While the Corinthians believed that they could build a strong church through the philosophies and methodologies of the world, Paul explains that it is actually because they used secular growth tactics that they are weak and about to break apart. The reason is because worldly principles promote worldly thinking, encouraging attitudes of worldliness and selfishness.
As Paul admonishes Timothy to show discernment and correct false teachers in the church, it begs the question, “What are the marks of the false teacher?” Paul’s answer in this passage is that the true shepherd, demonstrated by his own life, will live in harmony with the Gospel of grace, rather than subscribing to external righteousness by the Law.
As many are about to break up and leave the church in Corinth, Paul offers an insightful, but stern rebuke for the cause of their dissention. Sadly, in an age of consumer-driven methodologies, most Christians haven’t learned from Paul’s rebuke, and will leave their churches for the same reasons as the believers in Corinth.
If God’s method for church growth is incompatible with the entrepreneurial wisdom of the world, what is the philosophy of ministry the church should subscribe to? In short, it is a philosophy that looks foolish to the world, just as the Gospel we preach.
As Paul begins the main body of his letter, he addresses the matter of foremost concern to Timothy: dealing with false teachers in the church. In so doing, he outlines a critical aspect of pastoral ministry.