After Alice Palmer's sacrifice as the
president at a women's college, she began the task of
lightening the load of those who were less fortunate.
Her husband, a professor at Harvard, told her that she
should be using her time more productively by writing books.
He told her: “You are not building a monument. When
you die, people will ask who you are, and others won't be
able to say.” She shot back: “Well, why should they?
I am trying to make girls happier and wiser. Books
don't help much toward that. It is people that count.
I want to put myself into other people, and they touch other
people, and those, still others, so I can go on working
Someone else put it this way:
“You know something—we're all just people who need each
other. We're all learning, and we've got a long
journey ahead of us. But no matter how long it takes
us, we've got to go together, and we'd better help each
other. Because that's how it is in the body of Christ.
It's all of us, in love, in care, in support, in
mutuality—we really need each other" (Welch).
When we get to chapter 9 in 1 Corinthians, we might think
that Paul has begun another subject. But there is no
indicator (“Now concerning this topic”) that Paul has left
his topic of discussing the eating of meats sacrificed to
idols begun in chapter 8. In fact, Paul concludes
chapter 8 with a personal reference that he would give up
eating meats if it caused another brother to lose their
faith. Now in chapter 9, Paul continues to use himself
as the model and to argue that the strong members in Corinth
should follow his lead by practicing self-denial. The
central idea, based upon Paul's argumentation, is that we
must give it up to live it up! Paul's shows us four
sacrifices that we will need to make.
First of all, give up your rights to help others (1
Corinthians 9:1-14)! This outline has been given for
the first 14 verses: Paul discusses his rights as an apostle
in verses 1-6, then he gives some practical examples in
verse 7, then he explains the law's emphasis in 8-11, then
he states his main point in verse 12, then he drives home
his point with another example in verse 13 and with Jesus'
words in verse 14. Now let's read verses 11-12 and 14:
"If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great
thing if we reap your material things? If others are
partakers of this right over you, are we not even more?
Nevertheless, we have not used this right, but endure all
things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. ... Even so the
Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should
live from the gospel." Paul is saying that he had the
right to payment for his work as an apostle, but he gives
that up that income in order not to hinder the spread of the
gospel. Let's note some comments: 1) "Both divine law
and common sense entitled us to the authority to receive
funds, but we voluntarily refrained from using it; instead
of seeking lighter burdens, we assumed burdens" (Holladay);
2) “Paul is setting himself forward as an example to the
Corinthians to encourage them to surrender rights and
freedoms that they have in the gospel, but which have
counter-productive consequences among [the members].
If the apostle can put up with anything rather than hinder
the gospel, it is hoped that [the members] will endure loss
of privileges rather than hinder the gospel among those weak
in terms of food offered to idols” (Oster). You see
how Paul is using his example to continue to address the
issue about eating meats that had been sacrificed to idols.
As long-standing members in a congregation, we may get to
thinking that we have certain rights, but can we catch
Paul's spirit here? Can we forgo whatever we perceive
as our rights in order to help build up another's faith?
Give up your rights to help others! Someone provides
this food for thought: “You know, Lord, how I serve You with
great emotional fervor in the limelight, and You know my
genuine enthusiasm at a Bible study. But how would I
react, I wonder, if You pointed to a basin of water and
asked me to wash the calloused feet of a bent and wrinkled
old woman day after day, month after month, in a room where
nobody saw and nobody knew” (Calkin)? Someone else
made this good observation: “The reality of a man's
Christianity is best proved by the fact that he helps others
to be Christian” (Barclay). In Romans 16:3-4, we read
this about a Christian couple: “Greet Priscilla and Aquila,
my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own
necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also
all the churches of the Gentiles.” This good couple
had hosted Paul when he worked in Corinth, had converted
Apollos and helped the church in Ephesus, had helped the
church in Rome, and had risked their own lives for Paul's
life! What a beautiful example of those who gave up
their own rights to help others! Give up your rights
to help others! Give it up to live it up!
Next, give up your indifference to teach others (1
Corinthians 9:15-18)! Let's read verses 16-18: "For if
I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for
necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach
the gospel! For if I do this willingly, I have a
reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a
stewardship. What is my reward then? That when I
preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ free
of charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel."
Sharing the gospel was a necessity for Paul, and he felt
that calamity would befall him if he didn't fulfill his
responsibility! Notice what some others say: 1) "Not
all are called to a ministry like Paul's, but none is exempt
from the requirement of letting the grace of God be known.
Paul thinks of some undefined disaster as coming to him if
he does not preach. ... [He felt] responsible to God; he
must discharge the commission God has given to him”
(Morris); 2) Paul's boast or reward is that he preaches
without pay from the Corinthians; he forgoes his rights
again [and hopes the strong members will follow his lead]
(Oster). Do we feel any of that sense of necessity and
responsibility to reach others? "In Los Angeles
county, a police officer in 1992 came upon an expensive car
which was illegally parked next to a curb on a
street-sweeping day. The officer dutifully wrote out
the ticket, reached inside the window, put the $30 citation
on the dashboard, while ignoring the driver at the wheel.
The driver made no excuses, and no argument ensued.
The officer, preoccupied with getting his job done, got back
in his car, and drove away. It was later discovered
that the driver of the car had been shot about 10 hours
earlier, and he was sitting stiff a board at the wheel!
Now before we judge that officer to harshly, think about
this: many people around us are spiritually "dead in their
transgressions and sins," and we just ignore them or focus
on their offenses when we need to be seeing their greatest
need. They don't need a citation; they need a Savior"
(Asimakoupoulos in Rowell)! Give up your indifference
to teach others! One way that we can teach is though
personal planned sharing. What does this mean?
Well, here are three examples. One person told me that
when people ask about the church of Christ, she gives them
one of our free pens and one of our calling cards and
invites them to come to visit us! Isn't that great?!
Another person here told me that they like to feel out a
person for a topic that interest them, then give them a
tract on that topic, and then they invite them to study
further! That also is good! Another brother
likes to share issues of House to House, Heart to Heart with
those who have an interest in religious matters.
Personal planned sharing: it's personal (fits the person),
planned (a definite action is being taken), and sharing
(faith is shared with another in some way). But we
also need to go beyond this just sharing, and actually start
the process of making disciples. Jesus' Great
Commission says that we must be teaching others. Now,
don't let me hear any excuses that we don't have any methods
available! We have at least three methods that you can
utilize. First of all, we have a colorful 8 lesson
Bible correspondence course. If you feel uneasy about
speaking to someone, why not mail them these courses?
Second, we have a recently made DVD which has 5 lessons on
it called "The Truth Series". Alright, so you say like
Moses, "Lord, I can't speak." Well, can you push a
button on a DVD player? I can give you that DVD today
if you'd like to look at yourself before you use it to teach
another! And lastly, we have a 7 lesson personal study
which is very easy to use in teaching another. There
are passages, and there are questions about each passage.
The answer to the question comes right out to the passage
itself. You just read off the question, and let the
person read the answer from the passage itself. It's
that simple! If you can read, you CAN teach someone
using these lessons. With three methods to teach, when
are you going to get started? Give up your
indifference to teach others! If you want to
experience real joy, start teaching another: “To have mended
one shattered life, to have restored one wanderer to the
right way, to have healed one broken heart, to have brought
one soul to Christ is not a thing whose reward can be
measured in financial terms, but it joy is beyond all
measure” (Barclay)! In the song, "Lead Me To Some Soul
Today," there a line that says: "Few there are who seem to
care, and few there are who pray." Does that describe
you? Have you started praying the prayer that Bro.
Phillips encouraged us to pray, "Give us children, or we'll
die!" In Acts 18:26 we read, “When Aquila and
Priscilla heard him [Apollos], they took him aside and
explained the way of God more accurately.” Would you
be ready to teach another "the way of God more accurately"
when the opportunity might arise? Give up your
indifference to teach another! Give it up to live it
Next, give up your freedom to serve others (1Corinthians
9:19-23)! Let's read verse 19 and then 22-23: "For
though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant
of all, that I might win the more ... I have become all
things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
Now this I do for the gospel's sake, that I may be partaker
of it with you." Here are some good comments:
1) Nothing could more strongly show his abandonment of his
rights than this astonishing statement. He was a free
man (and proud of his Roman citizenship), but made himself a
slave to everyone (and especially to those to whom he
writes)” (Morris); 2) “We would expect Paul to be the loser
when he announced his intention to be a servant of all those
who wanted to listen to the gospel. Paul is not the
loser but the beneficiary of the blessings that accompany
the preaching of the good news” (Kistemaker). Can we
learn to do the same thing that Paul did? Give up your
freedom to serve others! Are we even trying to do
this? Someone puts it this way: “Paul, the master
missionary, who won more men for Christ than any other man,
saw how essential it was to become all things to all men.
One of our greatest necessities is to learn the art of
getting alongside people; and the trouble so often is that
we do not even try” (Barclay). Another encourages us
to adopt the motto of the Prince of Wales: “The crest of the
Prince of Wales bears the simple watchword: 'I serve,' and
no more practical motto can be found. 'I serve' is a
truly Christian motto and proclaims eternal kinship with The
Highest” (Hubbard). Want to be hero? Think about
this: “True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.
It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,
but the urge to serve others at whatever cost” (Ashe).
A religious leader once said that he hoped he would be
remembered not primarily as a Christian scholar but rather
as a loving person [who served others], the goal of every
Christian” (Trueblood). Jesus reminds us in Matthew
20:27-28: “And whoever desires to be first among you, let
him be your slave—just as the Son of man did not come to be
served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for
many." Give up your freedom to serve others!
Give it up to live it up!
Next, give up your conformity to inspire others (1
Corinthians 9:24-27)! Let's read verses 25-27: "And
everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all
things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown,
but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore, I run
thus: not with uncertainty. Thus, I fight: not as one
who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring
it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I
myself become disqualified." Let's notice some comments:
1) The athlete denies himself many lawful pleasures, and the
Christian must similarly avoid not only definite sin, but
anything that hinders spiritual progress” (Morris); 2)
“'Subdue' could actually be rendered 'put it into slavery.'
The discussion ends on the note which it began: 'I have
enslaved myself to all (v. 19)'” (Holladay). Give up
your conformity to inspire others? Are we willing to
push ourselves as Christians as Paul pushed himself—denial,
discipline, not being disqualified? Do we want to be
champions? Someone has observed: "Life is a battle,
and the battle demands discipline. Discipline requires
a goal, and that goal involves mastering ourselves"
(Barclay). This whole chapter is a vindication of
Paul's self-denial [with the objective of persuading of the
stronger members who were acting selfishly towards the
weaker members] (Shore). Will we deny ourselves?
Someone states it this way: “[Paul] submission towards the
'weak' as he has suggested in chapter 8 does not invalidate
his position as an apostle. On the contrary, it
exposes the inner fabric of a true apostle: responsible
self-restraint” (Holladay). Now just substitute "true
Christian" for the words "true apostle", and the end result
is still self-restraint. Someone else has observed
that the genuine Christian is the best evidence for the
genuineness of Christianity (in McKenzie). Doesn't
Christ require us to get out of the grandstands and get onto
the playing field? We must try to win the race, and we
must live our faith! Someone reminds us of the
obvious: "It is difficult to inspire others to accomplish
what you haven't been willing to try" (Anonymous)!
Another puts it this way: “If you want to convince others of
the value of Christianity – live it!” Give up your
conformity to inspire others! Give it up to live it
A biographer of Albert Schweitzer, a German musician,
doctor, and theologian, worked with him some in his small
hospital in Africa. He wrote later that he could not
believe the enormous reach of just one person. But his
life bore the punishment of fatigue. He was hard on
others who worked for him, but that was nothing compared to
the demands he made upon himself. Then this comment
was made: "History is willing to overlook almost
anything—errors, personal weaknesses, or faults, if only a
person will give enough of himself or herself to others"
(Cousins in Swindoll). Give it up it live it up!
Let's pray: Lord, thank you for the example of the apostle
Paul. We admit that live in culture that promotes
selfishness so much. Help us to be unselfish and to
consider others' spiritual welfare.
"For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every
evil thing are there" (James 3:16)! Paul's helps us to
see clearly that it's not about seek-seeking, but it's about
self-denial, self-restraint, and another member's welfare.
Jesus taught us the same thing. We must give up our
rights, our indifference, our freedoms, and our conformity
to follow Him. Are you ready to make that step today?
Are you ready to make Him the Lord of your life by repenting
of your past sins, confessing Him before this audience, and
being immersed in order to have your sins taken away?
As a Christian, maybe you need to be living a more
surrendered live, a life more sensitive to others' welfare.
We'd love to pray with you and for you.