Honouring the ‘Father-Son’ Relationship
The forecast for the afternoon was thundering and lightning. I planned to take my three-year-old grandson outside to see what it was like–as you do. I explained that, when cold and hot air come together, there is lightening and a great big BANG! Happy Fathers’ Day!
I agree with boxing heavyweight champion Ken Norton in saying, "Of all the titles I've been privileged to have, 'Dad' has always been the best." Today I share characteristics of the Father-Son Relationship and refer to the letter of a spiritual champion, the NT Apostle Paul– Reading v14 I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. v15 Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. v16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me. v17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church. (1 Corinthians 4:14-17; NIV)
Paul was a most ardent and effective follower of Jesus Christ and planted many churches, including the one at Corinth. He was not only a charismatic leader. He also became a compassionate, father-like figure to those under his spiritual care. We see in this letter a deep, spiritual “father-son” relationship between Paul and the Corinthian church, and between Paul and his spiritual son Timothy. I will highlight two of the characteristics of Paul’s fatherhood and two of Timothy’s sonship and then relate them to the Holy Trinity.
Characteristics of Paul’s Fatherhood:
1. Warns, not shames v14 I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children.
The first characteristic of Paul’s spiritual fatherhood is to correct and warn his spiritual children, but not to shame and humiliate them. This is appropriate for all godly leaders. Warn and discipline, but don’t take pleasure in shaming and humiliating those under your influence; don’t laud it over them. Be sensitive, listen, and see what their feelings and needs are. Love them in the Lord!
The Corinthians were arguing with each other about who was the greatest according to whether they were following the apostles Apollos, Peter, or Paul. The more “spiritual” members claimed they were followers of Christ. However, Paul rebukes them all for arguing like this in the first place. He compares the suffering of the apostles of Christ with their being so blessed in Christ. He is like saying, “How stupid you are for arguing!” In order not to humiliate them, he suddenly changes tactics and makes this heart-felt assurance, “I am not writing to shame you but to warn you as dear children!”
In our recent travels, Lisa and I attended a church where there was a dangerous teaching about divine healing. They taught that all sicknesses could healed simply by praying in faith. Having researched this area, I had to say something. After the meeting I spoke personally with the main leader in a friendly manner, not loudly to humiliate but to question and stimulate a rethink of their perception. They were virtually implying not to go to the doctor or take medicines (which is unbiblical), though he denied they would say that. Though Christian, we are not sinlessly or physically perfect while on earth. We can be healed miraculously but it is never a perfect healing. The curse of eternal death is removed, but not yet that of natural death. Incidentally, I did pray for a lady with a swollen wrist at a meeting this last week and she felt pain release. But I prayed with sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, as an exercise of faith, and not in an attention drawing, potentially humiliating manner.
2. Sends a son to help v17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love.
In the Christian life, people need more than instructions and the fleeting correction of a letter. They need a personal presence, a living example to follow. Paul knew this and sent his spiritual son, Timothy, to the Corinthian church. Timothy was a great example and could help them out. When Lisa and I went overseas, we did not leave you like sheep without a shepherd. (As you can see, we met “Shaun the Sheep” with horns in England.) You have great spiritual parents and godly leaders here to look after you.
The characteristic of Paul as a spiritual father was to 1) Warn, not shame, and to 2) Send spiritual "sons". It may be noted that in the TRINITY, the Heavenly Father not only sent the commandments to Israel, but he also sends the Son of God, Jesus– John 3:16. What, then, are the characteristics of a good, spiritual son? Of Timothy?
Characteristics of Timothy’s sonship:
1. Faithful in the Lord v17 I have sent to you Timothy… who is faithful in the Lord.
The first characteristic of Timothy’s sonship was as a faithful, reliable follower of Christ. Paul himself later writes, Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). This is essential. If you want to be a godly leader, be faithful in the Lord. Maintain your faith relationship with God. Keep learning, open to advice, and discerning of the ways of the Lord.
2. Reminds about the father v17 … He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.
The second characteristic of Timothy’s sonship is that he knew Paul well and could convey about it to the Corinthians. Central to Paul’s message here is saying, I became your father through the gospel… I urge you to imitate me (v15-16). It was important for them to know that Paul was consistent with the gospel message in his life and teaching. At a dinner last week, the ACC president Wayne Alcorn reminded Alphacrucis University College that, although going through many changes, the Gospel remains the same.
In the Holy Trinity, God the Father loves the world and sends to us his Son. The Son is …the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being… (Hebrews 1:3). But isn’t Jesus now in Heaven at the right-hand of God the Father? Yes. And now the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit to be with fathers, sons– all believers in Jesus, whoever calls on the Name of the Lord –to be with you forever. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is an ongoing experience.
My grandson experienced first-hand thunder and lightning on our front porch. When his father came to pick him up, he enthusiastically explained to his dad, “When cold air and hot air come together, there is a great big BANG!” Happy Fathers’ Day!
Pastor John Rhodes, 3 Sept. 2023