1 Corinthians 18-21
Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?
Paul openly rebukes the Corinthians for their arrogance in his absence – this is hypocrisy. Paul was going to visit them undaunted by their arrogance. When he visits, he will discipline these arrogant people. He expected a confrontation in which the power of the Holy Spirit would reveal some disciplinary action against those who harm the church.Paul, then introduces the kingdom of God (v.20). The phrase, ‘the kingdom of God’ means, God’s reign/rule in human life. Christ is the King of kings (Matt. 6:33; Mark 10:15; Isa. 41:21). Christians are members of the kingdom of God because of the Lord Jesus Christ who is enthroned in their hearts as King. Christ brought this kingdom by His coming. Christians possess an inheritance in the kingdom in the future (Matt. 25:34; Luke 22:16; 2 Tim. 4:18; Heb. 12:28).
But the problem is that the Corinthian church members were not living as citizens of this kingdom. They were more ‘Corinthians’ than pilgrims headed to the Celestial City. They loved divisions just like the world. They tolerated immorality. They spoke in arrogance and pride just as the world. The same word in verse 6 translated ‘puffed up’ is here translated as arrogance. Literally, it means, ‘bellows’ for it shows itself in big talk (v. 18; cf. 5:2 and 13:4). They were full of talk without any spiritual power (v. 19). They needed to appreciate that the Christian life and service is not a matter of empty words but of power in holiness, spiritual maturity and obedience to God.
We ought to judge a preacher's doctrine, in terms of its effects in godliness in himself and his hearers. Find out if one’s ministry is producing likeness to God, and to Christ. Are people getting more heavenly-minded or are they worldly? Do you see spiritual change in men's hearts? Are people killing sin? Do you see spiritual piety? Do you people tremble at the word of God?
Then Paul put it to their choice how he should come and deal with them. Shall I come to you with a rod (whip) or with love and the spirit of gentleness (v.21). The point is if they continued in wickedness then it would be essential to come with a rod to chastise them for their indiscipline demonstrated by their ungodliness and want of righteousness.
Stubborn offenders must be dealt with severely. In families and in Christian communities, paternal pity and tenderness will require to be shown by chastisement. Christian love and compassion sometimes force formative discipline.
Yet he was also willing to display to them the tenderness of a father. Christian ministry should always be tempered with the spirit of love and gentleness predominant, and yet to maintain its spiritual power, and discipline.
What are the characteristics of Christian service?
1. Faithful Stewardship (vv. 1-5)
2. Humble Ministry (vv. 6-8)
3. Willing Service (vv. 9-13)
4. Fatherly care (vv. 14-15)
5. Exemplary Living (vv. 16-17)Spiritual Power (vv. 18-21)