1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 33

By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998
You know, you say tough things to the people you love. You probably would not say the same things to people you don’t know, love or care about. But to the people you love, you will say the hard things.

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1 Corinthians 4:14-17

Tough Love

You know, you say tough things to the people you love. You probably would not say the same things to people you don’t know, love or care about. But to the people you love, you will say the hard things.

We were in a restaurant some months ago. I am always in one somewhere, so it could have been any time. We were having fun with some friends and just laughing. My wife leaned over and whispered something in my ear. Only those who love you would tell you these things. She said, “Wayne, there is something green stuck between your front two teeth.” Immediately you say “What? Ummm, okay.” Then you proceed to work away and see if you can pull that awful piece of lettuce or whatever it is that you have got stuck right there between your teeth. Only the people who love you will tell you the things you might have not wanted to hear, but it is for your good.

You know, if I had understood this part of the scriptures before we started the book of 1 Corinthians, I would have started here. You have got to know the heart of the apostle Paul. He has been awfully difficult in some verses here. I mean, tough. You talk about saying some hard things to the Corinthian church. But he wants to make sure they understand the motivation of why he has done this. He loves them. He cares about them.

In verses 6-13, he really nailed them. He puts up beside their conceit and their arrogance and their fleshly immaturity the lifestyle of the apostles. The helpful thing is to remember that he loves them. That is why he is doing it. He is not some sarcastic individual. He is inspired by the Holy Spirit of God. This is God’s Word, not Paul’s word. It is God’s Word through Paul. So Paul is trying to remind them and is warning them and trying to get their attention.

As a matter of fact, if you think that was hard, go back to chapter 3. He says, “Hey, you are intentionally immature little babies, that is what you are. You won’t grow up. You attach yourself to men and the flesh, etc.” See, he has really been saying some hard things. And you can almost feel his heartbeat. Many times when you are disciplining your children you have to stop in the middle of it and say, “Now listen, I love you. I love you. Understand this. I am having to say some hard things, but I really do love you.” You can really feel the heartbeat of the apostle Paul doing exactly that.

In chapter 5 he turns right around, and it gets tougher. But he wants to them to know that if you love somebody, you will say the tough things. This is tough love. If you don’t care about them, you let them go. But if you love them, you can’t do that.

Paul’s concern for the Corinthians

Let’s look at four things about the character of the apostle Paul and how this tough love comes out of a compassionate, loving heart that he has. First of all, we see the concern Paul has for the Corinthians. They have got to know that. They can’t take what he is saying unless they know his love for them. He says in Verse 14, “I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children.”

In that first phrase he immediately gets to the point. He says, “I do not write these things to shame you.” The word “shame” is the word entrepo. There are several words for shame, but this particular word causes a person, out of extreme embarrassment, to withdraw. Have you ever had that happen to you? Somebody just humiliated you, just embarrassed you intentionally and it caused you to withdraw from the whole crowd. Paul says, “In no way am I doing this.”

As a matter of fact, he used the word for “not” there. “I do not write these things to shame you.” It is the word that would have gotten their attention. I wish in our language we had the way of expression they had in their language, because you can’t miss it. In their way of thinking, they would have heard Paul saying, “I would not any way, shape or form shame you.” The little word ouk is used there. Normally that is a word that means I would not in any way, shape or form, shame you. That is not what I am doing. You may feel ashamed because of what I have said to you because you are guilty, but I am not writing this to shame you. That is not my purpose.

You see, they have stepped out of bounds and as a loving father he is trying to draw them back, just like you would correct your children. Then he says, “I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you.” Have you ever noticed how shame affects your emotions? But when you admonish somebody, it goes beyond that, to the mind and to the heart when you are warning them. If they can understand that you are trying to warn them, it is different.

As a matter of fact, the word “admonish” is the word noutheteo. It comes from the word nous, which means mind that can understand, and the word tithemi, which means to place. So, noutheteo means to place something in one’s mind, in his understanding, to appeal to his mind, to warn him, to admonish him.

You see, these are spiritually immature children. They won’t come out of the nursery. Normally a child doesn’t understand correction. They think you are out to get them. That is why Paul is trying to say to them, “I know you don’t understand my motive, but I want you to know that I really do care about you, like a father warning a child.”

Look at the rest of the verse. He says, “I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children.” Now I want to tell you, you cannot find a more tender word than the word “beloved” anywhere in Scripture. It is a word in their language that meant affection. Paul is saying, “I really care about you all.” The word “beloved” is the word agapetos. To them it was just a very, precious, precious thing. It means dear. You are my dear.

Then in using the word “children” he is obviously referring to them in a spiritual sense, not a physical sense. You will see that even more in my next point. But how is he their spiritual father? How would they be his spiritual children? Well, obviously they are the children of God, but what connection does he have with them?

Well, go back to 1 Corinthians 3:6. He has a right, not only as an apostle, but because he has invested his life with these people and he cares about them. That is what he is trying to show them. First Corinthians 3:6 says, “I planted.” That means, “I planted; there wasn’t any seed there until I came. God used me to plant.” “I planted, Apollos watered.” Now remember, Apollos was the second pastor; he came along and watered what I had planted, “but God was causing the growth.”

Look at verse 10 of chapter 3. “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it.” And what is that foundation? Verse 11 tells us, “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

Paul says this to these immature children, who normally can’t take correction. He wants to make sure they understand. He is as a loving father to a child. He says, “You are to me like my own children. I have a spiritual connection to you and that is why I am saying the hard things that I am saying to you.”

A child has difficulty when somebody talks tough with them, when somebody wants to correct them. So Paul is saying, “Listen, what I am doing is as a father to a child. I have concern for you.” As a matter of fact, he is going to develop this now. It is moving from just concern to a deep compassion that he has for them. I want to tell you, folks, you can receive a lot of things from people whom you know love you. It is tough when you receive it when you know that they don’t love you.

Paul’s compassion for the Corinthians

Let’s look at the second thing then. The first thing is the concern of the apostle Paul. Secondly, the compassion of the apostle Paul takes a different dimension here. It moves even beyond just simple concern. Paul is going further to illustrate his fatherly love for them. A stranger’s words will be resented but not a father’s. He loves you. Only a father would know and understand that kind of thing.

Are you a father or a grandfather? If you are you will have no trouble with this passage whatsoever. Verse 15 says, “For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.” Now let’s make sure we understand this. God is our heavenly Father. But what he is talking about is in the sense of relationship in the spiritual world. He has a deep connection with them.

He says, “For if you were to have countless tutors.” That word “countless” most of the time is translated “ten thousand,” but the reason it is translated “countless” here is that it really means innumerable. Sometimes some translations pick it up and put “ten thousand.” The word really means that you can’t even number the quantity of them. So the apostle Paul says, “You can have innumerable tutors in your life but only one father.” He is doing this to show them the concern and the compassion that he has for them.

The word “tutors” comes from two words, the word that means child and also the word that means a leader, a leader of children, an instructor of children. In the day and culture that this came out of, this person was originally a slave who had charge of the son of a wealthy person. In other words, he was somebody else’s property, but he had charge over him to make sure he behaved. He would lead him to school and see to it that the child behaved properly. He was really more a guardian than an instructor, although there was instruction involved. He was a guardian. He watched over them to make sure they behaved properly.

Paul is not putting these guardians down. “Hey, these are good things. You will have innumerable tutors in your life, but what I want you to know,” he says, “I am teaching you something. They will teach you and instruct you and it will be right. Do what they say if it is the Word of God.” But he says, “I am coming to you as a father would to a child. Understand my heart. It is not as a simple guardian or as a simple instructor. Sure, I will teach you. But I want you to know my compassion that I have for you.”

The apostle Paul was much more than just a tutor. He felt as a father to his children. He says, “for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.” Now we saw how that basically took place, but look at what he says here. Look at the phrase “in Christ Jesus.” That is a significant phrase. Obviously we were in Adam, and we are now in Christ. So all things take place in Him. But I think it means more than that. It means in connection with Christ, making sure they understand there is a spiritual relationship here that we have. Because of my connection with Him, I have a deep connection with you. It was in Christ Jesus that the motivation came to go to Corinth.

Go back to Acts and you will find out that God led him over there. When he got there, the Isthmian games were coming up not far from then, and he met Priscilla and Aquilla. They were tentmakers, so they made tents together, obviously making money for the ministry that God had given to him. Then Timothy and Silas came over and they stopped making tents and just started evangelizing. Out of that came a church there in Corinth.

But it was in Christ, in connection with Christ. Christ wanted a church in that wicked, wealthy city in Greece. But not only that, it was in CHRIST that the burden came to share the gospel. It wasn’t Paul’s burden. It was God’s burden in Paul. It was in Christ Jesus that the power and the anointing came which drew the Corinthians to Christ and to conviction and to the cross.

So now it is in Christ Jesus that he has this relationship with the Corinthians. Truly, he is their spiritual father. He is writing to them and saying some hard things because he loves them and wants them to understand that if they will listen to what he has to say a transformation can come in their life.

Think about it. What father who loves his children would not do the same? I mean, it is awfully tough to do it, but what father would not do the same? Proverbs 3:12 says, “For whom the Lord loves, He reproves, even as a father the son in whom he delights.”

You can take this to any relationship where you know they love you. Bottom line, that is what he is saying. He is not stressing the fatherchild relationship; he is stressing the relationship and how he loves them, the compassion that he has for them.

Diana is my dearest friend. She loves me, and I know she loves me. There are times when I wish she had a little signal she could hold up. That little signal would mean, “Wayne, I am about to tell you something you don’t want to hear, so prepare yourself.” Sometimes she is very quick to do that without any counsel beforehand. I will get in the car after a church service and ask her, “Diana, what do you think? Did it communicate?” I never think I communicate. I never listen to any of my messages, because I can’t stand it. I am my worst critic. I just ask, “Did it even communicate? Did I get anything out that I think I got in?”

Sometimes she will say, “Yes, yes.” I will just say, “Oh, that makes my day, man.” I know the Lord is the one who approves me, but I do know Diana loves me and she will tell me the truth. But there are other times I will ask, “Diana, how do you think it went?” She will say, “You didn’t say this word right and you didn’t say that word right and you thoroughly confused me right here.” I am thinking, “I don’t want this!”

You see, most of us don’t want this. That is why Paul is trying to do. Listen, he has not said the tough things yet. You think he has been tough up until now; in chapter 5, he deals with the immorality among them which was worse than the pagan world. He is making sure they understand why he doing what he is doing.

The people who really love us are the people who will say the hard things to you. But if you know they love you, you can receive them that much better. God has given us His Word. We don’t need this clarified through Paul that He loves us. We know God loves us. That is why we have the Word. But oh, if we would just be receptive of those hard things that God wants to say to us so often.

Paul’s counsel for the Corinthians

First we saw the concern of Paul, but then it moves deeper than that. He shows them his compassion. Thirdly, we have the counsel of Paul. What is it he is going to say to them right now? He says, “I love you. I am saying these things for you.” He says in verse 16, “I exhort you therefore, be imitators of me.” Now you have got to be careful about this and understand what he is saying. The word “exhort” is the word parakaleo. Here it means to call upon someone, to come alongside them, to be called alongside them, to beseech them to do something, to entreat them to do something. It is a counseling word. You cannot counsel without this word. That is what it is for, to entreat them to come to the Word of God. That is what he is called alongside to do.

And what is his counsel? He says, “be imitators of me.” Boy, I tell you what, the word “imitators” is a good word. It is the word that we get the word “mime” from. It is the word mimetes. You know what a mime is, don’t you? Have you ever seen somebody do mime? How many words does a person say when they are doing mime? None. They communicate by their actions and you are supposed to be able to discern what they are doing and who they are by how they act.

So, the immediate thing you get out of this word is, “I am not concerned about your talk. I am concerned about your walk. I am talking to you about what you say; it is how you are living. That is what I am dealing with right here.”

When he says “be imitators of me,” mime me, he is not putting himself on a pedestal and saying, “I am up here and you are down there.” What he is saying is, “Do as I do.” It is in the present tense, as a lifestyle. It means to do as somebody else does.

Let me show you this in the New Testament. Perhaps you will get a better grasp of the word. Look over in chapter 11 and verse 1, just to make sure. Just a couple of things, that as I was studying, I thought might be good to bring out to make sure you are understanding what it says when it says, “be imitators of me.” The apostle Paul is in no way putting himself in a position of having arrived. He has something else he is trying to say to them. In 11:1 it says, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” In other words, Paul says, “I am doing something that I have seen in Christ that He does, and I want you to do the same thing.”

What is that? Back up in the context of 1 Corinthians 10:31 and look at what he says. “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Did Jesus not do that to His Father? Yes. And Paul says, “I seek to do that for Him. I want Him to be seen in me, and therefore, I want you to let Him be seen in you. Do what I am doing, which is surrender, bow, trust and obey.” That is what he is saying. It is not, “You do everything I do in my life. You have the same attitude towards God that I have. You receive the things that I have taught you.”

Look over in Ephesians 5:1. This is one of the more tough ones where the word is used. This is why I want to do this, because sometimes we misunderstand this and we think we can actually imitate somebody else’s life. No, sir. I can’t; God never said I could. He can; He always said He would. You have to continue to balance yourself with that thought. In Ephesians 5:1, look at what he said. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” You do as God does.

There was a guy who wrote a book years ago called “In His Steps,” Charles Sheldon. It is a great book. But to me, it misses the heartbeat of what Christianity is all about. I can’t do as God did. However, there is something here that I can understand. You see, if you think you can do as God does, you wake up in the morning and say, “God, I am going to love every brother You put in my life today, because You love everybody and I am going to do as You do.” By noon tomorrow, God is going to put a brother in your life you did not know existed. And by 1:00, you are going to be saying, “God, I can’t.” And God is going to say, “I never said you could.”

If you will take the context of the whole book of Ephesians, you will understand how to imitate God. Back in 3:16 we read, “Be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.” Accommodate Christ by your faith. Then the garment of chapter 4, that you will be wearing, is not something you are doing but something He is doing in you, that is being seen on the outside. Therefore, imitate God. You have to understand the whole context.

When you first hear, “Imitate something,” you think you can jump right into gear and do it. That is not what he is talking about. There is an attitude. There is a walk here. There is more to it than just miming somebody in the sense of how we would see it.

Over in 1 Thessalonians 1:6, it is in the context of joyfully receiving the Word of God in their lives. Paul says of the Thessalonians, “You also became imitators of us and of the Lord [How?], having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit.” In 1 Thessalonians 2:14 he says, “For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea [How? He says], for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews.”

So again, do as we do, but there is more to it than just do as we do. Hebrews 6:12 reads, “that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” And I think those are the two ingredients there. Patience meaning the ability to bear up under that Christ gives, trusting Him, bearing up under. These are things that God alone can empower you to do. So when Paul says, “Do as I do,” he seems to be saying more than that. He seems to be saying, “Do as I have taught you.”

Look at the context of Corinthians. Don’t be immature. Attach yourself to Christ. That is what I do. That is what I have taught you to do. You let Christ then do through you what He can only do. So Paul is bringing them to the teaching, bringing them to the walk, bringing them to the act of surrender and the act of putting their faith into Christ. He also has talked about the willingness to be a fool in the world’s eyes. That is the immediate context, the willingness to walk humbly before God, no matter how the world thinks about you.

You see, the Corinthian church was more concerned with the world than they were with God. Paul says, “We are not that way. We are the apostles. Do as we do. Humble yourself. Obey God. Let God be in you what He wants to be. Attach yourself to Him. And I guarantee you, the world will look at you then like you look at us, but don’t worry about that. Do as I do. The teaching that I have given to you, you do as I do.”

Paul’s companion for the Corinthians

So we have the concern of Paul, the compassion of Paul and the counsel of Paul. But then you come down to the companion of Paul. I want you to see this. The reason I put the companion there is because it was a “C” and it went on with the alliteration. But the real thing I want you to see is, Paul is going to send to them his closest companion. He calls Timothy his colaborer, his brother in the Lord. Timothy is as important to Paul humanly speaking as anybody could have been in those days. Paul says, “I can’t get to you, but oh, I am so concerned about you that I am going to send my closest companion, my biggest help that I have. I am going to send Timothy to you because I care about you.”

Man, you have to understand what is going on. If you just read it carelessly, you don’t realize what a sacrifice Paul is making. He is showing how compassionately he loves the people there in Corinth. “I am going to send Timothy, my beloved son in the faith.”

Look in verse 17. He says, “For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church.” The ways he speaks of are the ways that are a direct result of receiving what God has said and being empowered by the grace of God to do those things. Since Paul was not there, Paul said, “I want to make sure it continues on, so I am going to send to you Timothy, my beloved.”

He says, “For this reason.” That ties the things together; you see the link there. Paul is saying, “The reason I love you, the reason you are like my children, the reason I feel as a father to you, I am sending Timothy. Timothy will teach you the same things that I taught to you.”

“For this reason I have sent to you Timothy.” The words “I have sent to you” is aorist indicative, which means it is done, he is on his way as I speak. I have already made the decision and cut him loose. He is coming to you because I have a burden for you and you are going to have to be reminded of some things.

Now he says, “who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord.” Now, you talk about a guy who is close to Paul. Many people think Paul led him to Christ. However, there is a debate about that. Did he actually lead him to Christ? I am not going to enter into that debate except to say that he was strongly and spiritually connected to this man. As a matter of fact, he calls him his child in the faith. Here he says, “He is my beloved.” It is like there is something unique between Paul and Timothy. Paul had sunk his life into Timothy.

Then he writes to Timothy from prison and says, “Listen, Timothy, you find faithful men and you entrust to them what I have taught you and then they will find faithful men and they will entrust it to them.” He was a true disciple of the apostle Paul and co-laborer.

When Paul was in prison in 2 Timothy 4, he says, “Timothy, come to me. I am lonely. Please come to me.” The one person he wanted to see out of everybody in the world was Timothy. Timothy was so important to the apostle Paul. But Paul says, “Hey, I am going to cut him loose and I am going to send him to you. I can’t come, but maybe somehow by him coming to you, you will understand how much I honestly love you and care about you. You are going to have to have somebody to hold the standard in front of you, somebody to keep the life in front of you so that you will know how to walk.”

They were babies who refused to grow up. They are going to have to have somebody to constantly get them moving in their Christian walk. Why would he send Timothy? He says, “He is faithful in the Lord. You can put your confidence in him because he puts his confidence in Christ just like I put my confidence in Christ.” That is what Paul is saying. “You can count on Timothy. He is faithful in the Lord and I am going to send him to you.”

I know I may have dwelled on that for a while, but I want to make sure you understand that this was a big sacrifice Paul was making here, trying to show once again how much he is concerned about these people.

Now what is Timothy faithful to do? He says in verse 17, “For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church.” Do you think the apostle Paul went around, and because of his lifestyle, made up a set of principles and went and taught that to everybody? No. He taught the Word of God. He never minced the whole counsel of God. He is not speaking of his own ways. He is speaking of ways that have come from his constant study and teaching in the Word of God. “Timothy will teach you as I have taught you.” That is what he is saying.

The word “remind” is a good word. As a matter of fact, if you ever want to do a word study, do it on the word “remind” or “remember” in the New Testament. It will bless you. How many times we have to be reminded of something. Paul says in Philippians 3, “To write the same things again to you is no trouble to me. It will reap your benefit.”

Paul says, “I am sending him to remind you. YOU need to be reminded. Evidently you have forgotten something.” The word “remind” is anamimnesko. It comes from ana, again, and mimnesko, the word that means to put in mind. Together the two words mean to remind again and again and again and again. Implicitly, to put on exhibit in the mind is the priority, over and over and over and over again. It is through that the children learn particularly. Remember, these were immature children who would not grow up. The only way you teach a child is to remind them, remind them, remind them, remind them, remind them. Finally one day they become trained.

Have you ever thought about 2 Timothy 3:16? It says, “The Word of God is profitable, it is Godinspired, all Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable.” All Scripture is inspired by God, Godbreathed. It is profitable. What is the first thing it is profitable for? Teaching. Now hang on to this. Reproof, correction and then what? Training or instruction or training in righteousness. The word “training” is paideia. It means child training. Now do you realize where it starts and where it is headed? It starts with teaching.

I want you to understand something. Paul says, “You people have been taught. You already know this. You are going to have to be reminded, reminded, reminded until one day you grow up and your senses now are trained unto righteousness.” That is exactly what is happening here. “I am going to send Timothy to do the reminding over and over and over again.”

You tell a child, “Don’t go out in the street and play.” Does that child understand? Clearly understand? Yeah, he understands. Is he going to do it? No. You look out the door and he is out in the street. You get out there, grab him and reprove him by what you have said. You hold the standard up. “I told you not to, here is the consequence.” You discipline.

Then you give him instruction again, correction, reminding him of what you have already told him. And you say, “Now listen, do you understand? The way you don’t get this is by not doing that.” Then hopefully one day he will be trained. How many times do you have to do that to train somebody? Man, every day. Finally one day you forget to tell your child and you are thinking, “Oh, my goodness, I didn’t tell him not to play in the street.” You have told him 972 times before. You look out the window and what do you know! He is not in the street. He is in the yard! Oh, finally, he has been trained! But as long as he is a little child, he is going to have to be reminded, reminded, reminded, reminded and reminded.

So Paul says, “I am sending Timothy. I love you and he loves you. You probably won’t like him, though because he is going to keep on reminding you of the things which I have taught you, my ways which are God’s ways.”

Now, you ask, “Why are you telling me all this?” You have got to get the feeling of Corinth. They are not people who don’t know. They are people who know, but they won’t do it. Paul is having to just reprimand them for it because he loves them. And he says, “Not only am I going to reprimand you, I am sending Timothy to you and he is going to remind you, remind you, remind you, remind you, remind you and remind you until you grow up and you mature and your senses are trained unto righteousness.”

That is what somebody who loves will do. That is what compassion will bring about. Paul says, “He will remind you of my ways which are in Christ just as I teach everywhere in every church. My ways which are in Christ, God’s ways which He has taught me through the Word which I teach everywhere that I go.” Timothy had seen this. Timothy had been trained by Paul, and Timothy will do exactly what Paul had wanted him to do, just like he did when Paul sent him to Philippi. He will do the same thing he did when Paul sent him to Thessalonica to do the same thing. He will be faithful.

Paul says, “He is my truest companion. I need him. I lean on him, but you need him more than I do, and I am going to send him to you to remind you of these things.”

Okay. Tough love is when you are willing to tell somebody the hard things. It is harder for the one telling it than it is for the people receiving it. That is the heartbeat I get out of 1 Corinthians. He waits until chapter 4 and says, “Hey, man, I have been tough. Let me explain something. I love you. I am like a father to you. You are my children.” Then he turns right around and is hard on them for the next several chapters. But he wants to make sure they understand his heart because he will say these things to them because he loves them.

So when you hear what Paul is going to say the next several chapters, just remember. Here is a father who loves his children. Boy, he is going to say the hard things so he can turn them to where they can be a blessing to the Lord. He is even going to send Timothy to be a constant reminder that even though he is not there, the teaching is and it is going to go on saying the same thing until people have their senses trained and can grow up, get out of the nursery, throw away the pacifier and start walking like they ought to walk. That is the whole point.

The tough things, tough love. Are you willing to receive the tough love, not looking at me or Paul, but looking at the fact that God loves you so much He gave you the Word, not only His Son but the written Word? Every time you open it up, it is a love letter to you. Can you receive the hard things it says to your life?

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