“I am not writing these things to shame you, but to warn you as my beloved children. 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. So, I urge you to imitate me.” 1 Corinthians 4:14-17
The Corinthians were Paul’s beloved children in the faith. Whenever we share the gospel with some one and have the joy of leading them to faith in Christ, we become a spiritual parent to them. This does not give us any spiritual authority over them, but it does create a special relationship that God can use to help them grow. The church is God’s family for helping the newborn Christians develop. Paul does not take credit for the conversion. Paul knows that all conversions are through the work of the Holy Spirit. Paul was the father who stood by and watched as God changed their lives.
A child may have many guardians and teachers, but he can have only one father. He has a special relationship with his spiritual father. There had been no church in Corinth before Paul came, so even the second-generation believers in the church were a result of Paul’s effective ministry. God’s children need the ministry of many different teachers, but they must never forget the spiritual father who brought them to Christ.
Then Paul says an amazing thing. In effect he says, “I call upon my children to take after their father.” It is so seldom that a father can say that. I want my son to be better than me. For the most part it is too often true that a father’s hope and prayer is that a son will turn out to be all that he has never succeeded in being. Most of us who teach cannot help saying, not, “Do as I do,” but, “Do as I say.” But Paul, not with pride, but with complete unself-consciousness, can call upon his children in the faith to copy him.