First Corinthians – Part 22
Last week we had reason to pause and look at some applications of the “stumblingblock” doctrine and reflect on whether the use of alcahol in our lives would be:
- Wise and helpful to our weaker Christian brothers and unsaved friends.
Each person would need to look at his or her own circumstances to decide on the latter since this is a judgment made upon the ground of “freedom” . For the former we could ask as Paul: Are we not free? Yes of course we are.
KJG 1 Corinthians 9:4 Have we not power to eat and to drink?
TBT 1 Corinthians 9:4 μὴ οὐκ ἔχομεν ἐξουσίαν φαγεῖν καὶ πιεῖν;
Clearly the authority was there to eat meat and drink – there was no authority to make a brother or sister stumble and fall however. This week we shall continue the discussion through to the end of the chapter which teaches the theme of authority and responsibility.
Last time we saw that Paul established his authority to be materially provided for by analogy with the priests and the temple.
13 Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?
14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
Even so — here the analogy is made concrete. If you preach the gospel then you should live of the gospel. However Paul did not use this right, why?
15 But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.
TBT 1 Corinthians 9:15 ἐγὼ δὲ οὐδενὶ ἐχρησάμην τούτων· οὐκ ἔγραψα δὲ ταῦτα ἵνα οὕτω γένηται ἐν ἐμοί· καλὸν γάρ μοι μᾶλλον ἀποθανεῖν, ἢ τὸ καύχημά μου ἵνα τις κενώσῃ. (1Co 9:15 TBT)
16 For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!
TBT 1 Corinthians 9:16 ἐὰν γὰρ εὐαγγελίζωμαι, οὐκ ἔστι μοι καύχημα· ἀνάγκη γάρ μοι ἐπίκειται· οὐαὶ δέ μοι ἐστίν, ἐὰν μὴ εὐαγγελίζωμαι. (1Co 9:16 TBT)
Paul would not use his authority to live of the gospel because the Corinthians were “weak” in a way that would diminish the effectiveness of his message if he invoked the authority he had. Paul did not write these things in order to extract material support from the assembly. Rather he informs the Corinthians of his rights as a part of his apologia.So intense was this thought to Paul that he says literally ” for it would be good for me to instead die than someone should make my glorying void” Verse 16 reveals further thoughts to us concerning how important the gospel was to his ministry and that he had nothing personally to glory in but this was a part of the necessity (ἀνάγκη γάρ μοι ἐπίκειται) of the Acts period that he must preach the gospel! The compulsion and necessity of the Acts commission gospel preachimng was so great that the particle of interjection (οὐαὶ) is used “woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel” the particle is used in many places in the NT. It expresses extreme displeasure and in this case retribution on the perpetrator, it is only used by Paul here in 1 Corinthians.
17 For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.
TBT 1 Corinthians 9:17 εἰ γὰρ ἑκὼν τοῦτο πράσσω, μισθὸν ἔχω· εἰ δὲ ἄκων, οἰκονομίαν πεπίστευμαι. (1Co 9:17 TBT)
Paul has no way out (not that he is looking for one) of the responsibility. He must not in anyway hinder it — performing it will result in a reward if done willingly ( ἑκὼν ) but if unwillingly “I will have a dispensation entrusted”. This is again a part of the then “present distress” – Paul will receive a reward for his willing obedience to the gospel proclamation but if he does it unwillingly a stewardship is forced upon him and he will have to perform its requirements as a faithful minister. These were difficult and tough times as the Lord’s coming was near as would be all of the other troublous events of the last days approached.
18 What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.
The reward is here expounded — what is his reward? The answer is a clear proclamation of the gospel where no one can point their finger at him and say he did it for carnal reward only. The fact of his authority is again emphasized — he still has the right to ask for support but does not.
19 For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.
20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
21 To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.
22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
In these verses Paul again shows the application of this principle of the stumblingblock — notice in the last portions of verses 19-22 “that I might …” The verses are structured to show an action that is a suppression of the expression of liberty or status followed by the reason for doing. Lets list the reasons:
That I might:
- gain the more
- gain the Jews
- gain them that are under the law
- gain them that are without law
- gain the weak
- by all means save some
Notce this is very Acts specific and it would be foolish to attempt to foist all of what Paul was doing in the Acts upon is today. We could however ask the question how could we by all means in this economy reach people? Paul would willingly or unwillingly be constrained by the the economy entrusted to him we must also but not by the Acts dispensation but to that which was given to PAul the prisoner.
23 And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.
24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. (1Co 9:13-27 KJV)
Verses 23-27 re-emphasizes Paul’s dedication to the gospel — he wants to partake with them and this can happen only as they run the race as if only one receives the prize. The person who is effective is self controlled in everything, Paul runs as having aim and purpose. He uses the symbol of fighting (πυκτεύω boxing) not as one that whips the air. He doesn’t just shadow box but really fights.
TBT 1 Corinthians 9:26 ἐγὼ τοίνυν οὕτω τρέχω, ὡς οὐκ ἀδήλως· οὕτω πυκτεύω, ὡς οὐκ ἀέρα δέρων· (1Co 9:26 TBT)
Verse 27 castaway means “worthless” ἀδόκιμος (1Co 9:27 BGT)