Thursday 09 May 2019

Bible Book:
1 Corinthians

Though you might have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers. Indeed, in Christ Jesus, I became your father through the Gospel.

1 Corinthians 4:16-17 Thursday 9 May 2019

Psalm: Psalm 124


The tone of this part of Paul’s letter to the Christians in Corinth moves from the reasonable to the bitingly sarcastic to the pastoral. His frustration with them was palpable, we can almost feel it!

Having pointed out that he had been using the term ‘servant’ of himself and of Apollos in order to help them understand that they should not be boasting about their spiritual status, he then puts a straightforward question, "What do you have that you did not receive?" followed by a supplementary question, "And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?"

These verses are somewhat complicated by the phrase "Nothing beyond what is written". Some scholars have suggested that this may be a marginal comment from a scribe that later became incorporated into the main text. Or perhaps this was a proverb familiar to those living in Corinth.

Scathingly, Paul contrasted his situation and that of Apollos with how the Christians in Corinth seemed to view themselves – while he and Apollos were belittles, ridiculed and in dire circumstances, these new Christians had become as king. What they had received had made them feel superior to others rather than humbled. And clearly this was not how it should be!

But quickly Paul changed his tune: he was their father in Christ (v. 15), he had brought them to life in Christ and his love for them was indisputable. Paul referred to guardians, of whom there might be many. Guardians, in Corinthian society, were trusted, perhaps older, slaves whose duty it was to take a child to school, to care for him, to nurture him to adulthood. A very significant role, but not that of a father; a child had only one father. The Corinthians would have got the message – Paul was their father in God; he was the one who had established in them the foundation of their faith as only a father was able.


To Ponder:

  • It is said that St Augustine saw the whole doctrine of grace in Paul’s question "What do you have that you did not receive?" What do you think?
  • Reflect on a time (or times!) when you have felt very angry with and frustrated by those you are trying to nurture in the Christian way. Which works best: reasonableness, anger or love?
  • And which works best with you when you go somewhat astray (as we all do)?
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