October 1, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“Some of you have become arrogant, thinking I will not visit you again. But I will come—and soon—if the Lord lets me, and then I’ll find out whether these arrogant people just give pretentious speeches or whether they really have God’s power. For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power. Which do you choose? Should I come with a rod to punish you, or should I come with love and a gentle spirit?”—1 Corinthians 4:18–21 (NLT)
The believers in Corinth had become arrogant, acting as if they were above correction because of the ways some spiritual gifts were manifesting among them. The division over gifts and allegiance to various teachers left them weakened as a church body and in need of spiritual correction—the correction they perceived they had outgrown. They acted as if Paul’s spiritual instruction was no longer necessary to guide them in their walk with Christ, for they had greater insight and revelation. Paul reminds them he wouldn’t hesitate to return to them himself (for he had previously sent Timothy to shepherd them), but questions whether upon arrival he’d find a teachable flock or haughty sheep.
Paul then states a powerful and necessary reminder to the Corinthians, and it’s just as true for us today: Living the Christian life is not measured by speech, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s the Holy Spirit who brings about heart change in each believer, who works to establish and preserve the church, and who advances the kingdom of God on the earth. Our words and teachings alone don’t produce the miraculous work of salvation and change—it’s God’s power at work through us.
The issue Paul addresses is timeless. First, he reminds us that no one in the body of Christ is above instruction. As believers, we’re to hold one another accountable for how we live out our faith. Our pastors, leaders, and mentors should be able to speak into our lives and teach us how to become more like Jesus. When our hearts are humble and teachable, we can be taught and corrected in order to grow and bear fruit for God’s kingdom.
Second, Paul reminds us that our efficacy in reaching others with the gospel is not done with mere words (although the use of words is certainly necessary), it’s done by the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s the Holy Spirit who produces the transformative work—to move the sinner’s heart, to draw souls to repentance, to bring conviction and restoration. The Holy Spirit works through the body of believers (the Church) to advance the kingdom. We’re certainly partners with God on this mission, but the end result isn’t achieved through our merits, but by His grace and power—and that’s a good thing, for we need not feel burdened or boastful about our labor because the outcome is always left to God (1 Corinthians 3:6).
In a culture where division is normalized and self-importance is elevated, may we remain humble to receive God’s loving correction from mature leaders who seek to grow us in our walk with God. May we remember we’re stronger together when we work to advance God’s kingdom, knowing the transforming power comes not from our eloquence, but by God’s Spirit alone.
Pause: Do you have wise and mature believers in your life who can speak truth to you? How do you receive their correction?
Practice: Ask a trusted leader or mentor to point out one area in your life to pursue growth. If you don’t have a relationship like this yet, take the next step to find a mentor or group leader.
Pray: Father, thank You for Your power at work in my life and in Your Church. Help me to love my brothers and sisters, to fight for unity in Your Church, and to put to death anything in my heart that promotes disunity and pride. Holy Spirit, give me a heart of humility, so I can love the discipline and correction that makes me more like Christ. Thank You Jesus that all this is possible because of Your death on the cross. Amen.
Gabriella Bemis serves as a volunteer for Calvary’s communications and worship teams. She holds an M.A. in psychology from Fuller Theological Seminary and is passionate about integrating her knowledge of human behavior with the truth of God’s word. When she is not writing resources or singing at church, Gabi loves to paint, cook, and enjoy time outdoors with her family and friends.