The Christian Liberty:
(Read 1 Corinthians 9:1-14)
Paul illustrates what it means to give up our rights for the welfare of others. The principle of Christian liberty covers all the areas of life. As an apostle Paul had the right to financial support of the church. But he chose to proclaim the gospel free. Paul showed that by his example of giving up some of his rights for the good of others. Paul answers those who questioned his apostleship in this chapter. He claims that the seal of his apostolic authority is the very existence of the Corinthian church. He was an eyewitness of risen Christ and was divinely commissioned to proclaim the gospel (Acts 9:1-9; Galatians 1:15-16). Paul performed many miracles and many churches were established. They validate his apostleship (2 Corinthians 12:12). He had the right to marry like Peter and James, Christ’s half brother. This shows Peter was married. Mary had other children (Mark 1:30; 3:31). Paul chose to remain single to serve Christ. Paul asks, is it only I and Barnabas have to work to support ourselves? They had the right to receive support from the church for their ministry. It is consistent with the natural law, Mosaic Law and as well as with the temple law (Deuteronomy 25:4; 1 Timothy 5:18; Leviticus 7:6-10). Only when we are impacted by Christ's love, we can have this passion to share the gospel to others. Paul compares himself to a soldier, a farmer and a shepherd. No soldier has to pay his own expenses. The farmer has the right to eat from his own crops. The shepherds are allowed to drink the milk of the flock. Paul served Christ as a good soldier, by sowing the seed of the Word of God and by shepherding Christians. Jesus said “A worker deserves his food” (Matthew 10:10). Paul was willing to give up his right to serve others. Paul concludes by saying that “Those who preach the gospel should live by the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14). Some people support God’s servant out of sympathy. It is not pleasing to God and they will miss the blessing. Paul placed his security and confidence in the faithfulness of God. If we put our confidence in men, we will be disappointed. God is able to supply all our needs (Philippians 4:19).
The Example of Paul’s Ministry:
(Read 1 Corinthians 9:15-18)
The love for Christ drove Paul to give up his right so that he could help others. He wanted others to understand that the gospel is God’s free gift. Paul worked to support himself. The only church that supported him was the church of Philippi. Paul preferred to preach the gospel without charge (1 Corinthians 9:18). Paul had no ground for boasting because he was compelled by the love of Christ to preach the gospel. He says, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). God's servants deserve remuneration. Paul was obligated to preach the gospel because he was given the stewardship of it (4:2; Romans 1:14). Stewards are slaves doing the work assigned to them. They receive no pay. Christians are entrusted with the gospel. Gospel is the divinely revealed objective truth that is non-negotiable. Truth is unchanging. The gospel is the truth about the person and the work of Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Jesus Christ is the very substance of the gospel. From Genesis to Revelation, the scriptures testify of Jesus Christ (John 5:39). Paul found joy and satisfaction in preaching the gospel. That was his reward. The source of Paul’s selfless service was the transforming power of love of Christ. Only when we are gripped by Christ’s love, we will have the passion to preach the gospel. Then our personal comforts and rights will fade away. Pray that God would fill us with passion for the souls.
Paul’s Desire and Goal:
(Read 1 Corinthians 9:19-27)
In the context of Christian liberty, Paul was free yet he made himself a servant to all (9:19). He had many rights but he lived as though he had none. His foremost interest was to preach the gospel and win souls to Jesus Christ. For the sake of the gospel Paul became all things to all people (1 Corinthians 9:22). He was willing to adopt many customs and cultural practices to share the gospel with as many people as possible. That does not mean Paul was compromising truth or condoning sinful practices in order to win souls. Paul practiced what he preached. Paul draws a familiar athletic event known to Corinthians readers to explain his goal. Paul compares himself to a runner and boxer. Athletes run to win the prize. It requires sustained and intense training. They practice strict self-control and diet. They are not free to do as they please but have to obey the rules of the games to win the prize. They do all these things to win a crown that fade away (1 Corinthians 9:25). But Christians engage in the race to win the imperishable crown. Paul says, “I do not run aimlessly and do not box as one beating the air” (1 Corinthians 9:26). Paul pressed towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14). God is not unjust to overlook our faithful service (Hebrews 6:10). There are five crowns promised for faithful service: the imperishable crown (1 Corinthians 9:25), the crown of rejoicing (1 Thessalonians 2:19), the crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8), the crown of life (James 1:120) and the crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4). Paul did discipline his body and kept it under control so that he might not be disqualified in the race (1 Corinthians 9:27). It does not suggest that Paul could lose his salvation. The grace that saved us will empower us to complete our race. Someday soon we will reach the final victory and join Christ in glory. Pray that God would give us power and motivation to serve him faithfully.