1 Corinthians 9:1-23 - Paul Gives Up His Rights

1. Paul was not one of the original 12 apostles. Yet he calls himself an apostle. Is he justified in this? (Acts 9:15, 26:16-18, Gal 1:1, Romans 1:1, 11:13, 1 Cor 15:9)

A: Acts 9:15 - But the Lord said [to Ananias], “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel.

Acts 26:16-18 - Now get to your feet! For I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and witness. You are to tell the world what you have seen and what I will show you in the future. And I will rescue you from both your own people and the Gentiles. Yes, I am sending you to the Gentiles to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me.’

Gal 1:1 - This letter is from Paul, an apostle. I was not appointed by any group of people or any human authority, but by Jesus Christ himself and by God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead.

Rom 1:1 - This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News.

Rom 11:13 - I am saying all this especially for you Gentiles. God has appointed me as the apostle to the Gentiles.

1 Cor 15:9 - For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church.

2. In verse 2, Paul says if not one of the original twelve, he most certainly is an apostle to the Corinthians. What is the evidence for him saying this? (Acts 2:38)

A: Changed lives were the evidence that God was using Paul as an apostle. Much of the book of Acts tells us that one of the main things that the apostles did was to proclaim the Good News, and to tell others to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus, which is exactly what Paul did when he first visited Corinth.

3. Does your faith have an impact on others? Are you helping others to change their lives and grow spiritually? How (be specific)?

4. Jesus said to his disciples that they (and other workers) deserve their wages (Luke 10:7). What does this mean to you as a Christian and/or church member?

A: Luke 10:7 - Don’t move around from home to home. Stay in one place, eating and drinking what they provide. Don’t hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who work deserve their pay.

Paul echoes this thought in verses 4 to 10 and says it is the responsibility of Christians and church members to care for and pay their pastors, church staff, teachers, and other spiritual leaders. It is our duty to see that all those serving in the church or as missionaries are fairly and adequately compensated.

5. Sometimes church leaders abuse their right to receive support from members (and others). Give an example. How can we guard against this?

A: A church might expect a member who is a contractor to work on a building or perform repairs for free. Or expect a printer to donate printing services. Or a lawyer to draw up a contract without compensation. It is one thing if a church member freely offers his or her services free or at a deep discount, but quite another if the church puts pressure on someone to donate those services. As church members, we should make sure that everyone in the church and outside is fairly compensated.

I recently donated about a week of time planning and executing a team-building event for our church leaders. In addition to the time, I also paid for printing, supplies, prizes, and some other items. (From a commercial contractor, the event would cost about $3,000.) One of the top leaders said to me afterward, “This was great! I want to do this for some of the other leaders and teachers, maybe on a quarterly schedule,” fully expecting that I would donate my time and money for this ambitious future schedule. Oh, ho.

6. What does Paul mean by the adage from the Law of Moses, “You must not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain”? (Duet 25:4)

A: Duet 25:4 - “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.”

Paul elaborates on what he means in verses 10 to 12 when he says that soldiers protect the country and others pay their salary and upkeep. A plowman plows and a thresher threshes in the expectation of sharing in the harvest, of being paid. He likens that to planting spiritual seed and says that he, Paul, as the one who planted the spiritual seed deserves your support.

What does this mean today? If you as a Christian support your local preacher or church, you ought to also support the one who brought you to the Lord. For example, if you came to be a Christian as a result of the Market Street Mission or Promise Keepers or the Navigators or Campus Crusade, you should continue to support them along with supporting your local church.

7. In verses 16-18, Paul says he is compelled by God to preach the gospel. On a scale of 1 to 10, where are you? (1 = I don’t share the gospel with others because I’m afraid or I don’t know enough. 10 = I preach to anyone who will listen.)

8. Preaching the gospel was Paul’s gift and calling and he couldn’t stop preaching even if he wanted to. He was driven by the desire to do what God wanted, using his gifts for God’s glory. What special gifts has God given you? Are you motivated, like Paul, to honor God with your gifts? How (be specific)?

9. In verses 19-22 Paul says at times he lived like a Jew, other times he lived like a Gentile. In verse 22, he says, “I have become all things to all men.” That sounds kind of wishy-washy, like he has no personal convictions. True?

A: Not at all. In effect these verses say that being a witness calls for courtesy and wisdom, not for compromise. “I have become all things to all men” means Paul used his very strong convictions to build bridges, not walls. If he seemed inconsistent, it was only because people did not look deep enough. His one great desire was to bring people to Christ, and it governed his every decision.

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