Recently as I was going through some old family pictures Cindy commented that I needed to write on the back of the photographs because I was the only one in our immediate family who knew who all these people were, and if I didn’t write it down, that information would die with me. As I started to turn over the photographs, I noticed that on some of them, one of my relatives had already realized that future generations might have no idea who these people were. The idea that the next generation is depending upon me for valuable information is humbling and quite a responsibility. In like manner, God reminds us that each one of us is entrusted with the gospel, and it must be shared.
- “According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted” (1 Timothy 1:11).
- “Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you” (2 Timothy 1:14).
- “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).
- “Preach the word, be ready in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2).
In my short forty years of being a Christian I have been shocked at how quickly the truth can be lost and forgotten in a family. Long ago Hosea would lament that God’s own professed people were being destroyed for a lack of Bible knowledge (Hosea 4:6). Following the time of Joshua the Bible reminds us that there arose a generation who though raised by godly parents seemed to be completely ignorant of the most basic Bible truths (Judges 2:9-11).
1 Corinthians 9:16 “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of; for necessity is laid upon me; for woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel”
“I have nothing to glory of”: How different an attitude from the culture in which we live where people are given trophies for simply showing up. Jesus noted that no extra credit or praise is given for simply doing what you are supposed to do (Luke 17:10). “For necessity is laid upon me”: “For I am under compulsion” (NASV). Jesus had ordered Paul to preach (Acts 9:6,15; 22:14-15; 26:15-19; Galatians 1:15f; Romans 1:14). “He finds no such ground for boasting in the fact that he preaches the gospel, any more than a slave would boast of his obedience to his master's commands” (F.F. Bruce, p. 85). “For woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel”: This is referring to the Divine judgment resulting from disobeying a direct command of God (Acts 26:19). Not only did Paul not teach "once saved, always saved", he realized that he could forfeit his own salvation as well. “He expresses his feeling on preaching. He has seen something (Someone). He has heard something (Someone). If his heart can't get out through his mouth it will explode. If he doesn't preach what he has heard, not only will God not be pleased, not only will Christ be disappointed and rejected, Paul will feel his own soul rot! (Jeremiah 20:9)” (McGuiggan, p. 129).
1 Corinthians 9:17 “For if I do this of mine own will, I have a reward: but if not of mine own will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me”
“For if I do this of mine own will”: “For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward” (NASV). “But if not of mine own will”: “But since I serve by compulsion” (Con). “I have a stewardship entrusted to me”: “Stewards were slaves, whose masters simply gave certain goods or property into their hands to be administered in trust. The entire decision rested on the decision of the master to whom the slave in question belonged. The master did not ask: ‘Will you take this stewardship?’ He only gave the order: ‘Take it!’ The slave took it – woe to him if he was obstinate and refused. Consider the parable of the talents Matthew 25:14-30). But when a slave, who had nothing to say in the matter, was put in charge of such a trust he had no claim to wages for administering this trust” (Lenski, p. 371). Paul's point in these verses seems to be: In contrast to others, Paul had not voluntarily begun to preach. Of his own volition he had not sought to be an evangelist, rather God had chosen him, and commanded him without consulting him first (Galatians 1:15-16). No matter how "willingly and joyfully" Paul would preach the gospel, the bottom line was, he had been commanded to do it.
1 Corinthians 9:18 “What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel without charge, so as not to use to the full my right in the gospel”
Paul would allow other congregations to financially support him (2 Corinthians 11:8). Recently I heard someone say that a job is something you do for pay, but a career is something you would do even if it you did not get paid. On a higher level, preaching Christ is something Paul would do whether or not he was paid. It was a Divine commission, it was his passion.
1 Corinthians 9:19 “For though I am free from all men, I brought myself under bondage to all, that I might gain the more”
From a human point of view one would think that Paul's words, "I am free from all men", would be followed up by something along the lines of, "for that reason I live as I please". Yet many people who claim to be living "as they please" are in reality quite enslaved, as they are often trying desperately to call attention to themselves so as to be popular with whatever people they idolize. By contrast, how liberating the Christian life. God alone is our master, enabling us to offer ourselves as a helper and servant of all and dedicated to the eternal good of all, like Paul, "I brought myself under bondage to all".
“As Paul reflected on Corinth and the terrible need there he undoubtedly thought: ‘I must and I will.’ Now we hear: ‘I did!’ Stories circulate of people selling themselves into slavery just so they can get to preach. Stories of people entering valleys of lepers, never to be seen again, just so they can ‘gain the more’” (1 Corinthians, Jim McGuiggan, p. 130). To put it another way, freedom and rights that do not result in others being liberated from their sins are not very useful. Like Jesus, can I put aside some "rights" (my time, my life, my day off) in order reach out offer salvation to the lost (Philippians 2:5-8).
1 Corinthians 9:20
“I became as a Jew”: “I lived like a Jew” (Knox). Paul was of Jewish ancestry, yet in another sense he was no longer Jewish. He had become a Christian and as such realized that Christ had set him free from the ceremonies, rituals and laws of the Jewish religion (Colossians 2:16). When among Jews he would respect their food laws, feasts (Acts 20:16) and accommodate himself to practices that did not force him to violate Scripture (Acts 21:26; 18:18). Yet Paul always drew the line when people were trying to make such practices "binding" upon Christians (Galatians 2:1-4; Acts 15:1ff; Galatians 5:1-4). “Not being myself under the law”: That is, under the Law of Moses. Therefore, any time we find Paul observing "Jewish things", such as preaching in a synagogue, taking a vow, being in the temple, circumcising someone, and so on, he is doing so for one reason: to accommodate himself to Jewish ways to keep open the opportunity to share Christ with them. How do we know that these practices in no way are to be taken as Paul's conviction that the Law of Moses was binding upon Christians? We know this was not the case because when anyone tried to teach that idea, Paul strongly refuted them (Galatians 2:1-4).
1 Corinthians 9:21 “to them that are without law, as without law, not being without law to God, but under law to Christ, that I might gain them that are without law”
“Them that are without law”: These verses are referring to the Gentiles who were never under the Law of Moses, yet were clearly accountable to God's laws (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Romans 1:18ff; 3:23; Leviticus 18:24). “He mingled freely with them and disregarded all Jewish observances which he followed at other times; he also, as for instance at Athens, formulated his teaching so that it might make the strongest appeal to the Gentile mind” (Lenski, p. 377). Consider Acts 14:15; 17:23 and 24:25 on this point. In fact, Paul even quoted from heathen poets to try to open up Gentile hearts. “Not being without the law of God”: Make no mistake. Never did Paul follow the Gentiles into their immorality or false doctrines. “But under law to Christ”: While the Christian is not under the Law of Moses (9:20); that does not mean that he is not under any law whatsoever, for the will of Christ is called a law as well (James 1:25; Galatians 6:2). Two facts are obvious from Paul's comments. First that there has indeed been a change in laws. Compare 9:20 with 9:21. Second, grace and law are in no way incompatible, for both coexist in our relationship with Christ.
1 Corinthians 9:22 “To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak: I am become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.”
“To weak I became weak”: In this verse Paul has brought us back around to the issue in 1 Corinthians 8:13. For this principle in other passages see Romans 14:13-23; Romans 15:1-3; 1 Corinthians 10:24,31-33.When he accommodated himself, it was for the purpose of "saving souls". Are we this dedicated to the winning of lost souls?
The expression “save some” reveals that Paul knew that he would never save everyone, and yet that fact never deterred his efforts. Certainly he never thought that such Jews or Gentiles could be saved without Christ. He always remembered that such people were lost and he never allowed himself to view them as "possibly right with God" in an effort to alleviate his conscience.
1 Corinthians 9:23 “...I do all things for the gospel's sake, that I may be a joint partaker thereof”
“I do all things for the gospel's sake”: “But I do it all to advance the Gospel” (Ber). How inspirational, Paul's singular passion in life (9:12, 15-18). Everything that was done, was done in view of the advancement, spread, and acceptance of the gospel message. Try measuring your life by this standard. Do we treat our spouses, raise our children, interact with our brethren, neighbors, and co-workers all from the pure motive of, ”What can I do to spread the gospel, and remove unnecessary hindrances to its being heard and embraced?” “That I may be a joint partaker thereof”: “Literally, that I may become co-partner with others in the gospel” (Robertson, p. 148). “I”: “Here a new thought is introduced. Up to this point he has been speaking of his self-denial for the sake of others; here he begins to speak of it as for his own sake. “Joint partaker”: Paul did not believe that his own salvation was written in stone, that is, that he could never fall away. In addition, Paul does not wish to enjoy the gospel all by himself. This verse explains how Paul "worked out his own salvation" (Philippians 2:12). All of this self-denial had the goal in mind of securing his own salvation and the salvation of all whom he could influence (1 Timothy 4:16). Paul then gives a clear example of how to put the above principle into our everyday lives.
1 Corinthians 9:24 “Know ye not that they that run in a race all run, but one received the prize? Even so run; that ye may attain”
“Run in a race”: “Why does he go to all this trouble? Every two years here in Corinth, he'll remind them, the Isthmian games take place. The runners in those races strain to do their very best. They don't wish to deliver a poor performance. Should he (or they)?” (McGuiggan, p. 131). “But one receiveth the prize?”: No prizes were given for losers. “Even so run; that ye may attain”: “Run in such a way that you may win” (NASV). “Run, then, for victory” (Knox). “Entering the race is not winning it; do not be satisfied with running, but make sure of winning” (Gr. Ex. N.T., p. 855). Right now, as I examine the level of my own dedication to Christ, “am I running to win?” (Luke 13:24; 2 Peter 1:10)
1 Corinthians 9:25 “And every man that striveth in the games exerciseth self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible”
“Striveth in the games”: “Competes in the games” (NASV). “Exerciseth self-control in all things”: We might add, they “exercise self-control” in all things, including things lawful and morally permissible. “For ten months before the contest in the Great Games, the athletes were required, under oath, to follow a prescribed diet and regimen” (Gr. Ex. N.T., pp. 855-856). “Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown”: “As with modern athletes, the Grecian athlete thought there was no sacrifice too great for him to make if it gave him some advantage over the other competitors. His mental disposition was not that of one who desired to use every liberty which he possessed; rather, his attitude was that of a man who willingly sacrificed many rights in order to gain an advantage for the race” (Willis, p. 306). “Corruptible crown”: A perishable wreath, a mere withering wreath of olive or pine. “But we an incorruptible”: 1 Peter 1:4. What sacrifice in your own life would give you the biggest spiritual advantage in your life race? So much is at stake. You MUST be victorious, if only in this endurance race toward eternal life.
1 Corinthians 9:26 “I therefore so run, as not uncertainly; so fight I, as not beating the air”
“So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step” (Tay). “So fight I, as not beating the air”: Think about it. What can you do to avoid merely "beating air" in your Christian walk? What is keeping you from accomplishing great things for His glory? Do you have the final goal crystal clear in your mind? Don't be the boxer that is throwing wild and uncontrolled punches.
1 Corinthians 9:27 “but I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage: lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected”
“But I buffet my body”: “To beat black and blue” (Robertson, p. 149). “And bring it into bondage”: “And make it my slave, i.e. make it serve my purposes in the gospel” (Fee, p. 439). While this beating is obviously not literal, it does make the point in a very colorful way that giving up the things that feel good but our bad for us spiritually is painful, but the truth is, we were all born to do hard things. When I am passionate about doing all things for the gospel, controlling my body is not something I will resent or claim is undoable. There's too much to lose. “I myself should be rejected”: That is, disqualified because he broke the rules of the race (Matthew 7:22). “I myself should fail shamefully of the prize” (Con).
Paul believed that he could forfeit his own salvation if he became a selfish and complacent man who demanded his rights in every circumstance. “Very certainly we cannot serve others until we have mastered ourselves; we cannot teach what we do not know; we cannot bring others to Christ until we ourselves have found Him” (Barclay, p. 96).
Mark Dunagan | email@example.com
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017