1 Corinthians 4:14
I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you as my beloved children.
A Honourable OccupationT. L. Cuyler.1 Corinthians 4:10-14
Apostolic MeeknessJ. Lyth, D. D.1 Corinthians 4:10-14
Honest LabourJ. Lyth, D. D.1 Corinthians 4:10-14
Mammal Labour Gentlemanly1 Corinthians 4:10-14
Paul and the Corinthians: a ContrastProf. Godet.1 Corinthians 4:10-14
Paul's Treatment of Self Conceited TeachersD. Thomas, D. D.1 Corinthians 4:10-14
The Folly of PaulProf. Beet.1 Corinthians 4:10-14
The Triumph of the True ChristianJ. Lyth, D. D.1 Corinthians 4:10-14
True ReligionJ. Lyth, D. D.1 Corinthians 4:10-14
A Teacher Must not Set an Imperfect Example1 Corinthians 4:14-21
Censoriousness and Faithfulness ContrastedHomilist1 Corinthians 4:14-21
Christian LineageW. R. Campbell.1 Corinthians 4:14-21
Christian Training IsJ. Lyth, D. D.1 Corinthians 4:14-21
Paul an Example to Parents and TeachersJ. Lyth, D. D.1 Corinthians 4:14-21
Spiritual ParentageE. Hurndall 1 Corinthians 4:14-21
Spiritual PaternityD. Thomas, D. D.1 Corinthians 4:14-21
Spiritual PaternityC. H. Spurgeon.1 Corinthians 4:14-21
Teaching by ExampleJ. Lyth, D. D.1 Corinthians 4:14-21
The Father and His ChildrenH. Bremner 1 Corinthians 4:14-21
The Force of ExampleI. Barrow, D. D.1 Corinthians 4:14-21
The Pedagogue and the FatherCanon Evans.1 Corinthians 4:14-21
The Spiritual FatherJ. Lyth, D. D.1 Corinthians 4:14-21
The True Minister is the Father of His FlockJ. Lyth, D. D.1 Corinthians 4:14-21
Warnings of TendernessC. Lipscomb 1 Corinthians 4:14-21

From mood to mood, yet in all, St. Paul had the same dominant zeal and affection in behalf of his converts. Rebuke was not with him a pleasure to which the natural man ministered, but a very painful duty that proceeded from conscience and kept sensibility unalloyed by animal passion. Herein he is distinguished from men who love authority because it is a signal of personal eminence and a means to make others feel their inferiority. A really superior round never likes to dwell on the infirmities of ignorance and littleness in those below him. The mountain points upward, and the higher the summit the more is it lost in the heavens. "Who maketh thee to differ?" is always present as the interrogatory of consciousness in such a nature, and the answer thereunto, whenever a true man has to vindicate his authority and especially in rebuke, is as Divine as the question. The delicacy of the apostle and his depth of insight have not forsaken him in this trying hour, nor would he expose the vanity of such as made themselves leaders and assumed transcendent powers, save in a manifest spirit of self abnegation. Manner is not a mere mode; it is a spirit; it is the very spirit of a man taking on a visible embodiment, and hence the rebuke administered by St. Paul is impregnated with the humility of his soul. There are men who commit

"Mischievous foul sin in chiding sin;"

but it would be a poor compliment to the apostle to say that he was not one of this class. What is most truly to his honour is his purpose to make the Corinthians sensible of the wrong to their better nature, and quicken from that side of their character the feeling of repentance. This brings out the sentiment of his soul in the words, "I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you;" and again the master thought of all his thinking recurs - Christ Jesus - in whom he had begotten them through the gospel, urging them to be imitators of Christ in him. To be genuinely serviceable, imitation must not be mechanical and servile, not be the literal copying of a pattern or model, but an education in the art of discriminating, and particularly a sense of the ideal in those whom we follow. For this reason, that they may be reminded of his "ways which be in Christ," he has sent Timotheus unto them. Prudence dictated this course. Circumstances were such as that absence would be his most effective presence - one of those occasions when a man's thoughts had better do their work unattended by the emphasis of eye and voice. But would they misinterpret this and attribute it to cowardice? "I will come to you shortly," leaving the time to the will of the Lord, for in executing a grave purpose it is not enough that we have the Spirit in our motive and aim, but we must wait patiently on the providence of the Spirit, which is often our best discipline. St. Paul's expectations were rarely fulfilled promptly, instance his visit to Rome; hope grew more reverent by delay; and in no aspect is his career more interesting than in that which shows how postponed gratification of desire ennobled the desire itself and secured a larger good to others. Fruit must grow, ripen, mellow, especially inward fruits, and St. Paul prized the mellowing touch of time. Many a lesson he gives us unawares in psychology, many an insight into the philosophy of true feeling, many a revelation of the soul, which but for him would have been a "hidden mystery." But, while waiting for "time and place to cohere," he utters his opinions strongly as to those who are "puffed up." What an ever recurring sense of cardinal principles! Great truths are never long out of sight, and hence the declaration, "The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power." Did he underrate language? Nay; who ever spoke of language in a higher strain than he who did not hesitate to allude to his own preaching as not in the "words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth"? But the idle and impotent word, the word of swelling vanity, the word that dishonoured the Word, - for this he had only rebuke and condemnation. Such use was stolen use, the gift turned against the Giver, a redeemed gift wrested from the Redeemer, a recognized organ of the Holy Ghost taken from its only Sanctifier. For this must be said of language, that it is not merely or chiefly a medium of acting on others, but that it reacts on the man himself. Apart from its conventional functions, it is an instrument of communion with self, of stating self to self, of inspiring, while defining faculty to faculty in the mind's solitary cognizance of its own powers. Language is far mightier for introverted conception, for images that never escape the picturesque world in which they have their birth and life and death, for emotions and affections to which silence is the most precious of blessings - far mightier, we say, is language in this respect than in its economic uses. From the lexicon we learn the language that gives us inter. course with men. From our own souls and by conversing with them we learn the language by menus of which we compare "spiritual things with spiritual." Even on the plane of common life, the former is confined to communication. Expression is a very different thing from bald communication. Expression is due to the ability of the Spirit to vitalize words by imparting its own life to them. Something individual, something distinctly personal, imparts itself in expression. Hyperboles are matters of fact to the inmost consciousness, and all eloquence and poetry are but symbols of what the soul sees and can only intimate in this half articulate way. "I will know when I come" - so St. Paul reasons - "whether your speech is empty words, the wisdom which man's wisdom teacheth and is foolishness to God, or the power of the Spirit." This is the test - God's power. Only through that power can these Corinthians advance the kingdom of God; for only through it can they have oneness with Christ and fellowship with his disciples. Come to them St. Paul will - come to them as a father - the acknowledgment of them as sons, beloved sons, precedes him, and he will not forget his relation to them; but how shall he come? With a father's rod or in love? Will they relieve him of the necessity of discipline? And the thought of love lingers in his mind, amplifies itself, seeks fuller utterance, and the father's heart throbs once more in the associated clause - "the spirit of meekness." - L.

I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.
He proceeds —


1. Not as a schoolmaster, but as a father.

2. Not to shame, but to warn.

3. Not to threaten, but encourage (ver. 16).

4. Not to punish, but to supply suitable help (ver. 17).


1. He discourages the perverse (ver. 18).

2. Exposes the false.

3. Exalts the true.

4. Submits the choice of a rod or love.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)



III.FIRM IN ITS PURPOSE (vers. 18-21).

(J. Lyth, D. D.)


1. Not a mere instructor, but the instrument of communicating new life.

2. This cannot be accomplished by severity, but by a loving proclamation of the truth.


1. Depends upon example (ver. 16).

2. Supposes that he is in Christ (ver. 17).

3. Will generally succeed where precept and example are combined.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

"He that would be a good man must have either a friend to admonish him or an enemy to watch over him." Censoriousness —

I. IS A NIMROD, a mighty hunter for faults (Jeremiah 20:10; Psalm 56:6). Faithfulness does not delight to dwell on a fault, but censoriousness does.

II. A MIGHTY CREATOR It makes faults where there are none; it puts the worst construction on words and actions. Examples: The Pharisees and disciples going through the corn-fields. Eliab to David. It calls zeal rashness — Michael to David. Faithfulness is discreet in its decisions.

III. IS AN EASY RELIEVER WHERE HE IS NOT AN INVENTOR OF FAULTS. Examples: The two false witnesses against Christ. The people of Ephesus when Demetrius slandered Paul. The Israelites when the spies returned and brought the evil report which the Israelites believed. Faithfulness is not credulous; it believes not every spirit, but "tries the spirits."

IV. IS A KIND OF OPTICIAN. It magnifies small things, makes a man an offender for a word, carries magnifying-glasses with it. Faithfulness endeavours to mitigate the offence (1 Peter 4:8).

V. IS A KIND OF CRIER. It propagates the faults of men where they are not known. Example: Ham (Genesis 9:20-22). Faithfulness concealeth the matter (Genesis 9:33; Proverbs 11:13).

VI. DELIGHTS TO DWELL ON A FAULT (Psalm 102:8). Faithfulness grieves and laments the failings of others (Proverbs 24:17).

VII. IS VERY SUPERCILIOUS IN ITS REPROOFS (Isaiah 55:5; Luke 18:11). Faithfulness is tender of the reputation of others, and desires to reclaim and restore them.


Though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers.
The word "pedagogues" — who in most cases were charged with constant attendance on boys till they came of age — here denotes in a figure the later workers in the Corinthian Church. Of this Church St. Paul has been termed the founder, his successors the after-builders; he the planter, they the waterers: now he is father, they the tutors. The apostle here merely wishes to remind his readers of his own paternal rights, which can never be invalidated by subsequent labourers in the same field. Observe that they are called "tutors in Christ," but he "father in Christ Jesus" — i.e., a host of tutors ye may have in the sphere of knowing about Christ; but into the life of knowing Christ as Saviour, none but I begot you by my preaching of the gospel. "I" is emphatic: mine was a moral begetting unto salvation; this took place once for all; teachers after me are not spiritual fathers, but educators in the faith which I sowed.

(Canon Evans.)



1. Instrumentally.

2. By the Spirit of Christ, who originates life into the soul.




(J. Lyth, D. D.)


1. Something more than to become the father of one's ideas. There are gifted men who generate the leading ideas in the minds of their contemporaries, by their conversation, speeches, writings. But these are mere schoolmasters or teachers. Coleridge and Carlyle arc examples of this.

2. Something more than the author of a certain style of thinking. Aristotle, Bacon, &c., are examples.

3. One who generates in another his own spirit, sympathies, and aims; one who transforms the character of another into his own image.

II. THAT THE NOBLEST SPIRITUAL FATHER IS HE WHO BEGETS IN ANOTHER THE CHRISTLY CHARACTER. Many are the moral characters prevalent among men — the sensual, the sceptical, the selfish. The Christly character stands in sublime contrast to these; it is disinterested, spiritual, Divine. The man who generates in others this character —

1. Imparts the highest good. To be like Christ is the highest end of being; it is the summum bonum of souls.

2. Creates the highest mutual affection. Paul called Timothy his "beloved son," and speaks with inexpressible tenderness of his converts as his little children with whom he travailed in birth (Galatians 4:10).

III. THAT THE CHRISTLY CHARACTER IS ONLY BEGOTTEN BY THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST. Natural religion cannot do it; Judaism, Mohammedanism, heathenism cannot do it; no speculative creeds, moral codes, ritualistic religions can do it. The gospel alone is the power to generate in man the true Christly character; it is that transformative glass into which as we look we get changed into the same image from "glory to glory." Conclusion: Learn from this —

1. The supreme interest of man. What is that? Learning, wealth, fame? No; Christliness. He who has this, has everything; all things are his. He who has not this, has "nothing," says Paul.

2. The grandest distinctions amongst men. What are they? Sages, soldiers, sovereigns? No; spiritual sires. The man who generates in another the Christly character has done a greater work than any sage or king has ever done. Every man may, and ought to, become a spiritual father.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

As a child who has been kept in ignorance of his parentage rejoices to know those who have given him life, so we in times of evil condition and days of questioning may be made glad in the knowledge that we belong to a noble race.


1. The propagating power of the Divine life in men is one of the distinctive features of Christ's religion. Other systems have made provision for carrying down their tenets, but the office of the Spirit of God is to recreate. The Founder of Christianity and His disciples claimed those in their day as "children," those who had been born again into a new family circle.

2. In looking up the genealogy of any line, the fact that there were known to be numerous descendants gives us the best evidence that we shall be able to trace the branches to the parent stock. The Church has as well authenticated outlines from the time of Constantine, in 325, as have the governments of the greatest nations of the past or their ruling houses.

3. You will realise, however, that a Church which has reached this stage of organisation and influence must have some time allowance for its crystallisation. Your scientist wants you to grant him thousands of years for the erosion of the bed of Niagara and the glacier tracts and deposits of natural forces. He must not deny some fair period of Christianising energy to cut the channel in which we find the love of God moving within the visible Church, so that the gospel might spread as it had done from India to Spain and Britain. The graves of the saints would bridge the gulf from to , if there were no other records. Their inscriptions of the Christian virtues, hopes of immortality, and faith in Jesus would restore the materials for our family history, and the types by which we could trace our ancestry if all other lines should fail.


1. Paul traces his own new birth and life to Jesus, so that we may consider the great apostle to the Genthes as a representative of what men had begun to he in the line of Christian descent, and compare ourselves with him. We are told what .was the character of other people before they also were changed (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). In order to set forth more clearly the type of the new family, an example is given of one of Paul's pupils (ver. 17). Timothy is, as it were, a spiritual grandson of Jesus. We can tell what the gospel was as it worked in the son, sire, and founder of our faith. Then Timothy is particular not to teach doctrines only, but to put the people in remembrance of Paul's ways. They could see whether the child's walk and features were like those of the parent, and were "in Christ."

2. There are many varieties of temperament among children of the same household, and the Christian family presents us those with differing and peculiar traits. But does any candid man dare to say he cannot find to-day the type of those who formed the early Church in spirit, love, and works? If the men of the kingdom come short of your ideal, ask yourself where you received this noble image of the mind save from the gospel history. It should not be a matter of surprise that grotesque forms come to us from the isolated frontier communities of the world. The wonder is that they have preserved any likeness to our great ancestors. Select the best examples of faith and service in our world to-day, and you will be careful how you say you cannot find Christ, or His truth, or His will for you to obey. Through all the ages of darkness, idolatry, and persecution, the Spirit has been among men.


(W. R. Campbell.)

In my fernery I have some ferns which have little ones growing on the ends of their fronds; and as they are fine specimens, there are great numbers of the baby-ferns. Probably as many as three or four hundred complete ferns have sprung up out of each mother-fern, all of them having tiny roots, and everything necessary to their growth, so that you have nothing to do but to pick them off, put them in a little silver sand, and they will grow, and by and by become mother-ferns themselves. Every one of them, if broken off the frond, will live and grow; but you need not break them off, for they will continue to grow without being separated from their mother, for they are all alive, and they do not appear, by their existence, to cause any damage to the original plant from which they spring. The baby-ferns will keep on living and growing as long as the frond of the mother-fern lives; and even when the frond dies, each baby-fern, if it is planted, will live and thrive, and in its turn will become a mother-fern, producing its hundreds of children to perpetuate the species. There are other plants that are somewhat similar to the mother-fern in this respect. I saw at Mentone a very fine specimen of a flowering aloe. It sent up its blossom high into the air, and in due season the little aloes fell off, and dropped into the ground, and wherever they fell they grew after the manner of the mother-plant. I picked one up, and brought it home; and now it is growing into quite a large plant. These little aloes are born alive; they do not come in a seed, like a bird in an egg, but they come from the plant — living things falling from the living parent. Now, is not this a good illustration of what a Christian should be? It is well to be a living Christian yourself; but it is better to have springing from you many others that are your offshoots, each one ready to start on his own account, and to take root, and multiply to almost any extent. If you and I are living, acting, serving, growing Christians ourselves, maintaining a high degree of spiritual life, we may be the means, by the blessing of God, of imparting life to many others. Those to whom we are thus blessed will be to us what Paul's converts were to him, "our glory and joy." Every true servant of the Lord Jesus Christ leaves an influence for good behind him when he is taken away; but it is better still if his influence is also felt while he lives.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Wherefore, I beseech you, be ye followers of me.

1. Christ.

2. Scriptural examples.

II. IS INCUMBENT ON ALL, especially ministers, parents, teachers, &c.

III. SUPPOSES SOME PROFICIENCY IN THE TEACHER — principle, practice, motive.

IV. IS MOST CERTAIN AND EFFECTIVE. It is more simple, persuasive, powerful.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

1. It is our duty and concernment to regard the practices of good men, and to follow their example. It is the manner of the apostles on all occasions to inculcate the duty of imitating the examples of the good.

2. That we might have worthy patterns to imitate, God hath raised up in all ages excellent persons to lead us by good example in the paths of righteousness.

3. It was a special design of God's providence in recording and recommending to our regard the sacred histories. They were not framed as monuments of a fruitless memory; they were not proposed to us as entertainments of our curiosity; but they are set before us as copies to transcribe, as lights to guide us in our way to happiness.

4. Good example is of exceeding advantage to practice on many accounts.

I. IT MORE COMPENDIOUSLY, EASILY, AND PLEASANTLY INFORMS OUR MINDS AND DIRECTS OUR PRACTICE THAN PRECEPTS OR ANY OTHER INSTRUMENT OF DISCIPLINE. Who would not more readily learn to build by viewing carefully a well-contrived structure, than by a studious inquiry into the rules of architecture? or to draw by setting a good picture before him, than by merely speculating on the laws of perspective? Neither is the case much different in moral concernments; one good example may represent more fully and clearly the nature of a virtue than any verbose description. E.g. —

1. If we desire to know what faith is, and how we should rely on the Divine Providence, let us propose to our consideration the practice of Abraham.

2. He that would learn how to demean himself in resisting the assaults of temptation, let him consider that one carriage of Joseph.

3. Would we learn wisdom, constancy, and resolution in the conduct of honest and worthy designs, let us set before our eyes the pattern of Moses.

4. Would you be instructed how faithfully to discharge the ministerial or any other office? With a steadfast attention then behold the excellent pattern of St. Paul.

5. I might in like manner instance how Elias's practice might teach us to be zealous champions for truth and righteousness; how they who would be good judges, or honest patriots, may receive direction from the carriage of Samuel, Daniel, and Nehemiah.

II. IT PERSUADES AND INCLINES OUR REASON TO GOOD PRACTICE, COMMENDING IT TO US BY PLAUSIBLE AUTHORITY. For that wise and virtuous persons do anything is a very probable argument that we are concerned to do the like. It is obvious in temporal concernments how boldly men adventure their dearest interests in following such whom they deem honest and able to guide them.


1. It raises hope, by discovering to us the possibility of success in undertaking good designs, and that by the best and most convincing of arguments, experience. "The example," saith St. Bernard, "of a work done is a lively and efficacious oration, easily persuading what we intend by proving that feasible which we strive to persuade unto."

2. It inflames courage. So the apostle to the Hebrews signified when he set before them the examples of the patriarchs. How many persons, timorous and averse from dangerous undertakings, have notwithstanding become very bold and adventurous in war by the discipline and influence of an exemplary valour!

3. It provokes emulation, moving us earnestly to desire, and thence eagerly to pursue, whatever good, privilege, or advantage we see another to enjoy. Shall he, a man like myself, by noble dispositions and worthy performances, render himself highly considerable, while I, by sordid qualities and unworthy practices, render myself despicable? Shall a stripling David gloriously triumph over giants, while I basely am vanquished by dwarfs?

4. It works on modesty, that preserver and guardian of virtue, as Cicero calls it. For every good action of another doth upbraid and shame him who acteth not conformably thereto.

5. It awakens that curiosity which is of no mean efficacy on our actions. For whatever we see done, we are apt to inquire why and to what purpose it is done, what the grounds are, and what the fruits of the performance.

6. It pleases the mind and fancy in contemplation, thence drawing a considerable influence on practice. No kind of studious entertainment doth so generally delight as history, or the tradition of remarkable examples. Conclusion: Consider that God hath provided and recommended to us one example, as a perfect standard of good practice: the example of our Lord, the which declareth the use and efficacy of good example as one principal instrument of piety.

(I. Barrow, D. D.)

The teacher must be himself his own illustration. And he must aim at the highest. His example will be their standard. This is natural. A pupil teacher at school used to gain a good deal of popularity by writing a line or two on the copy-books of the children in his class. One day the head teacher said, "Do you know Why the boys like you to write the first line in their copy-books?" "I suppose it is because they think I am a good writer," replied the conceited youth. "No; it is because they know you are a bad one," was the answer. "The headline is perfect, and hard to follow. Yours is such a poor copy, that any one can imitate it quite easily."

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