Monday, March 11, 2024

The Right to Discipline (1 Corinthians 4:18-21)

"Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness?" (1 Cor. 4:21).

Some of the false teachers in the church spread rumors that Paul would not be coming to visit them. In their pride and self-conceit, they set themselves up as their own authority, thoroughly under-mining the authority of the apostle. They called into question his apostleship (9:1–3); they accused him of instability in his teaching (2 Cor. 1:17); they represented him as inadequate (2 Cor. 10:10). So prideful were they that they told others that the apostle was afraid to come to Corinth, even though this was far from the truth.

Undaunted by opposition at Corinth, Paul responds by emphasizing his authority and right to discipline those who opposed the kingdom of God. The apostle says that he will come to Corinth, “and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power.” At that time, Paul will expose the empty words of the false teachers, revealing that they have no true power, only eloquent speeches designed to undermine the true message of the Gospel. From this passage, we are reminded that God’s dominion is in the heart; the advancement of His kingdom, the essence of true religion, does not consist in mere professions and pompous displays of assumed authority but in a man’s behavior, his actions, the sincerity, faithfulness, and humility of his profession.

“Paul, so far from being afraid to go to Corinth, as his enemies imagined, was prepared to go there with authority,” Hodge wrote. “He was their spiritual father and ruler. He had the right and the ability to punish them. It depended on themselves in what character he should appear among them; whether as a punisher or as a comforter—whether in the exercise of discipline, or as a kind and tender parent.”

Paul’s confidence in his calling and role should encourage ministers today. While pastors and elders do not have the same authority as the apostle, they are still given authority to rule over the church and to exercise discipline. Many in the church might oppose them out of pride and self-conceit. But do not let the minister of the Gospel be afraid of those who ultimately oppose God. Let him exercise his duties faithfully with the authority given to him despite the opposition of vain and presumptuous men.

Does your church faithfully exercise biblical discipline? If not, why do you think it has failed to function as God has commanded? Pray for your pastors and elders that they might carry out their duties without fear.