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Knowing That Repentance Cannot Be Deferred

1 Corinthians 4:18-21
Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you. But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit? (NIVUK)

Some people do not know how to respond to a rebuke. The right response to revealed sin is repentance. But the erring believers in Corinth seemed to ignore the significance of their selfish divisions. Paul was far away and as they did not see that there was a problem, they did not believe that any action should be taken. Their arrogance had made them spiritually blind.
The apostle knew that the church could not do its gospel-proclaiming work in its present state; it was not fit for purpose. The church (the people not the building) needed to feel the severity of his rebuke, which is not paralleled in any of Paul's other letters. Although some of the church leaders were talking about having spiritual power, they did not have the power to change their lifestyle. Good words are a blessing but only if they result in right action.
The apostle had the authority to enforce God's rebuke. His justice resulted in the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11 and the blindness of Elymas (Acts 13:9-11). The church knew that Paul meant what he said; he had power to exercise discipline and therefore the threat of personal judgment was real. Sending Timothy to Corinth must not be taken to imply that Paul would not come personally and deal with the situation. Paul wanted to come in love and not to discipline; but if there was not repentance, he would have no option.
Patience is a great virtue; it means 'slow-angry' and is like long-suffering - they are designed to give the time and space for people to realize the offensiveness of their sins and repent (2 Peter 3:9). But indefinite tolerance of sin is wicked. There comes a terrible day when it is too late to repent (Genesis 6:3). Alas, today's church in many parts of the world has been invaded by secularist heresies, like Corinth: we have accepted what God will reject and rejected what the Bible commands. So wherever you live and work in the world, when God's rebuke is plain to you, repent while you can.

Father God. Thank You for Your grace which leads sinful people like me to repent and receive Your new life. Forgive me Lord that there are still areas of my life which are wrong: perhaps I am blind and cannot see them. Please show me my sin and lead me to repentance. Cleanse me from my sin and fill me with Your Spirit so that I will be able to live in a way that pleases You, and enables Your gospel to be heard by people I know. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams