The Power of the Kingdom (1 Corinthians 4:14-21)


Sermon by Daniel L. Sonnenberg | August 24, 2014

Text:

I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children.  15 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.  16 I exhort you therefore, be imitators of me.  

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.  18 Now some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you.  19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant, but their power.  20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in power.  21 What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod or with love and a spirit of gentleness?  (1 Co. 4:14-21 NAS)

Notes:

Issues in 1 Corinthians 1:10 – 4:21

  1. Quarrelling over leaders (Apollos, Peter, against Paul)
  2. Wisdom – quarrelling is about wisdom (Sophia)
  3. Boasting – boasting in mere men in the name of wisdom. Deeper problem – their view of Xian leaders as teachers of wisdom really ministers to their own exaltation. They boast about these great names, but only to boast in themselves.
  4. Against Paul – Paul defends his past ministry among them, but also his present relship with them since he is being judged by them. Quarreling is decidedly against Paul.
  • The key to these 4 issues is in the Greek world of the itinerant philosopher, many of whom were Sophists, the concern was more with polished oration than with significant content.
  • So with the coming and going of Paul, Apollos and Peter, the contrasts between them in style and content perhaps led the Corinthians to begin to think of their new faith as an expression of “sophia” or wisdom as the Sophists taught it.
  • They were quarreling over their leaders as teachers of wisdom, boasting in one or the other, and judging them from a merely human perspective.
  • Thus neither Paul nor the gospel came off well.
  • The message of a crucified Messiah, preached by an apostle who lived in considerable weakness would not impress the “wise” as they now considered themselves.
  • The greater issue is not the division itself, which is merely a symptom.
  • The greater issue is the threat posed to the gospel and thus to the nature of the church and its leaders.
  • The root cause of the quarreling was their false theology, which had exchanged cross with a false triumphalism or having already arrived at a state of exaltation that went beyond, or exceeded the cross. (Above is from Gordon Fee, NICNT, 1st Corinthians, pp. 48-50)
  • How can we as believers and as a church avoid falling into the same trap, and how can we maintain our focus on the cross?

We maintain our focus on the cross…

  1. Humbly imitating servant leaders. The nature of spiritual leadership: eloquent speeches or faithful lives?

Clearing up the misguided understanding of the nature of the church, esp. the relship of its teachers to the gospel.

Not shame but admonition, 14 

14 I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children.

Many tutors, one father, 15

 15 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.

Imitating Paul their father in X, 16

 16 I exhort you therefore, be imitators of me.

 Timothy as reminder, 17

 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.

We maintain our focus on the cross…

2. Boasting in the weakness of a crucified Lord. What’s your message? The nature of the gospel: man’s wisdom or God’s power? 

Clearing up the radical confusion about the nature of the gospel.

Arrogant attitudes, disobedient to the word, exalting one against another, exalts self, 18

18 Now some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you.

Jeremiah 9:23-24

This is what the LORD says: “Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches.  But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the LORD…

Gospel is not words, but power, 19-20

 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant, but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in power. 

  • We grow spiritually by the power of God, not by our own strength.
  • We grow by both standing in faith and by participating in an ongoing struggle of faith through sharing in the strength God has revealed in Christ and in our communion with Christ.
  • The gospel is the good news that as we share in the weakness of Christ through repentance, we share in the strength or power of Christ by faith.
  • The GOSPEL is the power of God for everyone who believes (Rom 1:16) (1 Co 1:18)
  • So Paul prays in Eph 1:19ff that the church may know how great the power of G is toward those who believe, acc to the working of the strength of his might, which he caused by raising X from the dead and by giving him a place at his right hand in the heavenly places.
  • The power of the new life in us takes place thru faith in the working of God, who raised X from the dead. (Col 2:12).
  • And the dwelling of Christ in the hearts of his people by faith is accompanied by being strengthened with power thru his Spirit in the inner man (Eph 3:16).
  • Therefore, the new life CONSISTS not only in possessing righteousness by faith in X, but also in knowing him and the power of his resurrection (Phil 3:10),
  • The Spirit is also a Spirit of power, and believers have to fulfill their calling acc to the power of God. (for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, (2 Tim 1:7-8).
  • And this sharing in the power of G is accompanied by and made perfect in human weakness.
  • We learn to take satisfaction in our weakness so that the power of X may be clearly revealed. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Co. 12:9-10)
  • Our weakness proves that all of life is bound to X.
  • He too was crucified in weakness, but he lives out of the power of God (For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God. (2 Co 13:3-4).
  • And finally, in our union with Christ we learn to understand this present earthly life in its deepest way. (For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Co 4:11) as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; (2 Co 6:9)
  • And this understanding is a source of strength and constitutes the evidence of the coming glory.

We maintain our focus on the cross…

  1. Choosing love. What do you want? The nature of the church: who will be your leaders, and what will be your message?

21 What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod or with love and a spirit of gentleness?

Spiritual growth and ministry growth comes by:

  • Humbly following servant leaders – imitating them as they imitate Christ
  • Faithfully obeying the crucified Lord – doing all that Jesus has commanded

1 Corinthians 2:1-5

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

Humbly imitating servant leaders

-Boasting in the weakness of a crucified Lord

-Choosing love

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