1Co 4:14-21 I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. (15) For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (16) I urge you, then, be imitators of me. (17) That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church. (18) Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. (19) But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. (20) For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. (21) What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?
Paul here explains his previous statements and admonishments, explains why he says them. Paul loves the Corinthians as his children and that is why he warns them and admonishes them. He also gives another warning to those who are in the Corinthian church.
1Co 4:14 I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.
What he told them in the previous passages, could very well have made them feel ashamed, it very well could make them feel foolish. He gave them a picture of how much the apostles suffer, and then allowed the Corinthians to make the connection of how little they suffered. It very well might have made them feel ashamed because he just told them “You sit in comfortable houses, you have no persecution, the biggest difficulty you have is deciding ‘who you follow’, us, the apostles have gone to the point of death, we have been beaten, we have been persecuted in every way, WAKE UP”. But, as much as it might wake them up and make them feel ashamed, that wasn't Paul’s point, his point was to warn them. He changes his tone from sarcastic to one of loving mercy, one of genuine concern. He loves them as children because he was put in the place of “raising them” so to speak, and he loved them as God loves them. So, although he was harsh with them for a little while, as with children, you need to be just, but you also need to be doing it for the right reason: you love them. God loves us and his discipline is for our benefit and because he loves us. Psa 94:12-13 Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O LORD, and whom you teach out of your law, (13) to give Him rest from days of trouble, until a pit is dug for the wicked. God truly does discipline us for our good, and he warns us for our good, and the same is true for how the apostle Paul treated the Corinthians.
1Co 4:15-16 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (16) I urge you, then, be imitators of me.
Paul is their Spiritual father, there are many people who “guide” their spiritual lives, but really, only Paul was their “father” he cares about them more than their guides. This is a transition verse that explains both the previous verse and the next verse. It explains that he loves them as children and so his rebuke is not meant to be condemning, but it’s meant to be exhorting. It’s meant not to push them down, but to help them up. It’s transitioning into the next verse (16) because verse sixteen explains how their relation to each other should influence their actions. He calls them to imitate him because they are his spiritual children. Most children imitate their parents, he is an example of a godly spiritual father and he wants them to be a godly spiritual person just as he is, by God’s grace.
1Co 4:17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.
Paul Sent Timothy to the Corinthians because as much as we think we remember things, we are a drifting people, our habits, our likes, everything we do drifts with the waves of life. Paul knew that some of them had drifted from what he had taught them. Timothy was Paul’s representation, Timothy acted as Paul did, he knew what Paul knew, at least most of it. Therefore, Paul sent Timothy to them to remind them how they ought to act and how they ought to live. Moreover, Paul taught the SAME thing everywhere he went, he taught the gospel and the simplicity of it, and taught them how they ought to live, he didn't change it up everywhere he went, and he stayed consistent. We also ought to stay consistent because the gospel is consistent, not that we can't grow, we have infinite room to grow. However, we need to stay true to Christ. We need to be careful not to drift as most people do, we need to be careful not to drift as the Corinthians did. The real question Heb 2:1-3 Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. (2) For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, (3) how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, The Bible is clear what happens to those who do not stay with their faith to the end. If you pray a prayer and think that that’s your magic ticket to heaven, you are absolutely wrong, because if there is not a change in your life, you are in danger of Christ saying he never knew you. Mat 7:22-23 On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' (23) And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'. Here in Galatians tells us how we should live. Gal 5:24-26 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (25) If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Those that are saved will have fruit from the Spirit, they will have, as it says here, crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Do not become lazy in your faith, do not let it slip from your fingers. Do not become complacent in your spiritual life or in living for Christ.
1Co 4:18 Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you.
Some people clearly thought that Paul wouldn't come back to them because he was “scared” and “afraid” of those that thought they were so powerful. This is the same issue that is at work in our churches today, there are people that act as if Christ is not coming back, and people are acting as if THEY are more authoritative on scripture than scripture itself is. There are people who are trying to change God into something much less than he is, and raise people to much more than they are. The Pope is being raised up as godlike, and even some evangelical pastors are raised up as almost godlike and their word is taken as the gospel truth and people don’t even check the facts against scripture, which is the ONLY source of truth. Christ said this Mat 24:37-38 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (38) For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, For we need to be ready for Christ to return as he promised, we can’t be like those in Corinth and doubt the return, they doubted the return of Paul, sometimes we doubt the return of Christ, sometimes we weary like the disciples in the garden, yet we need to stay vigilant. 1Pe 5:8-9 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (9) Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. The easiest thing for Satan, is when the Christians are lazy and do not fight with the zeal that we get from the power of Christ.
1Co 4:19-20 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. (20) For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.
Paul lets them know that he plans on going back to Corinth, and as soon as he can as long as the Lord wills that it is to be. He also tells them that he will find out what they are talking about, but more importantly, he will test their power, he will test them to see if what they are teaching is true and if they have the power of the Holy Spirit. Because, what they say doesn't matter if they do not have the spiritual power to back it up. The kingdom of God doesn't consist of empty talk, but it consists of true power given by God.
1Co 4:21 What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?He then asks a simple question: Do you want me to come with discipline or with gentle friendship? The people were straying away from the gospel and this was his warning that they were following false teachers, if they didn't straighten up themselves, he would have to come with discipline and straighten them out. This is also a warning to us, although not spoken by Paul, God speaks this to us when we stray, if we don’t go back to him, we will be disciplined out of love, Heb 12:5-11 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by Him. (6) For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives." (7) It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? (8) If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. (9) Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? (10) For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. (11) For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Discipline is not a bad thing, it is painful though, and if we act in righteousness, God doesn't need to discipline us. The Old Testament is full of God disciplining his people many times and each time it causes his people to come back to Him. Today, many of us don’t want to endure God’s discipline, this is completely wrong, we need to endure discipline and take it to heart for the sake of righteousness. Moreover, we need to identify when we are being disciplined because if we are to have a heart for God we cannot ignore discipline. Our attitude should be like that of David: Psa 94:12 Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O LORD, and whom you teach out of your law, David realized that discipline is a good thing when we stray away, for if we aren't being disciplined, do we truly have a father that loves us? No, it very well could mean that our father is Satan if we are not being disciplined for our wrongdoings. 1Jn 3:10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. This doesn't mean that if you sin, you are a child of the devil, it means that those who continually practice sin are children of the devil, moreover, if you are a child of God and you continually sin, he WILL discipline you as he did the children of Israel.
In conclusion, we need to be wary, we need to be diligent, we need to accept discipline, and we need to be ready. We need to be wary of teachers teaching things that are false, 2Pe 2:1-2 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. (2) And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. There will be false teachers and they will be popular, but they will bring destruction upon the church and upon the individuals that listen to them and follow them. We need to be diligent in our salvation, we need to be guarding our salvation Php 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, We need to be careful not to drift, not to fall away, we need to remain steady and consistent within our faith, because if we don't, we WILL fall away and we WILL either be found to not be followers of Christ, or we will be disciplined by him. We also need to accept discipline from God, because He tells us that it is an extension of His love and so we need to use it to adopt change. We also need to be ready for Christ to come back, in our personal salvation and in the spreading of his word. In the end, we need to continue to focus on Christ and live for Him and for His glory every minute of every day.