Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 2 months ago

Should You Give Up Your Rights?

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1 Corinthians 9

Please be seated and let's turn tofirst Corinthians nine. Mike, I'm sorry for springing it on you. That'snot fair, but let's turn to first Corinthians nine. Here God's word thismorning. So in the last chapter, Paul spoke to us about food sacrificeto idols and he helped us a learn how to think through a difficult ethicalsituation, as he has been in the last several chapters, thinking about howwe live in this world as citizens that are not of this world and yetare here and belong here and have things to do and callings to fulfill.He's helping us to think about how we live in light of the world aroundus that God has given us, in light of our communion with Christ andwith one another. And he continues that discussion now by talking a little bitabout his personal decisions, is, his choices that he's making in his ministry. Let's give our attention now to this word, God's word to us,and First Corinthians nine. Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus, Our Lord? Are Not you my workmanshipin the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle at least Iam to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. This is my defense to those who would examine me. Do we nothave the right to eat and drink? Do we not have the right totake along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers ofthe Lord and Cephus? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have noright to refrain from working for a living? Who serves as a soldier at hisown expense? WHO plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit,or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? Do I saythese things on Human Authority? Does not the law say the same? Forit is written in the Law of Moses you shall not muzzle an ox whenit treads out the grain. Is it for oxen that God is concerned?Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake,because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresh or thresh in hopeof sharing in the crop. If we have sown spiritual things among you,is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others sharethis rightful claim on you, do not we even more. Nevertheless, wehave not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than putan obstacle will in the way of the Gospel of Christ. Do you notknow that those who are employed in the...

...temple service get their food from thetemple and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings in thesame way? The Lord commanded that those who proclaim the Gospel should get theirliving by the Gospel. But I have made no use of any of theserights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. ForI would rather die than have anyone deprived me of my ground for boasting.For if I preach the Gospel, that for if I preach the Gospel,that gives me no ground for boasting, for necessity is laid upon me.Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel, for if I dothis of my own will, I have a reward, but if not ofmy own will, I'm still entrusted with a stewardship. What, then,is my reward? That in my preaching, I may present the Gospel free ofcharge, so as not to make full use of my right in theGospel. For, though I am free from all, I have made myselfa 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 underthe law. I became as one under the law, though not being myselfunder the law, that I might win those under the law. To thoseoutside the law, I became as one outside the law, not being outsidethe law of God but under the Law of Christ, that I might winthose outside the law. To the weak. Guy became weak that I might winthe week. I have become all things to all people that by allmeans I might save some. I do it all for the sake of theGospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. Do you notknow that in a race, all the runners run, but only one receivesthe prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises selfcontrol and all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath. Butwe have an in and and imperishable. So I do not run namelessly,I do not box as one beating the air, but I discipline my body, keep it under control, lest after preaching to you up to others,I myself should be disqualified. May God bless his word to us. Sowe have a lot of freedoms as Americans, and that is largely a very,very good thing. We think about it, we spend time talking aboutthose rights, we spend a lot of time maintaining them, protecting them andoftentime just taking them for granted and enjoying them, which is often a verygreat blessing. But of course it's not just about as Americans. It's notjust Americans who care about rights. All people in every place have rights bybeing virtue of being made in the image of God, of living in aworld that's under his authority. But just because we have a right doesn't necessarilymean it's the right thing to use it. Sometimes it's the wrong thing to useit in. This takes wisdom.

Sometimes it is it right. Itis important and necessary to defend, maintain and protect our rights. Paul doesthat here in verse three. He says this is my defense to those whowould examine me, and he gives various proofs and arguments, which will considerin a moment. For why? Why? The rights that he has are rightfullyhis, but Paul also wants to think about it. Also wants usto think about when it's time to give up our rights, which, aswe all know, can be a very hard thing to do sometimes. I'mto give up these things that naturally rightfully belong to us. A children understandthis very early on. That's mine, that's not fair, too much time, and all these other phrases that they use. They know right away thatthere are things that belong to them that are rightfully there's this is something Godhas has built into us, and there is a lot of goodness in that. But Paul also tells us that there are ways and choices that he's makingto give up those rights. And so we want to do is think togetherthis morning, through what he says here, about what those rights are, whythey're in portant and why he's willing to give them up. And weshould think also about how it applies to our own situations, what rights wehave, what rights we should maintain and protect and keep and also sometimes giveup for the sake of something greater. So first, Paul's Rights as anapostle. He begins this passage by thinking, or by sort of making the argumentthat he is an apostle, and he puts it in the he startsby putting it in these rhetorical questions. He says, am I not anapostle? The answers of course yes, of course, Paul, we allknow that your own apostle. But he's making this statement. I have theserights because I am this person. He says, have I not seen theLord Jesus? And indeed he did. You remember, Paul was on theroad to Damascus when the Lord himself showed himself to Paul and called him tolife in Christ and to a ministry in Christ. He taught Paul, heempowered Paul, he sent Paul to do work in his name, and Pauldid that work. And so he says that the people, the Corinthians thathe's writing to, are the proof of that work himself. You want toknow that I'm an apostle, just look at yourselves. In acts we readthat Paul, when he came first to Corinth he took a job as atent maker. How would Paul prove that he was a tent maker? Bylooking at the tents right, the proof of his work. He's using asimilar analogy here to talk about the Corinthian church themselves, these people, hesays, you are my workmanship. Here you are, you have the veryfact that you exist shows and proves that...

I am an apostle. Now,of course it's not his work alone and it's not a work that he commissionedhimself to do. He says it is. They are his workmanship in the Lord, the seal of his apostleship, in the Lord. He and thatis the nature of an apostle. Right, he goes, not on his ownauthorities, not just a speaker of some kind of communicator of some kind. He is an apostle, he is an ambassador. He's been one whohas been sent by Christ to do this work, sent by Christ equipped todo this work, and indeed he has. The people are the proof. Well, that leads him to this question about his rights and as an apostle, he's going to focus particularly on one right, which is the right tobe paid, but he's going to bring up several others as well to kindof combine these things into one to make this argument. He starts with eatingand drinking, which is very related to being paid. He has to eat, like every other human being. Paul has to eat. He has todrink, he has to stay alive, and so he grounds this discussion inthis very basic right. Do we not have the right to eat and drink? He continues, and he says, do we not have the right totake along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers ofthe Lord and Cephas? This is one of a couple passages where we learnedthat Peter, one of the apostles, was married. Paul was not,that Peter was. These are rights that he mentions and then he brings upa third in verse six. The third right he mentions is to refrain fromworking for a living. Now, when Paul says this, he doesn't meannot working at all. Right, he's not saying I have a right tonot work, because he just called the Corinthian church his workmanship. Right,Paul obviously works, but what does he mean? They're he's talking about workingin nonministerial work. He says that as an apostle he has a right toearn his living from the Gospel. He has a right to refrain from beinga tent maker, which he's doing at the moment. He has a rightto refrain from that, as do the other apostles, and that's what he'she's talking about here. In other words, he has a right to earn hisfood for his work as an apostle. Now, as we continue through thischapter, he begins to get into an extended argument men and give proofsfor that. The first proofs that he gives for this right begin in verseseven and their arguments that are grounded in what we might call natural law.On these he is making observations about the world that God has made, andhe's making observations and coming to conclusions about...

...principles that God himself has established,reliable principles, laws, we could even call them, in which are true. And so he says, for example, who serves as a soldiers as athis own expense? WHO plants a vineyard without eating in an of anany of its fruit? Who tends a flock without getting some of its milk? He points to these a different kinds of workers, people that put theirhands on to business, and he shows that they reap rewards often from thevery thing that they are involved in. Well, sometimes, when it comesto natural law, people will make an argument and say something. Well,that's just a social construction or that's just a human invention, and sometimes lawsare that. They are social constructions, they are customs or traditions. ButPaul wants us to understand that getting payment for one's labor is not just somehuman idea, not just a social construction or a human tradition or convention.And so he says in Verse Eight. Do I say these things on HumanAuthority? Answer is no. He says, does not the law. And they'respeaking of the law. He speaks of the law of Moses. Saythe same, for it is written in the Law of Moses you shall notmuzzle an ox when it treads the grain. So he proves this point that he'sbeen making from a natural law kind of argument. Now he says,look, it's here in scripture too. You can see that I'm not justjudging this on on Human Authority. The and his conclusion of these observations isthat this passage about the ox, it was written for our sake and itapplies to everyone. The worker deserves his wage. And it's true. AndPaul extends the argument even more in what is perhaps a surprising but I thinka way that makes sense, when he says in verse eleven, not onlyis I'm paraphrasing now. He's saying not only do we have a right tothis, but we have perhaps even more of a right than in some ofthese other fields. He says, if we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much that we ask, is it too much if we reapmaterial things from you, if others have this rightful claim on you toget paid for their work? Do we not have even more? I'm sohe appeals to the nature of his work, the importance of his work, andsays this is this is important, this is really important and he andso he's making this point. Then in verse thirteen he adds a little bitmore when he points to the priests and the temple. Perhaps you are notaware of this, but when the people brought their sacrifices, many of thosesacrifices brought to the temple, we're shared...

...with the priests. There would bea kind of meal that would be had there. The priests would eat someof that food on there were tithes and offerings that were given that were meantto support the Levites. Paul is not arguing for a return to the priesthood. When quoting these different sections of the law of Moses. He's not tryingto put us back under the old covenant. No, he's using what we sometimescall the general equity of these laws, the general principles that are found inthem, and applying them in this new covenant situation. He's not sayingwe need to go to back to the priesthood, but he says, lookat the the the the essence of what's going on here. The priest waspaid for his work and so then he could have been finishes this argument inVerse Fourteen when he says very clearly that the Lord has commanded those who proclaimedthe gospel should get their living by the Gospel. So this is his argument. Paul is not hesitant about saying what his rights are. Paul is nothesitants about making this claim for himself and maintaining and protecting he doesn't just givea sort of a passing glance at it. He spends some some time making argumentsfrom different sources even to prove and argue his point. I mentioned thatjust to say that sometimes some people look at this passage and some of thethings that will get into now and they'll hear exactly the opposite, that ministersare not supposed to be paid or that the work of the Gospel is notsupposed to receive its reward. But Paul is saying exactly the opposite here.He's saying it is very important, this is a right that belongs, belongsto him, and he's taking time to emphasize that. There's other places wherePaul, where Paul will maintain his rights. Will get to a verse in Philippiansin a moment. And we're remember also in another area of life,when before Festus, Paul is being accused of various things and he says,I appeal to Caesar as a citizen of Rome. He exercises his rights toget a hearing before Caesar and remain under the protection and arrest and a wayof Festus. I'm so as not to go to Jerusalem without getting in allthat. The point is that Paul is not afraid to exercise his rights.Paul uses them. And now we get to the however, because we stillhave half of this chapter left right. So Paul, after making this verystrong, very strong argument about the importance and the necessity of ministers being paidfor their labors, of eating and drinking and their needs being provided for,Paul makes this a surprising turn, at...

...least for us, when he tellsus that he and other the other workers in Corinth there have not made useof this right. So he says this. In verse twelve, he says,nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endureanything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the Gospel of Christ.In Verse Fifteen, he says something similar. He says, but I have madeno use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things tosecure such a provision. Right. If Paul stopped here, you wouldthink he's saying, guys, I need my paycheck. Right. He doesit say? I say he's not saying. I'm not writing this to secure thisprovision. In fact, he says, for I would rather die. Iwould rather die than have anyone deprived me. I like that rights languagethere that if anyone deprived me of the of my ground for boasting, whatis Paul's ground for boasting? It's The gospel of Jesus Christ. That isfree. It's a gospel of grace that isn't that doesn't require our works ora payment or anything like that. Paul is not like just some other teacherwho desire, who requires a payment in order for the truth to be given. The Gospel goes out freely. It is a work freely of God.It is a work in which God does all the work, and he wantsthat to be maintained. Paul is protecting his reputation in a lot of wayshere. Let me pause that for a moment and read one more passage toyou from Second Corinthians. Second Corinthians Eleven, verses eight through nine, interesting passagerelated here. This is out written after First Corinthians. He says Ipreached God's Gospel to you free of charge. I robbed that's him exaggerating, buthe says I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order toserve you. And when I was with you and was in need, Idid not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. InPhilippians four fifteen through eighteen, we read that these Macedonian Christians regularly contributed toPaul's needs and Paul accepted them. Right. So, in some places at sometimes, Paul is willing to accept from money from the churches. Even inCorinth he is accepting money, just not from the Corinthians. So you see, it's a little bit of a complex picture. What's Paul doing here?Why is Paul Willing to accept money from one place and not from another?The answer is probably there's probably several answers...

...to this, but I think thereare two big ones and, as I was beginning to mention, one isthat Paul is protecting his reputation. Right. Remember, at the beginning of Corinthianswe read he came into a conflict where there was sort of one teacherand another teacher being pitted against one another. It wasn't Paul versus a policy,but it was people taking up their names and pitting them against one another. And he says they're at the beginning of First Corinthians. We're not ina fight for against one another. We're not in competition for one another.I'm not here for money and reputation and fame. I'm here to preach theGospel and he wants to make that very, very clear to these people, tothis church here. He doesn't want there to be any confusion about thisand I think this is one of the reasons that he withholds pay. Hedoesn't want to burden them. Is the reason none he gives. In SecondCorinthians, this is perhaps a financial thing. Corinthian, the church in Corinth wasa perhaps in need in some ways. We have a third reason as well, and that's that. And we haven't gotten into this yet, butwe will come to see that the church and Corinth had another problem that wehaven't yet addressed and Paul's beginning to sort of get get, get that ballrolling in this discussion, and that's that there were a number of people inthe congregation who didn't work. There were people who were part of this wholeclient patron system, which will get into it some later time, where therewere just wasn't a lot of working going on. And Paul says that needsto stop, that the people of God need to work with their own hands, they need to earn money, they need to do the work that theymight provide for themselves and their household. And so I think another reason Paulis doing this is he's setting them an example. He doesn't want there tobe any confusion that he's not working and just getting money, and so he'sworking extra hard to make this point and to show to them why, sothat the Gospel Ministry that he is proclaiming that there wouldn't be any way toattack it. He's trying to move up and up and up above reproach sothat anybody who might come and attack him in this way wouldn't have any thingto say. Paul wants the only thing these Corinthians to get and to understandis the Gospel and its implications. It's not about him, and that's so, so important to him, as it should be for every minister of theGospel. So what does Paul say? Paul says that he has these rights, but he doesn't make use of them. Listen to some of what he sayshere and here the passion in his...

...heart, his love for these people, for Christ and the Gospel. He says I would rather die in versefifteen. I would rather die than have anyone deprived me of my ground ofboasting, for if I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting, for necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do notpreach the Gospel. Paul doesn't lay down his rights as a general practice, but he lays down his rights here as a necessity, because he feelsthat the Gospel is under threat, he feels that his ministry and his preachingin this church is under threatned, and so this is why he lays thesethings down. Will he have a reward even if he dies? Absolutely.Paul doesn't care about dying, not not like we often care about dying.Paul says that he will enjoy the same gifts that all these other Christians willenjoy, and they will enjoy them together, he says. He says that thisis an aspect of his ministry as a whole. This characterizes his lifeas a Christian and as a minister as a whole. It's not just amoney issue. We see that in verses nineteen and following. I'm free fromall, though. I'm free from all. I have made a servant to allthat I might win more of them. To the Jews, I became aJew in order to win the Jews. To the gentiles, he becomes likea gentile. To the week, he becomes weak, and so onand so forth. He summarizes it all by saying I have become all thingsto all people that by all means I might save some you hear what Paulis saying. Paul's not saying he's willing to do sinful things for the sakeof the Gospel. He's not saying he's going to do foolish things for thesake of the Gospel. Now he will use all extra he'll exercise all wisdomand holiness, but when it comes to the freedoms that he has, whenhe comes to the liberty that he'd enjoys, he'll happily give it away all dayto anyone if it's for the sake of winning some to Christ. Amazingthing is, and aren't we all blessed there's somebody, and lots of somebody'sin this course of history, generations after generations of people who have done thisfor us, people who have laid down their lives for the sake of theGospel, people who have given up so much. We Sang and the mightyfortress of us our God right. Let goods and kindred go this mortal life, also the body. They may kill, but God's truth abide still. Thereason Paul can give up his rights and is so impassion to do so, he does is not begrudging. For him, he's like what's do thisright. He's happy to do this because...

...he's got his eyes on the prize, he's got his eyes on something greater, and that's how he talks about himselfand this Athletic Language and verses twenty four and following. He's like runners, runners that run to win that prize. They're they're not lazy about it.there. Maybe I'll try, maybe I'll eat a good diet, maybeI won't know. They willingly suffer to get after that thing that they want. Perhaps you've been an athlete or you know athletes. They perhaps wake upearly, spend extra time, push their muscles, push their their will power. They are careful about the things they eat so that they can achieve thegoal. Well, says, do I run aimlessly, which is a hilariousimage. Right, there's somebody to sort of running around. I think there'sa money python skid about. That gun goes off at all the runners.Hero started going all over the running aimlessly. Right, doesn't run aimlessly. Doeshe box the air? You're just wildly flailing his arms after something.No, he's, guys, eyes, focused, focused, focused. Paul'snot making these decisions randomly. He's not choosing to with grow his rights becausehe just wants people to think he's a nice guy. He's doing this thingbecause he sees the Gospel for what it is. He knows how important itis, and so he says in Verse Twenty Three, I do it allfor the sake of the Gospel that I may share with them and its blessings. If he's with the Jews and he needs to, if he's with toJews and he's trying to teach them of Christ, he's trying to point themto the blessings of the fulfillment of the new covenant. And if it meansthat for a little bit of time he's not going to eat certain foods orthat he's going to circumcise Timothy or whatever, he's gonna do it, though notunder the law. He's not putting himself back under the old covenant,he says, but he's gonna take on certain customs if it means if he'sgoing to give up certain rides, if it means winning them, and inthe other case, if means not eating certain things or looking or acting morelike the gentiles in order to win them, he'll he'll do it again, notin sinful ways, but in the areas in which he has freedom,he will let those aside. The question we have to ask is, wheredoes all this come from? Why is Paul so focused? What exactly isthe nature of the Gospel? What is the nature and the message of thegood news in that would help us to make sense of a man who's willingto die, WHO's willing to not eat...

...or drink and die if it meansaccomplishing this end. Well, the only thing that would make sense is somethingthat could give you wife, something that could give you eternal life, acalling that was greater and higher than the things in this world. Then reputationthan on or van wealth or even simply eating or drinking. What kind ofword could possibly come to us which would allow us to say, like goodsand kindred go the mortal life also, you can kill me if you want, but God's truth abides forever. Well, it is that his truth abides forever, and not just living principles, not just in a word, amessage that goes forth, but a word that is a person. That littleword that Martin Luther speaks of in that hymn is Jesus Christ himself, thisone who is little in the sense that he gave up his rights to loveus. Jesus took on a body that would be tempted, tried and suffering. Jesus took Jesus, who is crowned in heaven with all the glories thatare rightfully due to God, took on the flesh like you and me,the things and thing, the pains and things that you suffer in your bodyor things that he felt as well. The crook in his neck from winein the wrong position, being tired after a long night, the being weary, being hungry, all of these things the lord willingly endured. And hedid it for us. He did it for love, he did it forsomething greater. He did it to save us from our sin. He didit to give us eternal life. He did it to rescue us out ofa world that was so turned in on itself, so perverted, so twisted, so chasing after other gods, that all was and is coming to anend. A lot of times we live our lives, we spend a lotof our days, a lot of our energy trying to maintain our rights,to preserve and extend our lives and, as we've seen from the example ofthe Apostle, Paul himself. There's something good in that, there's something importantabout that, and we ought to do those things. But it's also truethat there's a cap on that. There's...

...a limit to what we can attainand what we can achieve and how long we can live. Rather than sisters, we live under the shadow of death every day and that's not going tochange. When we think about Psalm Twenty three and when we think about youknow, the Lord is my shepherd and I know I shall not want weread this at funerals right right leading us through the Valley of the shadow ofdeath. That's not just like the last few minutes before we die, thatthat's our whole life. We live constantly under the shadow of death. Andsure we can and we should and we will in a minute. Will havea picnic and will enjoy, I hope will enjoy some good food and fellowshiptogether and it will be wonderful. But we have to remember that that won'tlast forever. The picnic will end, the Sun will get too hot,the bugs might come or, worse, some trying to. That is mynot my invitation the picnic. That'll come later, but it's but you seewhat I mean. Right. These things have their limits and we have toremember that. We have to have to remember that, because if we thinkthat this life is all there is, then we'll grab onto everything we canand it will constantly be about us, and then we will die and wewill have nothing. But in Christ. He promises to lead us through theValley of the shadow of death to a place where there is victory and blessingand communion and fellowship, a place where you will no longer feel the needto protect and maintain your rights, a place and and a presence of God, where there are no more enemy threats, either from inside of us or fromoutside of us. And that all comes to us through this one andthrough Jesus Christ, who gave up his rights to live and to die forus. That's the message that Paul knows, that's the past message that Paul understandsand that he has been sent to preach, and it's the message thatall of us have been called to believe and live in. I'm a Ministerof the Gospel. Perhaps one day some of you may be ministers of theGospel. The bigger point is that we all have a calling in Christ andsometimes that calling means giving up even those things that are rightfully due to us. It doesn't mean that we make others give up their rights right or reenforce these things on other people. All Paul can controls himself. So hedoes. He makes these choices and he makes them wisely and he makes themlovingly and he makes them in light of...

...these greater things that have come,these greater things that he's preaching, so that you and me and these Corinthianswould believe what he's saying. So, brothers and sisters, let's believe themand hold fast to the Gospel that he is preaching and live in light ofthat Gospel that he is preaching and have hope for the things to come.Let's pray together.

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