HIS SERVANTS' MINISTRY
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Theme: Christian liberty concerning service for Christ
In chapter 8, Paul counseled on the matter of Christian liberty in regard to eating meat which had been offered to idols. The principle he laid down was that, when in doubt, the Christian conduct must have respect for fellow believers. Nothing should be done to cause a weak brother to stumble, revealing that there was indeed a limitation on our Christian liberty. Consider: you have a right to swing a club, but, IF that club hits me, your liberty ends.
Paul lays down this principle several times in the Epistle to the Corinthians. "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any" (1 Cor.6:12). "But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse" (1 Cor.8:8). "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not" (1 Cor.10:23). Paul goes on to say that no man should seek his own good, but every man should seek the good of his neighbor (Rom.15:2). So you see, Christian liberty does have its limitations.
Here in this chapter, Paul is going to illustrate the matter of Christian liberty in another area. He will discuss his right as an apostle of Jesus Christ, his official right (Acts 9). Then he will discuss that his right should be supported by the church. He had the perfect right to expect the church to care for him and all his needs as a preacher of the Gospel. He uses his personal matters to illustrate Christian liberty.
Paul first defends his official right as an apostle. Paul often defended his apostleship because it was challenged many times.
Paul Asserts His rights (1 Cor. 9:1-14)
1 Cor. 9:1 Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord? (KJV)
Am I not an apostle? am I not free? . . . am I not a Christian, with all the liberties with which Christ has made His people free? Am I not as free as any other believer to adjust my conduct according to my own convictions of what is right? Am I not free from any obligation to conform to the opinions or prejudices of other people? But, of this freedom I have not availed myself of.
Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?. . . Am I not an apostle? Yes, Paul was an apostle. Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? One qualification of an apostle was that he had personally seen Jesus Christ. Paul had satisfied that requirement.
Are not ye my work in the Lord? The Corinthian believers were the evidence of his apostleship.
1 Cor. 9:2 If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord. (KJV)
If I be not an apostle unto others . . . but he was an apostle to others.
Yet doubtless I am to you . . . if I have not given evidence to others of my apostolic mission; of my being sent by the Lord Jesus, yet I have to you. Certainly you, among whom I have labored so long and so fruitfully, should not doubt that I am sent from the Lord.
For the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord . . . your conversion is the proof that I am an apostle. Paul means that their conversion was absolute proof, that he was an apostle. The seal of Paul’s apostleship was that they were in the Lord. As far as the Corinthian church was concerned, Paul did not have to defend his apostleship. It was evident to the Christians there that he was an apostle.
1 Cor. 9:3 Mine answer to them that do examine me is this, (KJV)
Mine answer to them that do examine me is this . . . here Paul means his answer or defense against those who sat in judgment on his claims to be an apostle (Lk.23:14; Acts 4:9; 12:19; 22:1; 24:8). The apostle here may possibly refer to the arrogance and pride of those who presumed to sit as judges on his qualification for the apostolic office. It is not meant that this answer had been given by Paul before this, but that this was the defense which he had to offer, against those who criticized and condemned him for having any claims to the apostolic office.
1 Cor. 9:4 Have we not power to eat and to drink? (KJV)
Have we not power to eat and drink? . . . the word power here is clearly used in the sense of right. To eat and to drink . . . there are some who say verse means pastors have the right to be maintained at the expense of those among whom they labor. Pastors had/have a right to demand that they congregation support them. While others take the stand that this means Paul had a right to eat and to drink as he saw fit. As a Christian, he had that liberty, but that liberty is at times curtailed by others. He had the right to eat meat, but he was not going to eat meat (1 Cor.8:13) if it affected others. It is free will to be able to do something and choose not to do it, but if you cannot do something, you do not do it; there is no exercise of free will there. But if you are able to do something and choose not to do it that is a revelation of your free will.
1 Cor. 9:5 Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas? (KJV)
Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas . . . again, power means the same as in the previous verse, the right or authority. When Paul speaks of leading about a sister, a wife, he means first of all, that he and all the other apostles, and all ministers of the Gospel, had a right to marry. It seems that our Lord's brethren James and Jude were married; and there is infallible evidence that Peter was a married man, not only from this verse, but from (Mat.8:14), where his mother-in-law is mentioned as being cured by our Lord of a fever.
And another thing, we find that their wives were of the same faith; for nothing less can never be implied in the word sister. This is a decisive proof against the Roman Catholic celibacy of the clergy: and as to their attempts to evade the force of this text by saying that the apostles had holy women who attended them, and ministered to them in their journeys. There is absolutely NO proof whatsoever of this; nor could they have allowed either young women or other men's wives to accompany them in this way without giving the strongest occasion of scandal.
Have we not power? Have we not a right? The objection here seems to have been, that Paul and Barnabas were unmarried, or at least that they travelled without wives. The objectors urged that others had wives, and that they took them with them, and expected provision to be made for them as well as for themselves. They therefore showed that they felt that they had a claim to support for their families, and that they were conscious that they were sent of God. But Paul and Barnabas had no families. Objectors concluded that they had no claim to the apostleship, and no right to support. To this Paul replies as before, that they had a right to do as others did, but they chose not to do it.
1 Cor. 9:6 Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working? (KJV)
Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working . . . Paul and Barnabas had worked together as tent-makers at Corinth (Acts 18:3). From this fact, the objectors concluded that they knew that they had no claim to any support. Power to forbear working? Didn’t Paul and Barnabas have the right to receive support as others did? This question implies a strong “YES” that they did have such power. The sense is, why should I and Barnabas be regarded as having no right to support? Have we been less faithful than others? Have we done less? Haven’t we proven that we are sent by the Lord, and that God approves us in our work? Have we been less successful? Why should we be singled out; and why must we be forced to work for our support?
It is obvious from verse 12, that Barnabas as well as Paul relinquished their right to a support, and labored to maintain himself. And it is clear from the whole Passage, that there was some unusual anger or irritation against these two ministers of the Gospel. We do not know what it was. It may have arisen from the enmity and opposition of Judaizing teachers, who were offended at their zeal and success among the Gentiles, and who could find no other cause of complaint against them than that they chose to support themselves, and not live in idleness, or to tax the church for their support.
1 Cor. 9:7 Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? (KJV)
Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? . . . all these questions, from the necessity and correctness of the cases to be answered in the positive, tend more forcibly to point out that the common sense of man joins with the providence of God in showing the decency of every man living by the fruits of his labor. Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? . . . the first question applies especially to the apostle Paul. Does a soldier provide his own provisions? The soldier had a right to receive pay from him who employed him. He did not go at his own expense. Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? . . . the second illustration from the nature of the case, to show that ministers of the Gospel have a right to support. The argument is this: A man who plants a vineyard does not expect to labor for nothing; he expects support from that labor, and looks for it from the vineyard.
Or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?. . . this is the third illustration drawn from the nature of the case, to show that ministers have a right to support. The word "feedeth" means not only to feed, but to guard, protect and defend, as a shepherd does his flock (Jn.21:15-17). The shepherds have a tenth part of the milk, and of the lambs. The argument here is this: A shepherd spends his days and nights in guarding his folds. He leads his flock to green pastures, he conducts them to still waters (Psalm 23), he defends them from enemies; he guards the young, the sick and the feeble. He spends his time protecting it and providing for it. He expects support, when in the wilderness or in the pastures, mainly from the milk which the flock should furnish. He labors for their comfort; and it is proper that he should be sustained by them, for he has a right to it. So too, the minister of the Gospel watches for the good of souls. He devotes his time, strength, learning and talents, to their welfare. He instructs, guides, directs and defends; he tries to guard them against their spiritual enemies, and to lead them in the path of comfort and peace. Since he labors for their good, it is no more than right that they should minister to his temporal wants, and compensate him for his efforts to promote their happiness and salvation. No man can say that this is not right and just?
1 Cor. 9:8 Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? (KJV)
Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? . . . Paul says: am I saying these as a man? Is this only human reasoning? Doesn’t God really say the same things? Do you think that I speak this on my own authority, or without the approval of God? Don’t you think this was supported by the authority of God?
Paul was used to arguing with the Jews, to get his proofs from the Old Testament. In the previous verse he had shown that it was right that ministers of the Gospel should be supported. In this and the following verses he shows that the same principle was recognized and acted on under the Jewish dispensation. He means that the Law as given by Moses also meant the Christian ministry; that the laborer should have a support, and that a suitable provision should not be withheld even from an ox. For if God so considered the welfare of an animal when it worked, it was much more reasonable to suppose that He would require a suitable provision to be made for the ministers of the Gospel. Common sense!
1 Cor. 9:9 For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? (KJV)
For it is written in the law of Moses . . . (Lk.24:44).
Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn . . . Paul is quoting: Deut. 25:4 Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn. (KJV) . . . And he also mentions it in (1 Tim.5:18). To muzzle means to tie the mouth of the animal shut to prevent eating or biting. This was done by putting straps around the mouth, or placing a small basket over the mouth, tied by straps or rope around the horns of the animal, to prevent its eating, but not to obstruct its breathing. This was an example of the kindness in the laws of Moses. The idea is, that the ox should not be prevented from eating when it was in the midst of food; and that as it labored for its owner, it was entitled to support; and it was proper that it should be allowed to eat of the grain which it was threshing.
Doth God take care for oxen? . . . does God only take care of oxen? Or is it not instead a standard which shows God's care for all that labor? Doesn’t this show the kindness and fairness of His laws that He gave to Moses (Ex.24:12)? And if He is so considerate about the welfare of animals as to put in place a precise law on their behalf, is it not to be thought that the same principle of humanity and equity will run through ALL of His dealings and requirements?
Law of Moses: (Ex.24:12; Num.31:21; Deut.1:5; 4:44; 31:9,24; 33:4; Josh.8:31-32; 22:5; 23:6; Judg.4:11; 1 Ki.2:3; 2 Ki. 14:6; 21:8; 23:25; 2 Chron.23:18; 25:4; 30:16; 33:8; 34:14; Ezra 3:2; 7:6; Neh.8:1,14; 10:29; Dan.9:11,13; Mal.4:4; Lk.2:22; 24:44; Jn.1:45; 7:23; Acts 13:39; 15:5; 28:23; Rom.10:5; 1 Cor.9:9).
1 Cor. 9:10 Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. (KJV)
Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? . . . the word altogether cannot mean that this was the only plan of the law, to teach that ministers of the Gospel were entitled to support. It is certain that Moses did not have Paul or any other pastor in particular in his mind. But the standard was one that applied to this case.
For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope . . . Paul asks: wasn’t God actually speaking to us through Moses? 2 Tim. 2:6 The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits. (KJV)
And that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope . . . he that threshes should partake of the result of his labor. It is both fair and right that he should enjoy the fruits of his labor. The same sentiment is expressed in: 2 Tim. 2:6 The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits. (KJV)
1 Cor. 9:11 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? (KJV)
If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? . . . Paul tells it straight! He says: Since we have planted spiritual seed among you, why aren’t we entitled to a harvest of physical food and drink (carnal things)?
1 Cor. 9:12 If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. (KJV)
If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ . . . if you support others who preach to you, shouldn’t we have an even greater right to be supported? But we have never used this right, but have worked with our hands to support ourselves, so that none of you you would think that we preached the Gospel just to receive support, which might make you prejudiced against us, and prevent our success in the salvation of your souls. Paul says that he would put up with anything, rather than be an obstacle to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It is so sad that many preachers today, do not share Paul’s opinion! So many false teachers and preachers in today’s pulpits! They are covetous, greedy wolves (Mat.7:15; Acts 20:29). See Filthy, Rich Preachers: http://www.worldlychaos.org/w_c_cults_rich_preachers.1.htm
Also see: http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/Basics/Articles/god_verses_mammon.htm
1 Cor. 9:13 Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? (KJV)
Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? . . . Paul says, don’t you realize that those who worked in the Temple received their meals from the offerings brought to the temple? And too, those who served at the altar got a share of the sacrificial offerings? They which minister about holy things . . . all the officers who served in the Temple, had a right to their support while employed in its service.
1 Cor. 9:14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel. (KJV)
Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel . . . Paul goes on, saying that in the same way that the Lord ordered that those who served in the Temple in the Old Testament, the Lord wanted those who preached the Gospel, should be supported by those who benefit from it.
Paul Himself Has Never Demanded These Rights (1 Cor. 9:15-18)
1 Cor. 9:15 But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void. (KJV)
But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void . . . Paul tells them that he had never demanded any of these rights, and he tells them that he is not writing this Letter to suggest that he wanted to start now. Paul did not receive a salary. The church in Corinth was not supporting him; he did not receive anything from them. Paul supported himself by tent making. He tells them that he would rather die than lose his right to boast about preaching without being paid. It is almost impossible to find one of these preachers today! Greedy wolves have taken Paul’s place in the pulpits today!
1 Cor. 9:16 For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! (KJV)
For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! . . . Paul tells them that although he preaches the Gospel, he has no cause to boast or glory, because he was compelled by God to do it. How terrible it would be for Paul if he did not preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I am not a preacher, I am a teacher of God’s Holy Word and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for well over 40 years now, and I know how Paul felt. I too am compelled by God to do it. The Holy Spirit within (Rom.8:9), urges me on, just as He did to the apostle Paul.
Paul did not glory in being a preacher of the Gospel, because he did not do it by his own skill or power. He received both the office, and the grace by which he executed the office, from God. Paul not only had the Lord’s authority to preach, but that authority forced him to preach. Woe be it to him who refuses to obey, or who ceases to obey, when God has sent him. My friend, IF the Lord calls you to a certain job, he will adequately equip you to do it. Take it from a nobody like me (1 Cor.1:25-31). How awful it would be for me if I did not teach the Good News about Jesus!
1 Cor. 9:17 For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. (KJV)
For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me . . . Paul says that if he willingly co-operates with God, he has a reward, an incorruptible crown (verse 25). If he freely preaches the Gospel without being a burthen to any, he has a special reward . . . but if he does not, God may claim his privileges, and he would lose that special reward which he has by preaching the Gospel without charge to any (1 Cor.3:11-15).
A born again Christian CANNOT lose their salvation . . . but they could lose rewards that they could have had. http://www.hisservants.org/once_saved,_always_saved_h_s.htm
Paul Considers Himself Servant of All (1 Cor. 9:19- 23)
1 Cor. 9:18 What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel. (KJV)
What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel . . . that I abuse not my power . . . I think that this is not in the sense of abusing, but of using to the uttermost . . . demanding every thing that could be claimed by law. There are many preachers of different denominations, who simply insist on their privileges, and that people are tempted to think they do not seek to save souls, but instead, just their worldly goods. These preachers can do the people no good at all spiritually. If the preachers of the Gospel were as stingy with the bread of life as some congregations are of the bread that perishes, and if the preacher gave them spiritual nourishment as meager as the temporal support which they allow him, their souls must be close to a famine of the bread of life. Bread of Life: (Jn.6:33,35;48,51).
1 Cor. 9:19 For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. (KJV)
For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more . . . although Paul was free from them, and was under no obligation to any man, yet he acted as if every person owned a specific part in him, as if he were the slave of the public.
1 Cor. 9:20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; (KJV)
And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law . . . unto the Jews, Paul became as a Jew. In Acts 16:3; we see that because of the unconverted Jews he circumcised Timothy. There are forms and rituals which are absolutely NOT necessary to salvation. And certainly circumcision had absolutely NO bearing whatsoever on Timothy's salvation, BUT the rite was performed so that the ministry of Timothy with the Jews would not be handicapped.
To them that are under the law . . . to those who considered themselves still under obligation to observe Jewish rites and ceremonies, even though they had embraced the Gospel, Paul became as if he were under the same obligations; and purified himself in the Temple (Acts 21:26).
1 Cor. 9:21 To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. (KJV)
To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law . . . to them that are without law . . . the Gentiles, who had no written law, although they had the law written in their hearts (Rom.2:15).
Being not without law to God . . . being not without the Jewish law of God, but under the law of Christ. Them that are without law . . . some think the Sadducees may be meant, as far as the rites and ceremonies of the Jewish religion were concerned, he might conform himself to them, not observing such rites and ceremonies, for it is well known that they disregarded them. Paul is saying that when he was with the Gentiles who did not follow the Jewish law, he too live apart from that law so he could bring the Gentiles to Christ. But . . . Paul did NOT ignore the law of God; he obeyed the law of Christ.
1 Cor. 9:22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. (KJV)
To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some . . . to the weak became I as weak, those who were carefully honorable, even in respect to lawful things. I am made all things to all men . . . Paul assumed every shape and form consistent with innocence and perfect honesty; giving up his own will, his own way, his own pleasure and his own profit, that he might save the souls of all. Paul did all that he could to find a common ground with everyone, doing everything he could to save some. Did he compromise his convictions? Absolutely not! 1 Cor. 10:33 Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. (KJV)
1 Cor. 9:23 And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you. (KJV)
And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you . . . Paul did everything he could to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and share in its fantastic blessings with all he came in contact with. Do we as the Lord’s servants, do this? We must obey Him. Or one day we will wish that we had! Go ye therefore (Mat. 28:19-20). Luke 6:46 And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? (KJV) You do NOT want to hear:
Mat 25:12-13 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. 13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. (KJV)
Life is Like Running a Race for a Prize (1 Cor. 9:23-27)
1 Cor. 9:24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. (KJV)
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain . . . it is very clear here that Paul refers to the athletic exercises in the games which were celebrated every fifth year on the isthmus, or narrow neck of land, which joins the Peloponnesus, or Morea, to the main land; and were therefore called the Isthmian games. Paul says: Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win, he tells them, and us! We all must be as earnest to get to Heaven as others are to gain their prize at the end of the race. And even though in a race, only one can win the prize, eternal life in Heaven can be achieved by all, IF you run for it.
1 Cor. 9:25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. (KJV)
And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible . . . all athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away (is temporary), but Christians do it for an eternal prize, that being salvation of their souls, eternal life in Heaven! We should NEVER use our liberty to dishonor God, or to be unfair to others in any way; but we are to be temperate (moderate, reasonable) in all things; in the use of meats and drinks, or any pleasures. We must deny, restrain and govern ourselves to get a crown in Heaven, a crown that is incorruptible: An inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you (Jn.14:2-3; 1 Pet.1:3-5).
1 Cor. 9:26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: (KJV)
I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air . . . the apostle Paul recommends himself as our example. I therefore so run . . . in the Christian race; in his effort to obtain the prize, the crown of immortality. Paul exercised himself to the extreme that he may not fail of securing the crown. Not as uncertainly . . . this word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It usually means obscurely (unclear, vaguely). Here it means that Paul did not run as one not knowing what he was running for. He did not run at haphazardly. He KNEW WHY he was exerting himself. So fight I . . . this word is applied to the boxers or the fighters, in the Grecian games. Not as one that beateth the air . . . the phrase here is taken from the habits of the fighters or boxers, who were accustomed, before entering the lists, to exercise their arms, to obtain greater skill and agility. The phrase also applies to a missing the aim, when a blow was struck in a real struggle, and when the adversary would elude the blow, so that it would be spent in the empty air. Paul did not miss his aim; he did not exert himself and spend his strength for no reason! Many Christians are merely beating the air. Their energy is spent for nothing.
1 Cor. 9:27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. (KJV)
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway . . . we all have heard the saying: “Do as I say, not as I do.” But with the apostle Paul, it was different! He is telling the Corinthians and us, “Do as I do, and listen carefully to what I tell you. I will not lead you astray!”
And bring it into subjection . . . Paul made use of ALL possible means to subdue his corrupt and carnal feelings (Rom.7:14-25), to show that he was not under the power of evil passions, but was completely under the power of the Gospel. We ALL have this problem.
Lest that by any means . . . Paul intended to make every possible effort to be saved. He did not want to be lost, he wanted to be saved. One commentator renders this: "lest after having served as a messenger to others, I should myself be disapproved." Paul had preached to many others, proclaiming the Gospel far and wide. He had preached to many thousands, and had been the means of the conversion of thousands. The contest, the agony, the struggle in which he had been engaged, was that of preaching the Gospel in the most effectual manner. And yet he felt that there was a possibility that even after all this he might not be approved.
I think that the translation "castaway" is sad. The Greek word means "not approved." Paul is thinking of the judgment seat of Christ where the rewards are given. In his Second Letter to the Corinthians he will talk about the fact that we shall all appear before the judgment seat of Christ where awards are given. Paul says that he is out on that racetrack trying to run so that he will get a reward. That is one reason why he preaches the Gospel as he does. Paul has Christian liberty. This is the choice that he has made. The choice being, obedience to God.
I think every Christian should work for a reward. We do not work for salvation; that is a GIFT given by the grace of God (Eph.2:8-9; Rom.6:23). BUT, my friend, if you are going to get a reward, you will have to work for it. Rewards are not given to lazy slobs who sit around doing nothing for the Lord Jesus. If you want a reward, then you had better get up and get out on the racetrack and move!
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