1 Corinthians 4:18-21 Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you. But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a whip, or in love and with a gentle spirit?
What a struggle the faithful Apostle Paul is having in his relationship with the Church that was established through his ministry in Corinth. He sees them as his children in Christ: He writes, “I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you, as my dear children. Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel” (14-15).
He obviously loves these ‘children’ and, like any father, has their very best interests at heart. But also, as a father, he has a responsibility to admonish them when godly discipline is called for. As we read through this letter we get a feel for the things that needed addressing in a firm way. Among his ‘children’ in their fellowship there were arrogant, self-opinionated people who were causing personality divisions and warring cliques (1:10-17; 3:3-9); they were guided by worldly, human wisdom and therefore treating revealed godly wisdom centred on the cross of Christ as ‘foolishness’ (1:17-2:5), demonstrating a lack of true spiritual discernment (2:6-16); they were lacking servant-hearted humility, trying to ‘big-note’ themselves as authorities (4:1-10); they were giving blatant, tacit approval to gross sexual immorality within their fellowship (5:1-13); they were bringing discredit on the Gospel by underhand, dishonest dealings with one another and then by suing one another in secular courts (6:1-11); they were allowing humanistic thinking to influence the God-ordained features of the marriage relationship (7:1-16); they were not looking out for the needs of others (9:1-10:33; 11:17-22); they were placing too much emphasis on the display of the more ‘spectacular’ gifts of the Spirit while ignoring the one essential gift of ‘agape/love’ (12:1-14:40); and so on.
Yes, they were inclined to TALK big, but there was little evidence of their ‘WALKING’ the talk! The word he uses for ‘power’ (20) is the same one he uses in his in his letter to the Philippians: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,” (3:10) – the ‘power’ that makes a noticeable difference to our life and witness when the Spirit of the Risen Christ inhabits our very being, influencing our attitudes, our speech, our behaviour, in ALL things.
– Bruce Christian