Wednesday 11 March 2020

Bible Book:
1 Corinthians

I am not writing this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. (v. 14)

1 Corinthians 4:6-17 Wednesday 11 March 2020

Psalm: Psalm 11:1-5

Background

At the mid-point of this week’s readings, it is good to refresh our memories about the weekly theme – One Foundation. Paul in this letter, time and again, tries to move the focus away from earthly church leaders, away from factions and groups in opposition in the Corinth church, and encourages his readers to centre themselves on Jesus. Christ is the foundation stone of Christian faith, the source of wisdom, the supreme example, the only leader they need.

In verses 6 and 7, Paul tackles the problem that people in the church have themselves created. Setting one leader against another; creating factions who “will be puffed up in favour of one against another” (v. 6) is at best unhelpful, at worst extremely destructive in any church. There may be a lesson for all of us in this. How quickly do we ‘label’ other Christians – liberal, conservative, evangelical, fundamental, charismatic, etc? How defensive do we get about ‘our’ denomination, believing we have the full truth? There may be lessons in humility for all Christians in these verses about Corinthians wanting to choose Apollos or Paul.

Verses 8 to 13 are written with a large helping of irony. Paul is aiming to deflate their pomposity, their apparent lack of need for any apostle’s teaching because of the church’s self-reliance as “kings”. It is an extraordinary passage that contrasts what the apostles have gone through to spread the truth about Jesus, set against the Corinthian illusion or self-delusion. These sentences must have been difficult to read in Corinth and it must surely have resulted in a great deal of soul-searching. And yet ...

Paul is not wanting to condemn them, nor be destructive in his criticism. One gets the impression that Paul is very unhappy in Ephesus with the sporadic reports that he is getting from Corinth, 300 miles to the east. The letter was written in about 55 AD and the people were well known to him because he had spent a couple of years with them earlier in his missionary travels. Paul is deeply troubled by their behaviour, but says, “I am not writing this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.” This is firm yet mild reproving, motivated by love.

Today’s reading finishes with Paul urging them to see him as their “father through the gospel”, and such paternal love for them is also the reason for sending the faithful Timothy to be with them.

So we end today’s reading of constructive admonishing with a reminder of fatherly love. God’s spirit, the essence of Jesus, is again at the heart of what we read.

 

To Ponder:

  • We all need people around us that we can trust and who will act as honest, critical friends. Their words may not always please us, but they are vital for our personal growth. Give thanks for such friends.
  • A friend is “a strong hand in the dark to another in time of need” (Hugh Black). Look out for who needs you to be such a friend today?
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