That’s why I have sent Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord. He will remind you of how I follow Christ Jesus, just as I teach in all the churches wherever I go. Some of you have become arrogant, thinking I will not visit you again. But I will come—and soon—if the Lord lets me, and then I’ll find out whether these arrogant people just give pretentious speeches or whether they really have God’s power. For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power. Which do you choose? Should I come with a rod to punish you, or should I come with love and a gentle spirit?1 Corinthians 4:17-21
Paul heard all of what was happening in Corinth through Chloe’s group. He was so concerned he send his beloved and faithful Timothy to Corinth. He hoped Timothy would remind them of the degree to which he Paul followed Christ. This is an extension of thought from my comment in the last Gem – “Imitate me”. Paul has made it clear that he teaches this idea everywhere he goes. I preach this, watch how I do it, so you will see it is not a matter of “do as I say; not as I do”. Paul appears to have embodied that which he preached.
Paul then goes on to address the issue of the Corinthians’ arrogance, pride, haughtiness and indulgence, their focus on themselves. They will say later on (2 Cor 10:1, 10) that Paul was weak and timid in person but bold, forceful and demanding in his letters. Let’s remind ourselves again of the order of contact between Paul and Corinthians. Look again at Bible Gem 307.
- Paul visits Corinth for the first time, spending about 18 months there (Acts 18:11).
- He then leaves Corinth and spends about 3 years in Ephesus (AD 53 to 57). There is regular contact between Paul and the people from Corinth: Chloe’s home group, Timothy and Apollos visited the Corinthians. Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus came to Paul among others.
- Paul writes the “warning letter”, probably from Ephesus.
- The Corinthians send a letter to Paul. (1Co 7:1 Now regarding the questions you asked in your letter.)
- Paul writes 1 Corinthians from Ephesus.
We are studying the 5th connection point between them. Before this letter and subsequent to his hearing the news from Chloe’s home group Paul wrote a warning letter to them and they responded in a letter with questions. Then Paul writes what we are studying now. Following this Paul will make a painful visit and then write the “letter of tears”.
Paul at this point in his first letter promises he will visit them – soon. He will test the nature of these arrogant people. Are they just all talk and bravado or do they really know God’s power.?
I think we all know the answer to that question. Paul reminds them the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; but it is living by the demonstration of God’s power. Do these people just make pretentious speeches or do they really have God’s power?
Paul says, you choose. Do you want the gentle Paul or the bold, forceful, punishing Paul to come?Paul of Tarsus
Be careful lest your insecurity be misinterpreted as arrogance.Ian Vail
Love your enemies; it will drive them nuts.Anon
The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.Anon
A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with bricks others have thrown at him.Anon