Unclaimed Privileges (1 Cor. 9:1-18)

May 21, 2023

Series: 1 Corinthians

Scripture: 1 Cor. 9:1-18

It’s great to see you. I see the faces of some of you that I’ve not seen for a while, so it’s great to have you with us as well. And for everybody who is online, we’re going to have a great time looking at 1 Corinthians 9 today. And before I get into the lesson, I want to remind you of the why. I mean, why 1 Corinthians? Why are we doing this? The church at Corinth was a major commercial center, very prosperous. It was an amazing area, but it was also a place filled with debauchery, it was a mess. In a word, to live in Corinth. In fact, to be told you’re acting like a Corinthians was definitely not a compliment. It was just not something that you want to have said about you. So we’re looking at this church that had its beginning in that kind of environment. And so, you know, that they had to bring into the church some of the stuff they grew up around, some of the attitudes and all of that. We’re going to get into that a little bit. And so Paul had a lot to deal with with these guys. They had disunity, disputes going on, sexual and of a sort that the world didn’t even participate in. It was horrible and they tolerated it, they were okay with that. They had marriage problems. They had lawsuits among believers. I can imagine Carlos Gallego getting upset with Tom Schartzer and he says, I’m taking you to court. That’s the kind of thing they had going on in this church. Last week, Keith talked to us about how they had a problem with food sacrificed to idols. And we’ll segue into our lesson by looking at that. And then later on we’re going to see they abused the Lord’s Supper a lot of time. When they took the Lord’s Supper, it was combined with a meal. And so, yeah, some people come to Lord’s Supper and they were getting drunk. It was horrible. And this was what Paul had to deal with in this church. The Corinthians were worldly, they were unspiritual, and they desperately needed Paul’s leadership and his help. And so the church was a mess. But Paul loved these people. I mean, he lovingly and patiently continued to work with them. And it’s amazing to see his heart. Now, the basic flow of today, there are three basic sections that we’re going to hit on today. And the first section is Paul has to assert his right as an apostle. And so I am an apostle, period. He’s going to lay that out for us. He said I deserve your support. But then the last part is, he said, But I won’t take it from you. In other words, I don’t even want your support. That’s kind of more of the attitude that I think Paul had with where you’re at, I don’t want your support. Now, last week Keith talked to us about First Corinthians, chapter eight. In that section, they talk about the food that was sacrificed to idols. And for those who are kind of mature Christians, they said, wow, this is just great. Four Rivers barbecue. I don’t care where it was made or who it was sacrificed to, I know an idol isn’t real. So I’m just going to eat this Four Rivers barbecue. And then over here to the side, you have this younger disciple that didn’t know any better, who came out of a pagan idolatrous background. They’re seeing you eat this food, sacrifice the idols, and they’re thinking, I thought that wasn’t right, but if Carlos is doing it, it must be okay. So they decided to do it. Then the Bible says it was injuring their consciences. And I like the way Paul puts it. In Romans 14, he said, if your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat or any other right you feel like you have as a Christian. If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you’re doing, you’re no longer acting in love. He is saying you are unloving, it’s wrong. He’s laying it out to these brothers and sisters. Look, if you don’t care about the impact of your behavior on your brother or sister, you’re not acting in love. You need to repent. Because he says, for none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. Guys, when we became Christians, when we became followers of Jesus, we became members of God’s body, His church, and His family. That’s why you hear us refer to each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. We became part of the family of God, and we gave up our rights to be selfish. That’s the first thing if any man would come after me, has to do what? Deny himself. We gave up the right to be selfish when became Christians. So I’ve got to care about what impact my actions have on you, and you’ve got to care about what impact your actions have on me. That’s the way God set up the church. And so Paul ends chapter eight with this comment. He says, therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again so that I will not cause them to fall. I mean, you got to love that heart. He said I won’t do anything that was going to cause falling. And I’m thinking, but, man, I love Four Rivers barbecue. I like to continue eating that and this kind of thing. That’s how big of a deal it was. He said, but if what you’re doing is causing a problem for somebody else, give it up. Have the heart of Jesus that Anakin talked about. He gave up heaven, he gave up a relationship with God to save our souls. He set the example for us. So Paul is basically saying, even though I’m free in Christ to do what I want to do, I won’t take advantage of this. And so love needs to limit your liberty, okay? You should be able to look out at the family of believers and say, okay, I have a right to do this, but this is loving. Is this going to cause him to struggle or her to struggle? Guys, we have to let love be the thing that dictates what we do. And so what Paul does is he talks about this idea of us having freedom in chapter eight, but not necessarily taking advantage of all of that. But then in chapter nine, he uses himself as an example. He looks at his own life and he says, okay, guys, let me help you with this. Because his mindset is, I won’t do anything that’s going to be a stumbling block to other people or anything that’s going to hinder the Gospel.

You can say the title that I’ve given to the lessons today is simply Unclaimed Privileges. Now, there were some that were around Paul that, as amazing as this might sound considering who we’re talking about, were puffed up, they thought they had it together, and they did not like the apostle Paul. They didn’t like the position that he would take because no self-respecting rabbi would refuse support. But Paul refused support from them. And so they looked at him that he was kind of a lesser disciple, lesser apostle if an apostle at all. And we’ll read that in just a moment. And so they struggled with who he was. They said, okay, you’re not like the Twelve. The twelve were really with Jesus, you don’t fit in with them. But Paul didn’t lack authority at all, and yet he chose to not get married. He also chose, as a result, to not take a wife along with him. And you’ll see that anyone who served had a right to that, and he chose to not receive support from those that he converted. But then before he gets into all that and why he gave that up, we’re going to look at him defending himself as an apostle.

In verse one of chapter nine, he says, Am I not free? Am I, not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. So Paul has these rhetorical questions. He said wait, am I not free? I mean, we just had a discussion about your freedom in Christ, to eat whatever you want. Hey, but am I not free? Am I, not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? You get the impression that Paul is perhaps a little indignant with these guys. He’s a little upset. Now, some people seem to think maybe he was indignant because they didn’t afford him the role that he had in the church. You’re not really an apostle. It would be like someone coming up to Eddie saying, well, Eddie, I don’t think you’re an elder, I don’t think you qualify. Or going up to Marcus said, Marcus, I don’t think you’re an evangelist.

I don’t think you were really qualified. I mean, that was the environment. But to be told as an apostle that you’re not an apostle, some feel like that’s why he’s indignant. But there’s another reason why he may have been indignant, and that’s because he’s watching people who believe they have certain rights, who are doing things that offend others, and that ticks him off. I mean, that ticked Paul off as well, so who knows? It could be either one. But Paul goes on, he says, okay since you’re struggling with my apostleship, let me tell you about who I am. In 1 Corinthians 9, verse one, let’s read this. He says, have I not seen our Lord? Now, the qualification for an apostle was that he’d be appointed by the resurrected Christ and that he had to see Jesus himself. And you’ll remember when Acts chapter one, and we’ll read that, verse 21, when they were getting ready to replace Judas because Judas had died, at this point, they wanted to replace him in the apostleship. Look at what it says. Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time, the Lord Jesus was living among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us.

For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection. To be an apostle, you had to see Jesus. Paul had that experience, and we’ll look at a couple of references about that. So you had to see Jesus. So nowadays you’ll hear someone on the radio, or maybe on TV says, I’m Apostle John Smith, I’m Apostle Mary Jones, and all this kind of thing. Well, according to this, if that person is an apostle, they’re at least 2000 years old because they had to have seen the resurrected Jesus themselves. So I don’t really buy that, I don’t go along with that. But there are three times, at least three times, and I’ll give you all three references where Paul saw the resurrected Lord. And the first one is in Acts 22, verse 17. He said when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance and saw the Lord speaking to me quickly. He said, Leave Jerusalem immediately because the people here will not accept your testimony about me. So Paul saw the resurrected Jesus. Now the other two references I’ll give to you who are taking notes.

Acts chapter 9, verses 3-5, Paul talks about his conversion there, and Acts 18 nine through eleven. And Acts 18 nine through eleven, interestingly enough, was in Corinth, and I just thought that was a nice little note. So Paul has seen the resurrected Jesus at least three times. He said, God, this is proof of my apostleship. I am not a fake, I’m the real deal. I have witnessed Jesus rise from the dead. And here’s the thing. A relationship with God was very personal to the apostle Paul. You remember what he said in 2 Timothy, chapter 1, verse 12, says, I know whom I have believed. He doesn’t say, I know what I believe. He said I know whom I have believed. And when Jesus calls his disciples, he doesn’t say to them, hey guys, I have a philosophy that I would like for you to examine. He doesn’t say, hey, I have an ethical system that I would like for you to consider. He doesn’t say, I have this statement of faith that I would like you to discuss among yourselves. No. He says, come and follow me. All Christianity begins with a personal relationship with Jesus.

And so the question I would have for all of us today is, how is your walk with Jesus? How are you and Jesus doing? Because that’s what we’re talking about. Paul says I’ve seen the resurrected Lord. I know whom I’ve believed and I’m convinced of. Now, the second thing he says, in addition to seeing Jesus that verifies his apostleship is also in those first verses, he says, Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? So he looks at these guys and says, okay, the word apostle means sent. And he says, if you want evidence that I was sent to you, look at the fact that you are a church. You now exist because God used me to help change your life. You are right with God because you saw Christ to me, and you responded to that. And as a result, you have a relationship with God. And so Paul says, this verifies who I am in the Lord. Now, here’s the thing I want to say to each one of us, and this is very important. At the end of the day, the real proof of someone knowing Jesus Christ is that your life impacts other people’s lives.

Okay? Your life impacts other people’s lives. In other words, you have an impact. You bring others to Christ, they can at least look at you and see Jesus. That is what it’s all about. And you remember in Acts, chapter four with the apostles when they were defending themselves, in Acts four, verse 13, I love this. It says, when they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled ordinary men, they were astonished, and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. Guys, that’s the way it’s supposed to be. You may not necessarily give everybody an invitation, but just by who you are and how you carry yourself, and the things that you believe in and live by, people should see Jesus in us. That’s what God intends for each one of us. Our lives should reflect Jesus Christ. And so Paul looks at them and says, are you not the result of my ministry? You saw God work through me. And so Paul establishes his credentials, and then he goes on to talk about how he has a right to support from them, and he uses some analogies to point that out that we’ll look at in just a moment.

Now, here’s the thing about this lesson that’s kind of a little bit tricky at this point. Paul’s about to launch into why you need to pay the preachers and I’m one. So it’s like, okay. That sounds a little bit self-serving and all of that, but it’s in the Bible, so we’re going to talk about it. But here’s the thing about this. Paul chose not to receive support, but he gives five reasons why the minister should be supported. Now, don’t check out on me because some of you think, okay, well, we’re at Church, and Gosh, we came here and the preacher is talking about giving him money. That’s not our normal pattern. And this isn’t some covert way to get the Overstreet’s, Francis, and Thornton’s more money, okay? That’s not what this is all about. But I’ve actually had people say to me, and this is why I don’t want you to check out. I’ve had people say to me, well, Eddie, I preach and teach and I counsel people. You do that, but why should we pay you? I do the same thing. And I’m not going to ask you to raise your hand if you haven’t thought that I’m going to leave you alone.

It’s okay. But here’s the deal, and I want to say this and I hope you hear it very clearly. There is a big difference between preaching and teaching and counseling as part of your Christian walk and giving up your career to do this as a vocation. There’s a very big difference in that. This is by far a harder job than any job I had in the world, and I was in the regular work world until I was age 40. And so I’ve been where most of you are, but this is the toughest job I’ve ever had. I want to get into this. Paul is going to give five reasons why the preacher deserves to be paid. Now, as I said, this isn’t some backdoor attempt to get money. So if you came here thinking, oh, my goodness, I come to church, I got dressed and this guy is talking about money, I just knew it. All these churches are the same. They’re all hypocrites. It’s all about the money. And here we go again. No, it’s not. We don’t usually talk about this.

This is where we are in our study of 1 Corinthians, though, okay? And I let that Marcus guy pick the sermons for us to do, and he gave me this one, he’s a smart guy, I tell you what. But the thing is, I’m not here because I’m asking for more money. And no, we don’t live in mansions, okay? A lot of you’ve been to my house. We’ve been to Overstreet’s house. They had to dig out a ton of concrete just to get their house in order. We’re not living in mansions and we don’t drive fancy cars. We’ll change that. Keith drives a fancy car because one day we’re getting ready to leave the church and we walk out the door his car is way down there, and he clicks a button and turns it on and all this. And I’m thinking, and some of you all probably have that car. Go in and admit it. If you have one of those pushes the button on the remote, okay, we got a couple of you. So he’s the one who does kind of have a fancy car, so I got to give him credit for that. But talking about money, talking about paying the preachers, that’s not what we get into.

But we’re going to talk about it because it is in the word of God. Paul had a right to support from the church, but he chose to make tents all during his ministry and to support himself instead of asking the church for support. Now, keeping it real with you, if you go into the ministry, you’ll probably realize that you could have been making more money outside at a regular job. I’ll just put it out there. I have a master’s degree in business from UF, University of Florida. Woohoo. But I love UCF even more because I’m here. But I have a master’s, my son is a master’s. He started making more money than me probably ten years ago. You don’t get into the ministry for the money. That’s not the idea here. You get in it to serve. But Paul says I have a right to support, so he establishes credentials. But let’s go ahead and read this section right now, well, verses 4 through 14. And you’ll hear Paul talk about the right that he has to be supported. He says, don’t we have the right to food and drink? And don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living, who serves as a soldier at his own expense, who plants a vineyard and does not eat his grapes, who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the law say the same thing? For it is written in the law of Moses do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain. Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest among you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the Gospel of Christ. Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple? And that those who serve at the altar, share in what is offered on the altar.

In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the Gospel. Now, we’re going to look at these five reasons that Paul should have been supported and expected to get support, but he chose to not do that. Now, I do recognize that there are people who abuse this. There are people who get into the ministry for the money, and these are the folks that will say, if you’ll just send me some money, I’ll send you this prayer cloth. And in the meantime, they get really wealthy and they do live in mansions and they do have fancy cars. There are people out there who are religious phonies, and I hate to say it, but there’s always going to be that kind of abuse. I am happy to tell you that in the Orlando church and I’m on the board, I’m one of the elders. I am grateful for the integrity that we have. I am really grateful to our board of directors. These people hash things out behind closed doors. They make sure we are doing things in a righteous manner. You can be assured of that, and I’m very, very thankful.

So if you get an opportunity to serve on the board, it is a privilege and an honor, and we are very grateful. But I did want to say some have abused it. And maybe you came from a church setting where the collection plate was passed 1234 times in one service and you’re thinking, no, we passed it out one time today and that’s it. We’re done. That’s the way it is. So there’s abuse. And I know you guys want to be good stewards of what you have. So let’s talk about what are the reasons Paul gives to support the minister. Okay, number one, reason number one is that it’s common sense. It’s just basic common sense. Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 9, verse 7, Paul says, who serves as a soldier at his own expense, who plants a vineyard and does not eat his grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? He is saying, Guys, it’s just common sense. It just makes sense. And if you can imagine, you got a situation, you got a soldier, you got a farmer, you got a shepherd. I mean, what he’s saying is all these people are cared for out of their occupation.

You don’t have this soldier. Can you imagine? This is a soldier fighting in Ukraine against Russia. And he finishes his day of fighting and he goes home and says, okay, now I got to go to my second job so that we can have food to eat. That makes no sense. It makes no sense at all. And that’s the point he’s trying to make. He says the same thing about working in a vineyard. He says, who plants a vineyard and doesn’t share its fruit? That doesn’t make any sense. And then lastly, he says, who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? Basically saying whether it’s a farmer or a shepherd or we could come up with any number of other analogies. He says, Guys, it makes sense that they gain their living from what they are doing. Why not the servant of God? Okay, so the second reason is it’s taught in the Law. So the first reason is that it’s common sense. The second reason is that the Law teaches the same thing. Let’s read this in 1 Corinthians nine, verses 8-10. Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing?

For it is written in the law of Moses, do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain. Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing and the harvest. So he says, it’s common sense, guys, that you should pay these guys. Secondly, the Law teaches that, and I love the way it read in the common English Bible, and you’ll see pretty much what we’re talking about. It says I’m not saying these things just based on common sense, am I? He says the Law teaches the same thing. And the verse he refers to is Deuteronomy 25, verse 4, where he says, don’t muzzle an ox while it’s threshing grain. Now, think about this. If you really want to frustrate an ox, go ahead and put him to work threshing out the grain and muzzle him so that the poor animal, even while he’s doing his work, he’s seeing this food, he sees the opportunity, but he can’t touch it because he’s muzzled.

And that’s the point he’s trying to make, is that God, just like you don’t do that to an animal god, that would be inhumane, it would be wrong, it would be unjust. He said, don’t do that to the people that are serving you in the ministry. So it’s a biblical concept. And he goes on to talk about why there’s such a great principle in verse 10. Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? In other words, he said, the focus isn’t oxen. I’m not giving you a talk about animals. I’m talking about support for your ministers and that kind of thing. So he said, Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. He says the guy plowing, should be able to get fired up knowing that, okay, I’m going to get a reward, a benefit from doing this. And that is what this is all about.

And the thing I want you to understand, too, is to put your heart back in for a moment. As far as considering who we’re talking to, we’re talking about the church in Corinth. We’re talking about a church that came out of a difficult background, a lot of immorality, a lot of debauchery, a lot of alcohol abuse, all that kind of stuff. These people come into the church, they get right with God. Paul takes the time to study with them. He helps them to get to know God and have a relationship with God. And all of these problems, there are problems with disunity, there are problems with disputes among each other. There are problems with food sacrificed to idols. You had disciples taking each other to court, Tom and Carlos going to court to battle each other. They can’t work it out. They got these problems. You had people feeling like even in marriage, there were problems that, yeah, once you get married, then you’re cursed because you can’t serve God singularly, like a single. But then you have people on the other side that said, being single is wrong because the Bible says it’s not good for a man to be alone he should be married. So they had disputes like that. There were some who even felt like, okay, once you get married, then you can’t have sex anymore. You got to stop that. And then, especially if you’re connected with the nonbeliever, you should divorce that nonbeliever so you can go find a good Christian guy. These were some of the kinds of problems that Paul has to deal with. They were a mess. And Paul has to say to these guys guys, if we sown spiritual seed among you, if we have helped you spiritually, if we put you on track to go to heaven and be with God for all eternity and be right with God. If we’re helping you to deal with the problems in your marriage, if we’re helping you to really overcome the impurity stuff you got going on, is it too much to ask you to help us materially? And I’m thinking, have mercy, Jesus. Be kind to Paul. I know you’re going to roll the red carpet out for him all the way through heaven, but it’s just amazing because that’s what Paul has to deal with. And yet he continues to love them and he continues to help them.

So, we need to make sure that we take care of our ministers. And I’m not saying that because I’m one, but now, on a kind of also sad note, sometimes the mindset people have towards paying ministers is that, well, he’s serving God. So you want to barely give him enough because after all, he’s serving God. But when you think about it, you’re talking about someone who is doing arguably the greatest work in the universe and helping people to know God. The mindset should be instead of way over here, it probably should be, let’s at least get him, past center. Let’s at least move in that direction. And again, I’m not saying that I think the Church doesn’t do a great job of loving up on us as ministry staff, and I’m thankful, but I just want you to understand how our thinking can be a little bit skewed about these things. So the reason he gives, first of all, is common sense. Secondly, the law teaches that. And then thirdly, he talks about how it was done for others, and we’ll get through this one rather quickly here.

1 Corinthians 9, verse 12, he says, if others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? Paul is saying, yeah, you did it for Apollos, you likely did it for Peter. They were probably supporting a lot of people. He said, look, there’s a precedent that’s been set. Yes, you can and should do it for me as well if I chose to do that. Reason number four. It says basically it was a universal religious pattern. Let me tell you what I’m talking about there. Verse 13, don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In other words, he says, that’s the way it’s done. The guy who’s in the temple doing his work gets served through what he’s doing. Now what is he talking about? Basically, the priests were supported by their priesthood. That’s the way it was. There were five main offerings, and the priests received a portion of all of them.

There was a burn offering where it was completely burned up, and yet the hides would be given to the priest as something they could sell in the market. They had a sin offering, the fat was burned, but the priest got to keep the meat. The same thing with the trespass, often fat was burned, and the priest kept the flesh. Then there was a meal offering, they were privileged to get a part of that. And there was a peace offering where the priests would get the breast and the right shoulder. So in every case, every offering, they got something. But then in addition to that, they also got ties. They got ties of barley and wheat and grapes and figs and pomegranates olives and honey. I love all of that stuff, but I definitely love the honey part, and I love the grapes, but they got some of all of that. They also received a 10th from the Levites. They received what’s called trauma, which is an offering of the choicest fruits that were growing. And they also got the Chala, which had to do with dough and baking, so they got that. So you got these priests in the Old Testament that got something from all the offerings.

They got a tithe, they got the first fruits of a lot of stuff. And so what he’s saying here? Don’t you know that those in the temple are served by what’s in the temple? Their needs are met. So Paul’s saying I have a right to ask for support. Number one, because it’s common sense. Number two, it’s the law of God. Number three, you’ve done it to others. And number four, that’s the way the priest of the Old Testament did it. Now, number five, the last one is that the Lord Jesus ordained it. The Lord Jesus ordained it. 1 Corinthians 9, verse 14. It says this in the same way the Lord has commanded that those who preach the Gospel should receive their living from the Gospel. He said Jesus commanded it. And it’s funny, in the first service I heard a brother yell. At this point, he said, “Enough said.” All we need is for Jesus to say do it and it’s done. And I thought that’s a good point. We didn’t need the other four reasons. But he said the Lord Jesus commanded and yet at the same time I said, well, where was that?

What commentators believe is that Paul is referring maybe to Matthew ten, verse nine, and I would just read this for you where Jesus was sending out the twelve. He says workers deserve to be fed, so don’t gather gold or silver or copper coins for your money belts to take on your trips, though he says as you go out, you don’t have to take anything with you because you deserve to be supported and fed. However, there’s another school of thought there potentially. Do you remember when we talked about marriage? Paul said, if the Lord said this, then I’ll say the Lord said it and not me. If it’s coming from me under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, I’ll say for me, not the Lord. And here what he says is that the Lord has commanded. I believe Paul got a revelation from Jesus directly about this because that’s what he says. The Lord commanded this and he tells them all about it. So he gives these five reasons, five reasons why I deserve support. But then in the very next section, he talks about why he didn’t use it. Verse 15 but I have not used any of these rights and I am not writing this in the hope that you would do such things for me, I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this vote. You get the impression that he wanted to make a statement to the Corinthians. He said I’d rather die than change how I’m doing things. Verse 16 for when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since 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 full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel. Paul said, I never took anything from you, even though I had a right to. And you know why really? In Paul’s day it was considered an affront, it was really considered an insult for you to turn down and reject a gift or give back a right that you had. And yet there had to be a serious override reasons reason for Paul to do this, for him to say, you know what, guys, I don’t want your money.

Here’s his reason, verse twelve, amazing thought, the latter part of the verse. If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. I thought, wow, what an attitude. He said I’ll do anything to not hinder the gospel. I want the message about Jesus to go forth. I don’t want there to be anything about me that hinders that from occurring. And guys, we could all stand to have Paul’s heart on that. And back in chapter eight, he also said there, I don’t want to do anything that’s going to hurt another disciple. So I really believe these were overriding reasons why Paul decided, no, I won’t do it, I won’t take any support. But there was one other reason that my study showed. Paul probably was very much concerned that if he accepted support from the church at Corinth, it was likely to come from the wealthier part of the church. And the wealthier people were the ones who were probably the ones who had the rights that they were asserting.

And back then there was a quid pro quo kind of a thing. You look at certain responses to favors that are given and I think Paul just decided, no, I don’t want your money. I will do what I do for free. I will work all day with you and I’ll go home and do my tent-making job at night. I will do that because I don’t want you to take away this boast. But also in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul says there that by the grace of God, he was who he was and his grace was not affected, I worked harder. I think Paul also wanted to say to God, I’m grateful for my salvation, I’m willing to do it. I’m willing to help these people who are in a tough situation, harder than anything else. I’m having to deal with, I’m willing to help them for free because I want you to know how grateful I am for you. And so Paul had a lot of good reasons. And the bottom line, as we wrap up here, as Christians, we have a right, to do certain things.

We have rights that could probably be defended, but at the same time, the Bible says that we need to also be willing to equally set aside those rights for the greater good, for the good of the kingdom, and for the good of other disciples. Paul loved this church. I believe they were right with God because Paul studied the Bible with them, but he also knew that they were a mess and they needed all the help that they could get. Leave you with a couple of questions. You won’t have a slide with this on it, but if you can listen to this, I’ll repeat it a couple of times. Are you voluntarily letting go of your rights or do you harbor resentment because you have to give up your rights? You see, we get resentful when we have to give up something and we think it’s unfair. We can struggle with that. And the second question, what privileges and personal rights do you refuse to surrender?

And whom are you not reaching because you value your rights more than other people? Brothers and sisters and friends, I appreciate your attention. Let’s go deep with Corinthians. Let’s let it change us. Let’s let it mold us. God wants to do a great work. I think it’s going to take a lot more giving up our rights, things that biblically, you could defend in order to promote his kingdom moving forward.

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