Summary: Sometimes when people do evil or even great things we like to try to figure out what motivates them. Paul talks about what motivated him and what he was motivated to do in today’s text. Perhaps we can learn some things from his example.
February 19, 2006 1 Corinthians 9:16-23
Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it. Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
In the story of Lazarus and the rich man, Lazarus was a poor man who begged at the rich man’s table every day. He also happened to be a believer. The rich man, however, with all of his riches, had discarded Christ and his need for forgiveness. Therefore, when the rich man died, he went to the agonies of hell, while Lazarus - as a believer - went to the luxuries of heaven. The rich man, as the story goes - was in a world of hurt down in hell. Luke 16:24 says that he called out to Abraham, “have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.” The explanations of hell - such as this one - are absolutely terrifying. Revelation calls it a “lake of fire.” Jesus says there will be an eternity of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Imagine just for a moment if God opened the crevice of hell for a second - giving you a glimpse of what hell was like - listening to thousands upon thousands of people moaning and groaning due to the intense pain and agony of living in pure hell. It was such an awful experience that the rich man begged that Lazarus would raise from the dead to go and warn his brothers of the pending disaster. Abraham wouldn’t allow it.
Here’s the situation for us however. We are living with those brothers of the rich man - who have not yet entered hell. Through the eyes of faith we have seen the depths of hell and the riches of heaven - and here we stand on the edge of both - along with thousands of other people whose eternal fate has not yet come upon them. We don’t have to cross an impassible abyss to get to them. They are right here with us. We haven’t come to the point that we can sit at Abraham’s side and claim immunity from reaching out. So you have a choice. Either you are going to get off of your rear end and try and save some people, or you are going to just watch them slide into hell. The attitude of Paul was definitely not the latter of the two. He was very proactive in trying to reach out to lost souls. What motivated him? What did he do? He reveals that in today’s text in a two thousand year old type of “Biography.” In it we’ll listen as -
Paul Reveals His Compulsions
I. What compelled him?
If you and I literally did witness just one second of hell, don’t you think it would effect us tremendously? Who of us would not be so horrified, so petrified, and so scared, that we would go running to our children, neighbors, and ourselves - to tell them about Christ. That had to be a part of what motivated Paul, wouldn’t you say? Here he was - on the way to Damascus - ready to put more Christians to jail and death - and then Jesus shows up in a bright light and says, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting ME?” Whoa - talk about a scary moment! Here the guy whom he thought was a phony - was actually resurrected from the dead and staring him in the face! Whoa! Paul must have thought, “I’m a goner for sure!” There are some awesome instances in the Bible of God scaring the “begeebees” out of people. Mt. Sinai had the people at the bottom of the mountain absolutely terrified as they saw the thunder and lightning. When Ananias and Sapphira were both instantly put to death for lying to God - the church also was pretty scared at that point. It motivated the people to burn their evil books and really reform. If we really witnessed such a fearful place, I can’t help but imagine that each and every one of us would tell a lot more people about Christ.