1 Corinthians 4:15 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

1 Corinthians 4:15, NIV: "Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel."

1 Corinthians 4:15, ESV: "For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel."

1 Corinthians 4:15, KJV: "For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel."

1 Corinthians 4:15, NASB: "For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel."

1 Corinthians 4:15, NLT: "For even if you had ten thousand others to teach you about Christ, you have only one spiritual father. For I became your father in Christ Jesus when I preached the Good News to you."

1 Corinthians 4:15, CSB: "For you may have countless instructors in Christ, but you don't have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel."

What does 1 Corinthians 4:15 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Paul has spoken somewhat harshly to the Christians in Corinth about their attitudes and behavior (1 Corinthians 4:6–8). He has insisted, though, that his goal is not to make them feel badly about themselves. Instead, he considers them to be beloved children, and he is hoping to help them turn around and go in a better direction.

Now Paul says outright that he became their "father" when he led them to faith in Jesus by preaching the gospel to them. We should note that Paul is not asking to be referred to by that title, or any title (Matthew 23:8–12). His intent here is to explain his role in their spiritual life, not to take on an office or job description. Paul often describes himself as a spiritual father to those who trust in Christ as a result of his ministry. He uses this metaphor both to describe his love for those under his care and to claim some amount of responsibility and authority in their lives.

The word for "guides" is one used in Greek culture for a family guardian: someone to protect and discipline the children. Paul writes that the Corinthians have countless guides—self-professed guardians or tutors—but only one "father." In the Greek, the word myrious is translated as "countless," and literally means "ten thousand." This is the ancient equivalent of a modern person using exaggeration by saying, "I've told you a million times…"

This is a bit of sarcasm, with a specific point. The Corinthians have been dividing over loyalty to individual Christian leaders (1 Corinthians 1:10–13). Paul compares these other leaders, and their abundance, to overseers of children to show that the Corinthians have only one figure acting as a "spiritual" father in their Christian walk.