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Father through the Gospel

Father through the Gospel

Words of Faith 5-12-17

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2017

Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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1 Corinthians 4

[14] I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you, as my dear children. [15] 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. [16] Therefore I urge you to imitate me. [17] For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.

Paul had some tough stuff to deal with at Corinth. Before launching into some of the specific problems that had been raised by leaders at Corinth, Paul had to deal with the fundamental problem of prideful arrogance.

He had addressed the folly of arrogant believers and ministers with biting irony, but now he reminded them that his intention was not to "shame" them. He only wanted to warn them.

The word for "shame" means to "invert" in a negative sense, to bring down rather than reverence, to confound, disrespect or disregard. This was not Paul's goal. He loved the believers at Corinth as dear children. His intention was not to wound or cut them with sarcasm. He was simply trying to get them to open their eyes... as a father speaking to dear children.

We must remember that Paul spoke to the believers at Corinth from a unique relationship. Though they may have had ten thousand "guardians" they only had one "father" in the Lord. In Greek and Roman culture, a "guardian" was a slave who would accompany a child on his way to school. Although respected by the child and responsible to teach him manners, this guardian was not even a teacher per se. And although students might affectionately call and treat special teachers as "fathers", they were not the father.

Paul pointed out to the Corinthians that he was their "father through the gospel". There may be other guardians, but they had only one father in the faith. Many ministers might advise and instruct the Corinthians, but only one had planted the seed that brought them life. That was a unique relationship.

More than any guardian, Paul had their interests at heart. For that reason he urged them to imitate him. This was a bold exhortation but clearly Paul was confident in his own walk with the Lord. Paul certainly made no claim of perfection, but he knew for sure that he walked with Jesus in faith and with a clear conscience. They could safely imitate Paul knowing that he was one who sought only to imitate the Lord Jesus.

Toward that end, Paul was sending Timothy. Timothy was a very special young man. Paul wrote to the Philippians: "I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare" (2:20). Timothy could remind them by precept and example of Paul's way of life in Christ Jesus, which was in turn an imitation of their Lord.

Timothy was a perfect person to come to Corinth. He was raised in the faith by his mother and grandmother. He was Jewish on his mother's side but his father was Greek. He knew the issues of bridging cultures. Timothy had traveled extensively with Paul and had been active with him at Corinth and then at Ephesus where Paul was writing from.

Though his temperament was completely different that Paul's, Timothy had surely imitated the character of Christ that he had seen his mentor and "father through the Gospel". The importance of these issues and the significance of the church at Corinth are reflected in Paul's choice to send Timothy.

One of the things that we sometimes miss is that, from the beginning, church has been deeply relational. This expedition we make as "called out ones" is not for Lone Rangers. We are made for relationship with God and with others. We hear these days about churches that are entirely web-based or viewer based. We hear about the power of mass media and the growth of arena-style churches. But in truth and reality, church is always relational. Even when new methods of communication are fruitfully used to proclaim the Gospel, we must find relationships or the seeds will be snatched away.

The truth is that we are born of the Spirit but we are nurtured by spiritual mothers and fathers. We have spiritual sisters and brothers who encourage us and carry us even as we encourage and carry them. We plant into the lives of spiritual daughters and sons. That is the way that God made us. That is the way that God grows us. We imitate Christ as we see Him in scripture and in the lives of those who have invested in us.

None among us is perfect, but we look to those who planted and watered in our lives. We also seek to be the sister or brother, father and mother to others who are coming along in their faith.

Father God, help me to be connected. Connect me fruitfully with those who have planted into my life. Teach me how to care for those in my Gospel family. Show me how You want me to be planting in the lives of others. 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.