Ad Extra—1 Corinthians 4:6, A Teaching Device?

Posted: April 26, 2013 in Ad Extra
Tags: , , ,

chalk boardI have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. ” (1 Corinthians 4:6, ESV)

In 1 Corinthians 4:6 the Apostle Paul appears to use a helpful pedagogical device. I’m not sure what to label the device, or even if I should label it as one; however in an effort to rebuke, correct, exhort, and encourage with all patience those in Corinth, the apostle uses some tact in his letter.

This ‘device’ applies the truth one degree removed from those who are guilty of the error he is correcting. The Apostle is not duplicitous in his example, but simply seeking to remove the sting of rebuke in the following verses. Verse 6 is pivotal in the letter, as it helps the reader understand more clearly the apostle’s purpose. It’s as though he is allowing the reader to deal with the truth before applying it to themselves.

The prophet Nathan confronts David in such manner before revealing David was the offending party. While the Apostle Paul is not telling a parable, as did Nathan, he appears to disarm the Corinthians by applying these truths to Apollos and his self. In an effort to confront a party spirit he doesn’t single out an individual party either positively or negatively. Instead of pointing a finger at the offending party he allows truth to penetrate before giving the proverbial, ‘you are that man’.

By no means is this ill-advised counsel leading down the trail of response manipulation, but this verse seems to evidence tact in the delivery of truth. Labeling this intuitively tactful delivery as a teaching device is misguided; legalistic applications of apostolic wisdom fail to achieve God’s ends. Proverbs 25:11 teaches us that, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. ” Paul’s fitly written word can be a lesson to us, but it mustn’t be boiled down to a mere teaching device to be employed. May we learn to teach with wisdom, power, grace, and truth at all times. May we learn from apostolic wisdom and not cheapen what needs to be taught by making it law.

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