1 Corinthians 9:23
“Now this I do for the gospel’s sake…”
When writing to the Romans, Paul explained, the message of the Gospel has the power to save the sinner. It is when a person humbles himself and accepts that Jesus Christ died to do away with his sin, that he is saved. In order for a person to come to saving faith, he must hear the message and see the reality of it worked out in the life of the believer. Paul, understanding the importance of the Gospel, explains to the Corinthians the things he was willing to forgo, so others would hear about Christ and believe in Him.
First, he speaks of personal freedoms he was willing to lay aside. In his case, he chose to support himself rather than being supported by the church. Others had misrepresented the Lord by making Christian service look like a means of making a buck. To combat this, Paul made certain, while he was in Corinth, money was not the focus of the ministry.
Second, he speaks of becoming “all things to all men that I might by all means win some.” Paul is in no way suggesting that he is compromising the message of the Gospel, or his Christian witness. Instead, he is speaking of being relevant to those whom he is seeking to reach. One way Paul did this was by speaking to be understood. His goal, as a pastor, was not to use such eloquence as to show the world how brilliant he was, but to speak with such simplicity as to be sure the message was clearly understood. He was also careful not to do things that would turn others unnecessarily away from Christ. He saw the big picture. He understood that many of the views, and lifestyle choices people were involved in, were as a result of not knowing Jesus. Instead of making it his aim to change the behavior of the unbeliever, he sought to introduce them to Christ, who would transform their thinking and their living.
Third, Paul spoke of disciplining himself. He realized, one way to undo all his efforts in Corinth, was to personally get involved in sin, thus “blowing his witness.” To guard against this, he treated his Christian life the way an Olympian treats his body. Knowing that success only comes with training, diet and discipline, Paul was sure to have a healthy diet of time with Jesus, study of the Word, and Christian fellowship, while at the same time keeping unnecessary temptation out of his life.
Finally, Paul writes, “When I have preached to others…” The Gospel is seen when we live like Christ. However, it is primarily, hearing and not seeing the gospel, that leads others to faith in Christ. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” ( Romans 10:17) To ensure that others came to Christ, Paul opened his mouth and declared the simple message of salvation by grace through faith.
Paul wrote, all this was done for the sake of the Gospel. It would do us all good to ask, “What am I doing for the sake of the Gospel?”
Questions for 1 Corinthians 9
- Read verses 1-2. It seems that some in the Corinthian church were calling into question Paul’s apostleship. What does Paul say is one of the proofs that he has been sent by the Lord? Read Luke 7:35 and 1Thessalonians 2:19. Also note 1Corinthians 4:19
- In verses 3-6, Paul continues to defend his apostleship to the Corinthians. He brings up three freedoms that he has surrendered even though he has the right to use them just as other minister did. What are these three freedoms? Especially note the last of these as Paul will spend more time on that in this chapter. Do you have any freedoms that you willingly lay aside for the sake of the gospel?
- In verse 7 Paul gives three examples of people who rightly receive the benefits of their vocation. What are these examples?
- Read verses 8-14. Paul references an OT verse about allowing an ox to eat while it works. He asks a rhetorical question “Is this really about oxen?” What are the answers he gives? What is this really all about? Note verse 11 and 14. Look up Galatians 6:6.
- Read verse 15-19. Although it is reasonable and right for a minister of the gospel to take a salary does Paul take advantage of this privilege? What is his reasoning? What are his motivations for serving?
- In verses 20-22 we see Paul’s philosophy on reaching others: he will do whatever necessary (without dishonoring or disobeying God) to reach anyone he can. Consider your own heart. Do you have this mentality? Are you willing to change for the sake of others? Do you consider the best way to relate to someone else so as to reach them with the love of God in Jesus Christ?
- In verses 24-27, Paul uses the illustration of athletics. In the Olympics, a person must train for their whole life so that when the opportunity presents itself they are ready. Read 1Timothy 4:7-8 and 2Timothy 4:1-2. Should we be ready? How can we be ready?