BOOK BY BOOK BIBLE STUDY
BIBLE STUDY LESSON
PAUL GIVES UP HIS RIGHTS
1 Corinthians 9
In 1 Corinthians 9 the Apostle Paul illustrates how he himself always strived to practice what he preached. Here he uses the principles that he spoke about earlier (1 Corinthians 8) to defend himself against the rumblings of disputes that some people had with his claim of being an apostle of CHRIST.
Paul opens this chapter with a series of questions as he begins his defense of his authority in CHRIST to be an apostle. Here he says in his answer to those who questioned his authority that he has given up many rights that he could have claimed as an apostle, such as the right to live in the homes and share the meals of those whom he had worked hard for in the LORD, or bring a wife along with him as Peter, and JESUS’ brother James does.
Paul was proud of the fact that he, as well as Barnabas, worked hard to take care of themselves, instead of depending on the Church to take care of them, even though they could have exercised that right. He says that he would rather die than lose his distinction of preaching and teaching without charge (v.15).
However, Paul likened a person who works “bringing people to CHRIST and training them in the Christian lifestyle” to a farmer who raises and harvests his own crops, having a right to eat some of it, or a shepherd who takes care of a flock having a right to drink some of the milk, as GOD’s law says (v.7).
And so we see that, even though Paul and Barnabas may have given up their right to receive financial support from the Church, they still supported GOD’s law which says “Do not keep an ox from eating as it treads out the grain”. GOD was not referring just to animals when HE commanded this, but HE was also referring to those who labor in the Church all day long. Christian leaders and workers should be paid by those they serve (Vs.9-10). Those who preach and teach the good news should be supported by those who benefit from it (v.14).
In verses 17-19 Paul says that if he were preaching and teaching of his own free will, he would deserve payment from man, but since GOD has chosen him, it is GOD who trusts him and employs him. His pay is the satisfaction that he gains by spreading the Good News without expense to anyone, and never demanding his rights as a preacher. Therefore he is not bound to obey man because he is being paid to do so, and can serve people by earnestly desiring to bring them to CHRIST where salvation is found.
In verses 20-23 Paul explains what it means for a Christian to meet people where they are, without becoming what they are. He says that when he is with the Jews he follows their customs as long as they agree with GOD’s laws, in order that he might win them over to CHRIST. And when he is with the Gentiles who do not have the law, he fits in with them as much as he possibly can, without violating the laws of CHRIST, just so he might gain their confidence and give himself a chance to win them over to CHRIST also. However, Paul again points out that, in the process, he will not discard the laws of GOD for even one second, just for the purpose of getting along with people who insist on living outside of the will of GOD. He clearly understood that you cannot win a person over to CHRIST, by disobeying CHRIST.
The rules of the Christian race are strict, as they consistently call for a tremendous amount of self-discipline, spiritual readiness, and a sharp focus on CHRIST. And while we can’t lose our salvation once we’ve obtained it, we can forfeit heavenly prizes that come only from stern dedication to CHRIST and GOD’s rules. It is a race that must be ran with purpose every step of the way, and unlike the race run by the earthly athlete, the prizes that are received in the Christian race are eternal and incorruptible, and will never fade away.
In verses 24-27, the Apostle Paul uses several sports analogies to drive home his final point in this chapter. Here, there is a very good likelihood that he is referencing the “Isthmian Games” that were held once every two years just outside of the city of Corinth during those days. He was probably counting on the citizens of Corinth’s familiarity with those games to draw a “word picture” comparison of what one’s Christian Walk, or “Race” should be like, both, in preparation, and, in performance.
One does not have to be very old to remember a, not too distant, summer Olympic Games, where a certain men’s sprinter from Canada, set a world record in the 100-meter event, only to find out later that he was disqualified because he had used a performance enhancing, banned substance, to aid him in his efforts. And, even though he looked impressive while running and winning the race, he was disqualified in the end, and forfeited his prize, because he didn’t run the race by the rules.
Well, it is the same in the Christian race. GOD wants us all to be in the race, but HE expects us all to run by HIS rules, throughout the race, or, throughout our respective Christian Walks. We don’t want to be one of those people who climbs the ladder to success, and gets to the top just to find out that their ladder is leaning against the wrong building.
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander