“Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.” – 2 Cor 1:24
It is hard to read Paul’s statement to the Corinthians and not think of what Martin Luther replied when asked to recant his beliefs and submit to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.
Truly, it is by faith we stand in what God has revealed in scripture. Paul explained in 2 Cor 1:21 that it is God “which stablisheth us with you in Christ”. It is not the pronouncement of a Pope, pastor, or an apostle.
Our standing by faith in the word of God means that if someone tries to claim authority over your standing in Christ then they are usurping God’s place.
This amazing truth delivers you from the bondage and control of religion or the law to enslave you through their man made dictates.
How great is the power of faith in God’s words! By faith we stand.
A Grace Excuse
Nevertheless, 2 Cor 1:24 is sometimes used wrongly to excuse oneself from being corrected or reproved by the word of God, and this leads to another error.
Like the unbeliever who might say, “don’t judge”, misusing Matthew 7:1 essentially telling Christians to “leave me alone, I can do what I want”, believers like to warn other Christians from having “dominion over my faith”, essentially saying “leave me alone, I can believe what I want.”
Both are wresting the scriptures. Doing whatever you want is not right. Believing whatever you want is not right.
Matthew 7:1 was Jesus warning against hypocrisy not a prohibition against judging right from wrong. Jesus taught to “judge righteous judgment” in John 7:24.
In 1 Cor 2:15 Paul says, “he that is spiritual judgeth all things”’ and elsewhere prays that the Philippians would abound in “knowledge and in all judgment” (Phil 1:9).
Clearly judgment is a good thing when done right.
Similarly, it is the church’s responsibility to be the “pillar and ground of the truth”, “striving together for the faith”, “reprove, rebuke, exhort”, “hold fast the faithful word”, and “exhort and convince the gainsayers.”
Clearly, truth is the domain of the scripture and the responsibility of the church and its ministers to uphold and affirm (1 Tim 3:15).
Seeking pure and true doctrine from the word of God is not having “dominion over your faith”.
Identifying errors and correcting doctrinal mistakes from the word of God is not having “dominion over your faith”.
Reproving, rebuking, and condemning bad behavior from the word of God is not having “dominion over your faith”, for it is the very thing that Paul is doing in his letters to the Corinthians.
Don’t let this grace excuse stop you from doing ministry in love and truth.
Why Paul Did Not Want Dominion
Paul has authority (dominion) over the message Christ gave him to dispense (1 Cor 9:17). He was the apostle of the Gentiles, and as such had power (Rom 11:13; 1 Cor 9:1; 1 Cor 4:15-16).
Yet, by grace Paul knew that using that power could inhibit the preaching of the gospel of grace working in the hearers. Paul wanted them to know his heart, not his power.
“What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?” – 1 Corinthians 4:21
Consider this time when Paul did not use his power over the Corinthians:
“If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 9:12
Paul did not come to Corinth and rebuke them to their face lest he destroy them, and he did not intend for his rebuke to destroy but to help, to edify, because he loved them.
“Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the power which the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction.” – 2 Corinthians 13:10
Proper leadership does not lead by binding everyone’s feet (or in this case, faith). Good leaders do not get ahead by beating others down, but by building others up.
Paul exhibits good leadership when errors are lovingly corrected, and misbehavior is properly rebuked in order to help bring greater joy.
How does pointing out wrongs bring greater joy? Simple. When they are corrected then there are more people in the Body striving together for the same faith with the same mind.
When errors abound, the Body is divided. When errors are corrected, the Body is united, and joy is increased.
“Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” – Phil 2:2
Paul did not want them to see his rebuke as exercising dominion over their faith because soldiers fighting for what they believe fight better than mercenaries fighting for what they are told.