Sending Timothy to Remind You (4:17)
Paul has established his authority as both the Corinthians' apostle and father. Now he announces why he is dispatching Timothy to them with an apostolic commission.
"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." (4:17)
Timothy's task is to reinforce to the Corinthians what Paul lived out before them and what he had taught them. Notice how Paul describes Timothy here -- "my son whom I love" and "faithful in the Lord." Paul can trust Timothy with this delicate mission because Timothy has proved himself reliable and faithful. Could God send you on a delicate mission and expect you to complete it satisfactorily? Jesus said,
"Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much." (Luke 16:10)
"Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things." (Matthew 25:21)
In our training, God gives us little tasks. And as we complete them faithfully he gives us more. So also, in selecting church leaders, we must be sure they are faithful people. Of prospective deacons, Paul says,
"They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons." (1 Timothy 3:10)
Q4. (1 Corinthians 4:17) What qualities about Timothy encouraged Paul to send him on a sensitive mission to the Corinthians -- that might have involved some disrespect and abuse? If God were to call you to fulfill a sensitive mission -- to a neighbor or across the world -- would you accept? Why or why not?
Arrogance Will be Confronted by Paul in Person (4:18-21)
Having established his authority, Paul warns those who still dare to oppose him. Arnold Schwarzenegger famously says in the 1984 film The Terminator, "I'll be back!" In a similar way, Paul puts them on notice that he is coming in person to deal with anyone who still opposes him.
"18 Some of you have become arrogant119, as if I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing120, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power121 they have." (4:18-19)
A lot of Christian blow-hards can loudly and arrogantly express their opinions, but they have nothing to back it up. They're just hot air. The story goes that one day a lady criticized evangelist Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899) for his methods of evangelism in attempting to win people to the Lord. Moody's reply was "I agree with you. I don't like the way I do it either. Tell me, how do you do it?" The lady replied, "I don't do it." Moody retorted, "Then I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it."
Critics are generally talkers, not doers. God's kingdom is different. Paul says,
"For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power." (4:20)
Now Paul concludes his exhortation.
"What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a whip, or in love and with a gentle spirit?" (4:21)
You might not like this. Why should Paul threaten, you ask. But think how a parent talks to an arrogant child. That's what Paul is doing here.
Being a Christian leader requires a lot of us -- faithfulness, endurance, putting up with abuse and misunderstanding, and much, much more. Dear friends, we are often such wimps, such complainers! God forgive us! I thank God for men and women who have gone before us and set the bar high that we might aspire to serving the Lord no matter what comes our way.
Jesus told his disciples,
"Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me." (John 15:20-21)
Jesus told Ananias about Saul (Paul), just after his conversion:
"This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." (Acts 9:15-16)