Paul had strongly rebuked the believers in Corinth for their party-spirit, divisions, arrogance and for despising God's messengers. The apostle's authority came directly from Jesus Christ (Acts 22:21) and even though Paul had a hostile reception when he first preached in Corinth, the Lord encouraged him to persist (Acts 18:10). He experienced much opposition in starting the church and then the troublesome congregation continued to oppose him.
Paul had been like a father to them. It was through him that the seed of the gospel had been implanted into their hearts and much of this letter is his fatherly rebuke. He had the right and responsibility to correct them and put them on the right path. "Follow me", he said, "as I follow Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). It was a call to on-going spiritual apprenticeship. The apostle's lifestyle was very important because people learn best by example.
Timothy was sent to Corinth to prepare the church for Paul's letter, and to minister into the immature and dysfunctional church. One of his teaching methods was to use Paul's lifestyle as an example, making the point that Paul practised what he preached (2 Timothy 3:10-12). That validated his teaching and showed that it was possible to live a radically different lifestyle from the usual Corinthian culture.
We do not like to be rebuked, but it is necessary; because we all go astray we all need to be brought back to God's Word. Godly examples are the best visual aids we can have. The Bible's accounts of God's servants will encourage us, as will biographies of notable believers and the everyday examples of godly men and women we meet. Also, we should be examples to others. Although we are not apostles, if we love their teaching in the Bible, and learn to live as they did, then others will learn from our authentic lives. Rebuke will be implicit but will underline the teaching from God's Word and support the local church's ministry. Your example could help to rescue a wandering soul or restore a whole church.
© Dr Paul Adams