Summary: In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul defends his rights, gives up his rights, and shows how he lives without his rights. In doing so he becomes a great example for us in our dealings with the church and the world.
A. Several years ago the Public Library in a certain town had a service called "Dial-A-Tale."
1. Anytime a young child wanted to hear a fairy tale, he or she could call the number and listen to a pre-recorded reading of a short fairy tale.
2. Unfortunately, however, the telephone number was only one digit different from the home of a minister named Tom Erickson.
3. Because the children often made a mistake in dialing the number, Tom would get frequent calls from a child looking for a fairy tale.
4. After numerous unsuccessful attempts to explain to the children that they had dialed a wrong number, Tom felt he had only one alternative.
5. He obtained a copy of Three Little Pigs, and set it by the phone.
6. So whenever a child calls, he simply reads them the tale.
B. I think this is a beautiful illustration of yielding personal rights.
1. Tom Erickson had the right not to have to answer these calls.
2. He had the right to avoid the invasion of his privacy.
3. He had the right to change his telephone number.
4. But he willingly gave up those rights and ministered to the needs of children.
C. Today as we turn our attention to 1 Corinthians 9, we see that the Apostle Paul had practiced this same principle in his own life and ministry.
1. To some, chapter 9 looks like the beginning of a long digression from the discussion of eating meat sacrificed to idols in chapter 8, but nothing could be further from the truth.
2. Paul has not moved on from addressing the idol meat question; rather, he is just approaching it from a different direction.
D. Paul’s indirect approach in chapter 9 is particularly crafty, because it allows him to “kill two birds with one stone,” so to speak.
1. It allows him to address his practice of financial support, while at the same time address his larger argument about idol meat and the requirements of love.
2. Back in chapter 8, you will remember, Paul called upon the “strong” at Corinth to limit their freedom for the sake of the “weak.”
3. In the last verse of that chapter, Paul pointed to himself as an example, saying that he would never eat meat again if it caused his brothers and sisters to fall.
4. That statement launches Paul into a chapter long discussion of his rights as an apostle and his willingness to give up those rights.
I. Paul Defends His Rights (9:1-14)
A. For whatever reasons, Paul’s authority as an apostle was in question there at Corinth.
1. So Paul began with an assertion of his identity as an apostle.
a. He had, in fact, seen the risen Lord.
b. And he had, in fact, started the church in Corinth.
2. Then Paul listed some of his rights as an apostle with a series of rhetorical questions.
a. Don’t we have the right to food and drink? Yes.
b. Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us? Yes.
c. Don’t we have the right not to work for a living, but to be supported? Yes.
B. Next Paul offers the arguments in support of God’s workers being paid.
1. He says, “Look at the soldier - You wouldn’t expect him to serve at his own expense.”
a. We wouldn’t expect the soldiers fighting the war in Iraq to pay their own plane ticket to get to the battle ground, pay for their own accommodations and food while they are there, etc.
b. Clearly a person representing their country in a war has every right to expect that their country will pay them for their service and cover their expenses.
2. He says, “Look at the farmer - You wouldn’t expect the worker in the vineyard not to eat some of the grapes.”
3. “Look at the shepherd – you wouldn’t expect the shepherd not to drink some of the milk.”
4. Paul doesn’t end his argument with just human reasoning and rationale, rather he adds the biblical evidence for his conclusion.
5. He says, “Look at the Law of Moses – Deut. 25:4 says, ‘Do not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain.’”
a. Then Paul asks is it really about oxen that God is concerned – not really, he says this for us and our sake.
6. Paul’s final illustration for the argument of the right of financial support for God’s workers is the temple priests.
a. Don’t those who work at the temple (ie., the priests) get their food from the temple? After something has been offered on the altar, don’t they get to eat some of it? Yes, of course.
7. Paul’s summary statement is verse 14, “In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.”