Updated 4 Oct 2019
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1 Corinthians 9
Paul often seems impervious to criticism and just gets on with preaching the gospel. However, in this chapter, he conducts a defence for his apostolic role and the lifestyle he has adopted in his ministry. The chapter concludes with his humble recognition of the need to keep on track with his relationship with God, so as to avoid missing out on the rewards that God has promised to those who faithfully serve Him.
His Apostolic Role
Paul was not one of the 12 apostles, but he did see Jesus on the Damascus road. People had been won for Christ through his testimony and their conversion verified his ministry.
Paul was not lazy and, as one who served tirelessly, he had the right to food and drink. To expect people to minister and give up their time for nothing is unreasonable.
If someone is married then they may take their wife with them on their travels. To support her basic needs is also reasonable. Many of the apostles were married and particular reference is made to Peter, whose mother-in-law was healed by Jesus. The principle of hospitality is for all ministers of the gospel and no one should be exempt from that basic care. Soldiers, farmers and shepherds, all receive some reward for their work. Equally, it is appropriate for ministers of the gospel to receive practical support. Spiritual seed sown into people’s lives produces a good harvest, so providing material reward to those who preach is a responsible thing to do. The temple in the Old Testament was served by Levites, who were able to give their time fully to this task because they were supported out of the tithes given by God’s people.
"Those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel."
Paul is stating a principle here but, clearly, there must be wisdom exercised. Key questions must be prayerfully considered, regarding how much support a local church is able to provide and to what extent?
Paul's Position on His Rights
Paul has argued well but now makes it very clear that he, personally, will not be demanding anything from anyone. His passion is to preach Christ and if people bless him, that's good. But if they do not, he will still preach the gospel of Christ. Paul's commitment to the gospel means that he will be very adaptable in order to present Christ. He will aim to reach both the Jew and the Gentile. He will not compromise the truth of the gospel but he will do everything to gain entry into people's lives with the gospel. His personal comfort and needs come second.
Paul is far from complacent. He uses a familiar illustration of the athlete. To win the prize, the athlete must train hard and obey the rules. An athlete is focused and his mind does not wander. He concentrates on the task in hand. Paul had needs, as we all do, but he longs for people to come to a saving knowledge of Christ, more than any personal gain. In this life, there will always be a battle between our physical comfort and God’s Spirit within us.
It is not easy to be clear about what the prize is but the mention of rewards is there in scripture and there is a judgement for believers (2 Corinthians 5:10). This judgement is not to do with heaven or hell, because Christ has dealt with hell for us by his wonderful sacrifice on the cross. However, we will give an account to God for how we have lived as believers (Romans 14:12). Paul greatly desires that Christ will be pleased with his life of service and, at his end, speaks confidently of having fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:6-7). Jesus spoke of, 'Well done, good and faithful servant!' (Matthew 25:21). May God help us to hear the same!
Points to Consider:
- Are we aware of circumstances where we need to stand up and declare Biblical principles?
- Do we consider it a privilege to receive support from God’s people or do we take it for granted?
- Are we conscious of families when we support ministry or only the minister?
- Are we willing to make sacrifices to reach people with the gospel or do we only witness when it is convenient?
- Are we enthusiastic in our work for the Lord, without regard for personal gain?
- Are we alert to the fact that we will give an account to God as believers for our lives?
God bless you!
Bible Study: 1 Corinthians 9
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