20 For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults;
20 For I fear lest, when I come,
Paul assigned the cause as to why he needed to edify the church.
I shall not find you such as I wish,
This was a wish by the apostle that he would find the Corinthians repentant of associating themselves with the false apostles. The apostle feared that the church would be found with endemic attitudinal sins.
and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish;
The eight vices in the remainder of this verse are those of the false teachers and the result of their incursion into the Corinthian church, causing division.
lest there be contentions [quarrels],
Contention in the church brings strife among believers. It will bring discord and rival factions in the church. Paul was unsure whether these attitudinal sins would happen, but it was a possibility (Ga 5:20). He rebuked them in 1 Corinthians 1:11,12; 3:3 for their divisions. They were a church with a quarreling mood. They loved combat and were always ready for a fight.
Envy fuels a sense of rivalry. It is a deed of the flesh (Ro 13:13; Ga 5:20). A person with jealousy and envy cannot rejoice in another person’s successes. A mature person can delight in God’s blessing on someone else’s life.
outbursts of wrath [factions],
This sin has outbursts of anger and wrath. This is violent anger that flares up swiftly. It is also listed as a deed of the flesh (Ga 5:20). Christians are to lay this sin aside (Eph 4:31; Co 3:8). Explosive anger results from an accumulation of bad attitudes that manifests itself in stark fury toward others.
This sin is self-seeking ambition from the Greek root to work for hire. The original idea was that their sole interest was pay for their work. The Corinthians did not work freely for Christ; they were only interested in personal ambition (Php 1:17; Jas 3:14, 16). Their interest was individual success without inhibitions from God. They carried a sense of rivalry toward others. Above all, they wanted to be better than others. This showed itself in stormy arguments and disagreements.
The Greek word here is the only occurrence in the New Testament. Backbiting is open slander. This person loves to report evil about another person (Jas 4:11).
Those who whisper slander secretly behind someone’s back. This is the kind of person who whispers slander and implies innuendos that cast conjectures on other people’s character and motives.
conceits [puff up; pride],
“Conceits” is arrogant elation, inflated conceit. This is also the only occurrence of the Greek word in the New Testament. These are people who puff themselves up (1 Co 4:6, 18-19; 5:2; 8:1; 13:4; Jude 16; 2 Pe 2:18). They carry a vain sense of superiority over others.
The word “tumults” deals with disorder in the local church (1 Co 14:33). Some in the church go into anarchy or revolution against its leadership.
Attitudinal sins will destroy the spirit of a church.
Unless churches deal with division, there is a propensity for the church to split into fragments. At root, this is a problem of attitudinal sins. An attitude is an orientation, an orientation to sins of the perspective.