Reading for Thursday, Sept 6: 1 Cor 9
Paul defends his apostleship and ministry at the outset of 1 Cor 9, boasting that the Corinthian church is the result of his work in the Lord (v1). Others appear to be critical of Paul for a variety of reasons, but Paul seems to take particular umbrage with the claim that he is preaching the gospel in order to pursue material gain. Quoting from Deuteronomy, Paul will make the case that evangelistic support is a reasonable deployment of resources in the churches of Jesus Christ (v9-12). But Paul himself is able to truthfully say that he has not laid claim to this apostolic right (v12). “On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.”
This leads into some of Paul’s theology of preaching. He says in v15 that he would rather die than to take advantage of the resources allocated by brethren for ministry. “Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (v16). This understanding of the preaching office leads Paul to a deep denial of self and an embrace of a hospitable posture toward humanity. “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible,” (v19), whether Jew, Gentile, weak, strong. “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all of this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings,” (v22-23). As in ch8 with regard to food sacrificed to idols, Paul’s primary concern is whether such a discussion of issues will either hinder or hurt the cause of Christ. Paul’s concern is, first and foremost, is evangelistic.
We have much to learn from Paul in this regard.