1 Corinthians 9:16-26
We can divide 1 Corinthians 9 into three different sections (9:1-14; 15-23; & 24-27).
In verses 1-14, Paul talks about how he set a good example by limiting his own freedom and rights.
In verses 15-23, Paul shares the purpose of limiting his freedom and rights.
In verses 24-27, Paul also compares Christian believers with athletes, especially runners on a race track and boxers on a ring.
Paul began this chapter with a series of rhetorical questions. “Am I not free? Am I not an Apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Do we not have the right to our food and drink? Who any time pays the expanses for doing military service? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat any of its fruit? Who tends a flock and does not get any of its milk?”
Apostle Paul did not use many of his freedom and rights as an apostle and as a minister of Jesus Christ. Basically, he chose not to eat foods that were offered to the idols. The City of Corinth was filled with idol worshipers. They used animals as sacrifices to their idols during their worship services. After taking some portions for themselves, the priests sold those meats in the market places. Although Paul had strong faith to eat those meats, he chose not to eat for the sake of his fellow believers who had weak conscience. Paul chose not to do anything that may be a stumbling block to new believers.
Paul gave up his right for marriage. He said in verse 5, “Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a believing wife, as do other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?” Of course he had a right to have a wife, but he chose not to be married. He did it so that he could use all of his time and energy to fulfill God’s mission.
The third thing Paul gave up was his right to receive financial reward for his ministry. He said, “Do you not know that those are employed in the temple service get their share from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share what is sacrificed on the altar? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” Even though Paul had all the right to be compensated for his labor and ministry, he chose not to receive any money. Paul chose to make his own living instead of living off the support of his churches. He supported himself by making tents and selling them. He did not share this in order to boast about the sacrifices he had made, but he did this for the sake of the gospel.
Paul did not put any obstacle in the way of the gospel. Some people thought that Paul did not receive his pay check from the church because he didn’t deserve to be called an apostle.
Paul also said that he could not boast about all the labor and sacrifice he had made in order to spread the good news. He said, “Woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel, since it was the Lord who called him to spread the Gospel.” He did what he supposed to do as a servant of Jesus. And he felt he was already rewarded from the Lord since he was able to make the gospel free of charge.
Paul said in verse 19, “For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them . . . I have become all things to all people that I might by all means save some.” Paul was a Jew, Pharisee, and also a Roman citizen. But he chose to limit many of his freedom and rights to lead more people to Christ for their salvation. “To those under the law, I became as one under the law . . . To those outside the law, I became as one outside the law . . . To the weak, I became weak, so that I might win the weak . . . I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.”
Run in Such a Way
Paul compares the Christian life with sports. There was “Isthimian Sport Competition” every three year in the City of Corinth. It was pretty similar to today’s Olympic. In this sport completion, horse race, foot race, and boxing were the most popular at that time. So Paul said, “Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it.” It means that unless a runner do his/her best, that person cannot win the prize. Likewise, we must also do our best to live our lives as true disciples of Jesus. We must do our best to accomplish God’s mission individually and also as a church.
Although I want to talk about the importance of the Holy Spirit, fervent prayer, unity, banded discipleship, generous giving, servicing our neighbors, worship service, and Bible Study, Paul talks about other things in today’s text. Paul talks about the importance of excising self-control; having a clear vision/goal, and having a determination to accomplish the goal. He used how runners on a field track run toward their finishing line, and how the boxers their punch with focus and purpose. Paul said, “I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air.” If the athletes make such effort to receive the prize that are perishable, how much more effort we have to make since we do our ministries to receive the prize that is imperishable and eternal.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
For the sake of the gospel, what sacrifice can you make? In order to lead one more soul to Jesus Christ, what can we do and how should we run our race? Paul said, “For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them . . . I have become all things to all people that I might by all means save some.” The moment we walk out of our church building, we are stepping our foot into the third largest mission field in the world. Many people we know and love are in spiritual amnesia. Many churches of all main line denominations are closing their doors every year. 40 to 50% of Youth Group graduates stop attending churches once they go to colleges. They may be your sons and daughters or grandsons or granddaughters of your neighbors.
Dear Riverview, family, what will you do? What can we do . . . for the sake of the GOSPEL? Let us pray!