2 Corinthians 12:14b-15 – Paul as Father

Paul has refused to accept gifts from the Corinthian church in order to avoid a patron/client relationship. Rather than patronage, Paul describes his relationship with Corinth as a parent and child (12:14b-15).

Roman FatherIn the Corinthian letters, Paul uses parent/child metaphors frequently, more than in any other of his letters. One reason for this is his desire to avoid patron/client language, but also because the family relationship reflects the body of Christ. If we are indeed new creations in Christ, then the image of brothers and sisters in Christ becomes the driving factor in our relationships with each other. Paul did not want to create a hierarchy in which he was the distant father figure who dispensed prestige and honor to his children, nor did he want the church to think Paul was a poor relative in need of assistance!

The children are not required to “save up” for their parents. This is not the daily needs of children, but rather the family responsibility for building wealth to pass down to the children. In a Greco-Roman context, family name and wealth was extremely important. The father was responsible for creating wealth and prestige for the family and the family name. This wealth and prestige could then be passed down to the children with they were mature enough to contribute to the honor of the family.

In fact, children were not able to contribute to the family honor until they were mature. Paul may be implying the role of the Corinthian church is to grow in maturity themselves! This is consistent with  how Paul’s correspondence with the Corinthians began, they were still immature and not able to move on to the “deeper things.” In 1 Cor 4:14-15 Paul describes himself as a father to the church, even if thy have many other teachers.

Within the metaphor, Paul is the patron/father figure who is doing everything he can to create an environment where the Corinthian children can grow to maturity and contribute to the family for themselves. Looking ahead to the next generation, they will “have children” and the church’s responsibility is to maintain and grow the wealth and honor of the family so they too can grow to maturity.

Paul is willing to spend everything he has for the church because he loves them as his dear children. Paul sees his relationship with the church in terms of a family in which he is like a parent and the church are children. He does not want to accept patronage from the church because it changes the relationship and would give the Corinthian church certain privileges over Paul.

This is a powerful image of the relationship of a pastor and congregation. While Paul does want churches to care for the needs of the people who serve in the church, his model for ministry is a caring parent who does everything to give the children want they need to succeed. Pastors who considered the local church their personal kingdom or use the church to enhance their own wealth and prestige have failed to follow the model Paul gives here in 2 Corinthians or the model of humble service demonstrated by Christ.


22 thoughts on “2 Corinthians 12:14b-15 – Paul as Father

  1. Thank you for your excellent insight here!

    I had never considered the idea of Fathers/support/and inheritance before, but it really does line up with the historical context in Rome. I am going to note this in my Bible.

    God be with you!

  2. Jesus the Good Shepherd, referring to His own voice, said:

    “The sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out….his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” [John 10]

    In Matthew chapter 23, the voice of Jesus warns us specifically about “the teachers of the law and the Pharisees” who wanted people to call them “Rabbi” or “Father”, and Jesus commands us specifically not to call religious leaders “father.”

  3. Parable of the Wacky New Religion

    “SNAKE WORSHIPPER” and “PAULIST” make plans to start their own wacky new religion, “based on the Bible”.

    SNAKE WORSHIPPER: I think people make too big a deal about Jesus. Who do they think he is- God? Do they think Jesus is the only way to be saved? The Bible says, “So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived. ”[Numbers 21:9] People are saved by looking at a snake. What do we need Jesus for? We should just keep it simple.

    PAULIST: Right on! Who needs a “Jesus Movement?” I say what we really need is a “Paul Movement!” But as to your comment, I think Christians would say that the salvation referred to there was only temporary salvation from snake poison, for the Israelites at a particular time. And it pointed to the future, to Jesus dying on the cross to save us from our sins.

    SNAKE WORSHIPPER: Don’t confuse the issue with facts! That verse is my favorite verse in Scripture. It says it right there in black and white. So my personal interpretation of this one verse is the trump card that negates all other verses of Scripture about salvation. Are you questioning the inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures?

    PAULIST: Of course, you must be right! If you quote one verse out of context, insist that it means something that contradicts other verses of Scripture, and then accuse me of questioning the inerrancy of Scripture if I disagree with your personal interpretation, than you must be correct. How foolish of me. Please continue.

    SNAKE WORSHIPPER: So that’s it. Just look to the serpent and be saved. Never mind about Jesus.

    PAULIST: But the Bible tells us: “He (King Hezekiah) broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it.” [2 Kings 18:4] So Christians would say that this snake had become an idol, which the godly King Hezekiah destroyed.

    SNAKE WORSHIPPER: Bah! Hezekiah was like Judas, who betrayed the true salvation! We snake worshippers know better. We must restore true worship.

    PAULIST: OK. If that is your personal interpretation of one verse of Scripture, then you must be correct. But my favorite verses of Scripture are from Paul writing to the church in Corinth: “In Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me.” [1 Corinthians 4:15-16]

    SNAKE WORSHIPPER: But Christians would remind us what the Bible says: “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: ‘The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach… They love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi’. But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi’, for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father”, for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher’, for you have one Teacher, the Christ (or Messiah).’” [Matthew 23:1-3, 7-10]

    PAULIST: Don’t confuse the issue with facts! Those 2 verses from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians are my favorite verses in Scripture. It says it right there in black and white. So my personal interpretation of these two verses is the trump card that negates all other verses of Scripture. Are you questioning the inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures?

    SNAKE WORSHIPPER: Of course, you must be right! If you quote two verses out of context, insist that they mean something that contradicts many other verses of Scripture, and then accuse me of questioning the inerrancy of Scripture if I disagree with your personal interpretation, than you must be correct. How foolish of me. Please continue.

    PAULIST: So that’s it. Paul is our father, and we should “be like Paul”. Paul also testified about himself without any other witnesses: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” [1 Corinthians 11:1] So that has to mean that to “be like Paul” is the same thing as to “be like Christ”, and Paul lived a perfect life as a Christian, everything Paul did was 100% correct and everyone around him was wrong, and Paul is our perfect model for life and ministry. Unless all men speak well of Paul and everything Paul ever did, said, or wrote about himself, they are heretics who are denying the inerrancy of Scripture. What other possible interpretation could there be?

    SNAKE WORSHIPPER: Yes of course! That is the only possible choice. Well since we’re starting our own wacky new religion, we need some of the trappings of religion. How about a slogan and a rallying cry?

    PAULIST: I’ve got it! “There is no god but the serpent, and Paul is his prophet”! Our rallying cry can be “Paul is great!”

    SNAKE WORSHIPPER: That has a familiar ring to it somehow…
    PAULIST: We’ll make people take a religious pilgrimage once in their lives- we’ll call the pilgrimage the “Journey of Paul”. It will go from Galatia (present day Turkey) to Antioch (present day Syria) and to Jerusalem, so we can “be like Paul” and do the things Paul did.

    SNAKE WORSHIPPER: Tell me more.

    PAULIST: In Galatia, the pilgrims will go and circumcise some young men, [Acts 16:3] and then yell at them “You foolish Galatians” [Galatians 3:1] because they got circumcised.

    SNAKE WORSHIPPER: But in the Bible, Paul taught passionately, over and over, that Christians should never be circumcised under any circumstances, and Jesus said “Anyone who says ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” [Matthew 5:22]

    PAULIST: What are you, a liberal? Only liberals criticize Paul. Conservatives have an instant, airtight justification for everything Paul ever did or said. If you criticize Paul that means you’re a liberal who is attacking Jesus.

    SNAKE WORSHIPPER: Of course- carry on.

    PAULIST: At Antioch, the pilgrims must have a sharp disagreement and part company with whomever they are with. [Acts 15:39] If they are married, they must get divorced. If they have children, they must disown them. If they are with friends, they must separate.

    SNAKE WORSHIPPER: But in the Bible, Paul wrote to Timothy “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer without anger or disputing.” [1 Timothy 2:8]

    PAULIST: Paul meant for that to apply to everyone else except him. Paul is an exception. Paul is always the exception to the rule. If Paul disputed, he must have been right. Remember in the inerrant Scripture, Paul testified about himself “follow my example”.

    SNAKE WORSHIPPER: Yes of course.

    PAULIST: Luke records Paul as saying “compelled the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem.” [Acts 20:22] So since Paul said this about himself, that has to mean it was true, and we should “be like Paul.”

    SNAKE WORSHIPPER: But Luke, who was personally traveling with Paul to Jerusalem at that time, also wrote “Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.” [Acts 21:4]

    PAULIST: What are you, a left-wing liberal heretic who is attacking Jesus and the Bible?

    SNAKE WORSHIPPER: OK. Lets just keep true to our foundations as a religion. Just look to the serpent and be saved. Paul is our father, and we should “be like Paul”.

    • You posted this already here back in February in response to my post on Stephen’s Preaching (Acts 6:9-14) as well as three other websites before that (according to Google). Not at all sure this is on the topic of the post…as I have said once before, you do not need to paste these long comments over and over again.

      • Paul is NOT Father,
        (that is the topic of the post)
        not to any church, nor to us, and we should not blindly “imitate Paul”
        if we believe the words of Jesus.

        I want to be sure I understand you.
        Are you saying that “All Scripture” is not “equal”, – and the words of Paul are ABOVE the words of Jesus? To put it another way, you are saying the words of Paul are “the words of God” and they are “trump cards” that override Jesus and everyone else? (without any second witness?) So Jesus taught one thing, Paul taught the opposite about himself, and we should ignore Jesus and listen to the voice of Paul instead?

      • It’s a metaphor Matthew. Deal with it in the world of the metaphor. Once again you fail to understand because of your irrational hatred for Paul.

      • I follow Jesus because I know him and “know his voice.” Paul’s voice claiming to be “Father” is the voice of a “stranger” I do not recognize. [John 10] It’s another clear contradiction of the specific teaching of Jesus (one of many).

        And, according to tradition, you have a quick rationalization, justification, and plausible explanation about “what Paul really meant” which isn’t written down, so that Paul was really right of course – again. I think you believe in your heart that to examine or question Paul is the work of Satan, and to say “Paul was wrong, period” is heresy and blasphemy.

        Can you agree that when Paul wrote his letters to Corinth, Paul was controlling all aspects of the church, without delegating any real authority to anyone else, and therefore Paul himself was primarily responsible for the mess the church was in? (since he had abandoned the church years before without ever appointing any new leadership?)

  4. Jesus prayed for me

    At the Last Supper with the eleven Apostles, Jesus said:
    “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through THEIR MESSAGE….”
    [John 17:20]

    Whose message? Paul’s message? NO. THEIR message. The message of the 11 faithful Apostles, after Judas left. How many true Apostles were “New Testament” authors? Only 3. The Apostles Matthew, John and Peter. (Gospel of Mark is almost like an abbreviated Gospel of Matthew, identical in many places. Some believe Peter was the Primary source behind Mark, since it is fairly clear Peter was illiterate.) Then there is Luke, the Gentile who came along many years later and who must have relied on many other witnesses as sources, including these 11 Apostles.

    Did Paul the Pharisee bring “THEIR message” about Jesus? (The message of the 11 true Apostles that Jesus was speaking to?)
    No – not according to Paul himself. Paul had his own message, his own “gospel.” Paul boastfully stated: “These men added nothing to MY MESSAGE.”
    [Galatians 2:6]

    There in no reason to waste time trying endlessly to “harmonize” Paul’s message with Jesus and His Apostles and say “well it’s really the same message,” when Paul himself says otherwise.

    I take the Orthodox position to elevate the 4 Gospels above the rest of the New Testament. (I give slight priority to Matthew & John). I understand that you elevate Paul’s 13 letters above the rest of the New Testament, (and perhaps also Paul’s biography by Luke in Acts.) I want to be sure I understand your thought process. Is that correct?

    • “I want to be sure I understand your thought process. Is that correct?”

      Not really. You want to force me into whatever trauma you have experienced in the past. Paul is the interpreter of Jesus, chronologically standing between Jesus and the Gospels. No preference ought to be given for any NT document (or OT for that matter). Jesus and Paul are not contradictory, but they were on different sides of the cross and the coming of the Holy Spirit; Jesus looks forward to the initiation of the New Covenant, Paul is explaining the ramifications of the New Covenant in the New Age of the Holy Spirit.

      I am certainly NOT harmonizing Jesus as Paul, and I am not preferring one over and against the other. Where there are tensions between Paul and Jesus, I am happy to let the stand as tensions and work on the implications of the shift in salvation history.

      I am going to defend the classic form of Inspiration which sees all of the NT documents as authoritative for practice and doctrine. I cannot really be described as “preferring Paul,” my PhD was on the Gospels even if I have been blogging here on the book of Acts and Pauline Theology.

      Why don’t you start your own blog (or re-start your old one) and post your work there?

    • Phillip, you wrote the following 3 statements QUOTE:
      “Paul is the interpreter of Jesus, chronologically standing between Jesus and the Gospels.”
      “No preference ought to be given for any NT document (or OT for that matter).”
      “Jesus and Paul are not contradictory, but they were on different sides of the cross and the coming of the Holy Spirit…”

      Where did you get these ideas? They all contradict the words of Jesus himself. They are traditions of men, based on opinions about interpretations, or misinterpretations, of Paul’s opinions.

      “Paul is NOT “the interpreter of Jesus.”
      Neither is Muhammed in the Koran, nor Joseph Smith in the Book of Mormon, nor some local aparition of “Mary.”
      The Jesus of the 4 Gospels is “the interpreter of Jesus.”

      Jesus gave preference to The Law of Moses and the Prophets (over the “Writings” -Kethuvim- section of the Hebrew Scriptures. ) (Do you think Jesus was wrong to do that?) The Eastern Orthodox view for almost 2000 years gives preference to the 4 Gospels.

      Jesus and Paul ARE contradictory on numerous points, probably dozens, a number of which I have already posted about here on this blog. In most cases, even though you have 2600 followers, no one in the world has even attempted to refute these points, because they can’t.

      And Jesus is not “on the other side of the Cross.” Jesus is alive, and God of the living not the dead. After his resurrection, Jesus specifically warned us through the Apostle John in Revelation regarding the church in Ephesus, where someone claimed to be an apostle who was not, and Jesus commended them for testing such men and finding them false. This applies directly to Paul.

      Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever, and Jesus promised us “I am with you always, to the very end of the age. “ Matthew 28

      • “Where did you get these ideas?” The Bible.

        “And Jesus is not “on the other side of the Cross.” He sure is, at least anything you are reading from him in the Gospels. Unless you are having visions, you are stuck with the Gospels for the teaching of Jesus and if you are a Christian, the interpretation Jesus’ death and resurrection as it appears in the rest of the NT, which is primarily Paul.

        “even though you have 2600 followers” – those are all spambots. They usually don’t get into the discussion.

        “Jesus gave preference to The Law of Moses and the Prophets (over the “Writings” -Kethuvim- section of the Hebrew Scriptures. ) (Do you think Jesus was wrong to do that?)” No, since that was the only Bible he had. This point makes no sense.

        “The Eastern Orthodox view for almost 2000 years gives preference to the 4 Gospels.” So what? Even if I overlook calling Christianity before AD 1000 “Eastern Orthodox,” it proves nothing except you hate the reformation. If you want to be Eastern Orthodox, fine. But you do not have to pick fights with anyone and everyone who disagrees with you because they are not Orthodox. I really cannot imagine why you try to argue with me like this.

      • As reasonable people, we should be able to state what specifically we disagree on and what is our specific Biblical basis.

        “The BIble” was never given to us by God as “One Book”. Likewise, Jesus never considered The Hebrew Scriptures as his “Bible” or One Book. Jesus never referred to them that way. Jesus DID give preference to certain parts of Scripture, namely the Law and the Prophets, over the third part, the “Writings.” Jesus never said all Scripture was the word of God, or all equal.
        If you believe I’m mistaken, please give me your Biblical basis- I am listening.

        We also have the teaching of Jesus through the visions of the Apostle John in Revelation “this side of the cross.” (by the way, I do have visions sometimes- do you believe God can’t do that anymore, because they have “ceased”? )

        With all due respect, to state “Paul is the interpreter of Jesus” is problematic. For most in the Western Church, traditionally, historically, unfortunately, yes, you are right. and The Eastern Orthodox generally give that role to the Apostle John, although not so bluntly and pervasively.

        But why not let Jesus speak for Himself, without an interpreter?

  5. dear phil, my advice is that you moderate this ignoramus. his rantings are repetitive and his theological training is non-existent. he is invincibly ignorant and will never, ever understand anything. because he can’t.

    • Jim, that is YOUR advice.

      The advice of Jesus is in Matthew 18:15-17.

      Are you going to listen to Jesus and obey HIM, or disobey Him – (since perhaps you really don’t know Jesus?)

  6. I think the fact that Paul uses the metaphor of a father because it is both extremely easy to understand and it is very accurate. At the beginning of this post I saw “Paul has refused to accept gifts from the Corinthian church.” This statement took me off guard at first because the first thing I thought of was missionaries who come to my church and tell us about their missions then ask for money. After I had this thought, I remembered that Paul was able to help support himself as a tent maker. I also realized that this relationship with Paul and the church of Corinth is completely different from a missionary and my church. It would be extremely suspicious of Paul if he was to start all these large churches then just have them pay for everything. It is different if he gets help from a church that has already been started by someone who is not him. The metaphor of father is so accurate because Paul is wanting the church to be self-sufficient and praise God without his guidance.

  7. Mr. Perri rarely gives scripture references to back his ideas. He also laces his comments with sarcasm and vindictiveness… and in my experience that often is a sign of someone who has been hurt by people representing positions we are supposed to trust: father, mother, sibling, relative, pastor, friends… Sadly, sinful people fail us and that should turn us to Messiah Jesus as the One who is trustworthy in all things.

    I would rather assume that getting past the vindictiveness, Mr Perri holds sincerely held beliefs, at least some of which may be common to others. Dr. Long is providing a teaching example of answering a wounded soul’s search (assuming positive motives) for what he has accepted as truth.

  8. A comment about modern missions vs. how Paul was supported in his work and that he worked as a tent-maker for some of the time he was ministering the Good News…
    In today’s world there are passports and visas to cross well-defined borders…. except in the southern US, but I digress… Visas specify, in most cases, expressly whether the guest in a country is allowed to do work in order to earn money in that country. Church/missionary work is expected to be a non wage-earning activity and if one were to tent-make on the side, many governments would say that the person is violating the terms of their visa unless they have a “business visa” which has different filing requirements than those for a church/missionary worker. Many governments like the idea that missionaries and other non-governmental aid workers are paid with funds coming from outside their borders, thus bringing income into their monetary circulation.
    Paul’s refusal to accept help at the time was more about showing them that even though he has a ‘right’ to it, he won’t take it in order to avoid any hint of accusation that he is in the ‘church business’ for the purpose of earning a [good?] living rather than for the sake of making the gospel and God’s revelation for the Church known.

  9. Hello T…Mr. Perri was eventually banned from commenting on this blog. So far, he is the ONLY person ever I needed to ban. We have since exchanged emails and he apologized.

  10. What I liked most about this passage was the strong intention that Paul has for the Corinthian church. Paul doesn’t accept gifts from the church because he wants a strong parent and child relationship rather than a patron/client connection. This has been a strong and heavy topic in my current life because with the holiday season, a lot of individuals feel that the presents and gifts are what brings us closer. However, while looking over the past and traditions, I have realized that the most important factor during the holiday’s is spending time with family. Just having that sense of time specifically for family is what makes my heart happy. As a father, Paul is demonstrating that it’s not about giving/receiving gifts, but having a strong relationship with one another.

  11. I think that Paul sets up a model for a pastor within the church by how he fathers the congregation in Corinth. The Corinthian church was kind of like the black sheep child that had everything going for them, but still found ways to screw things up. Paul has to talk to them like they are little kids who cannot understand some of the basic instructions that he has given them. Paul does not do this out of anything but love, like any good father does. He talks to them lovingly and sternly, how all good and loving fathers talk to their children when they make mistakes. He calls out those who make mistakes and offers solutions to the problems that have come about as a result of those mistakes. I think that this is how pastors should father their congregations. Some pastors do not know how to do this in a loving way. I think of John MacArthur who did not handle a problem within his church well at all. Instead of handling the problem correctly, he handled the problem horribly and only made things worse for both the church, and all of the people involved. Just how fathers can mess up their children by not administering discipline properly, pastors can do the same thing. There are a lot of people who have been hurt by the church because of things that pastors have done handling problems within their congregation.

  12. Paul’s objective in the church is to create an environment for growth in the Lord. Paul does not desire to be catered to by the church in Corinthians. Paul takes on the role as the Sheperd to this church. We read throughout the book that he is committed to the people apart from any compensation or support. The commitment comes from the motive to serve the Lord. He is serving the Lord here by serving those in the church and acting as a father. “Here for the third time, I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children” (2 Corinthians 2: 14 ESV). This concept of the role as a parent translates directly into the work of Paul within these churches. This is not just an example for Paul but all entrusted with a church. As Paul discusses in 2 Corinthians, we must cater to the needs of the church in humble service. This family-like relationship that Paul discusses switches the mindset from a transactional relationship to an unconditional relationship. This shows that the intentions are pure. It is difficult to discard the message and help from a man who is loving for nothing in return. This is an incredible example of the love of God in our lives. We receive love from the Lord that we will never pay back. We must be willing to give that love out every day for His sake.

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