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Arrogance that invites Discipline

Arrogance that invites Discipline

Words of Faith 5-15-17

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2017

Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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1 Corinthians 4

[18] Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you. [19] 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. [20] For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. [21] What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a whip, or in love and with a gentle spirit?

There are always some who do not listen and refuse to change. Arrogance is painful and difficult. Paul knew this. He had planned a trip to Corinth in the near future. He certainly did not want that trip to be focused on troublemakers, but, if necessary, that would be the case.

Paul anticipated that not all would be moved by the appeal of his letter. Those in the church who had acted arrogantly assumed Paul would not dare to come. They had grown complacent in their accountability and bold in their arrogant claims. The arrogance of these "party leaders" and "guardians" were at the heart of the Corinthians' division problem.

Paul addressed all this saying that, the Lord willing, he would come without delay, and then he would find out the real power of the arrogant persons who were doing all the talking against him.

Essentially Paul says: Talk is cheap! What real power do these people have to promote their unscriptural and derogatory ideas? Paul was not flinching or blinking. If it was a showdown these people wanted, a show down they would get. Because of the witness of the Spirit in him, he was absolutely confident.

Some sort of action may have been required on such a visit. Paul knew he was capable of meting out in the power of the Spirit. He had once called upon the Lord to strike a false prophet blind (Acts 13:9-11). When he had preached to the Corinthians, he had not depended on his own ability but on the power of the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:4-5). He would rely on this same power for discipline (2 Cor. 10:4-6).

This was the authority of God's rule and the consequence could be swift and strong if necessary (Acts 5:3-11). Though Paul loved the Corinthians he knew that a loving father did not shy away from discipline (Heb. 12:7). Hopefully it would not come to that.

Paul's final appeal was asked as a question. "What do you prefer?" He posed two alternatives: Do you want me to come "with punishment or in love and with a gentle spirit?" Did they want him to wield a whip (rabdos, a "rod")? From the Greco-Roman point of view the "rod" was a symbol of discipline executed by one in authority. Did they want a visit characterized by discipline or by a gentle spirit? Both are an expression of love but the experience is quite different.

This raises a good question. Was Paul actually threatening and advocating the use of violence or corporal punishment in the church? Actually, there is no evidence that whips or rods were ever employed in the church discipline of the early church. We will see later that Paul's punishment of an unrepentant believer who continued in sin was to expel him.

Paul could have been referring to the possibility of a punishment like that of Anannias and Sapphira (Acts 5:3-11) or calling upon the Spirit to strike the stubborn party leaders blind as he did a false prophet and sorcerer on the island of Cyprus . It is most likely that Paul was using the image of the whip or rod as a symbol of what such a disciplinary visit would be like. We don't know exactly what Paul was capable of, and neither did they. The point was that they did not want to find out what Paul meant by "the whip".

Paul was certainly clear that these divisive people needed to straighten up because a face-to-face confrontation would not be pleasant. While Paul claimed not to be eloquent in his words, there is no evidence that he ever failed to be forceful. The sting of a personal rebuke would probably be like that of a whip but the force of a face-to-face discipline in the power of the spirit might leave one wishing for a "rod". Paul loved the Corinthian believers enough to correct them, rebuke them, exhort them, and, if necessary, discipline them.

Perhaps the point for us is to realize that continued arrogance invites discipline. The Lord is patient with us but there probably is a time when there is no alternative but to discipline in ways that are not pleasant. This is true in the church as well.

We do so much better to respond to the gentle correction of the Lord and loving exhortation of leaders. If we are divisive, we need to repent. If we have been arrogant, we need to turn toward the Lord in humility. If we have taken the way of the world over the Mind of Christ, we need to come back to Him. If we have continued in sin, this is arrogance, and we are inviting the strong discipline of the Lord.

Father God, I confess my sin before You. I come in absolute humility to receive the Mind of Christ. Give me love for those in authority. Give me peace with other in the Body of Christ. Walk with me and give me Your gentle correction. In Jesus' name.

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© Jeffrey D. Hoy 2007, 2017

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy - Faith Fellowship Church (EFCA)

2820 Business Center Blvd.

Melbourne, Florida 32940 (321)-259-7200

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The Words of Faith devotion is published five days a week by E-mail excluding Federal holidays. Please feel free to forward this devotion to a friend who might be blessed by this devotion. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is quoted from the New International Version (R) of The Holy Bible. Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. Words of Faith (c) 1997, 2010 Jeffrey D. Hoy. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to forward this copyrighted material or use portions of it with appropriate notation of the source for non-profit purposes.