Summary: Exposition of 1 Corinthians 9 regarding Paul did all things to the glory of Christ, but he explains that the reason that he gives up rights and lives the way that he does is “that he might win some.”
Text: 1 Cor 9:1-23, Title: Taking One for the Team, Date/Place: NRBC, 5/8/11, AM
A. Opening illustration: A teacher asked a boy this question: “Suppose your mother baked a pie and there were seven of you—your parents and five children. What part of the pie would you get?” “A sixth,” replied the boy. “I’m afraid you don’t know your fractions,” said the teacher. “Remember, there are seven of you.” “Yes, teacher,” said the boy, “but you don’t know my mother. Mother would say she didn’t want any pie.
B. Background to passage: Paul is in the middle of taking up one of the questions proposed by the Corinthians to him in a letter. The question had to do with whether or not it was OK for believers to go into a temple and eat meat that was offered to the god of the temple. And rather than just saying yes or no, Paul explains his answer, and uses the opportunity to teach them about the boundaries of Christian freedom and their responsibility to use that freedom well. In chapter 8 he explained the impacts of flaunting freedom of their brothers and sisters in Christ, and he moves on today to impacts on the unbelievers in the community.
C. Preliminary explanations to truths that Paul mentions regarding his apostolic ministry and his relinquishment of personal freedoms (v. 1-14): probably the Corinthians had called into question Paul’s apostleship at some point in their letter, so Paul responds now in light of his other train of thought about Christian freedom with the things that they may have used to indicate their doubt in his apostleship. There is much more ink spent on Paul’s apostleship later in 1 Cor, and much in 2 Cor. And we can learn some things about rights of an apostle and/or other Christian ministers here. There is a link here between apostle and freedom, almost as if his apostleship may lead to more freedoms because of the travel than other ministries. But nevertheless Paul uses himself as an example of selflessly denying his rights for the benefit of others.
D. So here are some truths we can learn: two marks of apostleship are that Paul had seen the risen Christ, and the Corinthians had been won to Christ and the church had been firmly established. But just because he was an apostle didn’t mean that had the authority to impose his freedom upon others.
E. Secondly, we can learn that Paul had the right to eat and drink as he pleased. A right that he just said that he would refrain from exercising if it caused brothers to stumble.
F. Thirdly, Paul had the right to marry and have his wife travel with him, by implication supported by the church as well. He informs us here that Peter and the other apostles exercise this right. Don’t tell the Roman Catholics. But again, a right that he relinquishes
G. Fourthly, Paul spends much time arguing that he had the right to be paid without working a “secular” job. The Corinthians probably questioned his apostleship because when he was with them, he received nothing as far as financial support from them as the other apostles did. So for v. 6-14, he says that that Christian ministers should be paid, and have the right to as well. Principle after principle, biblical and cultural, and again even exceeded normal because he was an apostle. But he says that even though he had that right, he again relinquished it for the sake of the cause, so that he might not be hindrance to the spread of the gospel or the growth of new believers. He says he would rather die than hinder a person from the gospel.
H. Paul relays to us his sense of compulsion to preach the gospel, and how it is determinative over liberty
I. Main thought: Paul did all things to the glory of Christ, but he explains that the reason that he gives up rights and lives the way that he does is “that he might win some.”
A. The Main Reason (v. 15-23)
1. Paul uses the word that means bondservant, or a servant who had served his time to pay his debt, was freed, but chose to return willfully and make himself a permanent servant of the master. He says he is a servant of all, even though he is free from their authority and condemnation. And then six times he uses “that” to reiterate the reason for his voluntary service that causes him to resign his rights—that he might win some to Christ. He says that he “becomes” like Jews, those under the law, those without the law, the weak, in fact, he tried to be all things to all men, all for the purpose of winning them to Christ. By this he means that all these rights and liberties that he has forsaken he has done to share the gospel and not hinder it. And even though he is a missionary and apostle, he is also working to support his needs. He sees the world as his mission field, and he strategizes and examines every part of his life that might help or hinder the gospel, so that he might win some.