One: 1 Corinthians 9.1-18
May 12, 2013 Series: One | First Letter to the Corinthians
Topic: New Testament Passage: 1 Corinthians 9:1–9:18
Read 1Corinthians 9.1-18: Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship 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 This is my defense to those who would examine me. 4 Do we not have the right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? 7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? 8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?
Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.
15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting. 16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. 18 What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.
Intro: Christian Freedom
Corinth is a divided church. It is vibrant, growing, and spirit-filled, but its members are going in a thousand different directions. Driven by personal preferences, they spiritualize their opinions to make them stronger, and in the process, destroy the gospel-community Jesus is trying to build. Paul’s intent in writing, and ours in preaching, is to get everyone to repent of their own agendas and get on mission with Jesus’.
Part of the problem is that the Corinthians have gone wild with the “freedom in Christ” Paul preached. In chapters 8-10, Paul addresses this idea of CHRISTIAN LIBERTY. Being free in Christ means our acceptance before God is not based on our obedience God’s Law. Our righteous standing before God is based on Jesus’ perfect obedience. Anything and everything I do to save myself falls short of God’s perfect standard; therefore, I must put my faith in what Jesus did for me. Through faith, this unlovable and incorrigible child of wrath becomes an adopted son of the King and receives a full inheritance. I live as one accepted, knowing if I fail in my obedience, I can boast in the Lord. And if I succeed in my obedience, I know I must boast in the Lord. I am FREED FROM the fear of failure before a just Judge…and…I am FREED TO serve my Father with joy.
But we are not FREED to do whatever we want.
The apostle Peter warns us to: 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. In other words, just because we are made righteous by Jesus and freed from the condemnation sin brings, doesn’t mean there aren’t good works to pursue and bad works to avoid, it simply means our motivation for pursuing or avoiding is different. In the Bible, God give us three different things kinds instructions that inform our Christian liberty:
FIRST, God commands things we must NOT DO—there are certain things God forbids. This would include lying, sexual immorality, defrauding our brothers, etc. SECOND, God also commands things we MUST DO—there are certain things God expects. This would include loving our neighbors, forgiving our brothers, using our words to build up, etc. THIRD, there are a number of things about which God remains SILENT. God allows us the freedom to make decisions about things like food, drink, tattoos, entertainment, education, etc. And not only will Christians hold very different opinions about such things, they must avoid passing judgment on those who disagree with them. In Romans 14.1-8, Paul writes: As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.
Paul’s FIRST Principle – Love for my Brother (Chapter 8)
Dealing with issues about which God remains silent is what Paul is addressing in these chapters. God does remain silent, but he also gives us principles to help guide our decision-making for these things—like honoring what our parents tell us to do, obeying the laws of the land, caring for our bodies, etc. In chapter 8, mature Christians asked Paul how they should regard immature Christians who viewed the eating of meat sacrificed to pagan gods as evil. The mature “know” that there is NOTHING WRONG with eating the idol meat because there is NOHTING REAL about the gods to whom it is sacrificed—like Easter eggs. Paul agrees with the mature Christians view of things, but warns them against theological pride that harms the weak in faith. He reminds them that their decisions are not made in a vacuum; that they need to consider how exercising their freedom may impact their brothers who are weaker in faith. He appeals, therefore, to the greater principle of LOVE to guide our Christian freedom.
In other words, our right to do something does not make it right. At times, denying your freedom is more helpful than exercising it. THOSE “TIMES” ARE HARD TO DETERMINE. And it is infinitely more difficult than making a list of rules or having no rules at all. Discernment for each situation requires much more time praying to Jesus, studying Jesus words, and counseling with Jesus people. Chapter 8 leads into 9, where Paul uses his own life as an example of his point. We have the freedom to exercise our rights, but we also have the freedom not to. Paul knows he is free to eat what he wants or marry who he wants—all things are lawful. Just like them, he has great “knowledge.” He is not a weaker brother, but the “mature” Christian with a clear conscience. HE IS AN APOSTLE—one of the men called by Jesus in person. He met the resurrected Jesus face to face, he learned the gospel directly from Jesus teaching, and he was sent on mission to preach plant churches by Jesus command. If anyone could have pride in his “knowledge” and a “strong” faith to guide him, it is Paul.
Paul’s Rights as an Apostle
He reminds the Corinthians that, even if some question his “apostleship”, they know. He is the founder of their church and they are indebted to him for their existence. As such, Paul possesses God-ordained rights to material support. When he argues that he is free to eat, free to drink, or free to marry and bring a bride with him on his missionary journeys, he is arguing that he has the right to do all of it at the EXPENSE of the church. He also has the right to refrain from working a secular job, just as the 12 disciples have. He has the right to be paid, as do other ministers of the gospel, by the churches in which they have ministered to. This truth, according to Paul, is common and Jewish law.
Soldiers do not support themselves during war, and both farmers and shepherds partake of the fruit of their labor. Jewish law allowed the hard working oxen in the fields who, as they worked, shared in the harvest that was produced. And, to strengthen his case, he compares preachers to Old Testament priests who were supported by temple offerings. The LORD COMMANDS that “preachers of gospel” get their living (basic sustenance) from the gospel, meaning, Corinth should support Paul and churches should pay their pastors. But Paul is not scolding them for lack of support. He is reminding them of his example. We read in Acts 18, for the time that he was in Corinth Paul made tents and supported himself. He didn’t have to do this, but Paul practices what he preaches. He is not asking them to do anything that he has not done. Paul’s point, however, is that HE HAS CHOSEN NOT TO MAKE USE OF THESE RIGHTS.
Paul’s self-denial for the gospel
But why does Paul make his life more uncomfortable than he has to? He is motivated by something more important than his comfort. From Prison Paul wrote: Philippians 3.8 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. Paul considered the loss of his comfort, his job, his friends, his reputation, his health, his power, even his reputation as incomparable to having gained Christ. And having experienced the joy of being love freely, forgiven freely, and empowered freely, he would deny himself every right if it meant the gospel would go forth. The demand for his PERSONAL rights was overpowered by a GREATER gospel-desire:
#1 The demand for rights was overpowered by the desire to see the gospel to be preached:
Therefore, Paul endures the loss of whatever might hinder the communication of the gospel in word or lifestyle. He did not simply tolerate what happened. At times, Paul chose to go with LESS; sometimes Paul chose to go with WITHOUT; and sometimes that meant Paul chose to go WORSE. He did this for the mission of the LORD. More than he valued a marriage, family, more than a career, more than a full belly, more than a vacation, more than comfort, he valued the gospel going forth.
#2 The demand for rights was overpowered by the desire to be above reproach:
Paul says he’d rather die than lose his grounds for boasting about the pure motivation behind his ministry. The Corinthians had already been taken advantage of by the Sophists, the “wise” philosophers who debated publicly. They traveled from city to city to find new opportunities and new disciples who pay them to learn how to win arguments with deceptive rhetoric—lawyers. Paul denies his right to financial support so that his motives would not be confused with someone who taught for selfish gain. He was so concerned with people trusting this message, he looked at the community he was trying to reach and determined to know what CAN I give up so that the gospel can go forth in this place.
#3 The demand for his rights is overpowered by the desire to obey Jesus’ call to preach the gospel:
Paul understands he is a man with a mission. He says “Woe to me” if I don’t preach the gospel. He recognizes that he has been entrusted with a message to steward. He has a responsibility, he is appointed to task. Being a steward is more than holding. A good manager not only keeps something untarnished, he must do whatever he can, with what he has, to make it more. Denial of his rights, for the sake of the gospel, is an act of obedience for he knows he is going to give an account for what he has done with it.
#4 The demand for his rights is overpowered by the desire Paul wants internal rewards:
Even though Paul is a commissioned messenger of Jesus, but preaching is more than a duty. He does not want to benefit materially, rather, his greatest hope is that others will benefit spiritually. The Corinthians only “do their duty’ if it results in their personal gain. For Paul, preaching is not duty. Is your love you’re your bride duty? If sharing the love of Christ ever becomes duty, we have already lost as a church.
Jesus Self-denial for us
Paul wants them to do is imitate him as he imitates Christ (11.1). The greatest reason to deny our rights is that we might point others towards the one who truly denied what he rightly deserved. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, entered into our human brokenness. The King came off his thrown and relinquished his rights. 2Corinthians 8.9 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. Jesus relinquishes power. Jesus abandons his freedom. Jesus takes on weakness. Jesus chooses poverty. Jesus denied his rights. The supreme creator of all things, the eternal son of God, did not force his way. He did not complain. He did not sit in resentment. He did not fight. He did not run away. The one who deserved our love, our adoration, our worship, our allegiance, denied himself his due to secure our salvation. Will you deny your right to _______ for Jesus, because He denied His right to everything for you?
Conclusion: For the love of the gospel
In some ways, it is easier to understand denying your rights out of love for a weaker brother. What about our love for the gospel? Has your mission become little more than the comfort of ritual religion? Does the gospel still fill you with awe? If the gospel captivates us, we will be a people who go with less to make more of Christ. Are you willing to give up your rights so that the gospel might go forth? Right now, it may mean giving up your comfort. It may be giving up your security. It may mean giving up your dream. It may be giving up your time. It may be giving up that job. It may be giving up your money. It may mean giving up your vacation plans. It may be giving up your lifestyle. Someday, it may mean giving up your life…so that the gospel can go forth. We must be a people who are so captivated with the grace of Jesus Christ, so convinced of its power to save, and so convicted to reach the world that self-denial becomes our desire.
The deeper the gospel goes into our hearts, the more the heart of Christ becomes our heart. Our calling as individuals, and as the church, must get beyond a mission defined by personal preferences because the heart of Christ is bigger. And those who claim Christ, those who have identified with Him through baptism, those who participate in communion are commanded and empowered to find joy in denying every earthly, material, temporary, benefit if it brings eternal benefits to others. What is, or what will, Jesus asking you to deny your right to _______ for Him—so the gospel might go forth?
Mark 8.34-37 34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? And what will you give up to save the soul of someone else?