1 Corinthians 3:18-4:17 (Part 2) / Read
Take time to soak in today’s second reading of this passage before proceeding to the commentary and questions below. Try to imagine Paul’s emotions and his state of mind as he wrote this portion of his letter. What would it be like to give everything to the work you believed in only to hear that those who had once partnered with you were now undoing that work through foolishness and immaturity?
Ask God to guide your reading and understanding of this passage and to give you a specific word of application for your own life.
It seems fair to say that Paul would have been frustrated with the report that he received from the Corinthian church. Yet even though his response is strong, it reveals that his underlying motivation was love.
It’s hard to describe the full extent of the life change Paul had undergone because of his encounter with Jesus, but it was tremendous (see Acts 9:1-22). He went from being a man who put Christian lives on the line to being the Christian whose life was on the line daily because he wouldn’t stop telling people about Jesus (vv. 9-13 of 1 Corinthians 4).
Paul understood that God was building an eternal spiritual family in Jesus, that whoever put their faith in him would be adopted in as a chosen child of God. He also understood that God had appointed him to live as a spiritual father to those who believed in Jesus because of his words. He was to be a living example of who Jesus was to him.
In vv. 15, the Greek word we read as “guardian” is also translated “guide” and “tutor” in other English translations of the Bible. It was a position within the family that the Corinthians would know - a trusted servant or slave who looked after the children and helped to train them in moral and practical matters. While important, the guardian was nothing compared to the father. The father set the tone and direction for the family. The father was flesh and blood. The father loved the children like no other because they were his.
In effect, Paul wrote, “See how I see you? You are mine. I’d do anything for you because I want you to experience this life that I’ve found!”
This model may be foreign to our culture, but the message is the same for anyone who wants to be obedient to Jesus’ commands to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20) and witness to the world (Acts 1:1-8). God is still changing lives, still building his family and still doing it through those who are compelled by his love to serve and sacrifice for others so that they, too, may grow in their faith.
What about today’s re-reading of this passage is connecting with you most deeply? Why?
If you are a Christian, how does this passage impact your understanding of what it means to follow Jesus and help others do the same?
How do you sense the Lord leading you to live differently in light of the message of this passage?