Paul’s Ministry 1 Cor. 9: 1-27 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
In 1 Cor 9, Paul described his ministry to the Corinthians, to explain why he did what he did in the ministry. Notice these aspects of Paul’s ministry:
Paul’s apostleship – 1 Cor 9:1-2 – Paul was an apostle by the will of God [Gal 1:1]. He was free [1 Cor 9:19], in that his only Master was Christ [Eph 6:5-8]. He had seen the Lord Jesus Christ [1 Cor 15:8]. The Corinthians were his work [1 Cor 4:15-16] and his signs of an apostle had been wrought among them [2 Cor 12:12]. So, while some among the Corinthians might hove disputed his power and apostleship, there was no doubt about it.
Paul’s power – 1 Cor 9:3-14 – There were some who were obviously questioning Paul’s motive for refusing to be compensated by the Corinthians. Paul had the power [1 Cor 9:4-6, 12] to eat and drink [1 Cor 9:5; Matt 10:10; Lk 10:4-7] and to be married [1 Cor 9:6] like the other apostles and the Lord’s brethren [notice that Peter was also married]. And he had power to forbear working; that is, he wasn’t required by God to work to support himself. The three examples he gave of other people [1 Cor 9:7] who are compensated for the work they do are soldiers, vinedressers and shepherds.
To this, the law agrees [1 Cor 9:8-12], when it provides that the ox which treads the corn can eat some of the corn it treads. Likewise, Paul could expect to reap carnal things from the spiritual things he had sown. The Corinthians had certainly taken care of some other preachers. Yet, Paul would not be compensated because he did not want to hinder the gospel.
Furthermore, the Old Testament priests and Levites were supported by the tithes and offerings of the people [1 Cor 9:13; Lev 6:16, 26; Num 5:9-10; etc.]. Finally, the Lord ordained that “they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel,” [1 Cor 9:14; Gal 6:6; 1 Tim 5:17-18].
Paul’s reward – 1 Cor 9:15-18 – Paul’s reward was that he preached the gospel without charge in Corinth [1 Cor 9:18]. He didn’t want them to support him [1 Cor 9:15]. His concern was that others might accuse him of abusing his power [1 Cor 9:18]. But to Paul, preaching was not an option [1 Cor 9:16]; a dispensation of the gospel was laid upon him [1 Cor 9:17]. Yet, he would be rewarded for preaching, if he preached willingly.
Paul’s service – 1 Cor 9:19-23 – Paul was the servant of Jesus Christ and, therefore, sought to please the Lord rather than men [Gal 1:10]. Yet, he made himself the servant of men that he might win them by preaching the gospel [2 Cor 4:5]. HIs statement in 1 Cor 9:22 sums it up perfectly, “I am made all things to all men, that I might be all means save some.” He was completely adaptable and flexible in his ministry.
Paul’s temperance – 1 Cor 9:24-27 – Paul commanded the Corinthians to maintain the temperance of a champion athlete [1 Cor 9:24]. He strove to be the best to obtain the incorruptible crown [1 Cor 9:25], and we should do likewise. Paul compared [1 Cor 9:26] his discipline and self-denial [1 Cor 9:27, he kept his body in “subjection”] to that of a runner and a boxer [1 Cor 9:26]. He had a race to run [Heb 12:1], a certain course to finish [2 Tim 4:7], and definite opponents to fight [2 Tim 4:7; 2 Tim 4:17; 1 Cor 15:32]. After preaching to others, he didn’t want to be a “castaway.” He wasn’t concerned about losing his salvation; he didn’t want to be “cut from the team.” The common expression is that he didn’t want to be “shelved” in the ministry.
Conclusion: Paul, by his personal testimony of the ministry, gave us a great example to follow. We must know our calling, our necessity to preach the gospel, our privilege to be supported in the ministry, our responsibility to not abuse this privilege, our need to be adaptable to the people to whom we minister, and our duty to keep our bodies in subjection.