Thursday, September 27, 2018

2018.09.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 9

Questions for Littles: What evidences does Paul give in v1-2 of his spiritual credentials? What does he claim to have a right to do in v3-4? What does he claim to have a right to do in v5-6? What does he claim to have a right to do in v7-14? Of how many of these rights has the apostle taken advantage (v15)? What would he rather do than lose the privilege of having given up these rights? Why does he preach the gospel, according to v16? With what has he been entrusted (v17)? What is his reward? What does the apostle make himself to others (v19)? How many others? Why? What rights does he give up for whom in vv20-22? Why? What would happen to Paul if he was not practicing self-denial (v23-27)?
In this week’s Epistle reading, the apostle presents himself as an example of someone who gladly denies himself what he has a right to, out of love for others.

Remember that in chapter 8, those Corinthians who thought they were pretty advanced in knowledge claimed thereby to be absolved in eating whatever meat they wanted from whatever source they pleased.

Are they really so advanced? Paul lays out credentials that dwarf theirs. Do they have rights? Paul has far more. Not only does he have a right to eat and drink anything that anyone else does, but he has a right to have the churches buy it for him. He has a right to bring along a wife who is a sister in Christ. He has a right to have the church buy all the food that it would take to feed him, his wife, and all their beautiful little children.

So, why isn’t Paul making use of all of these rights? Because it is his privilege to display that he’s preaching only because God is making him, and not because this is a means by which God has given him to feed his family.

You see what the apostle is telling the Corinthians (and us) here: just because you have a right to do something doesn’t make it loving (ch 8) or wise, or even properly self-serving (ch 9). It can actually be one of our greatest privileges to give up our rights—to practice a self-denial that says, “I could have appropriately availed myself of this or that right, but instead I am enjoying the reward of showing that I don’t belong to myself. I belong to Jesus.”

This is what is behind the “all things to all people” section of this chapter—an oft abused passage. This does not at all justify compromising theologically or morally one iota. To do so would be to take “I might save some” in v22 as if it is really we who do the saving. Rather, the apostle is recognizing that the God who saves has appointed preaching the gospel as a means, and therefore the apostle is willing to sacrifice his own rights (to Roman legal protection, to ceremonial freedom, to Jewish pride, etc.) in order to preach. The idea that this is permissive of some moral or theological compromise would be to say that one must employ offending God as part of depending upon God. Ludicrous.

Finally, we see that self-denial for God’s glory and self-denial for others’ good is essential to running the Christian race. The apostle even admits that if he is not practicing this self-denial, it may be possible that he is not in the race at all!
Do you belong to Jesus? How can you claim the reward of showing it? Are you running a self-denial race?
Suggested songs: ARP45B “Daughter, Incline Your Ear” or TPH501 “Lord, Speak to Me, That I May Speak”

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