Give It Up To Live It Up!     
1 Corinthians 9
By Paul Robison

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 forever” (Faris).

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 up!
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 up!
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.