1 Corinthians 4:21
What will you? shall I come to you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?
Evidently St. Paul desired to be precisely adapted to those whom he would teach. The tone and the substance of his teachings would directly depend on their moral condition. As a faithful teacher, he tells them it must depend on them whether he came to them "with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness." A brief outline will sufficiently guide thought on this subject.
I. ADAPTATION INVOLVES KNOWLEDGE.
1. General knowledge of human nature.
2. Particular knowledge of those to whom we minister.
3. Sufficient knowledge of the measure of our authority and influence.
4. Practical knowledge of the corrective instruments which we may use.
II. ADAPTATION INVOLVES DISCERNMENT.
1. Discrimination of the precise condition in which those we influence are at the time.
2. Of the differences in which each one may stand related to the evil we reprove.
3. Of the limitations to which reproof may be wisely subject, and of the time when the tone may be changed to one of encouragement.
III. ADAPTATION MAY DEMAND SEVERITY. Which may be very trying to our feelings, and very difficult in view of our disposition; but must be made to characterize our relations, if we would be found faithful. The severity of gentle souls is the mightiest persuasive to goodness. It was quite out of St. Paul's way to be severe, but, for that very reason, we feel his severity the more.
IV. ADAPTATION PREFERS COMMENDATION. So St. Paul writes, urging the Corinthians to remove the evils before he comes, for he would so much rather have only kindly and encouraging things to say. Impress that, as we are to God, he must show himself to us. See Psalm 18:24-26. And in the same way, as we are in godly habits, in moral and spiritual condition, so - in precise adaptation - must our faithful teachers be. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?