I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. 15 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. 16 Therefore I urge you, imitate me. 17 For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.
18 Now some are puffed up, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power. 20 For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. 21 What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness? — 1 Corinthians 4:14-21.
Paul is acting as a father in criticising the Corinthian Christians so that they can imitate him insofar as he walks with Christ, as a child imitates its father. He, through grace, is responsible for their coming to new life in Christ through the gospel he has shared, and takes a fatherly interest in them. So he sends another spiritual son, Timothy, to remind them and help them regarding how they should walk with their father’s Lord. But he warns those puffed up in pride that he will come again with a father’s rod of chastisement, though he would prefer to come in loving gentleness to obedient children. [The Bible Panorama.]