1 Corinthians 4:15
For though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have you not many fathers…
Our religion makes use of all the many and various relationships that obtain among men to set forth and to assist us in understanding spiritual realities.
I. GENERALLY SPEAKING, CHRISTIANS MAY BE DESCRIBED AS CHILDREN.
1. Like the Corinthians, most members of the Church of Christ need constant and watchful care. Providence has appointed that children should be born more dependent than the offspring of the inferior animals upon parental attention and devotion. From infancy unfit the approach of manhood and womanhood, human beings stand in need of the supervision and assistance of their parents. So is it with the members of Christ's Church. They are in need of pastoral care and kindness, and without this are not likely either to grow in Christian character or to escape the assaults of their foes.
2. In addition to care, they need wise and fatherly counsel. It would be well if spiritual pastors bore in mind the inexperience of a large proportion of the flock. Paul was a faithful counsellor, and in writing to these Christians at Corinth he warned them very faithfully against the faults and errors they were in danger of falling into. Not with severity, but with directness and earnestness, he admonished his spiritual children, and entreated them to render obedience to his advice and directions. Even sincere disciples of Christ are often in peril by reason of their own want of knowledge and experience, and by reason of the temptations which beset them in this world. Hence the importance of such pastoral admonitions as those of which Paul here gives an example.
II. THERE ARE IN THE CHURCH OF CHRIST THOSE WHO MAY BE DESIGNATED SPIRITUAL FATHERS. At Corinth the apostle occupied a pre-eminently honourable and influential position. He claims in this passage to have been, what the history of the Acts shows that he was, the planter of the vineyard, the founder of the edifice, the father of the family. It was by his labours, his bravery, his perseverance, that the Christian community came into existence. In the highest sense, of course, the Father was God himself, who gives the Spirit of adoption to all his people. But instrumentally, the apostle was blessed by God, through the preaching of the gospel, to the begetting and birth, so to speak, of this congregation, this spiritual household. This relationship involved the obligation on their part to reverence, honour, obey, and gratefully to love and rejoice in, one to whom they were, under God, so immeasurably indebted. For his was a unique position with regard to them. No other could claim to stand in the same relation, and Paul was bold to tell them so. Still are there those who are honoured by the calling of God to this spiritual fatherhood; and such should meet with that respectful and grateful recognition which is the due of benefactors so signally favoured by God himself.
III. TUTORS AND INSTRUCTORS IN CHRIST OCCUPY IN THE CHURCH A POSITION ONLY INFERIOR TO THAT OF SPIRITUAL FATHERS. At Corinth the charisma of teaching seems to have been imparted and exercised in a measure almost embarrassing in its abundance. Paul speaks hyperbolically of the "myriads" of tutors who followed up his apostolic labours. The same Spirit bestows gifts in multiplicity and variety. Let Christians be grateful for all the "means of grace," and especially for the holy and devout ministrations of the learned, the wise, the sympathetic, and the strong. For thus is it appointed that the Church should grow in grace. - T.
Parallel VersesKJV: For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.