What does 1 Corinthians 4:15 mean?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
NKJV: For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
Verse Commentary:
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.
Verse Context:
First Corinthians 4:14–21 focuses on Paul's role as spiritual father to the Corinthians, since he is the one who led them to Christ. He urges them to change their attitudes and behaviors and to imitate his example in living out the gospel. He sent Timothy to show them what that looks like, and he hopes to come himself to confront their arrogant talk with the power of God. Do they want him to come with the rod of correction or in love with the spirit of gentleness?
Chapter Summary:
Paul continues to show why the Corinthian Christians must not be divided over loyalties to various Christian leaders. Only the Lord can judge His servants, including Paul. By making themselves judges, they are acting like they have all they need. They are proudly focused on reputation and status while the apostles live for Christ in poverty and under persecution. Paul writes as a father to little children. He urges them to change course and imitate his life. Do they want him to be gentle or come to them with the rod of correction?
Chapter Context:
First Corinthians 4 continues Paul's insistence to the Corinthian Christians to stop making themselves judges of each other. Only the Lord's judgment matters. They are living as if their wealth and status are all they need, while the apostles serve Christ in poverty and under persecution, imitating Christ. Paul urges them to change course and imitate his life. Paul will continue his increasingly stern tone in chapter 5, where he will confront appalling examples of sin in the church at Corinth.
Book Summary:
First Corinthians is one of the more practical books of the New Testament. Paul writes to a church immersed in a city associated with trade, but also with corruption and immorality. These believers are struggling to properly apply spiritual gifts and to resist the ungodly practices of the surrounding culture. Paul's letter gives instructions for real-life concerns such as marriage and spirituality. He also deals with the importance of unity and gives one of the Bible's more well-known descriptions of love in chapter 13.
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