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Sep 26 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 26, 2021



Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not 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. 1 Corinthians 9:1-2

Intro: For the Corinthians, this letter served to resolve controversies fomenting among them

But we have been reading it as “A Primer In Things Unseen”
– this idea makes some people uncomfortable
• what we can see is real, and if we can’t see something then it’s not
◦ for them, being a Christian is defined by what they do
◦ go to church, read the Bible, share their faith, and support ministries financially
• faith, however, has its own set of eyes, so Paul can say,
. . . we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2Cor. 4:18)
◦ the writer of Hebrews is explicit regarding faith-sight
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. . . . By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible (Heb. 11:1 and 3)
– so for us, being a Christian is defined by who we are or are becoming
• that is: followers of Jesus, God’s children, spiritual persons, our true selves, “saints”

We need to ignore the break between chapters 8 and 9

Paul had shown them that love means forfeiting our rights at times
– he brought his lesson to its climax in chapter 8, verse13
Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble
• he carries this point forward, using himself as an example
◦ in chapter 9 Paul makes one long statement regarding his own rights
• he leads each step of his argument with questions
Am I not free?
– it seems that freedom and asserting one’s rights go hand-in-hand
• so his first questions have to do with his rights as an apostle
◦ the apostles made up a special class of the followers of Jesus
◦ there were hundreds of disciples who followed Jesus, but he chose only twelve apostles
• in the Book of Acts, it was determined an apostle must be a witness to Jesus’ resurrection
◦ they were specifically chosen and called by Jesus
◦ Paul asks whether he is entitled to same rights as the other apostles (vv. 3-6)

He comes to his central idea when he mentions Barnabas
Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living?
– unlike the other apostles, they did not derive a steady income from their ministry
– he is still asking questions when he cites three examples of people whose situation parallel his
• v. 7, a soldier, a farmer who plants vineyard, and a shepherd
• give this verse some thought
◦ which one of the three would be most similar to Paul’s situation?

Paul’s next questions take us to the law (vv. 8-10)
Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? For it 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?
– this seems like a strange way to interpret the commandment
• the law contains straight-forward rules; thou shall and thou shall not
• it does not use metaphors — its language is technical, not poetic
– in Paul’s day it was common for Rabbis to find allegories in the law
• it seems to me that “technicians” tend to be rule-keepers
◦ they tend to have tunnel vision
◦ technicality does not inspire imagination or creativity
• not everything is governed by the rules we know
◦ Paul is exercising freedom to see new uses for the law

In this context, Paul gives two more examples situations similar to his:
It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop

In verses 11-12a we come to the crux of Paul’s argument
If we have sown spiritual things among your, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?

Notice, Paul’s metaphor is agricultural; planting and reaping
– for us, it may sound more like a commercial transaction
• they pay Paul in money or material goods for his spiritual ministry to them
– I’m going to sound off regarding this view of ministry
• anyone who chooses ministry as a career, doesn’t belong in ministry
◦ anyone who does ministry for “the money” doesn’t belong in ministry
◦ I’ve always loved the way Paul called these people out
For 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 (2 Cor. 2:17)
– anyway, the point Paul is making here is that he had not made use of this right (v. 12)
• he had not taken advantage of the system–not with the Corinthians

Paul asks questions again (Do you not know?), bringing up another example (vv.13-14)
– priests and preachers received provisions for their work
• in verse 14, Paul is referring to Jesus’ teaching – for instance,
Acquire not gold or silver . . . for the laborer deserves his food (Mt. 10:9-10)
– Paul’s argument is the policy established of an even exchange
• but again he states, I have made no use of any of these rights (v. 15)
◦ and he was not going reviewing his rights in order to solicit support
– briefly – in honor/shame cultures of ancient Greece and Rome,
• it wasn’t offensive for a person to boast their virtues or achievements
◦ they did not think of it as bragging – but boosting their family’s honor
• vv. 16-18, refusing to exercise his rights, Paul considered an honor worthy of boasting
◦ that is, the fact that he refused to insist on receiving payment for ministry
◦ he could not boast in his ministry itself,
For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel
• what then was his 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 (v. 18)

In verses 19-23, Paul explains his strategic approach to ministry

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 weak. 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 (vv. 19-23)

Paul attempted to connect with his audience in their culture and context
– in ministry and Christian witness there are negotiable issues and non-negotiables issues
• the negotiable are typically cultural and the non-negotiable are usually theological
– we see Paul’s strategy in action in Book of Acts
• in the synagogues he quoted scripture – in Athens he quoted their philosophers and poets
• in my book, There Is A Season, I wrote:
“Paul tailored his message—and his lifestyle—to his audience. He spoke to Jews in the context of their religion, culture, and history. He spoke to Gentiles in a much broader context. The content of his message was always the same, but it was packaged differently for each audience. ¶ Paul was careful to speak in terms that were most relevant to the culture and context of his audience. In every case, Paul’s primary concern was winning and saving people through the message of Jesus’ death and resurrection. If Paul made compromises to relate to people, his compromises were only cultural. He never compromised his integrity, theology, or the message of the gospel.”

Verses 24-27, Paul goes over importance of self-discipline

Paul’s life was more difficult than it needed to be
– had he insisted on his rights, it would have made life easier
• but his commitment to his mission would not allow him to do that
• in forfeiting his rights, he had to discipline himself to live frugally
◦ sometimes going without a meal; having to work an “outside job”; wearing worn-out clothes

I find it interesting that at times Paul asserted his rights as a Roman Citizen (cf. Acts 16:35-39; 22:24-29)
– but he chose to suffer rather than assert rights as an apostle
• he was willing to endure anything (v. 12) and would rather die (v. 15) than compromise his commitment
– why was he willing to accept difficulty and discomfort?
first, because the Corinthians were his workmanship in the Lord (v. 1)
◦ they were not merely his business or livelihood
◦ his commitment was to their spiritual development
second, insisting on rights could potentially interfere with the gospel (v. 12)
– Paul came to this decision based on his calculations
• this is the same process we use when buying car and at the most reasonable price
• but there was more to Paul’s calculations than worldly logic
◦ last week we identified the “psychological self” (psychikos, 2:14)
◦ it is our old self that has been shaped by the world and conformed to it
– but there’s a larger reality
Albert Schweitzer, introduced the idea of intellectual mysticism, and said, “It attains the power to distinguish between appearance and reality and is able to conceive the material as a mode of manifestation of the Spiritual. It has sight of the Eternal in the Transient.”
• this is faith-sight, and it impacts our calculations significantly
• it takes in all of the material and rational data, but also sees beyond them

Conclusion: Paul asked, Have I not seen the Jesus our Lord?

Paul’s encounter with Jesus probably lasted less than ten minutes
– but it changed everything – radically!
• we cannot live the life Jesus calls us to, we cannot follow Paul’s teaching in our worldly psychological-self
◦ after all, “We’re only human”
◦ we need the help of God’s Spirit to see Jesus our Lord
– we’re told that eighty percent of the information that the brain receives is through the eyes
• if so, then it is important that we develop our faith-sight
◦ this was what Jesus worked at — to open the eyes of all of his disciples (Mt. 13:16-17; Jn. 9:5 & 39; 2 Cor. 4:3-6; 2 Tim. 1:10)
◦ Jesus is the light of the world, illuminating God for us

I pray that God will improve our faith-sight
And that we will be able to see our world with new eyes,
and see the larger Reality beyond our world,
and in doing so we find an enlightenment, a freedom, a new awareness, and a new set of priorities

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