1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 59
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998|
|You love somebody who is real, somebody who is everything that they say that they are. Well, the apostle Paul was a man just like that. He was what he said he was.|
1 Corinthians 9:15
Denying Self for the Sake of Others – Part 2
Don’t you love somebody who is real, somebody who really lives what they say, somebody who doesn’t just have all the talk but has a walk to match it? Years ago when I was a college student, I was youth director of a church for a summer. A friend of mine was also a youth director at another church there in Virginia. We got together and put together a summer camp. We had several speakers that week because we were always too late getting somebody to come for the whole week.
On the Wednesday night of that week we had a very, very special man come to speak. I had never been around anybody quite like him. I did not realize that two weeks before God had done a real breaking work in his life and helped him to realize that God can only use broken vessels. You know, in this world if something’s broken it’s put on the shelf. But in God’s economy until it’s broken, it cannot be used. So this man began to teach others this by the way he lived in front of us.
He wanted to have prayer before we went down to the waterfront to have our service that night. So we went to my cabin, my friend, this speaker, and myself. We got down on our knees and I had never heard a man bare his heart before God like this man. I had never heard anybody confess his own weakness, confess the sinfulness of his own flesh, and just right there in the presence of both of us repent of things that were wrong even that day, thoughts that he had, choices that he had made. It impressed upon me the fact of being real and honest before God and others.
We went down to the waterfront and as he began to speak, God the Holy Spirit just took charge of his message. As he called us to repentance, it was so much easier to listen because I had seen him being willing to repent himself. He was everything he was asking us to be. You love somebody who is real, somebody who is everything that they say that they are.
Well, the apostle Paul was a man just like that. He was what he said he was. As we saw in chapter 8, he developed a principle of truth and then he expands it in chapter 9. In chapter 8 he addressed a problem. The questions began back in 7:1, and the question in chapter 8 had something to do concerning the eating of meat sacrificed to idols. His answer specifically targeted one of two groups that were there in the Christian community in Corinth.
There was one group that was very weak in their understanding of their faith. They had just come out of this kind of thing and every time they would sit down and be offered the meat sacrificed to idols, they felt like if they ate it they would be defiling their conscience. That’s one group. I call that the weaker group.
But the stronger group were the ones who understood their position in Christ. They knew that there was no such thing as losing your righteousness, losing your standing with God because you had eaten meat sacrificed to idols. These were the ones who would say, “Let’s eat. Don’t worry about it.” Paul targets his thoughts and what he says to this group, not the group that did not understand, but to the group that did understand. He tells them very clearly there in 8:1 that knowledge makes a person arrogant if love is not mixed in with it. It is love that edifies. The word edify means build your brother up. So, therefore, if you know something and have no love mixed with it, you’ll break your brother. But if the love is there, you’ll build up your brother and you’ll be sensitive to where he is. You’ll even be willing to deny yourself what you know to be your privilege in your freedom in Christ for the sake of your weaker brother.
He captures his whole thought there in 8:9. He says, “But take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” It’s a very similar thing that he says over in the book of Galatians. Don’t let your freedom in Christ cause your brother to stumble. Be willing to sacrifice what you know to be your privilege under grace for the sake of your weaker brother.
Then, in the closing verse of chapter 8 he sets up chapter 9. What he says is, if I know my brother is offended by my eating meat, I will never eat meat again. That’s his own personal conviction and example before the people.
Now in chapter 9 he just simply expands this truth. It’s almost like he raises the curtain and lets us get inside of his mind and the way he lives and the way he thinks. We get an intimate view of who the apostle Paul really is.
I wonder if you ever had trouble giving to the church budget? I’m not picking on anybody. But I wonder if it ever goes through your mind, “I don’t think those guys have a right to get what they get. I believe they make too much. I don’t think they’re worthy of it.” Has that ever gone through your mind? And have you ever just decided instead of giving to the budget just to designate that money so that you can make a statement, “We won’t give to the budget, but we’ll designate it over here because we know who these people are.” Folks, listen. The Word of God says that a minister, a person who gives his life to minister the Word should be supported materially by the people to whom they minister. That’s God. That’s the law around us. That’s life.
Paul takes this another step. Not only are all of those things pillars that this truth rests on, but also the Lord Jesus Himself ordained this truth. He says in verse 14, “So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.” Jesus Himself ordained this.
We don’t know exactly where he’s referring to in the New Testament, but we do know the Lord Jesus said that. He could be referring to when Jesus sent the 70 out in Luke 10:7. It says, “And stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house.”
So it’s interesting what Paul’s doing here. He says, “I’m not going to do this. I’m not going to demand it.” But then he further supports the fact that he could demand it, only to come back once more and show that he will not do it. What is he doing? He’s expanding the principle and the truth that came out in chapter 8. In chapter 8 he says, “Listen, the question was, should we eat meat sacrificed to idols? Some of you guys understand that it won’t hurt you at all. But I want you to know that there’s a greater truth. Even though you may understand your standing with God, you’ve got to be mixed with love. You’ve got weaker brothers. Are you willing to give up your freedom for the sake of someone else?” That’s what love motivates you to do. Paul says, “Now, look at my own life. I’m an apostle and I have rights you haven’t thought about yet. And I have given them up for the sake of others.”
The sincerity of Paul
The curtain begins to lift even further and we get a glimpse of the apostle Paul, a man who had learned to deny himself for the sake of others. First of all, we see the sincerity of the apostle Paul in verse 15. He says, “But I have used none of these things.” All of the rights, the demands he could have made, he’s used none of them. “And I am not writing these things that it may be done so in my case; for it would be better for me to die than have any man make my boast an empty one.”
Paul says, “I have used none of these things. I have chosen not to take a wife. I have chosen not to take support.” Now, you may remember, support was sent to him even from the Macedonian churches, but he never asked for it. He never depended upon it. The letter written to the church of Philippi was to thank them for a gift sent to them by Epaphroditus. But he even says in that letter, “I thank you, but I do not speak from want. I’ve learned to be abased and I’ve learned to abound. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I am tied to no man for my support. Thank you for your gift. I didn’t ask for it. I’m okay. I don’t live my life depending upon others. I have used none of these things.”
The word “none,” oudeis, means not a single one. The verb “used” is in the aorist middle. So he is asking, “At any time have I ever depended upon you? Have I ever asked or begged for money? I’ve never done that. It’s in the middle voice, of my own free will. Nobody made me do it. I wasn’t in a conference and heard a guy speak and got inspired. God just put this on my heart. It’s my own choice. I did it on my own. What did he decide to do? Paul chose to be a tentmaker. He chose it. That was his own choice. He chose to make his own money, make his own way.
Back in Acts 18 it says, “And because he was of the same trade [When he got over into Corinth and found Priscilla and Aquila], he stayed with them and they were working for by trade they were tentmakers.” Paul says, “Hey, I can be bi-vocational. I can make tents.” As a matter of fact, the very reason that he was there was to make some money for the ministry. But out of his choice to deny himself and not be supported by the churches, the church of Corinth sprang up. When Timothy and Silas got there, he stopped making tents and started preaching the gospel. Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, got saved and a church was born. It came right out of his conviction. “I’m going to make my own way, trust God and God alone, and I’m not going to be tied to any man or tied to any church.”
Then Paul says in verse 15, “And I am not writing these things that it may be done so in my case.” That’s an interesting phrase there. In other words, he says, “I’m not telling you what I’m telling you to play upon your sympathy. I don’t want you, by what I’m saying to you right now, to get a group up and take up an offering and give it to me. That’s not why I’m asking it.”
Have you ever been around somebody like that? They’ll come on with that grave humility as if God had led him to just trust Him. But they’ll take an hour or two to tell you what they need. Oh, yes, they’ll ask you to pray for it. But they have a string attached to that prayer. They want you to be a part of answering that need. Then when you get under the guilt or whatever that is and you give that money, then they stand up and say, “God answered my prayer.”
Paul said, “I’m not doing that. I’m telling you this because I’m trying to teach you a principle. I don’t live that way. I don’t work that way. I’m free from all men. I just trust God, and I do not depend. I have chosen to deny myself the privileges given to an apostle. I’m not married. And I do not depend upon the support of the church. That’s my choice for the sake of the gospel.”
Paul says, “for it would be better for me to die than have any man make my boast an empty one.” That’s a little bit difficult verse to translate, by the way. That’s a translation. It’s not as easy in the Greek. But what I came up with Paul is saying, “I would die if anybody ever thought I was a hireling, that I was doing what I was doing for money like Balaam in Numbers 22.” It’s like what Peter said in 1 Peter 5:2 when he told the elders, “Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness.”
In other words Paul says, “Hey, I would die if anybody ever thought for a second I’m doing what I’m doing for personal gain.” He was absolutely sincere with them. He’s trying to help them and teach them a principle that you have to learn to deny privileges. He’s not saying that to everybody. You have to discover in your own arena of life.
What is it that God’s asking you to lay down for the sake of your brother? You must have discovered that yourself. The Holy Spirit of God leads you to that. You don’t do what Paul did just because Paul did it. That was his conviction. But the principle is loud and clear. Are we willing to lay down our freedoms for the sake of a weaker brother? That’s the sincerity of the apostle Paul.
Can I ask you a question? Why do you do what you do? What is your motivation? If your motivation is godly, you’re having no trouble hearing this at all. If it is not, you’re having great struggle right now in your mind. You see, when you do it for yourself, you’ll cling to your rights. When you do it for Christ, you’ll willingly give them up for the sake of those that He loves.
The humility of Paul
Secondly, not only do we see the sincerity of the apostle Paul, but we also the humility of the apostle Paul. I love this. He gives the reason for his preaching the gospel. He can’t take any credit for it at all. First Corinthians 9:16, “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.” Paul wants them to know that preaching the gospel was not his idea. He didn’t go to a school and get a degree for it. He didn’t come out of a homiletics class. Preaching the gospel was God’s idea. All he could ever boast about was in the gospel, not for it. It wasn’t his gospel. It was God who initiated the whole process. He says, “I am under compulsion.”
The word “compulsion” is that little word anagke. It’s the word used in 2 Corinthians 5:14, translated “constrains” in the King James: “For the love of Christ controls” as the New American Standard says, or “constrains” as the King James Version says. “There’s something about me. There’s something moving me and compelling me to preach the gospel. I had nothing to do with it,” Paul said. “Don’t ever give me any credit for it.”
Do you realize what a preacher the apostle Paul was? He was in one place and somebody said, “The gods have come down.” They called him a name that was given to the great orator of all the gods. He must have been something else. His ability and his gifts must have absolutely been phenomenal. One night he preached all night long and a guy fell out of a window and died. He went down and brought him back to life, kept right on preaching, nobody went home, and nobody went to sleep. The apostle Paul, when he preached, was gifted by God, but he says here, “I had nothing to do with it. What I do is God’s idea. I can’t take any credit for what I do.” He was under the divine call of God to preach the gospel.
He said, “What I do, I do under compulsion. He’s motivated and moved me to do what I do.” Paul was under the divine call of God to preach the gospel. He could do nothing else. In Acts 9:15 God met him on the Damascus Road. I want you to see what happened. I want you to see what God had already planned for the apostle Paul. This is God’s plan, God’s will. It’s God’s gift. It’s God’s calling. It has nothing to do with Paul, other than the Lord selected him.
It says in Acts 9:15, “But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.” Paul knew that the suffering would come as a result of the calling that God had given him. That’s why when he was in prison in Rome when he wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon, it says, “Paul, a prisoner of Christ.” “I’m not a prisoner of Rome. I’m not a prisoner of the Jews. I’m a prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ because I know that He’s already told me. Not only has He called me and gifted me, but the suffering is going to go along with it.”
In Romans 1:14 he says to the Roman believers, “I am under obligation.” That word means I owe a debt. “I owe a debt to Christ. I was on my way to Damascus to kill the Christians, and God stopped me in my tracks and turned me around and called me.” He said, “I owe a debt to Christ. I owe a debt to the Christians, and I owe a debt to the world for what God has done in my life.” He knew that he could never take any credit for his preaching. This was all God’s design.
So back in 9:16 he says, “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.” That phrase just camped out in my mind. “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.” The word for “woe” is a little Greek word that means it’s an indescribable sigh of unbearable grief and pain. It’s the word used over in Revelation, the first woe, the second woe, and the different woe’s that came. It’s the same idea. Paul said, “I would be filled with grief inexpressible if I could not preach the gospel of Christ. I can’t take any credit for it. God started it. God anointed it. God initiated it. It’s all God. I can’t take any credit for it. My preaching is something that God originated in my life.”
I wonder in whatever gift and calling and direction God’s put in your life, if you feel the same way, if you’re overwhelmed by the fact that God has gifted you. Isn’t it interesting how we think of ourselves sometimes? “I’ve got real talent, don’t I?” No, friend. If you’re saved, God put a gift in you that you couldn’t have come up with. No school can give it to you. And if you can do anything else but use that, then do it. But if He’s put it within your heart, burns within your heart, that’s what God does and you can never take any credit for it.
The glory must go to Him. Paul’s a humble man. Paul knew what he was not. He certainly knew who he was. Paul says, “I can’t take any credit. Woe be unto me if I didn’t preach the gospel of Christ.” The sincerity of Paul and the humility of Paul, that statement there hinges on the next two verses.
The expectancy of Paul
The next point I want you to see is the expectancy of the apostle Paul. You’ve got to put these verses together or you’ll miss it. Paul says something here that in first reading you miss. He says in verse 17, “For if I do this voluntarily.” He’s still talking about preaching. “For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me.” Now, be careful, very careful what you’re doing here. He’s still talking about the fact that he cannot take any credit for his preaching. That’s what is still on his mind.
He says, “For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward.” The word “voluntarily” there is a key word. It’s the word hekon. It means an act of his own free will. Paul said that if he were preaching as an act of his own free will, he came up with it, he chose to do it, he put all the energy into it, then he could expect a reward. That’s his whole point. He said, “But I didn’t, because God came up with it. I didn’t come up with it. So how could I ever look forward to a reward for doing what I don’t deserve to do in the first place?”
Do you realize how many people have not yet grasped this? Vince Havner said before he died, “The thing that’s wrong with Christianity and Christians is we’ve lost the awe of salvation.” We’ve forgotten. We wouldn’t even be in church if it wasn’t for the grace of God.” I wouldn’t be preaching if it wasn’t for the grace of God. What’s wrong with us? And we’re looking for a reward to do what we have nothing to do with to start with? God initiated it and it’s only God that can anoint it and only God can get the glory for it.
I’ll tell you the times in my life I feel so ashamed of have been the times I wanted to cling to my rights, the times that I wanted to say, “Give me a reward for what I’m doing because I’ve put in the time,” without stopping to realize, but by the grace of God you’d be in a ditch somewhere as a drunk if God hadn’t found you. Isn’t it funny how the flesh creeps up on us like that? I wonder who’s a minister somewhere and you think you ought to be rewarded for what you do. Fairness is not even in the question. God is a just God, and thank God He is. That’s why He sent His Son to die for us on the cross. If He was fair, I’d be in hell and so would you, forever, without a whisper of a prayer. He’s a just God. What in the world is wrong with us?
Paul said, “Listen. I don’t have any rights. I have privileges as an apostle, but when it comes down to it, can I expect a reward for what God Himself has originated?” Paul is not saying in the second part of that verse he’s preaching against his will. What he says is, “but if against my will.” This is the way it happened to him, remember? Paul was not seeking after God. God was seeking after him. He says, “but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me.”
Do you know what a stewardship is? That’s that little word that we’ve already looked at in Corinthians. He means a house steward. Paul said, “Hey, I wasn’t willing. I was headed toward Damascus, and God stopped me and assigned me and called me and gifted me. Now He’s entrusted me with a stewardship. It’s His property. It’s His calling and if I don’t exercise it the way that I should, I will answer to God for it one day.” In other words, I don’t expect reward for doing what I could have never in a million years deserved to do. God saved him. God called him. God entrusted him. This is all God’s idea. A slave does not expect to be paid for what he does. Paul’s a bond-servant of the Lord Jesus Christ so his reward is not for preaching the gospel. In fact, if he doesn’t do it, woe be unto him and God will deal with him one day.
Well then, what is his reward for? There is an expectancy in Paul. Paul does expect a reward; not for what he does, that’s strictly by the grace of God. In verse 18 we read, “What then is my reward?” His answer is, “That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.” Do you know what he says? He says, “I can’t expect a reward for what I do, but I can expect a reward of how I do it.” And he says, “I do it with a love for Him and a love for the others.”
That’s the implication of the verse. “I’m doing it for the sake of my brother. I have made a choice in this. This choice for the sake of my brother, I know one day will bring a reward and that is, I have chosen to give up my privileges as an apostle, of being supported by the churches, so that I could preach the Word of God without any charge.” Is that for everybody? No, that’s what the apostle Paul chose to do, to bring out and expand his truth that you’ve got to learn as a stronger brother to deny yourself for the sake of the weaker brother.
He says, “That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge.” The word “without charge” is adapanos, which means no charge whatsoever. Isn’t that amazing? The false teachers in 2 Peter 2 and Jude, all they do is for sordid gain. All they do is for profit.
Paul said, “I have discovered a reward, not only that I’m going to get one day but I get every day.” He puts it in the present tense. “I’m getting a reward.” In other words, he said, “It just tickles me to death to go into a place and preach the gospel, lay it right in front of them, and don’t charge them a thing.” “Oh, man, I’m so blessed, Brother Paul. Can I do something?” “No, just enjoy Jesus.” And he said, “As I walk down the road, the joy just springs up inside of me. Chills break out all over me. God has rewarded me and He will reward me one day because it’s not what I do. I haven’t got anything to do with that. But it’s the way I go about doing it.”
Paul made a decision of his own will, out of his love for his fellow man, not to preach the gospel for any kind of reward. This began to be the driving burden of his ministry. You see it all through the New Testament. To the church at Thessalonica, in 1 Thessalonians 2:9, he said, “For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.” “I worked night and day. I didn’t become a burden to you.” Then he said in 2 Thessalonians 3:8, “nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we might not be a burden to any of you.” That was a driving force in his ministry. An apostle who could every bit expect to be supported by the church chose to give that privilege up. Churches did send him money. That’s not the point. He never solicited it and he never depended on it.
The church at Macedonia supported him while he was over in Corinth, and Corinth was a rich church, a very rich church. Listen to what he said to them in 2 Corinthians 11:8. He said, “I robbed other churches.” That’s the way he felt about it. When anybody sent him money, he felt like he was robbing them. The word is the word used for plundering a temple. He said, “I robbed other churches, taking wages from them to serve you.” Then in verse 9 he says, “and when I was present with you and was in need, I was not a burden to anyone; for when the brethren came from Macedonia, they fully supplied my need, and in everything I kept myself from being a burden to you, and will continue to do so.”
In 1 Corinthians 9:18 Paul says, “What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.” I tell you what, when you choose to deny your privilege for the sake of your brother, there’s an immediate reward. But there’s also a future reward that God gives because it’s the motives of men’s hearts He’ll judge, why you do what you do. You see, he understood that preaching the gospel was something so foreign to anything he had ever thought about. God had to come up with it. It was God who gifted him to do it. It was God who called him to do it. He said, “I couldn’t do anything else and woe to me if I don’t preach the gospel. I’ve been entrusted as a steward.”
James said teachers of the Word of God will be given a greater condemnation. We can’t expect to be rewarded for what we do, but we can expect to be rewarded for the way we go about doing it. That’s the key. Paul found great joy in preaching the gospel without charge.
The integrity of Paul
Well, we’ve see the sincerity, the humility, and the expectancy. Fourthly, we have the integrity of the apostle Paul. He says in verse 19, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more.” That’s the enigma of his life in the choices that he had made. He’s free from all men. No strings attached to any man. He’s just walking as a servant of Christ as he says in 4:1. He says, “I’m free from all men. However, out of this freedom, and out of absolutely no coercion at all, I have made a choice to become a slave to all men.” Why in the world would he make himself a slave to all men? “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more.” His whole motivation was to see more and more people come to know Christ, and he felt like if he demanded support from the churches, that somehow was going to be a detriment to what he was trying to preach. So he chose not to do that. He chose to go the route of making his own way and trusting God.
Second Corinthians 4:5 says, “For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus our Lord and ourselves as your bond-servants for Christ’s sake.” In Galatians 5:13 he says, “For you were called to freedom brethren; only do not turn you freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” In verse 20 he gets into the fact that to the Jews I became a Jew, etc., on and on.
You know, I’ve just been overwhelmed in this truth. It’s just overwhelmed me to rehearse the attitude that we all ought to have towards our salvation, the gifts, and the callings that God has put on each of our life. Why do you do what you do? If you’re not doing it for Christ, then you’re hanging on to your rights and your privileges and you will gripe and grumble until He comes back. If you’re doing it for Christ, there’s a whole lot of things that are rights and privileges and when you boil it down, you don’t deserve them anyway. Neither do I. So what in the world are we holding on for?
If you’ll look over in Philippians 2, we’ll close this out. I want to read something to you. Philippians 2:5 says, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” What attitude? Well, verse 3 tells us, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself. Do not merely look out for your own personal interests [some of us major on that, don’t we?], but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” I’m so glad He did, because none of us would be here had He not done it.
Denying yourself for the sake of others. What are you clinging to that’s your right or your privilege that’s beating your weaker brother up? Why not just come back and trust Him and just die to that old flesh and learn to live as Paul lived? Though he was free from all men, he chose to be a servant to all. That was an attitude of his heart. That’s the point he’s trying to get across to the Corinthian church. That’s the point, I think, God wants to get across to each of us. Be willing to die to a privilege you know you have, and you understand, but for the sake of others and for the sake of Christ you’d be willing to do just that.