In his commentary, John MacArthur suggests that 1 Corinthians 4:14-21 describes six characteristics of Christian ministers. Faithful servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries (1Co4:1-2)serve Christ by 1) admonishing, 2) loving, 3) begetting, 4) setting an example, 5) teaching, and 6) disciplining.
The Apostle Paul, in this letter, addresses the Corinthian church’s attitudes that ran directly counter to his description of the Christian minister.
They certainly didn’t want to be ‘admmonished’ for any poor behavior or attitude, for what business was it of Paul, after all, to pry into their private affairs? Any attempt by other men to point out error, with a view to positive change and conformity to the image of Christ, was seen as an affront to their ‘liberty in Christ’, the ‘priesthood of believers’, and –perhaps the sine qua non of Christian deferrals — it was not ‘loving.’
But Paul anticipated this response, and as he frequently did, combined two seemingly disparate and contradictory concepts in such a joinder that neither can be believed or experienced without the other: Paul wrote “to admonish [them] as beloved children.”
What? How can that be? And, perhaps for many today, who have swallowed the world’s line and suppose that loving children means never speaking harshly to them, let alone administering corporal punishment, it is a mind-blower to think that loving someone means admonishing them from time to time.
Furthermore, Paul did not merely mention the “rod” in verse 21 as a rhetorical flourish: he would deal with them as their level of repentance — or lack thereof — required, in order to preserve the edification of the body and the hallowing of God’s name.
Admonishment is largely out of fashion in today’s pulpit. The congregation considers the minister who attempts it ill-suited to serve them. Many preachers lack Paul’s boldness to insist that it is included in his charge to serve Christ. And one can only suppose that our failure to recognize this mark of the minister has resulted in much leaven in the lump.