The NIV adds a subheading to this passage that reads, “Paul’s Appeal and Warning”. I think that the editors were very diplomatic, for I would have written it more like this: “Paul’s Threat to Corinth”. When I read these verses, they sound to me like Paul is saying, “Don’t make me come over there and straighten you people out!”
However, we might view it, one thing is clear: Paul means business.
This is a consistent message in the New Testament, as we see many times that divisiveness in the church, from whatever source is not to be permitted. In this case, Paul has given us a model to follow: He receives a message that division and fragmentation are taking place in the church at Corinth. In response, he writes them a letter of instruction and warning so that the people might learn their error and take corrective action. He is sending Timothy along with the letter to help them correct the situation, but if that doesn’t work, more drastic steps will be taken. This is the way of love, teach and correct, follow up and try to help people get their act together, and then take serious steps if necessary.
Some might be inclined to bristle at this and say that “they” are just trying to control me, yep that’s it, they just want to control me! Nobody is going to tell me what to do, I will do what I want, when I want: Nobody is going to control me!
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have heard that sentiment, and how impressed I was each time I heard it, with the vast level of maturity it exemplifies. That is why the first step is instructive. I have also heard it said that “the God I know would never be so intolerant that He would let anyone tell me what to do!” That one also shows an amazing level of maturity and insight. Nevertheless, the Church embodies the Kingdom of God, established by the Lord Jesus Christ in His blood, on this earth until He returns. As such, it is the key element in God’s eternal purpose. God is going to see His purpose completed, and no one is going to frustrate His purpose by division and discord. You see dear reader, as error goes in the New Testament, dividing the church is just about as serious as it gets, and God will not permit it.
How ever you might want to view all of this, Paul has completed his discussion of division, and will begin his next topic in chapter five.
Have you figured out the mystery? If not, here’s a hint: Paul has told us more than once, that the mystery of God has been revealed to us. OK, there you go, good work everyone. Of course, it’s the gospel of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the very thing that seems so foolish by merely human understanding. That’s why it was able to hide in plain sight for so long, even though the entire Old Testament points directly to it.