A Good Example
1 Corinthians 9:1-23
Introduction: The issue in Chapter 8 was centered around what a believer should eat. You will remember that Paul answered their question by telling them that what was at stake was not simply a matter of what steaks they ate! People are more important than exercising freedom. Paul said that if something that he was doing was causing a brother to be lead into sin, even though he had the liberty to do so, that he would willing give up his rights for the sake of his Christian brother or sister.
In Chapter nine, Paul gives a personal example of what he means by laying aside rights for the sake of others. He first outlines those rights and then focuses in on the more important issue.
1. The authority of an Apostle vv. 1-2
a. Pastors are often the target of criticism! The same was true for Apostles. The same is true for presidents!
b. In the first two verses, Paul is defending his position as an Apostle so we can surmise that there were those who were calling his authoritative position into question.
c. Paul had personally been recruited by the risen Christ. He had been sanctioned by Jesus as an Apostle to the Gentiles. Evidently the other Apostles were being afforded privileges that Paul was not.
d. He lists a few of the areas where he was not being treated the same.
a. V.4 Food and drink. For his daily needs to be met.
b. For the expense of taking a wife along.
c. Not having to work an “outside” job. He deals with this issue at length.
2. The right to be remunerated vv.6-15
a. Paul uses several illustrations to and some Scriptural support to explain that those who are called to ministry are to be supported financially by the people that they minister to.
b. The soldier – he is paid by the ones that he serves
c. The farmer – he shares in the produce that he grows.
d. The shepherd – he at least gets some of the milk from the flock
e. The ox – even the animals that work are afforded the luxury of getting some benefits from their work.
f. Paul makes it clear that it was not just for the oxen that the verse was written. The one who plows and the one who harvests get to share the profits of their work.
g. The same is true in the ministry.
h. It was true for the Old Testament priests, and Paul says it was true for those laboring for the gospel.
i. Verse 14 says that the Lord that those who proclaim the gospel are entitled to get their living from the gospel.
j. Paul says that although he was within his God given rights to make his living from sharing the gospel, he did not exercise his right because there was something that was more important to him than his rights.
3. The good of the gospel vv.16-23
a. Paul’s passion was to preach the gospel. He saw himself as having no other option because he was compelled by God to do so.
b. He wasn’t boasting about how spiritual he was because he didn’t receive or demand what was rightfully his or that he worked day and night not to be a burden to anyone. He was simply more focused on not offending people but loving them.
c. There have been those who have abused the ministry for personal gain. I am sure that there always be some who are in it for the money. Paul made it clear that his motive for ministry instead of personal gain he constantly gave of himself because the message of the gospel was the focal point of his life.
d. Look what he was willing to do for the sake of the gospel:
i. Though free, he became a slave to win more.
ii. To the Jew he became a Jew to win them.
iii. To the non Jews and non religious he associated with those who made him feel a little uncomfortable without sinning, to win them. See the pattern?
iv. To the weak, those who found themselves still bound by their past be it legalism or paganism, he refused to offend them by participating in things which he had a right to do. He wanted to win them in the sense of seeing them come to maturity in Christ.
v. He didn’t do these things in order to be saved, he did them because he was saved and wanted as many people to experience that blessing as possible. He also wanted to personally experience all of the blessings that come from being an obedient believer. V.23
Conclusion: Paul used himself as a good example of laying aside the liberty that was rightfully his. That is a lesson that we should learn. But there is even a greater lesson present here. The passion of Paul’s heart was to see lives transformed by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. For him this was no casual endeavor. He could not sit idly by while people went to hell. What is it about us, I have to wonder, that allows us to do be so casual about the fact that our friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family are not moving any closer to becoming Christians? Sometimes I wonder if we really believe what the Bible teaches about eternal damnation. Do we really think that God will allow them to go to hell? Have we been lulled to sleep by the philosophy of the world that says that a loving God would never send anybody to hell? If we have, we have been seriously deceived. The truth is that God doesn’t send anybody to hell, they send themselves. It is not God’s fault that we choose to sin. It is not God’s fault that we reject the sacrifice of his dear son on the Cross–– the very way of forgiveness that God provided. No, God has done everything possible to provide deliverance for those condemned by sin. He not only provided a substitute to suffer the consequences, he became that substitute himself. He suffered. That’s right. God’s suffered incredible pain for you and me. If we choose to reject that, and we have if we have not come to Christ, then we have no one to blame but ourselves.
The reality of this world is that there are millions of people who do not know Christ and are on their way to eternal condemnation. There is an appointment on everyone’s calendar. It is put there at birth. The Bible teaches that it is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment. That is the appointment on every person's calendar. Your calendar may be full. You may be too busy for God. But this is one appointment that you will keep. Everyone you know will keep this appointment.
If we really saw this truth, and if we really cared about those people, we should feel some sense of urgency concerning their date with eternal destiny. Paul certainly did. That is why he was committed to use every means at his disposal. He was willing to make whatever adjustments he needed to make to communicate the truth in ways they could understand. And so should we. In other words, we should try to find common ground with the lost people in order to lead them to Christ. We need to take time to get to know them–– their hurts, fears, frustrations, problems, challenges. And then we need to do what we can to help them in these practical areas of life. We need to communicate to them that we really do care. People matter to God and they should matter to us.
This is what Paul was saying was his strategy. And it should be our strategy as well. But we must remember something very important. What we're talking about here is not a method. Too often the church wants to reduce it to that. We think that if we simply introduce a new style of worship, or more contemporary music, or the latest thing that's working in some other church that people will respond to the method. Not so. What we're talking about is not a method but rather a passion. We will never reach people until we have a passion to reach them. We will never communicate we really care for them until we really care for them. Until our heart is burdened for their spiritual welfare, all else will be mere mechanics. Paul had a heart that was breaking for the lost people of his day. He did all he could to see that people had an opportunity to get to know the Savior.
May God give us a heart like that.
1 Corinthians 9:1-23 (NASB95)1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? 2 If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. 3 My defense to those who examine me is this: 4 Do we not have a right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or do only Barnabas and I not have a right to refrain from working? 7 Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock? 8 I am not speaking these things according to human judgment, am I? Or does not the Law also say these things? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He? 10 Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops. 11 If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar? 14 So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel. 15 But I have used none of these things. And I am not writing these things so that it will be done so in my case; for it would be better for me to die than have any man make my boast an empty one. 16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. 17 For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. 18 What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. 19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. 23 I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.