Proper Discipline

Hope for Today (English)
Hope for Today (English)
Proper Discipline
/
1 Corinthians 4:16-21

No one lives without some sort of discipline. Even the most immoral person lives by a standard. During the sixties, many restraints were cast aside. But those who longed for freedom actually were led into a type of bondage that, so to speak, bound them “hand and foot.” What many failed to understand is that no one is totally free when following the lust and dictates of the flesh, the lower nature. We all have a lower nature.

To break that binding hold, we need a new birth, the kind Jesus spoke of in His meeting with Nicodemus in John 3:5-7:

Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

Receiving that new nature delivers us from the bondage we are born with. It may surprise you to learn how the Bible describes our natural condition. Notice what the apostle Paul said in Romans 3:9-18:

What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.

Do you now understand how we are bound in our natural state? Without the new birth experience, there is no release or escape. I must press that upon your heart.

Even after being born again, our lives need to be controlled. The old nature keeps manifesting itself in many ways. Again the apostle Paul expresses how we are, in Romans 7:14-19:

For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.

I admit, friend, that is not a very bright picture. It is not a very healthy-looking picture. But beyond all doubt, it is clearly evident to us that we need help. Our lives need to be disciplined. I stated earlier that everyone lives by some sort of discipline. I am told that even the Mafia, hardened criminals, has guidelines for living. It has certain rules it rigidly enforces. Of course, we cannot look to the Mafia for ideals except to point out that even the lowest of men have a system of discipline for life.

Discipline may be from without, as, for example, the laws of our communities, states, and nation. But discipline may also come from within. We call that self-discipline or self-control. Yet self-discipline requires standards or guidelines. The apostle Paul sets forth some guidelines for PROPER DISCIPLINE in I Corinthians 4:16-21:

16 Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.

17 For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.

18 Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you.

19 But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power.

20 For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.

21 What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?

From Paul’s words, I discern several essential GUIDELINES we should follow to have Proper Discipline in life.

The first guideline is:

HAVE A WORTHY MODEL

16 Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.

17 For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.

Paul’s confident instruction was “Follow me.” He said, “Be ye followers of me.” In I Corinthians 11:1 he said, “Be ye followers of me even as I also am of Christ.

No doubt we all have someone we look up to. We often ask children when they are small, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” They have certain ideals. We do, too. We have certain ideals we would like to follow. So be sure you have a worthy model, someone you can look up to.

The father of a friend of mine told me that when the lad was just a tiny boy, he said, “I am going to be a missionary doctor.” You know what? He was. He spent a number of years in Ethiopia as a medical missionary, serving the native people. What do you want to be when you grow up? Or what do you want to be now?

The apostle Paul then speaks of a consecrated disciple named Timothy. He was just a young man when Paul first met him. One of the towns Paul visited on his second missionary journey was Derbe. There he found a devout young man, who was single. His mother was a Jewess, his father a Greek. So Paul went through the ceremony of having the youth circumcised because of the Jews and then took the devout young man along. In fact, Paul said, “Nobody cares for your soul like Timothy does” (see Philippians 2:19-21). And Paul could recommend him. He could say, “I sent unto you Timotheus, . . . who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.”

Timothy served Paul with care, and Paul could recommend him as a dedicated servant. That is a wonderful testimony, a wonderful relationship that Paul and Timothy enjoyed.

Then we should look at Paul’s consistent teaching. Some may have fashioned their teaching according to the wishes of the audience. But not Paul!

I remember early in my radio ministry when a friend of mine asked me, “Who is your target audience?” And I said, “I don’t know. I believe if I am faithful in expounding the Word of God, the Holy Spirit will define the audience because I will teach the same thing everywhere.”

In the summer of 1995, we attended a church convention. We had a short presentation of our ministry, just nine minutes long. A friend of mine sat down to see it. At the end, because we broadcast to three-fourths of the world in six languages, he asked me, “What adaptations do you make.” Do you know what I told him? I said, “None. The message goes out the same all over the world.”

You see, the basic human problem is the same all over the world, and therefore I believe the basic message must be the same all over the world.

See what Barnes wrote in his notes on I Corinthians:

This was designed probably to show them that he taught them no new or peculiar doctrines; he wished them simply to conform to the common rules of the churches and to be like their Christian brethren everywhere. The Christian church is founded everywhere on the same doctrines; is bound to obey the same laws; and is fitted to produce and cherish the same spirit. The same spirit that was required in Ephesus or Antioch was required at Corinth; the same spirit that was required at Corinth, at Ephesus, or at Antioch, is required now.

That is exactly what I was telling you. The basic human problem is the same, and therefore the basic message must be the same.

The second guideline is:

HAVE A WORKING MINISTRY

18 Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you.

19 But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power.

The apostle was committed to come to Corinth. However, there were some he called “puffed up.” That means to be proud like the frog who tried to be as big as the ox. She puffed herself up and puffed herself up until she burst. Proud. Dominating the congregation. These people took charge, usurped authority, and were puffed up.

The apostle was concerned about the Corinthian believers’ welfare. He said, “I will come.” Apparently, they thought they were cutting the slough big enough, you might say, that the apostle Paul would be afraid to come, wouldn’t want to come and be humiliated. But in essence, he said, “I will come according to the will of the Lord. I will come.”

The apostle Paul lived very close with the Lord. He lived in close touch with the Lord. The apostle said he would come as a confrontation to test reality, to see whether the speech compared with the power. That word power is significant. It is the same word Jesus used when He told the disciples they would receive power after the Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts 1:8). It is a dynamic power, a power that can overcome the forces of evil.

Sometimes novices take control to the ruin of the church. I believe that is what the apostle Paul was aiming at. They learned the language but lacked the anointing of the Spirit.

They are like those seven sons of Sceva. Those sons of a Jewish priest thought they had the language, so they attempted to perform a miracle, an exorcist miracle of a demon-possessed person The report is given in Acts 19:11-16:

And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them. Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

Paul said, “I will learn not only your speech but your power.” Power is the essential factor, you know. Flowery speech may tickle the intellect but leaves the heart unmoved. So the second guideline is Have A Working Ministry anointed by the power of God.

The third guideline is:

HAVE A WELL-DEFINED METHOD

20 For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.

21 What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?

Consider the difference. The apostle says in verse 20 that the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. There again is a difference between words and power. The kingdom of God is by the power of God, not by the words of men. Consider the difference.

When I was studying in Greece a number of years ago, I had the opportunity of going to Mount Athos, the holy mountain of the Orthodox Church. My friend and I spent the night in a monastery. We were there with a Frenchman and a German as well. The monk prepared supper for us, and as we sat down to eat, He offered us each a glass of wine. I don’t drink wine, so I refused as graciously as I could. Then after dinner, he reached into his inside pocket, pulled out a pack of cigarettes, and passed them around, and again I declined. I don’t smoke. He said, “What kind of a man is this? He doesn’t drink wine and he doesn’t smoke.”

Yes, I had disciplined myself. I would like now to share with you some words from Canon Liddon, from perhaps a hundred years ago. He had so much to say to us about this very passage in which we have been considering the guidelines for discipline:

Picture to yourselves a teacher who is not merely under the official obligation to say something, but who is morally convinced that he has something to say. Imagine one who believes alike in the truth of his message, and in the reality of his mission to deliver it. Let his message combine those moral contrasts which give permanency and true force to a doctrine, and which the gospel only has combined in their perfection. Let this teacher be tender, yet searching; let him win the hearts of men by his kindly humanity, while he probes, ay, to the quick, their moral sores. Let him be uniformly calm, yet manifestly moved by the fire of repressed passion. Let him be stern yet not unloving, and resolute without sacrificing the elasticity of his sympathy, and genial without condescending to be the weakly accomplice of moral mischief. Let him pursue and expose the latent evil of the human heart, through all the mazes of its unrivaled deceitfulness, without sullying his own purity, and without forfeiting his strong belief in the present capacity of every human being for goodness. Let him know “what is in man,” and yet, with this knowledge clearly before him, let him not only not despair of humanity, but respect it, nay, love it even enthusiastically. Above all, let this teacher be perfectly independent. Let him be independent of the voice of the multitude; independent of the enthusiasm and promptings of his disciples; independent even when face to face with the bitter criticism and scorn of his antagonists; independent of all save God and his conscience. In a word, conceive a case in which moral authority and moral beauty combine to elicit a simultaneous tribute of reverence and of love. Clearly, such a teacher must be a moral power.

Yes, my friend, we need proper discipline regardless of our area or mode of life. Discipline is highly important. I believe we can now more clearly see which discipline is necessary and what it is. To reach the high calling of proper discipline, we must follow Paul’s guidelines as I pointed them out to you.

Here they are again:

HAVE A WORTHY MODEL

Ultimately follow Christ.

HAVE A WORKING MINISTRY

Give deference to seasoned leaders. Listen to them.

HAVE A WELL-DEFINED METHOD

Saturate it with love and meekness!