1 Corinthians 4:14-21 - No Father, No Manhood

It's Good To Be A Man  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  35:35
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The plague of fatherlessness that is destroying our world can only be remedied through our sonship with God through Jesus Christ

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Many years ago, when I was around ten or eleven, I saw a promotion on TV for a true-story miniseries about the life of Phillipe Charboneau, the illegitimate son of an English duke who was forced to flee to America, where he becomes involved in the events leading to the American Revolution. It had an all-star cast of actors I already knew from my favorite TV shows: Lorne Greene, Harry Morgan, William Shatner, Patricia Neal (and featuring Tom Bosley as Benjamin Franklin!), and it was set during the American Revolution, one of my favorite historical periods. When the title came on the screen at the end of the ad, I remember turning to Mom and Dad and saying, “I think I’d really like to watch that show, “The Bastard!” (They had to gently explain to me that, while that did look like a good miniseries, the title was a bad word that we really shouldn’t be using…)
Now, I’m not advocating that we bring that word into regular usage in our day to day lives, but I am going to be using it this morning in its proper context. And the first question I have is, why is that word so rude and unfit for polite company? It literally means a son that has no father, or a son whose father will not recognize him as his son. Now, follow me here: That is the technical definition of the word—a bastard is a son who has no father. But the popular meaning, the immediate connotation of the word is of a man who is particularly cruel or rude or despicable or unpleasant.
It is not a coincidence that a rude or cruel or despicable man is connected with being a fatherless man. The word “bastard” is so rude because it implies a man has no father, which used to be a shameful thing in society. And the word implies that his fatherlessness has made him cruel and heartless and despicable and rude and selfish.
When we look to the Scriptures, we understand that this dynamic of fatherlessness creating “bastards” has a very clear explanation: All human fathers are an image and representation of God the Father. God created men to represent His rulership on this earth—to subdue and rule and order the world, and to train sons to extend his reach and carry his work of dominion further into all creation.
But God’s Fatherhood that He created to be reflected in mankind as His representative rulership was ruined by the Fall of our First Father Adam. And as a result, the creation has fallen into chaos and disorder. And so each son born to each fallen father learns not how to be God’s representative ruler on earth; he learns how to twist his masculinity into the toxicity of selfishness, violence, lust and ego. And a son who has no father in his life—whether because he was an absent father who left him or an abdicating father who ignored him or an abusive father who hurt him—such a son grows up with no idea how to be a man at all. He is, for all intents and purposes, a clueless bastard. He has no father, and no idea how to be a man.
The great majority of the chaos and collapse of the society we live in today is directly tied to this plague of fatherlessness.
In his book Fatherless Generation, John Sowers reports, According to various sources, children from fatherless homes account for 63 percent of youth suicides, 71 percent of pregnant teenagers, 90 percent of all homeless and runaway children, 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions, 85 percent of all youth who exhibit behavior disorders, 80 percent of rapists motivated with displaced anger, 71 percent of all high school dropouts, 75 percent of all adolescents in chemical abuse centers, 85 percent of all youths sitting in prison. (Quoted in Foster, Michael ; Tennant, Dominic Bnonn. It's Good to Be a Man: A Handbook for Godly Masculinity (pp. 112-113). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.)
In the absence of fathers, clueless bastards are desperate to find anything that will give them guidance on what it means to be a man. So they turn to books, blogs, YouTube, podcasts—anything that will give them some kind of clue as to what it means to be a man. But God has designed the world in such a way that there is no manhood without fatherhood. There is no way to become a man if you have never been a son.
But the Good News that God’s Word holds out for all those clueless bastards is that there is hope. God has provided a way for fatherless sons to learn to be men:
The antidote to the FATHERLESSNESS of our world is SONSHIP through Christ
We do not call God our Father because His Fatherhood is an imitation of earthly relationships—we call our fathers “fathers” because they are the representation of His Fatherhood! And that means that even if you have had an absent or abdicating or abusive father, you have a greater Father in God Himself!
I want to spend our time this morning searching the Scriptures to see that this is true—that the antidote to the poison of fatherlessness in our world is found in becoming sons of God through Jesus Christ.
Turn with me first to Galatians 4 (page 974 of the pew Bible). The first thing, the foundational truth about sonship for clueless bastards is that

I. Sonship requires ADOPTION (Galatians 4:4-7)

Galatians 4:4–7 (ESV)
4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
A fatherless son needs to be adopted into a family; he needs to have a Father say “I will be your Father; you will be My son.” And that adoption takes place when we are redeemed by the blood of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. There is no sonship with God the Father without repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Because it is when the Spirit of the Son of God enters our hearts in salvation that we are able to call out to God as Father, and He looks on us as sons:
Romans 8:14–16 (ESV)
14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
Clueless bastards have grown up as orphans; no father to teach or guide or protect or train them into being a man. But
There are no ORPHANS in the HOUSEHOLD of God
When you come to faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, you are transformed from being a child of His wrath into a son of His love. You have within you the Spirit of Jesus Christ—the eternal Son of God Himself—calling out “Father!” to Him. And that means that when you call out “Father” to God, it is the same as if Christ Himself were calling out “Father”. The cure for fatherlessness in this world is the sonship that you have through faith in Jesus Christ.
Sonship requires adoption, and secondly,

II. Sonship requires DISCIPLINE (Hebrews 12:4-8)

Turn with me to Hebrews 12 (p. 1008). The author reminding his readers not to grow weary in their struggles against sin—and says that this struggle for holiness is essential to being a son:
Hebrews 12:4–8 (ESV)
4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
Clueless bastards have never grown up with meaningful discipline in their lives—and so when they are faced with the teachings of the Scriptures that challenge and rebuke and convict them, they tend to cut and run. They don’t want God to convict them of their sin and drive them to holiness through His Word—this is why Verses 6-7 remind them that the discipline and chastening they undergo is a good thing, because it means they are sons—if God did not bother to correct you, then He is not your Father!
Chesty Puller, the most decorated U.S. Marine in history, is famous for saying that “Pain is weakness leaving the body”. The Scriptures say that for the sons of God the Father, conviction of sin is
When you come to God the Father through Jesus Christ to learn sonship, He will discipline and train and convict and test and reprove and grow you into manhood by the ministry of His Spirit working through His Word. And it will be at times painful—painful to confront your sin, to acknowledge your failure, to stand before the chastening rod of God through His Word. And you will be tempted to run away; to stop coming to church, to ghost church members, to shut down and not pay attention when the Scriptures are taught. But that pain of conviction is not a sign that God is angry with you—God’s discipline means He loves you; His reproof means that you are not a clueless bastard, you are His precious son!
The antidote to the fatherlessness of our world is found in sonship through Jesus Christ. Sonship requires adoption, it requires discipline, and third,

III. Sonship requires RELATIONSHIP (1 Corinthians 4:14-16)

Turn to 1 Corinthians 4 (page 954). Paul is writing to the church at Corinth because they were beginning to disregard Paul’s authority as an Apostle sent by Jesus; they were beginning to get more interested in what some of the other, flashier, more popular religious and moral teachers were proposing. Paul takes them down a couple of notches, sarcastically praising them for how erudite and noble and wise they have become:
1 Corinthians 4:10–13 (ESV)
10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.
He then goes on starting in verse 14 to appeal to the relationship he has with them. Paul was the one who brought them to faith in Jesus Christ, who preached the Gospel to them and established them in their Christian faith. He writes:
1 Corinthians 4:14–16
14 I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 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. 16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me.
Paul is not just another flashy itinerant philosopher giving 1st Century TED Talks in Corinth’s amphitheater—he isn’t just a teacher, he is their father.
This is what we mean when we say that sonship requires relationship—clueless bastards like to dial up presentations and blogs and podcasts and YouTube channels for advice on how to be a man, how to fix a car, how to talk to a girl, how to be assertive, how to make good choices, and on and on. They love to gather tips and tricks and knowledge from teachers all over the blogosphere, but in learning to be a man
You don’t need another TEACHER (cp. 1 Cor. 11:1)
You need a father, Paul says. See there again in verse 15 how fatherhood is tied to sonship through Jesus Christ. There are a lot of teachers and instructors out there who can tell you what to do; but a father will show you what to do:
1 Corinthians 11:1 (ESV)
1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
The difference between a teacher and a father is that a teacher merely informs his students; “Here’s what to do in this situation”—but a father delights in seeing his son grow. It is an intimate relationship that a mere instructor will never have with a student. This is another way of saying that

IV. Sonship requires LOVE (1 Thessalonians 2:8)

In 1 Thessalonians 2, Paul describes his relationship with the church this way:
1 Thessalonians 2:8 (ESV)
8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
There is no way to learn to be a man without first learning to be a son. And there is no way to be a son without having a father. By its very nature, a father’s relationship with his son is one of affection, of looking on his son as being very dear to him. Paul says that he didn’t merely share the Gospel with the Thessalonians—fatherhood and sonship means that you must
Be willing to SHARE your LIFE
Clueless bastards feel this need—they want a father to look up to, to admire, to want to emulate. And so when they find a teacher or author or podcaster they admire, they craft him into a hero, putting them on a pedestal, elevating everything they say and do to an unimpeachable level.
But the problem with that is that you never really know someone just from their online presence! Those podcasts or videos are edited and packaged—you don’t know what kind of life they are living outside of the very carefully curated moments that they let you see and hear. They may be sharing their tips and tricks or philosophies or commentary with you, but they are not sharing their lives with you. And the reason that they aren’t sharing their lives with you is that they don’t really care.
You don’t need a teacher; you need a father. You need a man who will delight to share his life with you—the good, the bad, the ugly; warts and all. In other words, sonship requires community—to live together with men who can speak into your life and say as Paul said to the Corinthians, “Follow me as I follow Christ”.
The place to find that community is in the household of God your Father—

V. Sonship requires the CHURCH (Ephesians 4:11-13)

Listen to the way the Scriptures describe the gifts given to the church in Ephesians 4--
Ephesians 4:11–13 (ESV)
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
This community—not an online chat room, not a Joe Rogan fan Reddit thread, not a Jordan Peterson conference—this community of the household of God, the Church—is where manhood is forged and matured. The gifts God has given the church are specifically promised to instill the maturity and unity and faith and knowledge of Christ that will make men out of clueless bastards!
But there is a pitfall in this truth—too many young men have spent too long learning from a distance, building up the perfection of their teachers in their minds, cobbling together their idea of the perfect church or perfect pastor or perfect theology by cherry-picking from a dozen different teachers, preachers, podcasters and blogs. And so when they encounter a real church and real pastor and real community, it never measures up.
A clueless bastard will always find something about a particular church that doesn’t check out according to his personal requirements; it doesn’t line up with his personal theology, it doesn’t fit in with his preferences for music or worship or Bible translation or something. And so he’ll cut loose, and go looking for a church family that perfectly matches the ideal he has grown in the hothouse of his isolated learning and thinking.
In his book on Christian community, Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer warns of this kind of perfectionism when looking for a church. He wrote:
Those who love the dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community, even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial (Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community, trans. John w. Doberstein (New York: Harper and Row, 1927), p. 27), emphasis added
The fact is,
You don’t need a PERFECT church, you need a FAITHFUL church
There are no perfect churches—but there are faithful churches. Every church is full of redeemed sinners growing in their sanctification by the power of the Holy Spirit working through His Word to make them more like Christ as they seek to serve their Heavenly Father. And that means that every church (including this one) and every pastor (including this one) and every fellowship (including this one) is going to let you down at some point.
There are no perfect churches or perfect pastors or perfect fellowships with perfect theologies and perfect ministries. But there are, by God’s grace, faithful ones that seek to honor God in every way, faithful to His Word and faithful to one another. And that is the only place where true manhood can be forged
Ephesians 4:14–16 (ESV)
14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
This country—this world—is dying of fatherlessness. And there is only one antidote: the sonship that is offered to all men—and all women—through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. You cannot grow up into manhood without first being a son. And you cannot be a son of the Father in Heaven unless you have been adopted into His household. No matter how the fatherlessness of this world has orphaned you, this is your home. No matter how ashamed you are of what you have done—or what has been done to youwhen you have come in faith to Him for salvation, there is no condemnation from your Heavenly Father. The blood of the Son of God was shed on that Cross so that you would be free of all you guilt, all your shame, all your failures.
So step up to the call of sonship; lean in to the commitment to a living, breathing community of the household of God. The only way to become a mature son of God—to become a true father yourself—is through the means He established by which He raises up sons to image Him. Lean in, commit, lock arms with one another and submit to the discipline of your Heavenly Father through the faithful ministry of His Word through His Spirit working through His church. Your path to manhood passes through the death, burial and resurrection of His Son—your Savior—Jesus Christ!
Ephesians 3:20–21 (ESV)
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.


How do all fathers reflect the Fatherhood of God in the world? What kind of impact do fathers have on their families that mothers do not have?
Read Galatians 4:4-7 again. Why is it true that sonship must start with repentance and faith in Christ?
Why is it so difficult for fatherless guys to endure chastening or correction? What does Hebrews 12:4-8 teach about the relationship between conviction and sonship?
What happens when you rely on online preachers, teachers, bloggers and podcasters for your spiritual development? What are some ways that type of “discipleship” cripples you when it comes to committing to a local church?
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