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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Corinthians 9:19-23; By All Means Save Some

03/23 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 By All Means Save Some;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140323_1cor9_19-23.mp3

1 Corinthians 9 [SBLGNT]

19 Ἐλεύθερος γὰρ ὢν ἐκ πάντων πᾶσιν ἐμαυτὸν ἐδούλωσα, ἵνα τοὺς πλείονας κερδήσω· 20 καὶ ἐγενόμην τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις ὡς Ἰουδαῖος, ἵνα Ἰουδαίους κερδήσω· τοῖς ὑπὸ νόμον ὡς ὑπὸ νόμον, μὴ ὢν αὐτὸς ὑπὸ νόμον, ἵνα τοὺς ὑπὸ νόμον κερδήσω· 21 τοῖς ἀνόμοις ὡς ἄνομος, μὴ ὢν ἄνομος θεοῦ ἀλλ’ ἔννομος Χριστοῦ, ἵνα κερδάνω τοὺς ἀνόμους· 22 ἐγενόμην τοῖς ἀσθενέσιν ἀσθενής, ἵνα τοὺς ἀσθενεῖς κερδήσω· τοῖς πᾶσιν γέγονα πάντα, ἵνα πάντως τινὰς σώσω. 23 πάντα δὲ ποιῶ διὰ τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, ἵνα συγκοινωνὸς αὐτοῦ γένωμαι.

1 Corinthians 9 [ESV2011]

19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

In 1 Corinthians 8-10, Paul is tactfully tackling the issue of how far a believer can go in identifying with the culture around him without involving himself in the sin of the culture. Some in Corinth were fighting for their rights to participate in pagan temple festivities, claiming that their knowledge set them free. They know that there is only one true God, and that idols are nothing, so any food dedicated to an idol is untainted by all the pagan hocus-pocus, so they are free to eat. Maybe they felt it would be an opportunity to evangelize family and friends if they attended temple functions. Paul challenges them to think more carefully through the issues. What if a brother whose conscience is not as liberated as yours follows your example and violates his own conscience, participating in the actual worship of idols? By destroying the weak brother for whom Christ died, you sin against Christ.

In chapter 9, Paul carefully builds the case for those who preach the gospel to be supported by those to whom they preach. He builds this case all for the purpose of demonstrating by his own example what it looks like to have legitimate God given rights and to release those rights for the sake of the gospel and for the good of others. Paul has no choice but to preach the gospel. He is required to preach. In verses 15-18, he claims it as his reward to waive his rights to compensation and present the gospel free of charge.

Free from All

In verses 19-23 he returns to the issue of freedom. In verse 1, he began with the rhetorical question “am I not free?” and here he returns to this issue of freedom. In this passage, he asserts his freedom, voluntarily limits his freedom, and gives us his driving principle for self-limiting his freedom.

Paul asserts his freedom in no uncertain terms. He asked the question “am I not free?”, and here he says “I am free from all”. Paul is a free man. He is free from all people. He is free from all things.

Jesus said

John 8:32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” …36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Paul says to the believers in Galatia

Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Paul will not submit again to slavery. He speaks earlier in Galatians

Galatians 2:4 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— 5 to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

Paul is willing to stand on his rights, insist on his freedom, and demand his rights when the truth of the gospel is at stake. When Peter caved to the pressure of the Judaizers and backed away from eating with Gentile believers, Paul called it hypocrisy and confronted him openly and publicly. He says:

Galatians 2:14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” 15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

Peter, a Jew, who had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised, was living like a Gentile while among the Gentiles. That was right. He was free in Jesus to eat what Gentiles eat. What was wrong and out of line with the good news was when he backed away and separated himself from them out of fear. This conduct flew in the face of the gospel message that the death of Christ had broken down the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile (Eph.2:14). Paul, as a follower of our Lord Jesus Christ, was free from all. And when it came to the truth of the gospel, he would fanatically fight for that freedom.

Slave of All

But this is what Paul does with his freedom when the good news of freedom in Jesus is not under attack. He says

1 Corinthians 9:19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all,

Being free, he freely chose to enslave himself to all. He will describe what this looks like for him in the next verses. But first he lays out the driving principle behind his voluntary enslavement.

1 Corinthians 9:19 …that I might win more of them.

His voluntary slavery was with a gospel purpose. This is the driving force of Paul’s life. This was his prime passion. ‘That I might win more of them’. This is why he suffered imprisonment, countless beatings, five times the 39 lashes at the hands of the Jews, three times beaten with rods. Once they stoned him, dragged him outside the city, and left him for dead. And he got back up and went back in to the city and went right on preaching the gospel (Acts 14:19-20). He endured shipwreck three times. He faced constant danger, toil, hardship, hunger, thirst, sleepless nights, exposure to the elements (2Cor11:23-28). He had counted the cost, and he did it all willingly, that he might win more. The value of one soul for whom Christ died was of far greater worth than his own personal health, safety, comfort or well-being.

It is interesting to note that Paul sometimes opted out of a beating. Sometimes he called on his rights as a Roman citizen. In Acts 22, when the soldiers were stretching him out for a flogging, he appealed to his Roman citizenship. In Acts 25, aware that the Jews were intending to ambush and murder him, Paul appealed to Caesar. With the Romans, Paul stood up for his rights as a citizen, creating legal precedent that would benefit and protect followers of Jesus for future generations.

But with the Jews, five times he accepted the 40 lashes minus one. A Jew, guilty of blaspheming, must be cut off from his people. But in order to avert this punishment, according to the Mishnah, one could submit to flogging. Paul, preaching Jesus as the promised Messiah and God in the flesh was probably accused of blasphemy. He could have shook the dust off his feet and walked away, but in order to maintain his connection to the Jews and access to preach the gospel in the synagogues, he voluntarily submitted to their discipline. During the scourging, someone would read repeatedly the curse from Deuteronomy 28, so in a very literal way, Paul came under the law (BECNT p.430). So passionate was Paul to win his fellow Jews to Jesus, that he said:

Romans 9:2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

Although Paul was free from all, he voluntarily became servant of all, so that he might win more of them. Paul was passionate about captivating as many people as possible with Jesus.

Proverbs 11:30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise.

This word ‘to win’ is usually used in a financial sense of profit or gain. Paul’s reward was to win people for Christ. As he was commissioned by Jesus

Acts 26:17 …from your people and from the Gentiles— to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

Paul’s driving passion and ruling principle in life was to win as many as possible, to open eyes, to rescue from Satan’s kingdom, to offer forgiveness of sins and a place among God’s people.

The Third Category

In the following verses, he describes how he went about this with different groups of people.

20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.

This is a fascinating passage. Paul, a Hebrew of Hebrews, an offspring of Abraham, an Israelite from the tribe of Benjamin, circumcised on the eighth day, Paul a Jew by birth, says ‘to the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. Since becoming a follower of Jesus, Paul no longer considered himself a Jew. Ethnically, he was Jewish. That did not change. He clarifies what he means by his next phrase. Jews were those who are under the law. Paul once was a Jew under the law. He is that no longer.

2 Corinthians 5:16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Paul was no longer a Jew under the law. Neither was he a Gentile. He had become a new creation in Christ. Jesus had created a third category.

1 Corinthians 12:13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

To the Galatians, he says

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Jesus has abolished the old categories of humanity.

Galatians 6:15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

He addresses the Ephesians, formerly Gentiles, separated, alienated, strangers, and he says:

Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,

Jesus abolished the law of commandments expressed in ordinances in order to create one new man in place of the two. Romans chapter 7 tells us how the law was abolished for followers of Jesus.

Romans 7:1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives?

And he uses the law of marriage to illustrate the principle that we are only bound by the law as long as we are alive.

4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

We are freed from the law because we have died with Christ. We have been released from bondage to the law. We are free from the written code. We now serve God out of a Spirit transformed heart. This is what Paul says in Galatians 2:

Galatians 2:19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The Law, the Law of God, and the Law of Christ

Let’s look for a minute at how Paul sees himself in relation to the law. He is very careful to clarify so that he is not misunderstood. He became as a Jew, as one under the law, though he himself is no longer a Jew and is not under the law. Paul is not obligated to keep the Jewish law. If we look back at the Jerusalem decree in Acts 15, we see that Gentiles keeping the law of Moses was what was at issue.

Acts 15:5 But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”

Peter argued that God

Acts 15:9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

Even to those raised Jewish, the law of Moses was ‘a yoke on the neck that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear.’ Paul makes it clear that he is not himself under the law. In relations to the Gentiles to whom the law had not been given, Paul became as one outside the law, but he is careful to clarify ‘not being outside the law of God but inside the law of Christ’. Paul wants to make clear that no longer being under the law does not mean that he is free to sin. He makes a distinction between the law that he is not under and the law that he is not outside of. In verse 20 he says that he is not under the law, and in verse 21 he says that he is not without the law of God but inside the law of Christ. He draws a contrast between the law of Moses and the law of God. One he is no longer under any obligation to fulfill, the law of Moses having been perfectly fulfilled in Christ. The other, the law of God or the law of Christ, is what he is walking in.

Jesus said:

John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

God gave the law to his people through Moses. The law showed us our sin. In Acts 13, Paul says about Jesus

Acts 13:38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.

The law of Moses did not free. It was a yoke that no one could bear. Galatians (5:23) tells us that we were held captive, imprisoned under the law. The law was our guardian until Christ came.

The 613 commandments of the Old Testament have been completely fulfilled in Jesus. Those who are justified through faith in Jesus are not under that law. We are now in the law of Christ.

So what is the law of Christ? Jesus was asked

Matthew 22:36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Jesus said

Matthew 7:12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Jesus said

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

John wrote

1 John 3:23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.

1 John 4:21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Paul tells the Thessalonians

1 Thessalonians 4:9 Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another,

It is clear that the law of Christ is the law of love. Romans 8 says

Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

We fulfill the law when we walk according to the Spirit.

Romans 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Galatians says

Galatians 5:14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

James says

James 2:8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

All Things to All People

Paul became all things to all people for the advance of the gospel. To the Jews he became as a Jew. In Acts 16 Paul circumcised Timothy in order to remove hindrances to the gospel among the Jews. In Acts 18, Paul cut his hair because of a vow. In Acts 21, Paul was counseled to purify himself along with four men and present the appropriate offering in the temple. Paul demonstrated that, although he was free from the law, this did not mean that he could not observe Jewish laws when it would serve to advance the gospel.

Paul became as one outside in order to win those outside the law. When Paul went up to Jerusalem, he brought Titus the Greek as a test case to demonstrate that Gentiles were not required to keep the law (Gal.2:3). At Antioch, Paul insisted that Peter continue to demonstrate the truth of the gospel by eating with the Gentiles.

There was another category of people that Paul reached out to with the gospel. These were the weak. The text does not say that he became as the weak. It says he became weak. He doesn’t become a Jew or a Gentile, but he does become weak. He does not qualify this with a statement like ‘though not myself being weak’. In the context, we see that Paul took a manual labor job to pay the bills. The sophisticated Corinthians may consider this weak, but Paul says that he gladly became weak in order to win the weak to Christ. He voluntarily placed himself in the lowest social strata to bring the gospel to people who may not otherwise listen. Paul did not merely preach the gospel. Paul lived the gospel. As he says in Ephesians 5

Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

As Christ gave himself up for us, Paul follows the example of his Master and gives up his own rights. He stoops down to identify with the weak so that they know that the gospel is for them. Paul being weak, unable to save himself by his own righteousness, stands with the weak in the gospel blessings that come to the weak. Paul’s life has been transformed by the gospel. Paul now lives a life conformed to the gospel. Paul was transformed by the cross. Paul now lives life shaped by the cross. He lives a life characterized by sacrifice. He is willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to bring the saving good news to people for whom Christ died. His prime passion is the good news of Christ crucified, and he is willing to live out that good news and come alongside anyone to stand with them at the foot of the cross. There is no other Christian life than a life shaped by the cross.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

March 23, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 9:15-18; Freedom and Compulsion

03/16 1 Corinthians 9:15-18 Freedom and Compulsion; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140316_1cor9_15-18.mp3

1 Corinthians 9 [SBLGNT]

15 Ἐγὼ δὲ οὐ κέχρημαι οὐδενὶ τούτων. οὐκ ἔγραψα δὲ ταῦτα ἵνα οὕτως γένηται ἐν ἐμοί, καλὸν γάρ μοι μᾶλλον ἀποθανεῖν ἤ — τὸ καύχημά μου οὐδεὶς κενώσει. 16 ἐὰν γὰρ εὐαγγελίζωμαι, οὐκ ἔστιν μοι καύχημα, ἀνάγκη γάρ μοι ἐπίκειται· οὐαὶ γάρ μοί ἐστιν ἐὰν μὴ εὐαγγελίσωμαι. 17 εἰ γὰρ ἑκὼν τοῦτο πράσσω, μισθὸν ἔχω· εἰ δὲ ἄκων, οἰκονομίαν πεπίστευμαι. 18 τίς οὖν μού ἐστιν ὁ μισθός; ἵνα εὐαγγελιζόμενος ἀδάπανον θήσω τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, εἰς τὸ μὴ καταχρήσασθαι τῇ ἐξουσίᾳ μου ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ.

1 Corinthians 9 [ESV2011]

1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? 2 If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. 3 This is my defense to those who would examine me. 4 Do we not have the right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? 7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? 8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting. 16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. 18 What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.

Paul is tackling the difficult issue of how to interact with the culture in which you live. The Corinthians lived in a culture characterized by idolatry. They had their line of biblical reasoning for why they had the right to eat meat sacrificed to idols in pagan temples. Paul gently leads them to think more carefully through the issues. In chapter 8 he warns that if, by this right of yours, you destroy a brother for whom Christ died, you sin against Christ. In chapter 9:1-14, he makes the case for his own legitimate rights as an illustration for them. He has the right to eat and drink, to have his needs met by those whom he serves. This right of support extends beyond himself to also pay the expenses of a believing wife. He has the right to refrain from working a second job to support himself and his family. A common-sense look at other occupations legitimizes the right to expect to be fairly compensated. The Old Testament affirms this right by precept and precedent. The inequality of being paid for services of eternal worth with perishable things demonstrates that this is a very conservative, very reasonable expectation. Jesus himself commanded ‘that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

Not To Secure Provision

But Paul is not talking about his right to be supported so that he can demand proper payment or lobby for a raise. He brings up his own legitimate rights as an example of what it might look like to have a higher purpose in mind than one’s own rights. He is very clear in verse 15:

15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision.

The purpose of defending his rights is not so that he can lay claim to his rights. His purpose is to demonstrate that sometimes it is right to forfeit your rights for a higher purpose. He is not now writing so that these things would be done for him. He is passionate about this.

15 …For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting.

We lose some of his passion in most of our English translations. This is a broken sentence, where he begins one thought, interrupts himself and moves in a different direction. We could translate ‘it is better for me to die than… my boast no one will make empty!’ He begins the though ‘I would rather die than…’ but he doesn’t complete it. Was he going to say something like ‘I would rather die than accept money from the likes of you’? That would be offensive, so he changes mid-sentence and exclaims that no one will make his boasting void.

Patronage in Corinth

It may be helpful to understand something of the culture of Corinth here. Corinth was a highly stratified culture with wealthy patrons and many in lower classes. Patrons could sponsor a slave, provide for his needs, give him an education, train him to serve in some function, and after some years of service grant him freedom. But this freedom was not without strings attached. The freedman was now obligated to his patron, to show respect and honor, to give gifts, and to continue to work for him on occasion. Status was all-important in Corinth, and some people would seek to become a slave of a wealthy patron in order to improve their social standing.

The scholar business was also big in Corinth. If you were wealthy, you could hire an instructor to teach you in philosophy. The more you paid, the better education you would get. The more you paid, the more bragging rights you would have with others about how much you were paying for the very best.

Into this social context, Paul comes to town doing manual labor and proclaiming the gospel free of charge to anyone who would listen, regardless of social standing. He refused to accept payment from anyone. This was downright offensive to those in the upper classes who assumed that nothing worth anything comes for free. For Paul to accept support from a wealthy patron would mean that he was also obligating himself to that patron.

Removing Obstacles

Back in verse 12 of this chapter, Paul said that he would endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel. This word ‘obstacle’ was what a city would do if an enemy was advancing to attack. Go out and tear up the roads to your city so that the troops would have no easy access to attack. Paul felt that receiving support from the strangers he was proclaiming the gospel to could be a hindrance to that gospel, and so he chose to forgo his rights and endure anything. This did not mean that Paul never accepted support from anyone. He wrote to the church in Philippi thanking them for their generous gift. But he didn’t take money from the strangers he was seeking to win. He felt that would be an obstacle to the gospel. Paul has already described in chapter 4 what this meant for him.

1 Corinthians 4:11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

Paul was willing to endure anything in order to advance the gospel. The message of the good news of a crucified Messiah was offensive enough. That I am so bad that I deserved death but someone died in my place, and that I am so infinitely bad that someone who is infinitely worthy had to pay my price as my substitute – that is offensive to my pride, because I want to be able to say that I’m not really that bad, and that I don’t really need outside help. Paul said in 1:23 ‘we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.’ The gospel that Jesus died for sinners is a scandalous message. So Paul endeavored to remove every other potential obstacle that might hinder the uncompromisable message of that gospel.

Paul’s Boast

Paul said that he would allow no one to deprive him of his boast. What is his boast, and how does this fit with the rest of what Paul teaches about boasting? In chapter 1, Paul pointed to how God chose foolish, weak, low, despised nothings in order to exclude any boasting from his presence (1:27-29), and he concluded with the Scripture “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1:31). In chapter 3, he points out that all Christian leaders are merely servants obeying the command of their Lord Jesus, and he concludes ‘so let no one boast in men’ (3:21). In chapter 4 he says

1 Corinthians 4:7 …What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

In Galatians 6, Paul makes this unequivocal statement:

Galatians 6:14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

We have nothing to boast in that we did not receive as a gift, and the only thing worthy of boasting in is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, where we receive the ultimate gift.

So what is Paul’s boast here in 1 Corinthians 9, and how does this fit with what he says about boasting?

Paul’s Necessity

In verses 16 and 17 he clarifies:

16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship.

Paul literally gave his life to the preaching of the gospel. And yet he says that this gives him no ground for boasting because he is required to preach. And he exclaims ‘woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!’ Paul resonates here with the prophet Jeremiah. Paul, like Jeremiah, was set apart by God from before birth. Paul said:

Galatians 1:15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to [in] me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles…

Jeremiah said:

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Jeremiah was sent to proclaim the Lord’s judgment on his people for forsaking him and worshiping false gods. Jeremiah was told:

Jeremiah 1:17 But you, dress yourself for work; arise, and say to them everything that I command you. Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them.

And he was told that ‘they will fight against you’ (1:19). God told Jeremiah

Jeremiah 7:27 “So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you.

Jeremiah (understandably) became frustrated with his task. After Jeremiah was beaten and put in stocks by the priest in the house of the Lord, he complains to the Lord:

Jeremiah 20:7 O LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me. 8 For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, “Violence and destruction!” For the word of the LORD has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. 9 If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.

Jeremiah was tired of being mocked and was ready to quit speaking for the Lord. But when he tried to quit, ‘there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot’. As much as Jeremiah wanted to quit, he was compelled to speak. He says ‘you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed’.

Paul was in a similar situation. Paul, on his way to Damascus to persecute the followers of Jesus, was confronted by the risen Lord Jesus, knocked to the ground, blinded, and told what to do.

Acts 26:14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles— to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

Paul had no choice in this. He was confronted, commanded, and commissioned. Like Jeremiah, he was given a task.

Romans 1:14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

Paul was under obligation. He says here, ‘

16 … necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship.

Paul was under necessity. There was no reward for him in preaching the gospel, because it was not of his own will. He didn’t choose to preach the gospel; far from it. He was actively persecuting and seeking to destroy followers of Jesus. He was interrupted. He was involuntarily pressed into service. It was a stewardship, a responsibility entrusted to him. We might be able to say that some of the other apostles willingly left following John, left their nets and their father, left the tax booth and chose to follow Jesus. But not so Paul. He was under compulsion. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! There is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.

Jesus asked:

Luke 17:7 “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? 8 Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”

Jesus conquered his unwilling heart and gave Paul a new willing heart that was eager to serve him. But how could Paul demonstrate that he was now eagerly, passionately, voluntarily, willingly preaching the good news and not merely preaching under compulsion? How could he show that he was not merely doing what was his duty?

18 What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.

What is my reward? What is my grounds for boasting? Paul did not make full use of his rights. Is Paul saying he is better than the other apostles and earning a greater reward? No! Later in this letter he will call himself the last and least of all the apostles, not worthy to be called an apostle except for the grace of God extended to him (15:8-10). Is Paul contradicting his statement in Galatians that he will not boast in anything but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ? No! Paul’s reward, literally his wage, was to forfeit his wages and relinquish his rights by proclaiming the gospel freely. Paul considered it his payment to not receive pay for preaching. What he got out of it was the privilege of going beyond what was required. Paul had become a genuine Jesus-follower. Jesus said:

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus

Philippians 2:7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

Paul’s boast, Paul’s glory, Paul’s rejoicing was in the cross. Because God’s grace had so transformed his heart, Paul was eager, like his Master, to surrender his rights for the sake of others. Paul considered it a privilege to live a cross-centered life, he considered it a reward to share in the sufferings of Christ.

Philippians 3:10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

To share in his sufferings and to become like Jesus in his death is to gladly relinquish my rights for the eternal good of others. If by surrendering my rights, I can remove an obstacle that may hinder someone from believing in Jesus, then I have become a little bit like Jesus. This is no sacrifice. This is privilege. This is something to glory in, something to boast in, something to rejoice in, that Jesus has so changed my heart and my desires that I now love my enemies and will gladly give up my rights to remove obstacles so that they can know Jesus.

I am no longer my own. I have been bought with a price. I am under obligation to proclaim the good news. Good news that Jesus died for sinners so that we can be welcomed into the presence of an all-holy God. I cannot be silent about that good news. If I have the opportunity to surrender a God-given right in order to secure the eternal salvation of one for whom Christ died, I should exult in the high honor of following my Lord.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

March 16, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 9:1-14; kNOw your Rights!

03/09 1 Corinthians 9:1-14 kNOw Your Rights!; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140309_1cor9_1-14.mp3

1 Corinthians 9 [SBLGNT]

1 Οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐλεύθερος; οὐκ εἰμὶ ἀπόστολος; οὐχὶ Ἰησοῦν τὸν κύριον ἡμῶν ἑόρακα; οὐ τὸ ἔργον μου ὑμεῖς ἐστε ἐν κυρίῳ; 2 εἰ ἄλλοις οὐκ εἰμὶ ἀπόστολος, ἀλλά γε ὑμῖν εἰμι, ἡ γὰρ σφραγίς μου τῆς ἀποστολῆς ὑμεῖς ἐστε ἐν κυρίῳ. 3 Ἡ ἐμὴ ἀπολογία τοῖς ἐμὲ ἀνακρίνουσίν ἐστιν αὕτη. 4 μὴ οὐκ ἔχομεν ἐξουσίαν φαγεῖν καὶ πεῖν; 5 μὴ οὐκ ἔχομεν ἐξουσίαν ἀδελφὴν γυναῖκα περιάγειν, ὡς καὶ οἱ λοιποὶ ἀπόστολοι καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ τοῦ κυρίου καὶ Κηφᾶς; 6 ἢ μόνος ἐγὼ καὶ Βαρναβᾶς οὐκ ἔχομεν ἐξουσίαν μὴ ἐργάζεσθαι; 7 τίς στρατεύεται ἰδίοις ὀψωνίοις ποτέ; τίς φυτεύει ἀμπελῶνα καὶ τὸν καρπὸν αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἐσθίει; τίς ποιμαίνει ποίμνην καὶ ἐκ τοῦ γάλακτος τῆς ποίμνης οὐκ ἐσθίει; 8 Μὴ κατὰ ἄνθρωπον ταῦτα λαλῶ ἢ καὶ ὁ νόμος ταῦτα οὐ λέγει; 9 ἐν γὰρ τῷ Μωϋσέως νόμῳ γέγραπται· Οὐ κημώσεις βοῦν ἀλοῶντα. μὴ τῶν βοῶν μέλει τῷ θεῷ, 10 ἢ δι’ ἡμᾶς πάντως λέγει; δι’ ἡμᾶς γὰρ ἐγράφη, ὅτι ὀφείλει ἐπ’ ἐλπίδι ὁ ἀροτριῶν ἀροτριᾶν, καὶ ὁ ἀλοῶν ἐπ’ ἐλπίδι τοῦ μετέχειν. 11 εἰ ἡμεῖς ὑμῖν τὰ πνευματικὰ ἐσπείραμεν, μέγα εἰ ἡμεῖς ὑμῶν τὰ σαρκικὰ θερίσομεν; 12 εἰ ἄλλοι τῆς ὑμῶν ἐξουσίας μετέχουσιν, οὐ μᾶλλον ἡμεῖς; Ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐχρησάμεθα τῇ ἐξουσίᾳ ταύτῃ, ἀλλὰ πάντα στέγομεν ἵνα μή τινα ἐγκοπὴν δῶμεν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ τοῦ Χριστοῦ. 13 οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι οἱ τὰ ἱερὰ ἐργαζόμενοι τὰ ἐκ τοῦ ἱεροῦ ἐσθίουσιν, οἱ τῷ θυσιαστηρίῳ παρεδρεύοντες τῷ θυσιαστηρίῳ συμμερίζονται; 14 οὕτως καὶ ὁ κύριος διέταξεν τοῖς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον καταγγέλλουσιν ἐκ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου ζῆν.

1 Corinthians 9 [ESV2011]

1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? 2 If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. 3 This is my defense to those who would examine me. 4 Do we not have the right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? 7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? 8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

In 1 Corinthians 9:1-14, Paul overbuilds the case that he as an apostle has the legitimate right to be supported by the churches that he serves. He builds this case so thoroughly that no one would dare to dispute that he has this right. He musters evidence from the example of the other apostles, from the example of basic principles common to all society, from Old Testament law, from the precedent of priestly shares in temple offerings, and from the command of the Lord Jesus himself. He does all this in the context of the Corinthians insisting on their so-called rights that were really not legitimate rights, as he will show in the next chapter. He builds this bulletproof case for his rights so that he can stagger them with the concept that even when you do have legitimate rights, the path of love may be to voluntarily forgo those rights for the good of others.

Paul asks a lot of questions in this section. Rhetorical questions, to which the answers are obvious. He expects his readers to be able to fill in the correct answers and in doing so powerfully affirm his rights. He begins with this: ‘Am I not free?’ Paul is passionate about freedom. He wrote to the churches in Galatia passionately defending the freedom that we have in Christ. He says

Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

He will come back to this issue of freedom and how to use it in the second half of this chapter (v.19).

His second question is “Am I not an apostle?” and he follows this with two more questions that affirm his calling as apostle. “Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?” A primary prerequisite of an apostle, one sent by the Lord Jesus was to have actually seen Jesus. Jesus blinded Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9) and personally commissioned him to bring the good news about him to the Gentile nations (Acts 26:14-18). “Are you not my workmanship in the Lord?” Paul points to the existence of a church of God in Corinth as evidence of the authenticity of his apostleship. He begins this letter by addressing:

1 Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

And he gives thanks to God

1 Corinthians 1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—

The very fact of their existence as followers of Jesus in the pagan city of Corinth is proof positive that Paul was sent by Jesus to bring the good news to the people there. Their existence as believers was dependent on the fact that the apostle Paul preached the good news to them. So he says:

2 If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. 3 This is my defense to those who would examine me.

God’s grace was extended to the pagan city of Corinth through Paul, and many who were entrenched in the false beliefs of that culture were supernaturally transformed into Jesus followers through his preaching. Paul claims in chapter 3:

1 Corinthians 3:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

The church in Corinth was the evidence that Paul was sent out by Jesus. Even if no one else in the whole world acknowledged Paul as an apostle of Jesus, the followers of Jesus in Corinth must acknowledge him. This is his defense to anyone who would challenge his calling.

Apostles’ Rights

Then starting in verse 4 he unleashes a tirade of rhetorical questions defending his rights.

4 Do we not have the right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living?

Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Who would deny someone the right to eat and drink? But in the context, he is saying that if someone receives services from someone without paying for those services, that is to deny them the right to eat and drink. In chapter 8 we see that the Corinthians were defending their purported right to participate in idol feasts and eat food sacrificed to idols. Paul asks the question ‘don’t we have the right to eat at all?’ The question here is not food connected with idolatry; the issue here is the right to basic subsistence. Paul has the legitimate right to be compensated from those he serves in preaching the gospel.

That right goes beyond himself.

5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?

Paul is not claiming the right to be married. That is a given. When he laid out the advantages of singleness in chapter 7, he was careful to make it clear that marriage is good and a legitimate option. Paul claims here that the church is obligated not only to pay his own personal expenses, but also the expenses of his family if he had one. If he comes to preach the gospel, those to whom he preaches are obligated to provide for his needs and the needs of his wife. He points to the other apostles as examples of this. We don’t know much about the family lives of the other apostles. We are told in the gospels that Peter (or Cephas) had a mother-in-law (Mt.8:14), which would imply that he was married. The brothers of the Lord, James and Joses and Judas and Simon (Mk.6:3) apparently were also married. James, we know from the book of Acts, became a leader in the church in Jerusalem. According to Paul, most of the other apostles and the brothers of Jesus who were serving the church were married, and they and their wives were supported by the churches. For Paul’s original readers, this was common knowledge that did not need to be defended; it was the basis of Paul’s defense of his rights.

6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living?

Paul is asking if he and Barnabas were the only exceptions to the rule. All the other apostles and leaders of the churches were supported by the churches they served. Andrew, Simon Peter, James and John left their fishing to follow Jesus. Matthew left collecting taxes to follow Jesus. Why were Paul and Barnabas not allowed to stop making tents and be provided for by the churches?

Soldier, Vinedresser, Shepherd

Paul continues to build his case. He asks three more rhetorical questions that point to the normal expectation in society for one’s occupation to provide for one’s own needs.

7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?

Soldiers don’t go to serve their country and pack a sack lunch for battle. It may be simple and basic, but their needs are taken care of. And in that day, the soldier was entitled to share in the spoils of war. The one who plants the vineyard does so expecting to enjoy the fruit that the vineyard produces. The shepherd who tends the flock enjoys the dairy products that come from the flock. In our day we could ask ‘who goes to work and expects never to get a paycheck?’ This is absurd. A principle so basic and so common sense that someone who works for a living expects to make his living by his work must certainly be applied to someone who gives his life to proclaiming the gospel.

Interestingly, all three of these illustrations, the army, the vine, and the flock are all used in the bible to describe the people of God. The soldier, the vinedresser, and the shepherd or pastor all are occupations used to describe those who are entrusted with the leadership of God’s people. Paul says to the elders in Ephesus:

Acts 20:28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for (shepherd) the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

And Peter exhorts the elders:

1 Peter 5:2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

In Matthew 20, Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to the master of a house who hired laborers for his vineyard. In Matthew 21, he told a parable about a master of a house who planted a vineyard and leased it to those who would tend it, and went on a journey expecting to come back and enjoy its fruits. Jesus said in John 15

John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Paul viewed his own work as a field hand. He says in 1 Corinthians 3

1 Corinthians 3:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

Paul told Timothy:

1 Timothy 1:18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience….

and

1 Timothy 6:11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

In 2 Timothy, he says:

2 Timothy 2:3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.

Jude says

Jude 3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

His point in all of this is that those who serve as a soldier, those who work in the vineyard, those who tend the flock all expect to have their needs met through that work. How much more those who defend and advance the truth, feed the sheep and tend the branches so they stay connected to the vine and produce fruit?

The Law

Paul moves now from common-sense human illustrations to a biblical defense of his right to make a living by the gospel.

8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop.

Deuteronomy 25:4 says “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain.” Paul takes this and applies it to himself and others who preach the good news. This may seem a bit of a stretch, until we actually turn back to Deuteronomy and find that this one statement about oxen is sandwiched in a whole section where everything else is dealing with protecting the rights of laborers, hired servants, the poor and needy, widows, orphans, foreigners, those in debt and those found guilty of minor offenses, making sure that they are protected, cared for, clothed and fed. In that context, if a beast of burden has the right to eat some of the produce while it is working, how much greater the obligation to care for a human person created in the image of God. Paul takes this scripture and says that it was written for our sake. As Luther said, God did not have this written for oxen because oxen cannot read. This was written for rational humans, because we labor in hope of sharing in the produce. Again, these farming metaphors are directly applicable to gospel ministry. Paul uses this scripture also in 1 Timothy 5 as a basis for caring for those who preach and teach in the church.

1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

Paul argues from the greater to the lesser. If an ox is entitled to eat of the good grain that he is threshing, surely he would be entitled to eat of his regular feed. Paul says:

11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?

If we have invested in you things of greater eternal value, is it too much to ask that we share in the lesser temporary material benefits?

Galatians 6:6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.

Paul argues that the Corinthians were financially supporting other workers.

12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.

Surely the apostle who brought to them the good news in the first place has a rightful claim to be supported by them. He says in

2 Corinthians 11:8 I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way.

If he is serving in a church, he has the right to be supported by that church. Paul tips his hand to where he is going with all this talk about his rights. He has not made use of these legitimate rights in order to remove every possible obstacle to the gospel of Christ. The good news message that forgiveness of sins comes through the sacrifice of Jesus to all who believe is primary. If my rights hinder that message in any way, then it is time to forfeit my rights for the sake of the gospel. This is the whole point of this passage. Paul is compounding his defense of the legitimacy of his rights not so that he can finally get what he deserves, but so that he can demonstrate that it is right to surrender your rights out of love for others and for the sake of the gospel.

The Temple

But he is not done yet. He brings up another Old Testament principle and applies it to the New Testament church.

13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

Paul includes a gentle rebuke here. He asks the Corinthians, who claim to know so much ‘do you not know?’ This is something he expects them to know. Numbers 18 outlines in detail the things that were given to those who served in the Old Testament sanctuary. The contributions, the consecrated things, the grain offerings, the sin offerings, the guilt offerings, the wave offerings, the best of the oil, the best of the wine, the grain, the firstfruits, all the devoted things, all the holy contributions, and every tithe were given to those who served in the Lord’s temple as their portion to provide for their needs and the needs of their families. The contributions that came to the Lord in the temple were given to those who served in the temple to free them up to serve. Paul connects this Old Testament practice directly to the New Testament church. He says:

14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

In the same way. Just as the Old Testament priests were cared for by the donations of the people, so those who proclaim the gospel should earn their living by the gospel. This, Paul says, is no less than a command of the Lord Jesus himself.

When Jesus sent out the seventy, in Luke 10,

Luke 10:2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, …7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. … (cf. Matthew 10:7-10)

When Jesus sent out the twelve in Matthew 10, he said

Matthew 10:7 And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. 9 Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food.

Jesus sent his followers out without provisions, expecting them to be provided for by those they ministered to. Those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

Paul is free. He is an apostle. He has the right to eat and drink. He has the right not only to have his own needs met, but also the needs of a family through the support of the church. He has the right to stop supporting himself through manual labor and be cared for by the church. Those in common occupations expect to earn a living through their work, how much more those who defend the faith, tend God’s vineyard, and pastor his flock? Those who invest in others eternal good surely have the right to have their temporal needs met. The Scriptures confirm that those who serve God have the right to be provided for thorough the donations of God’s people. The command of the Lord Jesus is that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. And yet in full possession of these inalienable God-given rights, Paul has the radical right to let go of his rights out of love for others and for the sake of the advance of the gospel. 

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

March 9, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 8:7-13; Obligation to Love

03/02 1 Corinthians 8:7-13 – Obligation to Love; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140302_1cor8_7-13.mp3

1 Corinthians 8 [SBLGNT]

7 Ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐν πᾶσιν ἡ γνῶσις· τινὲς δὲ τῇ συνηθείᾳ ἕως ἄρτι τοῦ εἰδώλου ὡς εἰδωλόθυτον ἐσθίουσιν, καὶ ἡ συνείδησις αὐτῶν ἀσθενὴς οὖσα μολύνεται. 8 βρῶμα δὲ ἡμᾶς οὐ παραστήσει τῷ θεῷ· οὔτε γὰρ ἐὰν φάγωμεν, περισσεύομεν, οὔτε ἐὰν μὴ φάγωμεν, ὑστερούμεθα. 9 βλέπετε δὲ μή πως ἡ ἐξουσία ὑμῶν αὕτη πρόσκομμα γένηται τοῖς ἀσθενέσιν. 10 ἐὰν γάρ τις ἴδῃ σὲ τὸν ἔχοντα γνῶσιν ἐν εἰδωλείῳ κατακείμενον, οὐχὶ ἡ συνείδησις αὐτοῦ ἀσθενοῦς ὄντος οἰκοδομηθήσεται εἰς τὸ τὰ εἰδωλόθυτα ἐσθίειν; 11 ἀπόλλυται γὰρ ὁ ἀσθενῶν ἐν τῇ σῇ γνώσει, ὁ ἀδελφὸς δι’ ὃν Χριστὸς ἀπέθανεν. 12 οὕτως δὲ ἁμαρτάνοντες εἰς τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς καὶ τύπτοντες αὐτῶν τὴν συνείδησιν ἀσθενοῦσαν εἰς Χριστὸν ἁμαρτάνετε. 13 διόπερ εἰ βρῶμα σκανδαλίζει τὸν ἀδελφόν μου, οὐ μὴ φάγω κρέα εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, ἵνα μὴ τὸν ἀδελφόν μου σκανδαλίσω.

1 Corinthians 8 [ESV2011]

1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. 4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

7 However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

In chapters 8-11, Paul is addressing the issue of a Christian’s interaction with pagan society. In the pagan culture of Corinth, idolatry permeated every area of life; politics, sports, employment, family, even eating. Almost all meat would have some connection with pagan idolatry. Meat at a friend’s house may be the leftovers from a pagan sacrifice. Meat sold in the market often came from the priest’s portion of the pagan sacrifice. Pagan temples had dining rooms that were rented to celebrate special occasions. Some of the believers in Corinth were claiming the right to eat food that came from the temple, even the right to attend banquets held at the temple, arguing that because there is only one true God, and since food cannot earn for us favor with God, then we have freedom to eat whatever we want wherever we want.

We may think we can safely tune out this whole section as irrelevant because I can’t remember the last time I was invited to a temple for a banquet, or when my neighbor invited me to a barbeque that was dedicated to Asclepius or Aphrodite or Zeus. But if you find yourself in another country or another culture, you may quickly realize how important it is to think carefully through these issues. And when we put these instructions in the context of the broader issues of idolatry as being anything we love or honor or elevate alongside the one true God, then this becomes massively relevant and intensely practical.

The Principles behind the Decree

And we are greatly helped by the way the apostle deals with this issue. This was a settled issue. Paul could have simply laid down the law, cited the Jerusalem decree, and moved on. And that may be what he had done in earlier correspondence or in person with this church. Paul was there at the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15. Paul was one of those entrusted with the responsibility to deliver the decision to the Gentile churches. For a non-Jew to become a follower of Jesus, they did not have to become Jewish or come under the burden of Jewish law. But they must turn away from their false gods to the one true God. They cannot add Jesus to the list of gods they worship and serve. In turning to Jesus they must turn away from the worship of false gods, from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from things strangled, from sexual immorality. Paul could have laid down the law. But instead he lays out the reasons behind the decision to help them (and us) to think more carefully through the issue and lead them to the proper conclusion.

Paul brings them back to first principles. There is only one God, and that one God requires that we love him with all heart and soul and mind and strength, and that we love our neighbor as ourselves. Love seeks the genuine good of the other, even if it is costly to us. The Corinthians boasted in a kind of knowledge that set them apart from everyone else; Paul points out that this knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.

He points them back to first principles of monotheism; there is no God but one. By saying there is one Lord and God we confess that we owe our undivided allegiance and obedience to this one God. God reveals himself as a jealous God, and demands that we have no other gods besides him. Paul clarifies that this one God is God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, distinct persons with different roles, but God, one eternal being.

The double command of love must govern all of life. Love for God must come first. And this humbles us, because we only love because he first loved us. In verses 7-13, he spells out what love for our brother should look like. Paul does not confront their idolatrous behavior head on, but rather seeks to persuade them. In chapter 10, he will lay out clear conclusions, like 10:14 “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” and that eating idol food is eating at the table of demons (10:16-22). In this chapter Paul assumes for the sake of argument that what they are saying is true, and that their knowledge is accurate. Even if it were true that Christians have legitimate liberty to join in pagan feasts, love would require a different path.

This Knowledge is Not In All

The Corinthians were claiming to have knowledge. They said ‘we know that all of us possess knowledge’. Paul here clarifies ‘but not all possess this knowledge’. This ‘knowledge’ that it is acceptable to participate in pagan feasts because the gods honored are false empty nothings, this is not in everyone.

7 However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.

Before they heard the gospel and believed in Jesus as God, many Corinthians would have regularly participated in these celebrations in honor of the various gods, and upon entering their former place of worship would feel soiled, dirty, defiled. Their conscience is weak, not because they are too easily offended and over-sensitive, but because they cave to the example of those who claim to be wise and eat, even though they don’t themselves have this so-called wisdom that would free them to participate. The weak conscience is a conscience that isn’t sure of itself, that doesn’t have the strength to stand on its own two feet, the moral consciousness that questions if it is permissible but does it anyway. This is a moral consciousness that is swayed by the opinion and example of others. Notice that Paul doesn’t say that they merely feel defiled. He says that their conscience, their moral consciousness is defiled. He says in Romans 14:23

Romans 14:23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

Subjective Sin

These verses tell us that there is a subjective reality to sin. Something may not be forbidden by God, let’s stay (to be culturally relevant) drinking a particular beverage. If you have been raised to believe that it is sin to partake, even though you can’t produce the verse that says it is wrong, you are convinced that it is a sin against God. Objectively it is not wrong. No specific command, no general principle in the bible says it is wrong. Your conscience has been misinformed. But if you fill up your cup and drink, believing it is wrong, you are saying in your heart ‘I believe this to be a sin against God, but I am going to do it anyway’. God looks on the heart, and in your heart you have sinned against God. The act is not objectively sinful. It is not sinful in and of itself. But it becomes sin for you when, thinking it is sin, you do it anyway.

There is also an objective reality to sin. If you were not raised to believe that any sexual intimacy outside of a marriage relationship is sin, you may feel no guilt in fornicating with your girlfriend. It may feel so right. But it is still really, objectively, according to God’s absolute standard, wrong. Idolatry is on that list, putting any thing, any tradition, any relationship equal in importance with God is sin, whether it feels sinful or not. Much that we don’t feel guilty about is objectively sin against God. One reason the Holy Spirit is given to believers is to convict us of sin that we are not aware is sin.

Food Does Not Bring Us Before God

The Corinthians argument is that ‘Food does not bring us near to God’. We are presented blameless before God through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross. Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial law. In a vision God offered to Peter all kinds of ceremonially unclean things to eat, and God said ‘what God has made clean, do not call common’ (Acts10:15). Jesus declared all foods clean (Mk.7:19). He said that it is not the stuff that goes in, but what comes out that defiles a person. Stuff like evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness that come out of a person’s heart. That is what defiles, not food. Food does not bring us near to God. Keeping various rules like:

Colossians 2:21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 ( referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Food does not bring us near to God. No list of do’s and dont’s will earn favor with God. Only Jesus can bring us near to the all-holy God. Food has no importance. Notice how Paul frames this: ‘We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do’. I find it interesting that he doesn’t say the opposite. He could have said ‘We are no better off if we do not eat, and no worse off if we do’, but he didn’t because that may not be true. Based on his conclusions in chapter 10, we may be better off not to eat food sacrificed to idols, and we may be worse of if we do. He says forfeiting your liberty to eat the steak does not separate you from God, neither does eating the steak bring you closer to God. Since food does not bring us nearer to God by eating or alienate us by not eating, we can safely forgo our right to eat for the sake of a brother.

Stumbling Block

This is what he says in verse 9

9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.

Paul’s language borders on condescending. Paul distances himself from ‘this right of yours’. They are demanding their rights. They have this knowledge. Paul says ‘look out!’ When you start demanding and defending your own rights, you are already on dangerous territory. The problem when I begin to demand my rights, I often end up trampling on the rights of others. Paul alerts them to the existence of others for whom they must be concerned. Watch out that this right you claim does not become a stumbling block to the weak. You who claim to have ‘wisdom’ have an obligation to the weak.

This word ‘stumbling block’ has a clear Old Testament connection to idolatry. God warned in Exodus 34:

Exodus 34:12 Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. 13 You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), 15 lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice, 16 and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods. 17 “You shall not make for yourself any gods of cast metal.

This is exactly what happened to Israel in the wilderness.

Numbers 25:1 While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. 2 These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel.

Jesus references this when he rebukes the New Testament church in Pergamum and calls them to repentance:

Revelation 2:14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.

To draw someone into worship of anything besides the one true God is a stumbling block.

Build Up to Destruction

To put a stumbling block before the weak is a serious issue.

10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols?

Paul is somewhat sarcastic here. The word translated ‘encouraged’ is the word usually translated ‘edified’ or ‘built up’. To ‘build up’ a weaker brother so that he participates in idolatry – some kind of building up that is! The conscience is a valuable tool. It is not infallible. The conscience is a delicate instrument, like a compass. Compasses sometimes need to be calibrated. But you do not calibrate the compass of conscience with the sledgehammer of my knowledge and rights, sending it spinning in every direction and rendering it useless to guide. You calibrate the compass of conscience with the precision screwdriver of love.

Listen to how Paul confronts the puffed-up Corinthians.

11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died.

Destroyed. Perished. Lost. Who would want that on their hands? Not anyone, but a weak person. You would trip up and destroy someone who can’t even stand on their own? A brother! Not an enemy, not an outsider, a brother, a sibling, part of the family! There ought to be some tender affection in you toward your own brother. And if not for my brother, then surely for Christ. This one who through my supposed knowledge I am leading back into bondage to sin, and into destruction, is one for whom Christ died. To think that I would attempt to nullify the effect of the cross of Jesus! I am a sinner saved only by God’s undeserved grace through the cross. To lead another for whom Christ died back into the sin out of which he was snatched and from which he is set free is unthinkable. Jesus loved that person and gave himself up for them. He made the ultimate sacrifice out of love. But I am so puffed up in my knowledge and concerned about my rights that I cannot sacrifice something so insignificant to love them.

12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.

Paul applies this principle of love to his readers. To wound a weak conscience, to lead a weak brother into sin, is to sin against them, and to sin against someone for whom Christ died is to sin against Christ Jesus himself. This lesson would be vivid for Paul, formerly Saul, persecutor of the church. When Jesus confronted him on the road, he asked “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts9:4). To persecute the church is to persecute Jesus. Jesus said ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’ (Mt.25:40). Jesus taught

Matthew 18:6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Jesus takes great offense if we do not love those whom he so loved that he gave up his own life as a substitute for.

Paul concludes with his own personal application.

13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

Food, something so insignificant in the context of the substitutionary death of Christ for sinners; my right becomes so trivial in light of Christ Jesus, being in the form of God, who made himself nothing, and died on a cross for sinners like me (Phil.2:5-8). Paul says if food leads a brother for whom Christ died back into idolatry and away from Jesus, I will give up my right to eat meat altogether. I have no right to be rescued from my own sin. That is pure undeserved grace. It is a gift, not a right. I surely have no right to interfere or tamper with the undeserved grace God chooses to extend to another sinner. Rather, I have an obligation to love those whom Christ loved.

March 2, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment