1 Corinthians 9:1-27 NIV
Paul’s Rights as an Apostle
1Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? 2Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
3This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. 4Don’t we have the right to food and drink? 5Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephasa ? 6Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?
7Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? 8Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? 9For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”b Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10Surely He says this for us, doesn’t He? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?
But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the Gospel of Christ.
13Don’t you know that those who serve in the Temple get their food from the Temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? 14In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the Gospel should receive their living from the Gospel.
15But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast. 16For when I preach the Gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel! 17If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. 18What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the Gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the Gospel.
Paul’s Use of His Freedom
19Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the Gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
The Need for Self-Discipline
24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.
27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Ministers, like others, are in danger of losing their souls. If Paul felt this danger, who is there among the ministers of the cross who should not feel it? If Paul was not safe, who is? The fact that a man has preached to many is no certain evidence that he will be saved, 1 Corinthians 9:27. Paul had preached to thousands, and yet he felt that after all this there was a possibility that be might be lost.
The fact that a man has been very successful in the ministry is no certain evidence that he will be saved. God converts people; and he may sometimes do it by the instrumentality of those who themselves are deceived, or are deceivers. They may preach much truth; and God may bless that truth, and make it the means of saving the soul. There is no conclusive evidence that a man is a Christian simply because he is a successful and laborious preacher, any more than there is that a man is a Christian because he is a good farmer, and because God sends down the rain and the sunshine on his fields. Paul felt that even his success was no certain evidence that he would be saved. And if Paul felt thus, who should not feel that after the most distinguished success, he may himself be at last a castaway?
It will be a solemn and awesome thing for a minister of the Gospel, and a "successful" minister, to go down to hell. What more fearful doom can be conceived, than after having led others in the way to eternal life; after having described to them the glories of heaven; after having led them to the "sweet fields beyond the swelling flood" of death, he should find himself shut out, rejected, and cast down to hell!
What more terrible can be imagined in the world of perdition than the doom of one who was once a minister of God, and once esteemed as a light in the church and a guide of souls, now sentenced to inextinguishable fires, while multitudes saved by him shall have gone to heaven! How fearful is the condition and how solemn the vocation of a minister of the Gospel!
Ministers should be concerned about their personal piety. Paul might have rested contented with the remarkable manner of his conversion. He might have supposed that that put the matter beyond all possible doubt. But he did no such thing. He felt that it was necessary to have evidence day by day that he was then in Christ. Of all people, he had perhaps most reason to trust to such experience.
But the great question with him was, "Am I now in Christ? Am I living as a Christian minister should now? Am I giving to myself daily, constant, growing evidence that gospel is the object of my highest preference, and my holiest and constant desire?
Let the confession of Paul be mine, his desire be mine.
Let me strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize You will give me – the crown of life!
I don’t want to lose Your prize even though I lose all in this world.
I love You Lord Jesus with all my heart because You gave Your life for me.