Paul: Spiritual Father

I Corinthians 4:14-21

A lady was walking down the street when she was
approached by a lady beggar asking for money. The lady
took a $20 bill out of her purse, and asked “if I give you this
money will you spend it on chocolate.” “Don’t be ridiculous”
the beggar replied “does it look like I have nothing better to
spend money on?”

“How about shopping?” she asked. “No,
”the beggar said, “don’t you understand I need money just to
stay alive.” “Will you spend it on your hair?” the lady asked.
Annoyed the beggar replied, “No, I just need money for food,
and shelter. “In that case” the lady said “I don’t want to just
give you money I would like you to eat out with me and my
husband tonight.”

“Why?” The beggar asked. “Well, ”the lady
said “I think it’s important for him to see what a lady looks
like after she gives up chocolate, shopping, and hair

Today we are going to continue looking at I Corinthians 4.
Our focus will be the last 8 verses. Two weeks ago we looked at
the first 13 verses and saw Paul describing the faithfulness of
God’s stewards. It’s not always easy being a leader and Paul
wanted the church to understand that no matter what, he was
going to do what was right. Even if the world looked down on him
or judged him. He knew where he stood with God.

This morning we are going to see 4 Traits of a Spiritual Father.

I Corinthians 4:14-21

Let’s remember our context here. Paul was the one who brought
the gospel to Corinth. He preached Christ crucified and the
people responded. However, they were still babes in Christ. They
haven’t grown spiritually like they should have.

Paul isn’t writing to shame them, but to lovingly correct them and
bring their focus back to Christ and away from the world.

Paul Loves his Spiritual Children

He calls them his beloved children and says his goal is to
admonish them.

The word translated admonish comes from the Greek word
Noutheteo – it’s a compound word from nous – mind, and
tithemi – place. The literal meaning is to place in the mind.
Basically the concept is to help a person understand the error of
their way in an attempt to help them avoid negative

Paul cares greatly for the Corinthian church. It’s his desire to
correct them and discipline them with love and gentleness.

Why does Paul care so much about the Corinthian believers?
He Introduced them to Christ.

Because of God’s grace they received what he preached to them
and God saved them through the shed blood of Jesus.
Paul takes no credit for saving them, he knows it is all because of
the completed work of Christ.

They have had many other teachers/leaders since Paul initially
came to Corinth, but he was the one who preached Christ
crucified to them. He is their spiritual father.

Next Paul urges the Corinthians to imitate him.

Paul is their Role Model

Paul can faithfully advise them to imitate him because he is
imitating Christ.
It would never be appropriate for a Christian leader to invite
another person to imitate them if they are not themselves imitating

Paul’s point is they should not only listen to him, but imitate how
he lives. His faith is not just words, but action.
Too many fathers teach their children to do as they say, not as
they do. The problem with that is that children learn by watching
their parents. We can say things until we are blue in the face, but
what really matters is how we behave.

He also said it this way in Philippians 3:17 “Brothers, join in
imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk
according to the example you have in us.”

Paul also sent Timothy to Corinth, another of Paul’s spiritual
children. The purpose of sending Timothy was because he was
also a faithful child and someone the church could look up to and
remind them of Paul’s ways in Christ.

The young boy looked up at his grandfather and wondered aloud,
“Grandpa, how do you live for Jesus?” The respected
grandfather stooped down and quietly told the boy, “Just watch.”

As the years went by, the grand-father was an example to the boy
of how to follow Jesus. He stayed rock-steady in living for Him.
Yet the grandson often lived in a way that was not pleasing to

One day the young man visited his grandfather for what both
knew would be the last time. As the older man lay dying, his
grandson leaned over the bed and heard his grandpa whisper,
“Did you watch?”

That was the turning point in the boy’s life. He understood that
when his grandpa had said, “Just watch,” he meant, “Imitate me,
just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). He vowed that
from then on he would live as his grandfather did—striving to
please Jesus. He had watched, and now he knew how to live.

Is somebody watching you? Are there younger Christians who
need to see that it is possible to live for Jesus every day and in
every way? Challenge them—and yourself. Challenge them to
“just watch.” Then show them the way. (By: Dave Branon (Our Daily Bread, Copyright
RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI.)

Paul Sought God’s Will and Timing

He was aware that some arrogant people within the church were
spreading rumors that Paul didn’t want to come back to Corinth.
They may have assumed that he sent Timothy because he didn’t
want to come back.

That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Paul was simply waiting for God’s guidance and timing.
It’s arrogant to make our own plans without seeking God first.
Paul learned that on his missionary journey when they went into
Asia and God didn’t open any doors for them. They quickly left
because they knew God was guiding them elsewhere.

Good Christian leaders know when God is leading and only follow
His lead.
It’s a good reminder for us to always seek his will and timing.

Jesus modeled that in the garden as he was praying
“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me;
nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39

Paul Prefers to Discipline out of Love

Paul gave the Corinthian believers a choice on how he would
discipline them.
He could either come harshly with a rod or in gentleness and with

The choice is up to the believers. If they continue in their
arrogance and divisiveness Paul will be forced to discipline them
with the rod, but if they repent and follow the way Paul has
modeled for them, he will come with gentleness.
The fact is that God disciplines His children. If He doesn’t
discipline us, we aren’t His children.
He disciplines us for our growth. He wants us to be holy just as
He is holy. cf. Hebrews 12:5-12


The world is looking at the church to see if we will truly stand for
what we believe. Sadly, many churches have caved to social
pressures from the outside, tossing aside the truth from God’s
word. Others have taken a stance of hate and violence against
those who disagree with them.
God is just and sin will definitely be punished.
But God is also love and Christ met people at their point of need
and cared for them and served them in love.

We have to stand firm on God’s word and Imitate Christ as we
live each day.
We must treat people with kindness and patience even when they
don’t deserve it.
God has set the standard of holiness. Let’s live it out.