Christian Liberty & Rights, 1 Corinthians 9
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In the previous chapter, the Apostle Paul's theme, as given to him by the Holy Spirit of God (2 Tim. 3:16):
- Is that a more mature "stronger"(more knowledgeable) (Vs. 8:1) believer's liberty is always to be tempered with love.
- So that the "weak" (less mature) believer's conscience not be "defiled." (Vs. 8:7)
- And that it causes him to "stumble" into sin (Vs. 8:9) and he "is destroyed by your knowledge." (Vs. 8:11)
"Therefore, if what I (do) causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never
(do it) again, so that I will cause them to fall." (Vs. 8:13)
In other words, because of our love for the brethren, we need to set aside our liberty (rights) for the benefit of others who are less mature than we in the faith.
Why and how can we do this?
"...yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live;
and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live."
(1 Cor. 8:6)
And since it is "Christ...through whom we live,” we are called to follow Him (Mk. 1:17), obey Him (Jn. 14:15) and imitate Him as Paul did. (1 Cor. 11:1)
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."
In Christ's case, it would be literal. (Jn. 19:30)
So, can we not set aside our "lives," liberty and rights for others?
In this chapter, we will see that even those in authority should set aside their "rights" (Vs. 9:3-6) when "compelled to preach" (Vs. 9:15-18) and be self-disciplined for the furtherance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (Vs. 9:24-27)
"Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?"
* All rhetorical questions; Greeks loved rhetoric, oratory and philosophy.
* Did Paul see Jesus? (Acts 9:3-15, 15:3-8)
"Are you not the result of my work in the Lord?"
* Paul's "work" - To preach the Gospel, evangelize, save souls and teach them to follow Christ. (Acts 18:1-7)
"For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord."
* "Seal" - Important documents or shipments would be sealed in wax, thus authenticating (proving) the truth and purity of the item.
"This is my defense..."
* Paul, his ministry and apostleship, were under attack by false teachers, and the Corinthians were confused.
* His defense was two-fold:
- He had seen the risen Lord and was commissioned by Him.
I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is
not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
* The Corinthians lives were changed as they believed the Gospel he preached. (2 Cor. 3:2-3)
Now Paul, as part of his "defense" will compare himself to other apostles and their "acceptable" activities, again with rhetoric.
"...the right to food and drink..."
* Apostles were fed by those they ministered to, worked with. (1 Thess. 2:9)
"...the right to take a believing wife along...as...the Lord's brothers (Matt. 13:55) and Cephas (Mk. 1:30)..."
* These apostles brought along their wives and the church supported them also.
"...or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?"
* In other words, why aren't our needs met by the church as other apostles?
* Paul worked for his living. (Acts 18:3)
Paul the Apostle had the "right" to exercise his liberty more than anyone. But he set aside his right to be paid, or even marry in his service for Christ.
Paul will now compare other laborers/occupations and their expectation of payment, as well as "the law's" commands on compensation.
"Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk?"
* A soldier was paid 3 times the daily wage of a laborer. No one fought for free.
* A farmer certainly eats his crops.
* A shepherd is sustained by the flock he "feeds" and "cares" for. (Jn. 21:15-17)
Paul uses these three contemporary "witnesses" to argue that he has the right to be compensated and cared for by those he ministers to.
"Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? For it
is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the
grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely, He says this for us, doesn't
He? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to
do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest."
* Now Paul uses the Mosaic law to prove the same point. (Deut. 25:4)
1 Timothy 5:17-18
"If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?"
* Simply - If you've been taught the Gospel and received its blessings, shouldn't you compensate the one who taught you by caring for his physical needs?
"If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?"
* As a church body, believers are to meet one another's needs.
* Both spiritually and physically. (2 Cor. 8:1-5)
Is the pastor/teacher a member of the churches body?
"But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ."
* Paul did not use this "right." (Vs. 12a)
* “Put up with” – Endure (NKJV)
* He did not want to "hinder" the Gospel of Christ.
To "hinder" the Gospel would be to, in some way, slow its progress and effectiveness.
If Paul took payment for his ministry from rich Corinthians, he could be seen as a hireling.
Hirelings must be obedient to their patrons and please them.
So, Paul maintained his independence, “Am I not free…though I am free” (Vs. 1, 19) and his "liberty" so he could preach truth unhindered!
Now Paul will use Levitical law as a witness to prove this point (Vs. 9:12b) and defend his ministry.
"...those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple..."
* God designed the temple's sacrificial system to point the way to Christ, and also, to care for those who served. (Lev. 6:25-26, 29, 7:5-6, Eze. 42:13)
Now Paul will call on the greatest witness.
"In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel."
* “Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep." (Matt. 10:9-10)
"Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his
wages. Do not move around from house to house."
Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in
the Word should share all good things with their instructor.
"But I have not used any of these rights..."
* He had the "right" to be supported by the church, but he did not use it.
* Paul remained free from concern about being controlled, and free from depending on others for his support, by continuing to provide for his own support (Acts 18:3) while in Corinth.
"...I am compelled to preach..."
* God's call is not optional.
* Moses complained to God about his call:
But Moses said, “Pardon Your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” Then the LORD’s anger burned against Moses..."
* Paul would not make that mistake, even after the Lord told him:
"I will show him how much he must suffer for My name."
"Woe to me if I do not preach of Gospel!"
* "Woe" - Denunciation, grief (Strong's 3759). Paul is asking for grief, mourning and to be denounced if he does not preach the Gospel!
"For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and
eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power."
(1 Cor. 1:17)
For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
(1 Cor. 2:2)
But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every
way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,
For Paul to not preach the Gospel would be a denunciation of all Christ had made him to be.
Paul gave us this example as he lived it!
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
(1 Cor. 11:1)
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race
and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news
of God’s grace.
"I am simply discharging the trust committed to me."
* Paul was a good and obedient steward of the Lord Jesus.
This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the
mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a
trust must prove faithful.
(1 Cor. 4:1-2)
"What then is my reward?"
* "Reward" - Pay, compensation.
"...that in preaching the Gospel I may offer it free of charge..."
...even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own
good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.
(1 Cor. 10:33)
"...and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the Gospel."
Although Paul had every right to live from the Gospel, he chose not to exercise those rights, and demonstrate a "mature leader" will put the needs of those he leads above his own.
"Though I am free and belong to no one..."
* Paul was not a "hireling."
"To the Jews I became like a Jew..."
* He preached to the Jews as a Jew. (Acts 18:4-5)
"To those not having the Law..."
* To Gentiles: he preached from creation and common knowledge. (Acts 17:22-28)
"To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some."
* “The weak” – Weaker in the faith, less mature (Vs. 8:7)
* Paul was no hypocrite, but he would do whatever was required to preach the truth of the Gospel in love, for he said:
"Though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law."
(1 Cor. 9:21)
* "Christ's law" - The Royal Law (Matt. 22:33-40)
Simply: Love God, love others.
"I do all this for the sake of the Gospel, that I may share in its blessings."
* "Freely you have been given, freely give." (Matt. 10:8)
"...run in such a way as to get the prize."
* Too many Christians are content to just be in the race. Creasters, pew sitters.
* Every Christian should strive to be victorious in Christ. Not to run His "race in vain." (Gal. 2:2)
* Disciplining themselves in preparation to win the prize, to get the crown.
"...a crown that will last forever..."
* At the judgment seat of Christ. (Rom. 14:10-12, 1 Cor. 3:10)
- A believer will receive crowns for obedience and service to the King:
1. The Crown of Life
"Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him." (Jms. 1:12)
2. The Crown of Glory
"Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care…and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away." (1 Pet. 5:2, 4)
3. The Crown of Rejoicing
"For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when He comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy." (1 Thess. 2:19-20)
4. The Crown of Righteousness
"For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing." (2 Tim. 4:6-8)
5. The Crown Imperishable
"Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (1 Cor. 9:25)
"Therefore, I do not run...aimlessly...I do not fight...beating the air...I strike...my body and make it my slave..."
* Or: “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection…” (NKJV)
* The "training, disciplining" needed to run the Christian life/race is simple, but not easy, for the race/battle is for complete dominion of our minds and obedience to God.
* The victory is won by studying the Word of God and the equipping of the Spirit through prayer. (Rom. 6:18, 8:13)
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be
ashamed and who correctly handles the Word of Truth. (2 Tim. 2:15)
"...so that after I have preached to others, I myself, will not be disqualified for the prize."
* Paul practiced what he preached.
Can we be "disqualified for the prize?" (Vs. 27)
Can we lose the greatest prize; our salvation, eternal life?
No, that is not what Paul is writing here, for he wrote:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor
depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
For the greatest example of God's love is that He sent His Son to die on the cross that we might be redeemed from sin unto eternal life by the simple act of belief in Him. (Jn. 3:16)
The "prize" (Vs. 24) Paul writes of here is "a crown that will last forever." (Vs. 25)
Do you want crowns to lay at the Lord's feet on