Have We No Rights?
1 Corinthians 9:1-27
This week’s lessons remind us of the pricelessness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We all have certain rights. In the passage we have been studying, Paul has pointed out the specific rights he has as an apostle. And yet note that he does not demand his rights. He says, “Although I have these rights, I – not everybody, but I, in my case – have willingly laid these rights aside in order that I might have the privilege of taking the Gospel to you without cost.” In verse 15 and following he says he does not want anybody to misunderstand his motivations. He does not want his readers to think that he is merely complaining: “Look at how I labor, and how difficult my life is. Look at how faithful I’ve been as an apostle, yet you haven’t paid me a single thing.” Paul is not saying that at all. In fact, he considered it a great joy to be in a position in which he could labor with his hands, support himself, and have the privilege of preaching the Gospel without cost. Now, you see how this is to be applied. Paul was saying that if he could do this, the Corinthian Christians should be able to lay aside the lesser thing of eating food offered to idols, even though they had a right to eat it. Paul’s goal was that all might be built up in the Gospel to the praise and glory of Jesus Christ.
We ought to give consideration to that in our own personal experience. There are certain things in the Christian life that we do entirely without any thought of remuneration. Though it may be extremely difficult for some, I think everyone, including preachers, ought to think of areas in which they volunteer their time, not for remuneration, but in order to further the Gospel in some way. There are many who do that. Ministers and other Christian leaders serve on boards where they actually spend money to go to board meetings, and where they give very graciously of their time in order that some other work goes forward. There is hardly one of us who does not have some place in our life, some contact, some awareness of need, where we are able to do what the Apostle Paul did.
At the end of this chapter, verse 24 and following, Paul discusses self-denial. “Have we no rights?” Yes, we do have rights, but for the sake of the Gospel we have to lay aside some of these in order that we might attain the prize of the high calling to which we are called. Paul uses an image from athletic games. He talks about a runner. He also uses language that has to do with boxing. Paul explains that if we want to excel at a sport, we have to endure a certain amount of hardship and discipline of the body. It is hard work. It hurts. There is something good about that. Pain can be a wonderful thing. It reminds you that you are human. It can also remind you that there are things for which it is worth enduring hardship.
Paul says that if we are so willing to endure pain and hardships where matters of sport are concerned, if we discipline ourselves, bringing our body into subjection in order that we might run a little bit faster than we did the last time, or be a little bit thinner, or be in better shape than we were a year ago, certainly we should be willing to do that for the Gospel’s sake. Yet how many of us are really lean and fit for the greatest work that we can possibly do? Are we not often flabby Christians, undisciplined Christians, self-absorbed Christians?
Paul says that ought not to be. Rather, we should see things as he has described them and pay the price in order that Jesus Christ might be exalted in other people’s lives.
In what practical ways can you volunteer your time in order to further the Gospel?
What image does Paul use to illustrate how we should endure hardship for the sake of the Gospel?
For a deeper understanding of the principles Dr. Boice discussed in today’s lesson, read Fit Bodies, Fat Minds by Os Guiness.
Are you willing to give up everything – even your rights – for the sake of the Gospel?