1 Corinthians 4:14-15
I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
God has graciously given the church ministers, who not only demonstrate the love of God, but also the fatherhood of God. Those who serve in this ministry must develop a caring and loving relationship that is fatherly. See Paul’s very special relationship with the Corinthians, not as their guide or guardian, but as their father.
A ‘guide’ or a guardian or godparent or pedagogue was a man, usually a slave. His work was to take a youth to and from school, and generally to supervise his activities. He told them that they had many of those, but only one father – Paul! This is what informed the statement, “… you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers.” (v.15). Paul on his part asserts so confidently, “For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”
What does a father do? First, he sires them. During his stay of more than eighteen months in Corinth, Paul had seen many of those who composed the membership at Corinth come to a new birth. He was their spiritual father, because through him they born again. He was the instrument in the Redeemer’s hand for the spiritual birth of the Corinthians. Undoubtedly the Spirit regenerated the Corinthians. But the Holy Spirit uses means. The means of new birth used for the salvation of souls is the Word of God – since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God (1 Pet. 1:23). Who brought this word of God to them? It was Paul. Paul described the human agency of a preacher this way:
It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! (Gal 4:18-19)
Secondly, the father disciplines in order to make them better.
Negatively, the father does not shame his own children. “I do not write these things to make you ashamed…” Paul says. That is to say that a good father does not do anything that provokes his children to anger.
Positively, the father admonishes out of his love. “…but to admonish you as my beloved children.” Paul says again. Those who are loved have to be disciplined. This is true even of our heavenly Father as we read in Hebrews 12:6-7:
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
When rebuking sin, we should have a regard to the reputation, as well as the reformation of the sinner. We should distinguish between sinners and their sins. In Christian service we take care not to discover any spite against those we serve. There should be no guile in us.
If you fail to reprove in the spirit of gentleness you risk exasperating them. Kindness and gentleness are likely to reform more than a rod, yet the two are not mutually exclusive. When the affections of a father mingle with the admonitions of a minister, it is to be hoped that they may at once melt and mend. We must never lash like an enemy exposing them to ridicule from the world.