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1 Corinthians 9: My Rights for the Gospel Print E-mail
1 Corinthians
Sunday, 01 November 2015

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What would you be willing to give up so that someone could hear the gospel? Would you give up your job or your pay? Would you give up your house, where you live? Would you give up your comforts and ease? What would you give up for someone else to hear the gospel?

It is this question that keeps getting asked of us in 1 Corinthians 9. As we saw last week, Paul is addressing the issue of meat sacrificed to idols in 1 Corinthians 8-10. He told them last week to begin with love instead of the ‘knowledge’ that they wanted to focus on. He ended that argument by calling for them to give up their rights for the sake of their brother or sister in Christ. Better to not go to the temple and eat than cause a brother to sin. Paul tells them that he would make that sacrifice for the sake of his brother (8:13). Of course, someone might respond: ‘Sure you would Paul, talk is cheap.’ But Paul goes on in chapter 9 to remind the Corinthians of how he has in fact given up his rights for the sake of the gospel.

Before we look at what he has given up, we need to mention the fact that it seems the Corinthians’ were questioning his authority as an apostle. As Paul writes about the rights that he has forsaken for the gospel he addresses that issue as well. So then, how has Paul laid down his rights for the sake of the gospel?

Paul laid down his right to be paid for preaching the gospel (v. 1-18)

Paul addresses the apostle issue in verses 1-2. Look at those with me. For Paul, he has two qualifications for proving that he is an apostle. First, he saw Jesus on the road to Damascus when he was saved. He is a witness to the resurrection of Christ and that qualifies him as an apostle. Second, he had planted a church in Corinth. How could they deny that he was an apostle when their existence was evidence to the contrary? They are the seal that the Lord is using him as an apostle. Thus, they were wrong to question his authority and his standing as an apostle.

He goes on to speak of his rights as an apostle to receive provision for preaching the gospel. Look at verses 3-6. Just like Peter and James, Paul had the right to be compensated for his work among the Corinthians. He should be fed and cared for. If he had a wife, they should take care of his family. They did this with James and Peter, so why not with Paul and Barnabas? As an apostle, Paul had a right to be paid for preaching the gospel.

He drives this point home by giving three examples to support his argument. First, he uses the example of common workers. Look at verse 7. A soldier is paid for his work. A farmer is paid for his work. And a shepherd is paid for his work. All of these occupations receive compensation for the work that they do. The soldier gets his expenses paid, the farmer gets some fruit, and the shepherd gets some milk. Since these workers get paid, so should someone who works in preaching the gospel.

The second example that Paul cites is taken from the Law of Moses. Look at verses 8-12a. Under the Law, a farmer was told not to muzzle his ox while it was working so that it could feed while it labored. Paul applies this principle to those who preach the gospel. Should they not be paid for the services that they provide? The one who preaches the good news does so in hope of seeing spiritual fruit, just as Paul saw in the city of Corinth. He preached about Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the Corinthians repented and believed for eternal life. If he sowed spiritual truths among them, should they not be willing to share material blessings with him?

The third example is taken from those who served at the temple. Look at verses 13-14. When someone offered a sacrifice at the temple, the priests would receive a portion of that sacrifice for themselves. Thus, they were provided for through their service. Paul concludes by noting that Jesus applied this principle to those who preach the gospel. They should receive pay for their service. So Paul uses all these examples to prove his point that he had a right to be paid for preaching the gospel among them.

Yet, he gave that right up for the sake of the gospel. Look at verse 12b. Paul felt that receiving pay for preaching the gospel in Corinth would put an obstacle in the way of the gospel. Thus, he refused his right. He repeats this is verses 15-18. Look at those with me. Paul refused to receive pay and he was not making this argument to try to get them to start paying him. For him, being able to preach the gospel without compensation was a privilege, a reward, a boast. He was under the call of God to preach and he would not forsake that call. But he was free to preach without charging, even though he had a right to do that.

What is ironic about this is that Paul’s refusal to accept money for preaching in Corinth was part of the reason why they questioned his apostleship. In those days, the highest paid preachers and teachers were the ones of most value. If a man did not receive money then that meant that his message was not that important. People would line up and pay big to hear certain men wax eloquent, but they did not think much of the one who taught for free. But for Paul, preaching the gospel was not about making lots of money. He was compelled to do it by God’s calling on his life. He was going to preach whether he was paid or not. And in Corinth he felt it best to preach for free while he worked as a tentmaker (see Acts 18). What they considered to indicate weakness in Paul’s ministry, he saw as a privilege and a strength. He willingly gave up his right to be paid for preaching in Corinth for the sake of the gospel.

Paul laid down his right to be free when preaching the gospel (v. 19-23)

Not only did Paul give up being paid, he also gave up his freedoms for the sake of the gospel. He was willing to be a slave of all so that he might reach Jews and Gentiles with the good news of Jesus Christ. Look at verse 19. Paul became a slave so that others might hear the good news. He was more interested in winning people to Jesus than he was exercising his rights as a Christian.

What did this look like? For the Jews, Paul gave us his freedom from the Law to win the Jews. Look at verse 20. Paul knew that Christ had sent him free from the Law. He no longer had to eat certain foods and observe certain days (see Colossians 2:16-23). Yet, for the sake of the gospel, he would submit to those regulations on occasion. When he was among Jewish people, Paul would be kosher to avoid putting a stumbling block in the way of the gospel. He would follow their laws and traditions so that he could share with them about the good news of Jesus’ death for their sins. He became their slave to point them to the Savior.

But when he was with the Gentiles, he would not follow such regulations and lived as one outside the Law for their sake. Look at verse 21. Paul did not worry about being kosher when he was sharing a meal with the Gentiles. He lived outside the law with them. Of course, this does not mean that he was lawless and gave himself to sin. No, he was still under the law of Christ, the moral and ethical teachings of Christianity, but he was free to share a meal with the Gentiles for the sake of the gospel.

Many might call Paul hypocritical or two-faced for such action. He behaved one way with the Jews and another way with the Gentiles. Is Paul just being a sneaky politician in all of this? No, he was actually behaving in a way that was consistent with his desire for people to hear the gospel. The Jews may not listen to a Jewish man talk about anything if he is not kosher. So Paul was willing to submit to that. A Gentile might not listen to a Jewish man who required food regulations. So Paul was willing to submit to that. For Paul, he knew that food will not commend us to God (8:8).

Thus, whether he ate or not was not the issue. The important thing was to preach the gospel to as many as possible. This is what he concludes with in verses 22-23. Look at those with me. Paul just wanted people to know Jesus. He wanted them to hear the good news and to turn from their sins. He wanted them to be saved. So he consistently removed obstacles so that all could hear. He became all things to all people for the sake of the gospel. He laid down his rights so that all could have a chance to hear the good news.

So Paul is willing to give up his rights for the sake of the gospel. He gave up his right to be paid for preaching the gospel and he gave up his right to be free when preaching the gospel. He became a slave for the sake of the good news. He did this in order to run the race well. Look at verses 24-27. I love sports. I love watching games and following teams. I have even played a few sports in my time. And I have often told people that the most valuable lesson I learned from playing basketball in High School was the importance of discipline. You do not improve without hard work. Professional athletes are not good role models, but even with all of their talent, they had to put in some time in practice to get where they are. Being a good athlete requires discipline.

Paul applies this truth to the Christian life. If we are going to run our spiritual race well, then we will have to make some sacrifices. We will have to give up some rights and put in the time. Not to earn our salvation, but to run well and please our master. Not to gain an imperishable trophy (which I have aplenty), but an imperishable one. So then, are you laboring to run well? Are you gunning for the prize by disciplining yourself and giving up your rights for the sake of the gospel? Are you willing to make sacrifices like we see Paul making so that other people might hear the good news? Do not run aimlessly. Do not beat the air. Do not be disqualified. Live crucified lives of discipline and self-denial so that others may see and hear Jesus in you, for their good and His great glory. Amen.

 ~ William Marshall ~ 


Last Updated ( Tuesday, 17 November 2015 )

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