What does 1 Corinthians 4:17 mean?Paul has compared the Christians in Corinth to little children, describing himself as their spiritual father in Christ. He often used this metaphor when talking about those who had trusted in Christ as a result of his ministry. Perhaps the best example of this father/son relationship in Paul's life was that of Timothy.
Paul describes Timothy here as his beloved and faithful child in the Lord, as he does in other letters (Philippians 2:22; 1 Timothy 1:2, 18; 2 Timothy 1:2). Timothy was the son of a Jewish mother and Greek father. Paul first met and recruited the younger man on his missionary journeys (Acts 16:1).
Paul has urged the Corinthian Christians to imitate his life in Christ as little children imitate their father. This, he writes, is why he sent Timothy to them. Timothy has learned how to live as a Christian by imitating Paul; Paul intends the Corinthians to see Timothy's example of attitude and actions. They should expect to see in Timothy what it means to live out everything that Paul teaches about Christ everywhere he goes.
Paul is painting a picture of Christian discipleship. Timothy has learned from Paul's example how to put into practice the teachings of the gospel of Jesus. Now Paul intends for the Corinthians to learn from Timothy's example how to do so, as well. Clearly, the Christian life is not merely a matter of knowing the truth, but also of acting on it in every choice we make. It's unclear if Timothy had already been sent to the Corinthians ahead of this letter. It's also possible he was the one who would bring this letter to them (1 Corinthians 16:10).