May 14, 2023

Sacrificing for the Sake of the Gospel


A Portrait of Sacrifice

"Becoming all things to all people" has been used as a justification for all sorts of ungodly behavior in the name of winning others to Christ. But is that really what the Apostle Paul meant when he said, "I have become all things to all people" (1 Cor. 9:22)? When we look at this statement in its context, we find something radically different: that becoming all things to all people actually means that a Christian must be willing to become a slave to all in order to win people to the Lord. You may indeed be free in Christ, but what freedoms are you willing to give up in order to gain more for the kingdom?

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We’re in 1 Corinthians 9. And I was thinking that it really is fitting, kind of providential that we find ourselves in this chapter on this particular day, Mother’s Day, because the theme of this chapter is the theme of example, and there is perhaps no other human relationship where example is more impressionable than that of a mother and a child. There’s a reason that it is said, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” Abraham Lincoln famously said of his mother, “The greatest lessons I have ever learned were at my mother’s knees. All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” I know many of us could say that, couldn’t we?

Well, the Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, understood that unique relationship of the mother to the child, and he even used it as an illustration of his leadership. He reminded the believers in Thessalonica that, “…we never came with words of flattery, as you know. Nor would the pretext for greed God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children and so being. Affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel, but also our own selves, because you would become very dear to us.”

The theme of example is very, very, very familiar. In Paul’s letters he repeatedly sets himself forth as an example, and he even goes so far as to exhort believers to follow him. In fact, the final statement of this entire section. That we’re looking at that begins in Chapter 8, verse one, and ends in Chapter 11, verse one. Paul says “be imitators of me.” But he didn’t leave it there. As we know, he qualified that statement with this: “as I follow Christ.” As I follow Christ. You see, Paul, under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, understood that the Lord’s people must not only learn through biblical instruction, but through biblical imitation. Christlike character is not fully formed through what is taught, merely. But it fully forms when it’s caught as it is being exemplified by one who lives it out before others. Our Lord Jesus modeled that first and foremost to his disciples. And he did so in the context of living life with them, so that they could see him in a multitude of different circumstances, when he was hungry and tired and on the road, and confronted by those who would try to trip him up, and so forth. But perhaps the most salient instance of this is recorded in the 13th chapter of John’s Gospel, where our Lord performed the duty of the lowliest slave when he washed the dirty, stinky feet of his disciples, and when He had finished He said this: “I have given you an example that you should do just as I have done to you.” Well, our Lord died and rose again, and ascended back to the right hand of the Father until he returns in his glory. And now his people need not only to be taught all the things that He has commanded, but they need to have a living example of what that looks like before them–someone who’s a little farther down the path, who can emulate the Lord Jesus in shoe leather, however imperfectly. And Paul knew that well, and he was not ashamed to make it plain over and over again. In chapter 4, verse nine of his letter to the Philippians, Paul exhorted them: “What you have learned. And received and heard and seen in me practice these things.” In chapter three and verse 17 of that same letter, he said, “Brothers, join in imitating me and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” Watch me and watch others who follow Christ as well. And here once again we see Paul offering himself as an example to illustrate the very principle he has been teaching them in this section. Follow along as I read, I’m going to read a long unit, Chapter 9 beginning in verse one all the way down to verse 23. Paul says:

Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen the Lord Jesus Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. This is my defense to those who would examine me. Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense, who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit, or who tends to flock without getting some of the milk? Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the law say the same thing? For it is written in the law of Moses. You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain. Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the ploughmen should plow in hope, and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share this rightful claim on you, do we even not more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share and the sacrificial offerings? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any provision, for I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting. For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground, for boasting or necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel. For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, But if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with the stewardship. What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel? For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them to the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews to those under the law, I became as one under the law, though not being myself under the law, that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law, I became as one outside the law, not being outside the law of God, but under the law of Christ, that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the week I have become all things to all people. That by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel that I may share with them in its blessings.

We’re in the midst of this section of the Apostles first letter to the Corinthians, in which he is responding to their question about being permitted to eat food that had been sacrificed to idols. And we’ve noted that their question was, “Why can’t we?” “Why can’t we eat this food? “And they had claimed to have solid biblical knowledge that informed their consciences rightly, on the matter. And yet we saw in Chapter 8 that when it comes to the issues of conscience, or what we’re calling ‘gray matters,’ knowledge alone is not enough to arrive at the choice that glorifies the Lord. The primary principle that has to govern that choice, although there’s more to it that we’ll see when we get to Chapter 10, the primary factor that has to govern that is not knowledge, but is love. Love. And love, by definition, is focused not on self but on others. In verses 4 through 13 of chapter 4, the Apostle Paul walked them through the proper application of love concerning gray matters and specifically in this instance of the Corinthians question about meat sacrifice to idols. And his conclusion, if you remember if you just look there in verse 13, was that the outworking of love? Is the sacrificing of one’s rights or liberties for the sake of someone else. And in order to emphasize that principle you remember there, he inserted himself into the argument. He says, “therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat lest my brother stumble.” You can define love. You can teach all about love, and that’s all well and good. And Paul is going to do that in chapter 13, as we’ve noted. He’s going to define it and describe it in verses 4 through seven of that chapter. But if we’re really to get what it means to love, we have to see it in action. We have to see it in shoe leather, and this is what Paul is doing here. In the first 23 verses of chapter nine, he establishes the fact that he has some rights and he could very well make full use of those rights and yet he refuses to do so. For the sake of others, and specifically in this context, for the sake of those who need the gospel, or to put it in the words of the title of the message, Paul so shows us here what it means to sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. So the function of this chapter is to do two things, and the first one is to give us an example of sacrificial love, as we’ve said. But the second is also to broaden the scope of our considerations of our choices when it comes to gray matters or issues of conscience. In Chapter 8, Paul addressed the specific question of meat sacrifice to idols in relation to how our choices could be a potential stumbling block to a Christian Brother who is weaker in conscience. But here Paul shows us that we need to be mindful not just of our Christian brothers when it comes to Gray matters, but of those out there in the world who are lost and need the gospel, lest we become a barrier, a hindrance to that. Now Paul has said back in chapter one and verse 23 that when the gospel is preached correctly, it is itself a stumbling block to the Jews and its folly to the Gentiles. The gospel itself is a stumbling block, that is, to those whose hearts are hardened. Against it. But what Paul is Speaking of here in our passage is that our choices, when we become selfish about matters of conscience or gray matters, can potentially become a hindrance to others coming to Christ.

In verses one through 18 here, he relays his example of sacrifice in this specific matter of pastoral or Apostolic remuneration. And we’ll call this section the Portrait of Sacrifice. In verses 19 through 23, he speaks of his example of sacrifice in a more general way. And he gives us there what I would call the Principle of Sacrifice, which we’ll look at next Lord’s Day, Lord willing. But this morning we’re just going to cover that first heading. And as we look at Paul’s portrait of sacrifice, what we’re to glean from his pattern for how we view our rights is that when it comes to gray matters, no matter what they may be in our own lives. We must take into account those around us, whether they be Christian brothers or sisters, or whether they be just the lost world out there. Basically, we need to be always thinking about everything that we do. And making sure that we are not making our choices out of selfishness, but out of love. Which is directed towards other people.

And Paul sets up this exemplary lesson here with his portrait of sacrifice, which emulates the Lord Jesus Christ by giving us first of all the declaration of his rights in verses one through 6. In these first several verses, Paul’s goal is to establish the fact that he has rights just like any other Christian, and even more so in a very specific sense by virtue of his office as an apostle. And he does this by peppering the Corinthians with rhetorical questions to remind them of things that they know to be true. And there are, according to my count, 17 rhetorical questions in the first 18 verses of this chapter. And seven of them are right here in the first six verses. And five out of those six are structured grammatically in such a way that they expect the answer yes. Or of course. Paul says. Am I not free? Yes, of course he’s free. He’s just as free as any other Christian is free in Christ. And he’s Speaking of freedom when it comes to these matters of conscience. Yes, he’s free, he says. Am I not an apostle? Well, yes, of course he is. And if there’s any doubt, the next couple questions dispel them: Have I not seen the Lord Jesus Christ? Well, that was one of the qualifications of an apostle. When we get to chapter 12, we’ll remind ourselves that there is no such thing as an apostle. Today that office ceased. So, people can claim to be apostles, but they’re not because one of the qualifications, there are others, but this is one, is that you had to see the Lord. Jesus Christ and Paul says in chapter 15, verse eight that he was the last one to see the risen Lord Jesus. And we know the accounts in Acts Chapter 9 and chapter 22 and chapter 26. We know he speaks of getting Revelation directly from the Lord Jesus Christ in Galatians chapter one and verse 12. And so, yes, there’s no doubt that Paul is an apostle. And if that testimony were not enough, as they say, the proof is in the pudding. That’s what he means by that next question. Are you not my workmanship in the Lord? Paul had proclaimed the gospel in Corinth, and he had established the church there, where there was formerly no gospel presence. And he may not have been an apostle to other people, as he says in other places, or he may not have even been recognized as an apostle by some of the factious people in the church at Corinth. But the fact is that he is an apostle because the people there are the seal of his apostle ship. And that word seal that he uses was an interesting word that was used to speak of a signet ring that would be stamped into wax and sealed an official document that would show that this carries the authority of genuineness. Paul says you’re like that seal on the envelope of my documentation of apostleship. Well, having reminded the Corinthians that he was indeed an apostle, he then proceeds to lay down a defense to those who would examine him. Notice that, and remember that in the first four chapters of this letter, Paul had called out the Corinthians for their arrogance repeatedly and their affection for human wisdom. And he had contrasted the true, powerful wisdom of God, the Word of God, with the wisdom of men. And part of the reason the Corinthians had been suspect of Paul and his teaching. You remember they were there was factions within the church that didn’t recognize him as an apostle and they thought they knew better than him. Now why was that? Well, as he said in chapter 2, verse one, he had not come to them with lofty speech. Or wisdom in the form of those traveling orators that would constantly go around during those early centuries. You know, you think of Augustine and him talking about how he gave himself to be this orator. Part of the reason he came to know the Lord is because he used to go and hear Ambrose preach. And he went there not because he wanted to hear the truth of God’s word, but because Ambrose was such a good preacher and he wanted to grow in his oratory skills. So, you’d have these orators who would come into town and they would try to garner a following, and they would line up patrons who would begin to give them money and things like that. Paul says we didn’t we didn’t do that. He said instead I came preaching nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified, and he says I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. And my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and a power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. And in addition to lacking in some skills of appeal and speech, apparently because in Second Corinthians people said about him that his speech was contemptible. He didn’t do the things that these orators would do. He didn’t accept money from the Corinthians. That’s the whole point of this passage. He didn’t take money from them. And these orators of the Greco Roman world were all about money. They made their living by their skill and speech and having some corner on the market of human wisdom much like the self-help gurus of our day and the motivational speakers of our day and the people who masquerade as Christian motivational speakers of our day. They sell their books. They go to conferences, they travel around, same kind of thing. But as Paul said in his second letter to the Corinthians, we are not like so many peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God in the sight of God, we speak in Christ. You see, Paul had a different message and a different tone and a different delivery. And he didn’t take their money. True apostles, true men of God, are not in gospel ministry for money. They give their lives to the ministry willingly and sacrificially in order that they might win people to Christ and see them grow. Yet even though money is not a motivation for ministry, it should not be. It is a necessity, isn’t it, for everyone? I mean, everybody’s gotta eat. Including apostles, including pastors. And therefore Paul begins to make the case for the fact that as he relays the command of the Lord Jesus himself in verse 14, those who proclaim the gospel should get their living from the gospel. The couches this in terms of three rights that fall under the same designation, with three more rhetorical questions in verses 4 through six, he says. Do we not have the right to eat and drink? And here’s he’s just talking about basic necessities. Do we not have the right to basic necessities of life? And the expected answer is, well, of course you do. Everyone does, right? He says, Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas, which is the Aramaic name for Peter? That is to say, don’t we too have the right to have a wife who would share in our support who would also be part of that support? Which is apparently the case with others that he mentions here, and we know of Peter. In verse five we find that the “we” in this set of question includes Barnabas. So he’s not just saying him, he’s saying Barnabas and he’s saying this is a general universal principle. Is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living. And all of this is to say that Paul. And all others who have been set apart for full time gospel ministry have the right to be supported financially, to have their needs met by those whom they serve.

So he’s declared these rights and now in verses 7 through 12. He relays the defense of those rights. He’s already mentioned that he’s laying out a defense, but in verses three through six, he was basically just establishing what these rights are. But beginning in verse seven, he launches into this rock solid, airtight defense and it’s like he’s bringing witnesses to the stand to testify of the validity of his right to financial support. He brings three witnesses.

The first is a combination of three illustrations from what we would call the working world, right, He says, who serves as a soldier at his own expense. Well, nobody. If you’re a soldier, you’re paid to be a soldier. You don’t, you know, say, hey, I’ll pay you to be a soldier, right? No. Who plants a vineyard without eating of its fruit? Only someone who doesn’t have half a brain, I would imagine, right? Who tends A flock without getting some of the milk? I mean, these are just very straightforward, right? I I mean, and the answer that’s expected to these and the grammatical structure and in common sense is nobody. Nobody does that. But Paul asks, am I saying these things on human authority? So Paul says, oh OK, wait, are my arguments now just from human wisdom? Is that what you think? From the world out there. Or does not the law say the same thing? Isn’t what I’m drawing from the working world out there the same principle that we find in the word of God?

And so the second witness that he calls to the stand is the Law of Moses. Specifically, Deuteronomy 25 verse four, which he quotes You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain. Paul asserts the fact that while God certainly cares about animals here, the intent of Deuteronomy 25 four is to be sort of like a proverb. And if you look at the context of that passage, which we’re not going to take the time to do, all of the laws given around that particular verse are about people. They’re not about animals. And so Paul is saying this is basically a proverb that contains a truth that applies from lesser to greater that. Just as it would be foolish to withhold food from the animal that’s processing your food, how much more foolish is it to withhold provision from a person who is performing a vital function? Right. The plowman. The ploughman who’s using the animal, the plow, the food is the one who needs to eat the food. And the vital function that Paul is drawing out is the application here is the function of the man of God. Who does the work of feeding the flock of God through the Word of God, which is that spiritual food that wins people to Christ and nourishes people spiritually so that they grow in Christ? And notice that Paul gets very direct with the application in verse 11. If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? And then he adds in the first part of verse 12, If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? And here he’s reminding the Corinthians of the special relationship that he has with them, as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ and as the founder of this church in Corinth. Just like he told you know, Philemon, you owe your soul to me. In fact, he had told the Corinthians back in chapter 4 and verse 15 that though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. You see, he says. I’m the I’m the one who birthed you through the word of God. I brought it to you, and I spent 18 months with you, nourishing you, feeding you. So if others come along and teach you or claim to be something, and they claim this right on you, do I not have that right even more? Now skip down to verse 13. And notice that Paul again appeals to the Old Testament not to a direct passage, but to the general understanding that the priests would share in the sacrificial offerings that were brought to the temple or the Tabernacle. Leviticus chapter two, verse 3, Leviticus 10:13, Numbers 18, the entire chapter, and Deuteronomy 18 one through 8 all spell out the Levitical priest portion of the sacrificial offerings that the people would bring.

And this leads to the final witness that Paul calls in his defense of this right, which is the Lord Jesus Christ himself. And the way Paul argues this is that just as the priests under the old covenant shared in the support of the people of God, so. It is right for those who labor in gospel ministry under the New covenant to do the same. Notice what he says in verse 14 in the same way. Just like that. The Lord, speaking of the Lord Jesus there commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living from the gospel. Now what Paul is doing here is paraphrasing the words of the Lord Jesus that we find in Luke chapter 10 and verse seven when he commissioned the 72 and also Matthew 10 verse 10 where he sends out the 12 and in both of those records he says the laborer. Or the worker deserves his wages or deserves his food. Same idea. He deserves to be remunerated for the labor that he’s doing. And it’s interesting to note that Paul quotes the Lord’s words from Luke 10 seven directly, along with the same quote from Deuteronomy 25 four in making the same exact argument in his letter to Timothy First Timothy chapter five, turn over there for a moment. I want you to see this He’s making the exact same case there. First Timothy. In chapter 5, Notice what he says there in verse 17. Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says you shall not muzzle an ox when it treads the grain, and the laborer deserves his wages. He’s making the exact same argument about the exact same issue with the exact same scriptures. Very interesting. Now back to First Corinthians 9. Paul has clearly made the case that God’s command is that those who have been set apart for full time gospel ministry are to be supported by the people of God. I mean, it’s airtight. It’s rock solid. They’re not necessarily to be paid a salary for services rendered like we think about in the corporate world, but I like what DA Carson says. He says the church doesn’t pay its ministers. Rather, it provides them with those resources so that they’re able to serve freely, to be freed up, to give themselves to the work of the ministry. And Paul has made an airtight case for this. But then. After building that rock solid defense of his rights.

Thirdly, I want you to see that he asserts the denial of his rights. He first declares this in verse 12. Notice that? Before heaping on another witness in the defense, he says. And verses 13 through 14. After this, notice what he says in verse 12. If others share this rightful claim on you, do we not? Even more. Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right? But we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. And he says emphatically in verse 15. Notice there. But I have made no use of any of these rights, and nor am I riding these things to secure any such provision. That’s not the point. Paul says I would rather die than anyone. Deprive me of my ground for boasting. That’s a strong statement. He’s saying although he had every right to make use of his right to be supported by the church in Corinth, and to even take a wife if he so chose to do so and expect for her to be supported to, His intention of making the case for this right was not intended to make use of it, but rather it was this. To give the Corinthians an example of what it looks like to sacrifice your rights for the sake of the gospel. That’s the point. You know, if they didn’t support Paul, he still had to make a living. So he had to work a job on top of preaching and teaching and studying and counseling and comforting and confronting and everything else that goes on. The job description never really ends. The inbox is always full. We know from Acts 18 three that Paul was a leather worker or a tent maker by trade and so he often employed that skill in order to support himself while doing ministry. He wrote this to the Thessalonians in his first letter to them. In chapter 2, verse nine, he said, you remember, brothers, our labor and toil. We worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaim to you the gospel of God. And then in his second letter to the Thessalonians, in Chapter 3 versus 7 to 8, he said, “You yourselves know how you ought to imitate us.” So this was an example to them. You ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day. That we might not be a burden to any of you. The same context where he says if you don’t work, you don’t eat. See, Paul wasn’t a lazy man. He was a worker. He worked all the time, he says. I came to you with the gospel and I preached and taught and studied in counsel and covered in all those things, and I made tents at the same time.

Now why would Paul do this? Why would Paul make such a case for this right and then deny it? If the Lord’s command that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living from the gospel is indeed true, why would he deny that? Well, he says in verse 12 that being supported by the Church there in court, at least in that particular context, may have put an obstacle in the way of the Gospel. It could have been a hindrance to someone coming to faith in Christ, and Paul would have none of that. Now how could that be? We don’t really think of that in our culture so much. Why would why would that be in this context? Well, it could have made Paul appear to be just another one of those orators. They’ve traveled around with their fancy oratory skills and their little corner on human wisdom. And there could have been a lot of people, I would imagine, just like there are in our culture that look at those people and roll their eyes and say there’s another one, right? And so Paul would have been viewed just like one of them. And people would not have listened to him because of it. Everyone knows that the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil, and the ministry is certainly not immune to this. In fact, Paul warns of this in First Timothy chapter 6 and verse five that false teachers imagine that godliness is a means of gain. And it’s interesting the way he structures this there, there, it’s like they’ve lied to themselves long enough where they actually believe this they’re doing ministry. And getting gained from it. There’s always been a steady stream of charlatans who used the name of Christ to gain wealth. In fact, in in 2019 Costi Hinn. Who is the nephew of Benny Hinn? Wrote an expose of the prosperity gospel. I would commend it to you. It’s called God, Greed and the Prosperity gospel and he did so from an insiders perspective because Costi Hinn worked for his uncle and he shared in those benefits of luxury and wealth and it’s sickening to hear. The kind of lifestyle these people live from the inside. This isn’t an outside critique. This is an inside critique from Kosti how Benny has lived a life of luxury while fleecing people who have little to nothing and telling them this message that if you just give more, God will give you a miracle. The miracle is not gonna come unless you give. Sickening. There are countless tales of scandal in the church when it comes to power. Sexual failure and money, right? Those are the areas. Paul chose to avoid even a hint of any of those for the sake of not putting a hindrance. To the gospel.

A second reason may have been that in the Graeco-Roman culture, those orators were typically supported by patrons, and the way this worked in the society is that a wealthy patron would take on one of these orators. But what would happen in that context is that orator would become sort of indebted to them. That they would kind of be at the mercy of that person. And so Paul could have very easily entangled himself in a situation in that kind of a culture where there were wealthy people who would have been pulling the strings. And even if it weren’t true, since that was the norm of the society, it could have easily appeared that way to some and again. Become a barrier to the gospel. You know that’s still a danger to the Church today. So often churches are drawn in particular ways because of money. You know, any organization, the bigger it gets, the more money becomes an issue, right? And there’s always the temptation to give in and compromise a bit and give in to the people that want this or want that. How easy it would have been for Paul to do that by receiving support. You know, that’s one reason why I purposefully make sure that I don’t know who gives what in our church. I have no idea. I make it a point personally not to know that, and then I put barriers around me to make sure that I can’t. I don’t even know who gives it all. There you go. So if you felt like, oh, the pastor is gonna know, don’t worry about it. Just stop giving. You know it’s OK. I won’t know. What I do know is that we have givers here because we are blessed. And I’m so thankful for that. But you know. It could very easily become one of those things, couldn’t it? And Paul says no, I’m not even gonna go there. Not even gonna risk it. And you know, Paul could have easily been frustrated by all of this. He could have given up this right begrudgingly and become a bit bitter about it, especially when he got so much pushback from the Corinthians. Like, I’m not even taking anything from you and I get all this pushback right while I’m working night and day. He could have been upset about this. But it said he saw. All of this as a ground for notice that word that he used a ground for boasting. Boasting. And he was not boasting about how much he sacrificed. That’s not what Paul is doing here. Nor did he go around boasting to people like, man, I worked so hard to get the gospel out there, you know? Yeah, that’s not what Paul’s point is at all. Paul’s point is that he’s boasting in the Lord, and he’s going to go on to tell us what he really means by this. And so he kind of works this through his reasoning. He says. If I saw preaching the gospel as simply a duty, there would be no reward in that. If I just did my duty, Yes Sir, I gotta do this. If I did it begrudgingly, there, there’s no reward in that. And he couldn’t just give up and walk away from preaching the gospel because he had been personally commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ himself. So he was under compulsion, he says in Galatians chapter one and verse 15. That the Lord had called him from his mother’s womb. And then at that time, on the Damascus road, he revealed himself to him and called him personally. So Paul could do it willingly, or he could do it against his will, but there was no choice about doing it. That’s what he means here in these verses. But if he did it willingly, he says, there would be a reward. A future commendation. Look back at Chapter 4 for a moment. Remember when he talked about rewards back there? And he says in verse five of chapter 4. Wrapping up that described discussion, he says, Therefore don’t pronounce judgment before the time before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. See, Paul looked forward to a reward. He looked forward to hearing the Lord saying, well done, good and faithful servant. And he looked forward to that day where all those laborers. That he had given and all the toil and sweat and tears and he never really saw anything come from that. He looked forward to the day in heaven where he could see, oh, something came of that. That’s what he means in verse 23, right? I do it all for the sake of the gospel that I may share with them in its blessings. To see Christ glorified. To see people saved, to see more trophies in the case. That would shine for Jesus. That’s what compelled Paul. That’s what made him brim with joy to preach the gospel. That’s what made him tell the Thessalonians that you’re my joy and crown. In the Lord. And that’s why he would put no obstacle between them and Christ. Paul looked forward to that great day. When he would see the Lord. And all of that was more than enough for him not to make full use of his rights in the gospel. To sacrifice, to work night and day, to make tents so that there could be no question about his integrity and the integrity of the message that he proclaimed.

Well, there’s certainly much application in in these verses for those who are in full time ministry. Right. And you’ve probably been thinking that the whole time. But folks, don’t miss the point. He’s not talking to people who are in full-time ministry. He’s talking to the church at Corinth. And by application, by the spirit of God, this being in our Bibles, he’s talking to us. If Paul could make such a sacrifice as working night and day, making tents and preaching the gospel, forfeiting the comforts of home and family and pleasures and life. In order that he would not put a hindrance between anyone and Christ. By accepting that remuneration, how much more could the Corinthians sacrifice just a little bit in not eating that food that had been sacrificed to idols? That’s his point. If I can pour my life out on the altar as a drink offering, like you said in Second Timothy. Can’t you give up some meat every now and then for the sake of a brother? For the sake of someone. Having eternal life. Can you can you give up your selfishness just a little bit, or is it really all about you? That’s what Paul is saying. What are the Gray matters in your life? That could be hindering. Someone coming to faith in Jesus Christ. Or hindering a brother from growing in Christ. Or becoming a stumbling block and pulling that brother back into some heinous idolatrous sin. What are you willing to sacrifice for the sake of the gospel? That’s the question this for. Some of you would like me to just fire off a list of all sorts of things, give us some examples so we know. But the fact is folks, is that I don’t need to do that. Because the things aren’t really the point. At the end of the day, they would become clear if you would just ask yourself this one question. Am I living my life for myself, or am I living it for others for the glory of God? That’s why Paul says that if you love your neighbor. You fulfilled the law. You don’t have to ask all the questions. You don’t have to have all the dos and don’ts. Because you’re governed not by your selfish knowledge, but by love. I’d like you to bow your heads for a moment with me. And I and I’d like all of us, myself included. To ask ourselves this question. As we do business with the Lord this morning, am I living my life for myself, or am I living it for others? In order that I might glorify the Lord, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. I want you to search your heart right now. Probe your heart asking that question for a moment.

Our Father in Heaven, we thank you for your precious word. That instructs us. And brings us face to face with examples. Of what it looks like to love. In very practical ways. Thank you, Lord, for the Apostle Paul, and for your spirit that inspired him to speak of his example, not to boast in himself. Not to show off his sacrificial life. How foolish that would have been, but rather to give us a template for what it looks like in our own lives. To sacrifice for the good of others, to stop making choices based upon our selfishness, but upon the principle of love. And oh Lord, how I pray that you would break my heart. Caused me to get over myself and to live in a way that would never put a hindrance between someone and Jesus Christ. That would never, ever possibly be accused of causing a brother to stumble. Lord, I pray that I would be one who would be characterized by. Love and sacrifice. And Lord, I know I fall painfully short of that. I know everyone in this room would say that. But this morning would you do a work in our hearts and cause us to have that kind of love? The kind of love that sent our Lord Jesus Christ to the cross in our place. Kind of love that was demonstrated that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. And what you use that powerfully? To reach people in this community. With the gospel to win as many as possible. And to build one another up. So that we all might redound to the glory. Of God, whether we eat or drink, whatever we do, every choice we make. We ask it all. In Jesus name, Amen.