Paul said that even if there were countless teachers, there were not many fathers, in his time (1 Cor.4:15). This is true even today. Every servant of God must strive to have the spirit of a father towards the brothers and sisters in the church. It is easy to BECOME a father, but it is difficult to BE a father. A man can produce ten children without any difficulty. But to bring up those children to mature manhood is quite another matter. It is the same in the church. To bring people to the new birth is relatively easy. But to present them perfect in Christ to the Father is far more difficult. Our ambition should not be to have a large church but a pure one. It is no use having many people in our church, if they are not growing up to maturity and perfection.
Paul told the Corinthians, as a spiritual father, "I do not write these things to shame you" (1 Cor.4:14). Teachers seek to humiliate their failing students and put them to shame publicly. But fathers are different. They cover every sin that their stumbling children commit, and continuously encourage them to a higher life. It is far easier to be a teacher in an assembly than a father, for it costs a great deal of self-denial to carry the burdens of others on our hearts. Teachers can never build a family. They can only build classes. And many churches are schools, and not homes. Only a father can build a home and a family. If our church is not like a family, what is the reason? It must be that we are teachers and not fathers. Do we look at the brothers and sisters in the church as students who need to be taught? Then we have the wrong spirit. If we are fathers, we will look at them as those who have to be borne with, and supported in a loving, caring and understanding way. It is good for us to judge ourselves and see what we really are - fathers or teachers. It is no use blaming the brothers and sisters in the church saying that they are all carnal. Let us judge ourselves first. A true spiritual father will not seek his own gain in anything, but always the welfare and the good of his spiritual children. Paul says in 2 Cor 12:14,15 , "I will not be a burden to you. I do not seek what is yours but you. Children are not responsible to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls". Those are the words of a true father. It cost Paul everything to be a father. He considered all that he had gained in life as rubbish compared to gaining Christ. He also considered it worth sacrificing everything in order to be a father to those whom he had brought to Christ. A teacher works for pay. He does not seek the good of the students primarily, but his own gain. The gain we expect may not be money, but honour. Do we want to be respected and recognised as servants of God by others? Then we are seeking a salary - of honour - from them. Then we are teachers, not fathers. Fathers expect nothing in return for all that they do for their children. Paul did not expect respect or even submission from others. He only sought their spiritual growth.
How does a father care for his children? In a poor home, the father and mother will not even eat, if there is not enough food for the children. They will gladly deny themselves, and they will not even let their children know that they have not eaten, lest the children feel bad about it. A father hides his self denial from his children. Do we have such a spirit - that denies itself for the good of the brothers and sisters, and will not even let them know about it. Another characteristic of a father is that he is eager to see his children advance beyond him in life - in education and in every other way. There are many fathers who have never studied beyond high school, who sacrifice so much to give a college-education to their children. They are happy to deny themselves the comforts of life for this purpose and they are delighted when their children graduate. No father is ever jealous to see his son advance beyond his status or his educational level in life. That is how a true servant of God will be too. He will be delighted when younger brothers are wholehearted and get revelation from the Scriptures and are used by the Lord to be a blessing to others. He will sincerely long that they should advance beyond him spiritually, and be more useful in the Lord's hands than he has ever been. When we see younger brothers growing up in the church, without any folly being manifested in their lives, because of good leadership that protects them, we should rejoice that they can have such a blessing as we never had when we were young. There will not be even a shade of jealousy in us, if we are fathers. On the contrary, we will be delighted. We will rejoice that it is going well with them. Only fathers can build the true church - the New Jerusalem. We may understand and proclaim all the truths of the new covenant, and yet if we do this with the spirit of a teacher we will still build Babylon. A teacher is very conscious of all the labour that he has invested in his students. He thinks of the honour he will receive if his students do well. He is always thinking of what he will gain, even when his students do well. A father however is quite different. He desires only the welfare of his children. He desires nothing for himself. A teacher will criticise his students. A father however will encourage his children. If we keep on criticizing the brothers and sisters, we will accomplish little, even if everything we say is true. A father will accomplish much more by encouraging his children. Only a father can continue to be kind to ungrateful and evil children. A teacher will give up on ungrateful students very quickly.