After spending 11 verses establishing his authority as an apostle and the accompanying rights and privileges to which he is entitled, Paul makes what could be an unexpected turn: refusing the comforts of material gain. He does not assert his rights, preferring instead to “endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:12). This humility and commitment to service, as modeled by Paul, is the subject of many of the psalms and hymns we sing this morning. We sing of ourselves as the “humble poor” who rejoice at our redeemer’s provision (O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing). We marvel that our Lord is mindful of us and cares for us (O Lord, Our Lord, How Majestic Is Your Name—Psalm 8), and we treasure His promises to those who are hungry, mourning or “bowed down” (Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah—Psalm 146). His Word describes the blessings that fall to those whose faith is made manifest in “humble joy,” “holy fear,” and “deep repentance” (Blest Is The Man—Psalm 32), and we respond with “humble adoration” (How Great Thou Art). What is the end of this humility? Service to our brothers (Galatians 5:13), to our God, and to His church. By laying all our trophies down (Jesus Paid It All), we are free to “give heart and mind and soul and strength to serve the King of Kings” (Rise Up, O Men Of God). —Henry C. Haffner
Key Words: Right, Obstacle, Gospel, Preach, Boasting, Reward
Keystone Verse: 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. (1 Corinthians 9:12)
1 Corinthians 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.