Who’s Your Spiritual Father?
1 Corinthians 4:14-16
The pastor of the church I grew up in during my high school years was a man named Earnest D. Humphries. Pastor Humphries was tough, he road me harder than anyone else, and many times, I was angry at him for it. He was also the principal of my high school, so I had to deal with him almost every day. He gave me detention for what I saw as harmless pranks; he would call me out for things I would say or do that I shouldn’t. And, those detentions he would assign were hard labor I felt like I was in a chain gang. One time on detention, I had to dig the hole for the new church sign. The hole was thirty inches square and thirty inches deep. I realize most of you don’t think that is very big but try doing it in Miami where, after the first two inches, it’s solid coral rock. I butted heads with Pastor Humphries more times than I can count.
But at the age of sixteen, I was in trouble again. The difference this time was that I realized I had been trusting in religion instead of Jesus. On December 10, 1979, Pastor Humphries led me to the Lord, and my life changed. Don’t get me wrong, I still got into a lot of trouble, but thanks to Pastor Humphries prodding, I grew closer and closer to Christ. My mom told me later that he said he was so hard on me because I reminded him of himself at that age.
The point is that Pastor Humphries was my spiritual father, and even though I would get upset with him, he was a huge impact on my life. If you have been following my blog for any length of time, you have heard me refer to things he taught me. So, I had an earthly father, a spiritual father, and a heavenly father, I am truly blessed.
We are currently close to the end of 1 Corinthians chapter 4, and we have seen many times where Paul has had to discipline the church because of sin among them, as well as their tendency to put different leaders above others. In our passage today, he starts in by saying, “I am not writing these things to shame you, but to warn you as my beloved children.” 1 Corinthians 4:14. In today’s society, as it was back then, people are easily offended, so it is a good idea to start by reminding them that, in correcting them, we are not trying to shame or embarrass them. This is a lesson I need to learn. I just recently had a somewhat heated debate with a former youth I ministered to, who himself is now a youth pastor. He was online saying things that he had not studied and known nothing about but was making himself out to be an authority on it. I felt a need to correct him but probably could have been a little gentler in it. In the end, he didn’t agree with me, cussed me out, and I ultimately had to block him. Because of where he was coming from, I probably would have never swayed his opinion, but I could have been a little more tactful.
In the next verse, Paul says, “For even if you had ten thousand others to teach you about Christ, you have only one spiritual father. For I became your father in Christ Jesus when I preached the Good News to you.” 1 Corinthians 4:15. Who is your spiritual father, who led you to Christ, who taught you in the early years of your conversion? This verse is so true. There are several pastors I enjoy listening to and learning from, but they are not my spiritual fathers. Don’t get me wrong; there are several things Pastor Humphries taught that I don’t agree with, but he is still my spiritual father. As I’ve said many times, there is only one doctrine that should divide the Church, the doctrine of salvation by God’s grace, through our life-changing faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus the Christ.
Now, here’s where Paul gets extremely controversial. He says, “So I urge you to imitate me.” 1 Corinthians 4:16. Wow! How many of us would dare tell our spiritual children to imitate us? The fact is, they will imitate us whether we like it or not. Pastor Humphries always used to say, “Your life may be the only Bible that some people ever open.” People are watching what we do, so we had better be sure we are living right. We will see Paul say this again later in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.” And, he repeats it in 1 Thessalonians 1:6. Although Paul was human, he was confident in his walk with Christ that he was willing to tell his spiritual children to imitate him, just like he imitates Christ. That’s what a disciple is, someone who imitates the one they follow, and we are all called to be disciples of Christ. In Ephesians 5:1, he tells us to imitate God, in 1 Thessalonians 2:14, he says that by suffering for Christ, they imitate other believers who suffered for Christ. And, then in Hebrews 6:11-12, we read, “11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Here the writer of Hebrews is telling them to imitate those who went before them and, through their faith and patience, inherited the promises.
We all have spiritual fathers or mothers, and they might even be your earthly father or mother. We need to imitate them. We need to follow their examples of faith. We don’t always have to agree with them on everything, but we must remember that they are people God put in our lives to bring us to Him.
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