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The Bible is the only source of Divine Truth in the world today. Although it is helpful and informative in many ways, the Bible might not tell us everything we want to know but the Bible does tell us everything we need to know.

My role is to guide you through the Scriptures; to explain what this book says and in some cases what it does not say because this is just as important.

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Friday, March 25, 2016

1 Corinthians (Lesson 17)

Home Bible Study©                                                                  Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
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This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1Timothy 2:3-4

1 Corinthians                                                             (Lesson 17)

Welcome back.  I’m thankful that you are here and participating today.

Our Apostle Paul has been addressing the problem of factious leaders in the Corinthian church.  The people were advocating different leaders and were divided over leadership types and personalities.  Let’s not lose sight of the fact that they had also rejected Paul’s doctrine and his apostleship for this is going to be an ongoing problem.

He closes the first and most important section of his letter to the Corinthians by reasserting his apostolic authority (1:10 – 4:21).  At verse 14 Paul changes metaphors again appealing to the saints in Corinth as a loving father would to his children.  He ends chapter 4 with a word of warning saying; it’s their choice whether he visits them in the future with a rod of chastisement or a spirit of love and gentleness(Proverbs 3:11-12; Hebrews 12:6-11)                  


Please open your Bible at 1 Corinthians 4:14 and I’ll meet you there. 

1 Corinthians 4

14: I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 

Paul used sarcasm in verses 7-13 to show how vain these factious leaders were and to contrast them with the self-denying apostles.  Paul’s changes his approach at verse 14; we note that his use of the word beloved (v14) expresses both affection and respect for these same Corinthian saints.  It’s another way of saying it’s their worldly values, views, and their wrongful behavior that he finds undesirable and not them.

Paul uses the metaphor of child training to encourage them.  The Greek word for admonish is Noutheteo (pronounced:  noo-thet-eh’-o), a verb, and means: to warn; to give instruction.  Paul isn’t trying to humiliate them; far from it.  Paul is actually warning them, as a loving father would in hope that his children will see the error of their ways and make the necessary changes, a.k.a repent.

The definition of the word admonish also implies appeal and counseling and not punishment.  Paul is an encourager as most parents are and He writes to them as such. Paul is using the pen and not the paddle in appealing to their good judgment, after reprimanding them and instructing them in the way that they should go; and this conveys the confidence that not only can they change but they have the desire to do so. 

Let’s go to verse 15.

1 Corinthians 4

15: For if you were to have countless tutors (guides; supervisors, teachers) in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I (Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles) became your father through the gospel. 

The Greek word for tutors is Paidagogos (pronounced:  pahee-dag-o-gos’), a noun masculine, and it means – a guardian and a guide of boys; in the Greek and Roman culture, a trustworthy slave was charged with the duty of supervising the life and morals of boys belonging to the higher social class.  The boys were not permitted to step outdoors without them before arriving at the age of manhood. 

Here Paul uses the term tutors to express the idea that Apollos and Cephas are their tutors in Christ Jesus, while he is their spiritual father, (meaning he begot them spiritually) through the gospel… not a gospel; as if any gospel will do, but the one and only gospel by which you are saved today (Romans 2:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  The Corinthians had received it from Paul.  He delivered the good news to them.  So, in verse 15, Paul is actually saying, “I was the one God chose to bring you the gospel, in which you believed, and in that sense you’re my spiritual children.    

The Corinthians were on a precarious path, yet Paul was interacting with them as a loving father would.  He had already been a loving spiritual father to them as he had been to many others, for their sake.  Paul wrote these words to the Thessalonians:  just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12). 

The Corinthians had many tutors to be sure and each person was proud of their own and judged the others.  But Paul said you would not have many fathers.  Then he reminds them, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.  The King James Bible translator uses the phrase - I have begotten you through the gospel.  Both translations express the same meaning.

Some of these Corinthians came to believe the gospel through other tutors but it was Paul who brought the gospel to Corinth (Acts 18; 1 Corinthians 3:10).  All those who had heard Paul preach God’s good news and received it on faith, whatever city, town, or village that might have been, were especially dear to him, such as Onesimus, whom he calls his child:  I appeal to you my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment… (Philemon 10).

Let’s press on to verse 16.

1 Corinthians 4

16: Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me.

The word exhort doesn’t mean to threaten (do this or else) and it doesn’t mean to wag the accusing finger of shame at.  The Greek word is Parakaleo (pronounced:  Par-ak-al-eh’-o), a verb, and it means – to call to one’s side, to summon; to address, which may be done in a comforting manner; to entreaty.  Paul is being gentle; he’s not laying down the law.  With his pen, Paul’s taking them aside and saying, “Let’s talk about this, my child…” 
He’s also giving them a choice, when he entreaties them, the balls in their court, as they say.
He’s encouraging these folks to be imitators of him; it’s a choice.  It’s not Paul’s way or the highway.

So, what does Paul mean when he says, “be imitators of me?  I’m glad you asked.

Paul encourages Believers to imitate him several times in his letters to the churches.  No other writer of Scripture issues such a request.  Moses didn’t do it.  Not one of the major or minor prophets in the O.T. ever came close to saying it.  The only place you’ll see this exhortation is in Paul’s letters.  

The Lord Jesus Christ issued the command “Follow Me” (Matthew 19:21, 28; John 8:12, 12:26).  The Greek word for Follow is Akoloutheo (pronounced:  ak-ol-oo-theh’o), a verb, and it means – to follow one who precedes; accompany him.  This is the word Jesus Christ used most frequently.  Another word Jesus used was “come” (Matthew 4:19, 11:28; Mark 1:17).  But Paul doesn’t use either of these words because there’s a difference. 

To truly “follow” Jesus Christ means He has become everything to us; He’s our all in all.  Let me put it this way.  Everyone follows something:  family, friends, popular culture, selfish desires, or hopefully Jesus Christ.  But we can only follow one thing at a time (Matthew 6:24).  I liken this to a child’s game we used to play long ago called “Follow the Leader.”  There was one leader and the rest of us had to follow them doing whatever they did, hop, jump, skip, sing a song; whatever.  Get the picture?

God instructs us that we are to have no other Gods before Him (Exodus 20:3).  To truly follow Jesus Christ means we choose not to follow anything else.  Jesus said:  “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me (Luke 9:23).
One of the things this means is no half-hearted person can truly follow Christ Jesus. 
Jesus said you are to love God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind… (Luke 10:27).  One example not to follow would be the Pharisees.  They were trying to obey God in their own strength, meaning they lacked faith in what God had (said) written in the Scriptures.  Their self-effort led to arrogance and a total distortion and purpose of God’s perfect Law. (Matthew 15:8, 23:24; Luke 11:39)

During His ministry on earth, the Lord frequently encountered people with spiritual questions.  They wanted to know how to live their lives more fully, they wanted to know about death and eternal life, they wanted to know how to pray, how to worship God, how to understand the Scriptures, they wanted to experience God’s forgiveness for their sins; in short they wanted to connect with God.  Jesus said, “Follow Me.” 

This was an invitation from the Creator God Himself.  It was offered as an opportunity to learn from Jesus how to live a faith-filled life.  It was an opportunity to learn from the Master Himself; the author of the Scriptures.  Throughout His earthly ministry Jesus Christ demonstrated a passionate love for God the Father, He demonstrated empathy and mercy for the people, He was forgiving, and He was the consummate humble servant.  The altruistic life He lived stands as an example for us all. 

The characteristics He exhibited daily are qualities we should all cultivate.  But here’s the thing.  If you want to be the best at something or do something well, whether it’s a skill or a craft, what should you do?  You become someone’s apprentice, right?  You find a “master” or a professional, and you let them instruct you, and correct you, and then you basically “follow” in their footsteps.  This is how artists, athletes, craftsmen, and the like perfect their skills.  For example John Gruden, ESPN Sports Analyst, and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach and Super Bowl XXXVII winner in 2002, holds a quarterback camp annually in Tampa, Florida.  Last year he tutored Marcus Mariota, former Ducks QB, and Jameis Winston, former FS Seminoles QB.  The purpose:  to hone their football skills; to get them prepared for the scouting combine and the NFL draft.  They put their future careers in his knowledgeable hands; they became his apprentices.

But no one can truly follow Jesus on their willpower alone.  One more important element is needed.  Jesus gave His disciples the secret to faithfully following Him, but they didn’t recognize it at the time (John 6:63-65). 

Paul didn’t say, “Follow me;” he said, imitate me.  The Greek word for imitate is Mimetes (pronounced:  mim-ay-tace’), a noun masculine, and it means – an imitator.  We get our English word mimeograph (to copy something) from this Greek word.  Paul used the same term in his letter to the Ephesians at 5:1:  Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; while exhorting the Believers in Ephesus to be followers of God.  We find similar examples at: Philippians 3:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:9; 1 Corinthians 11:1; Galatians 4:12).

As I’ve been saying, Paul’s letters indicate he had to defend his apostleship constantly.  He was not one of the 12 original apostles.  No one made a mistake by not selecting him to fill Judas’ position, the one Matthias filled (Acts 1:21-2:26), so he wasn’t the 13th apostle.  He wasn’t even a follower of Jesus Christ in His earthly ministry.  Paul was called by the risen, glorified and ascended, Lord Jesus Christ, outside the borders of Israel, and commissioned as the apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9; Romans 11:13).  The other apostles were called by Jesus Christ within the borders of Israel to serve His lost sheep; the Jew only (Matthew 10; Acts 11:19; Romans 15:8), with a few Gentile exceptions, and that’s exactly what they were – exceptions (Rahab – Joshua 2; the citizens of Nineveh - Jonah 1-3; Matthew 8:5-13, 15:21-28, etc.). 

God separated Paul from the twelve (Galatians 1:12, 16-19) after his salvation.  Why?  God had a special plan for Paul.  The Lord Jesus Christ revealed secrets to Paul that had been kept hidden in the mind of God since before the foundations of the earth.  We took at look at these secrets (the Bible translators chose the word mysteries much to their chagrin) in lesson 15.  But because he was not one of the twelve and because Paul’s doctrines were completely unknown (downright foreign) to their ears (2 Peter 3:15-16), some Believers regarded him with contempt while others viewed him with suspicion. 

For example, in regard to salvation, concern and controversy arose over Paul’s gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  This finally came to a head in 51 AD at the Council in Jerusalem.
Believing Jews rejected Paul’s gospel to the Gentiles outright declaring that they had to be saved as the Jews were, meaning the Gentiles must be circumcised and they must keep the Mosaic Law (Acts 15:1, 5).  Paul rejected their arguments and all their objections.  Why?  Paul had received his gospel and doctrine directly from the Lord (Galatians 1:1, 11-12).  He wasn’t about to give in to the demands of the apostles and elders in Jerusalem.  He wasn’t going to let them overturn the teachings and commands of Christ Jesus, and we should give thanks daily that he had the courage to stand up to these prominent men.  During the meeting the Holy Spirit moved Peter to recall his encounter with Cornelius (Acts 10), and this permitted Paul to carry the day.  Because of Peter’s remark at this meeting this became a significant church event:  But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they (they meaning the Gentiles) also are (Acts 15:11).

The idea that Gentiles would be saved at all, let alone in the same manner as the Jews, was unthinkable at this time.  After that decision, Paul wrote the Galatian church:  But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! (Galatians 1:8-9)

In 1 Corinthians 4 Paul wrote that he should be regarded as a servant of Christ and a steward of the mysteries (secrets) of God.  He also defended his work as an apostle and reminded the Corinthians that while they may have countless tutors in Christ, you would not have many fathers.  They had one spiritual father in Christ Jesus and that was Paul.  Paul became their spiritual father through his proclamation of the gospel to them and their believing it (v15).  Because of this Paul exhorted them to imitate him. 

Many of you are parents, and you are aware that you’re children emulate (copy) your mannerisms and your speech.  For instance, the first word they learn is usually “no” and they learn it from you.  However, when Paul says, “be imitators of me” he’s not saying “Do as I do.”  He’s not holding his life and walk with the Lord up for all to see and saying, “See me and be me;” although this wouldn’t be a terrible thing, all things considered…  What he’s actually saying is they should follow his doctrine (1 Corinthians 3:10; Ephesians 3:2-7; Colossians 1:24-27). 

Now, I want to show you where we find this Truth, so please turn to 1 Corinthians 11:1-2 with me:  Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.  Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and (do what) hold firmly to the traditions (doctrines or teachings), just as I delivered them to you. 

Paul did ask the Believers to straighten up and “fly right” in his letters.  His command to the church in Thessalonica is an example of this (2 Thessalonians 3:7-9).  However, Paul’s primary concern was that every Believer hold firmly to the doctrine they had received from him because he received it from the Lord Jesus Christ.  The secrets Paul revealed to us are an exact copy of those Jesus Christ revealed to him.  This is what he means by stating he is an imitator of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).   

Let’s go to verse 17.

1 Corinthians 4

17: For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I (do what) teach everywhere in every church.

Timothy was converted on Paul’s first missionary journey and recruited as a helper on his second.  He became Paul’s trusted friend, companion, co-worker, and apostolic representative.  Sending Timothy to Corinth was a clear demonstration of Paul’s love and his deep concern for this church.  But he was concerned about how they would treat Timothy when he arrived there (1 Corinthians 16:10-11). 

When Paul speaks of his ways, he’s referring to his doctrines which he taught everywhere in every church.  Paul meant to emphasize that the Corinthian church had been given the same doctrine/teachings as all the other churches (14:33). They weren’t neglected and they weren’t special.  They didn’t have the right to be different, or start something totally fresh (1:2; 3:10). 

*There’s no biblical information which indicates that Timothy ever made this trip.

Let’s move on to verses 18-20.

1 Corinthians 4

18: Now some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you.

Paul has uses the word arrogant 3 times in this chapter (4:6, 18, 19) and continues to use it in his letters to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 5:2, 8:1, 13:4; 2 Corinthians 12:20).  Pride was a special problem for this church.  Some people were saying that Paul’s prolonged absence meant he had no intention of coming to Corinth because he didn’t care about this church.  However, Paul said:

19: But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power.

Paul returned to the churches he planted again and again (1 Corinthians 11:34, 16:6) and he wanted to visit Corinth soon, but his life was not his own and whose life is for that matter.  We can all add this phrase to our remarks just as he did:  if the Lord wills.  Paul had to seek and follow the Holy Spirit’s direction (Acts 18:21; 1 Corinthians 16:6-7; Romans 1:10, 15:32). 

20: For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power.

The false teachers were eloquent speakers but powerless in their results (Matthew 7).

Our Apostle Paul doesn’t use the phrase the kingdom of God as often as Jesus Christ did.  It refers to God’s reign in human hearts now that the Spirit of God dwells within them:  None of us lives for himself (or herself) only, none of us dies for himself (or herself) only (Romans 14:7); which will one day be consummated over all the earth as it is in heaven: may your kingdom come; may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).  Paul uses this phrase more in 1 Corinthians than any of his other letters (4:20, 6:9, 15:24, 50).  Paul did this because these Believers needed to know that they were part of a much larger Church agenda. 

does not consist in words but in power – Another way of saying this is:  Actions speak louder than words,” or “The proof’s in the pudding.”  The false teachers in this church are “puffed-up” (arrogant).  They are educated and they speak eloquently but there are crucial elements missing from their lives such as “humility” and “good deeds,” done in the spirit, and this makes them powerless.

I need to show you what this book says because I don’t want people saying this is Gary’s opinion or it’s my interpretation of Scripture.  Please turn with me to 1 Corinthians 8:1-3:  Now, concerning what you wrote about food offered to idols.  It is true, of course, that “all of us have (what) knowledge”, as they say.  Such knowledge, however, (does what) puffs a person up with pride, but love builds up.  Those who think they know something really don’t know as they ought to know.  But the person who loves God is known by Him.

In Corinth certain teachers were influencing the church by what they were saying.  We’ve seen in some of the previous Bible texts how this activity led to discord, disunity, and division.  But here’s the thing, just because you’re a gifted speaker, able to influence people with your words, doesn’t necessarily mean that you carry any real influence with God.  The kingdom of God is not merely knowledge and words.  The Apostle James writes in 1:22:  But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude (to persuade somebody to believe something that is untrue or unreal) themselves. 

Obedience should always be the net result of biblical preaching or Bible study.  To hear someone talk (or preach) without applying the teaching to our lives, to only fill our heads with knowledge, short-circuits God’s purpose in giving it. 

Paul said:  But the person who loves God is known by Him.

The Holy Spirit at Work

The Holy Spirit functions as the fruit-producer in the Believer’s life.  When He indwells us, He begins the work of harvesting His fruit in our lives – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). 
On our own we couldn’t produce fruit such as this; they are the products of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives.

This is the power Paul seeks on his return to Corinth:  is there evidence of power in the individual’s life to overcome sin; pride being one of these?  Is there power in the individual’s life to forgive others?  Is there power in the individual’s life to control anger, bitterness, envy, gossiping, and strife?  Just because an individual is talking the talk doesn’t mean he or she is walking the walk, which is the case here.  That is why Paul said when he comes to you soon, if the Lord wills, he will find out if these people, who refer themselves as leaders, are the right kind of leaders (Titus1:7-9). 

Let’s go to verse 21.

1 Corinthians 4

21: What do you desire?  Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness?

A loving father disciplines his children (Hebrews 12:6). 

The rod Paul speaks of here is a tutor’s stick (4:15).  When I was in Catholic school, the nun’s used a ruler.  One quick slap across the knuckles was all that was needed to get a student’s attention back on track.  Paul’s point is straightforward.  The church needed to decide whether he was to come to them as a disciplining father or a forgiving father.

(To be continued)

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