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The Apostle Paul on Parenting

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  • Dr. James Boyd

    Reading through 2nd Corinthians has revealed some jewels for godly parenting. So for the next 22 weeks, we will work through various passages in 2nd Corinthians to find out how Paul's view of himself as the spiritual father to the Corinthian church can provide insight into godly parenting. In 2nd Corinthians 1:24, Paul was explaining why he did not come again to provide further correction to the church in Corinth. In his explanation, he recognized what his discipline cannot do, expressed what he hoped to do, and then disclosed his motive. 

    24 
    I do not mean that we have control of your faith, but we are workers with you for your joy, because you stand by faith. 2 Corinthians 1:24 (HCSB)

    First, Paul admitted that he did not have control over the Corinthians' faith. In this context of sharp correction, Paul was saying that chastisement in itself does not produce a strong faith. This reality is invaluable for parenting. Parents do not have control over their children’s faith. No coercion will force a child to rely on Christ for salvation or for daily living. It may be possible through discipline to change a behavior, but the child’s heart cannot be controlled by external influence. Note in passing, however, that this fact did not deter Paul from disciplining them. His goal of discipline was to help his children to relate rightly with God and with people when they are struggling to do so. Paul hoped that the grief resulting from his correction would culminate in repentance, but he understood that changing their heart would require something more.

    Recognizing what he could not control, Paul’s second emphasis here is on what he could do. Paul hoped to "work with them for their joy." Leading children spiritually is work that is done with them for the purpose of increasing their joy. It won't be easy. It can't be done if parents see the child as the enemy or if the child views the parents as the enemy. Even with hard work and a team spirit, it won’t be successful if the joy worked for is the temporary and fleeting joy that the world gives. The goal must not be merely an improved behavior. It must be the discovery of the deep joy found in daily obedience to Christ’s rule.

    Paul’s third point disclosed his motive for working with them for their joy. The Corinthian church was a mess. If there was any hope for them to stand firm in following Jesus, Paul recognized that they had to have a taste for the joy that resulted from it. The saying “you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar” affirms the reality that in order to stand firm, we must desire it. In truth, it is the joy of the Lord (not a sense of duty) that is our strength from day to day (Nehemiah.  8:10). So let one of our parenting goals be to follow Christ so joyfully, that our children will see it, want it, and stand firm in the faith. 

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