v1-7 - The Corinthian people had several things in common with our society, and one of them was their constant judging and critical evaluation of their leaders. Paul warns them (and us) not to have this judgmental attitude towards leaders in the church. Such men will receive both their praise and judgment from God, so in the meantime, as long as their advice is Biblical it must be followed. Paul reminds us that when we follow these leaders, it's because of their Biblical leadership, not their charismatic personalities (or lack thereof).
v8-13 - Another big aspect that the Corinthians had in common with us was their comfortable, wealthy lifestyle. As this book goes on, we'll see in so many situations where the Corinthians were grasping tightly to this comfort even though it was pulling them farther away from God. Paul counters with a very graphic representation of what it means to let go of the world for the sake of the gospel dripping with sarcasm (especially v10).
v14-20 - Paul softens his tone as this final passage begins, calling the Corinthians "his dear [beloved] children (v14)." At the same time, he doesn't set out to be the 'fun weekend dad' in this relationship either, realizing that as their spiritual father, there are times when he can come to them "in love with a gentle spirit," and other times when he must come "with a rod of discipline (v20)." There's a growing sentimentality in our culture that we can live independently from the church as Christians, especially when it seems so easy to see the hypocrisies of church leaders. But you're not designed nor meant to just listen in to a recorded sermon or hum along to Christian radio. As God's child, you are called to fight against the 'arrogance (v18)' that arises from our comfortable lifestyles and, as we read last week in Galatians, find true freedom by fully submitting to God and to His church.
OLD TESTAMENT REFERENCE:
In Numbers 11 gives a good example of how arrogant people lash out at their leaders. In this chapter, the wandering Israelites put the burden of their complaint against the manna God had provided them on to Moses (v11). Read how God responded: He gave them what they wanted, and then punished them severely for not submitting. Keep reading into chapter 12 for an example of how even Moses' siblings turned their backs on his leadership.
Use the comment box below to discuss one or more of these questions:
EYE FOR DETAIL—From what you recall seeing in this chapter, try answering the following question without looking at your Bible: Near the end of the chapter, Paul says God’s kingdom is not a matter of mere words or talk, but of something else. What is it? (See v20)
This chapter isn't saying that it's never ok to criticize or confront church leaders; sometimes it's necessary (remember, we're children of the Reformation!). After reading this chapter, what attitudes should you examine yourself for before criticizing leaders in the church?
Question 1 taken from The Complete Bible Discussion Guide: New Testament.
Follow the AAA Prayer Pattern:
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: The one who reveals mysteries (v1) and who will praise us when He brings to light what is now hidden in darkness (v5)
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Ask for the ability to imitate the example given by Paul and the other human authors of God's Word (v16).
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: