrogance usually accompanies pride and a critical spirit. Most of us grew up in an environment that encouraged a certain arrogance and pride. How do these problems creep into your life now? About what do you tend to feel critical? What dissonance do you feel between the grace you've experienced and the doctrinal or personal disagreements you experience within your new Christian community? What do you need to release to God, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal your underlying wound or wrong belief that feeds your criticism?
7. To whom are you a father (or mother) in Christ? Who is your spiritual father or mother? For whom do you wish to praise God, thanking Him for his or her presence in your life?
8. In what areas of your life to you need God to show you truth and change
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Studio, Redlands, CA USA. All rights reserved. Revised April 23, 2000.