Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 9 months ago

Should You Give Up Your Rights?

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1 Corinthians 9

Please be seated and let's turn to first Corinthians nine. Mike, I'm sorry for springing it on you. That's not fair, but let's turn to first Corinthians nine. Here God's word this morning. So in the last chapter, Paul spoke to us about food sacrifice to idols and he helped us a learn how to think through a difficult ethical situation, as he has been in the last several chapters, thinking about how we live in this world as citizens that are not of this world and yet are 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 around us that God has given us, in light of our communion with Christ and with one another. And he continues that discussion now by talking a little bit about 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 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. This is my defense to those who would examine me. Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephus? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? WHO plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit, or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? Do I say these things on Human Authority? Does not the law say the same? For it is 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? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresh or thresh in hope of 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 share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more. Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle will in the way of the Gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who are employed in the...

...temple service get their food from the temple and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings in the same way? The Lord commanded that those who proclaim the Gospel should get their living by the Gospel. But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I 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 do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I'm still entrusted with a stewardship. What, then, is my 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. 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. Guy became weak that I might win the week. 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. Do you not know that in a race, all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self control and all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath. But we 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. So we have a lot of freedoms as Americans, and that is largely a very, very good thing. We think about it, we spend time talking about those rights, we spend a lot of time maintaining them, protecting them and oftentime just taking them for granted and enjoying them, which is often a very great blessing. But of course it's not just about as Americans. It's not just Americans who care about rights. All people in every place have rights by being virtue of being made in the image of God, of living in a world that's under his authority. But just because we have a right doesn't necessarily mean it's the right thing to use it. Sometimes it's the wrong thing to use it in. This takes wisdom.

Sometimes it is it right. It is important and necessary to defend, maintain and protect our rights. Paul does that here in verse three. He says this is my defense to those who would examine me, and he gives various proofs and arguments, which will consider in a moment. For why? Why? The rights that he has are rightfully his, but Paul also wants to think about it. Also wants us to think about when it's time to give up our rights, which, as we all know, can be a very hard thing to do sometimes. I'm to give up these things that naturally rightfully belong to us. A children understand this 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 that there are things that belong to them that are rightfully there's this is something God has 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 making to give up those rights. And so we want to do is think together this morning, through what he says here, about what those rights are, why they're in portant and why he's willing to give them up. And we should think also about how it applies to our own situations, what rights we have, what rights we should maintain and protect and keep and also sometimes give up for the sake of something greater. So first, Paul's Rights as an apostle. He begins this passage by thinking, or by sort of making the argument that he is an apostle, and he puts it in the he starts by putting it in these rhetorical questions. He says, am I not an apostle? The answers of course yes, of course, Paul, we all know that your own apostle. But he's making this statement. I have these rights because I am this person. He says, have I not seen the Lord Jesus? And indeed he did. You remember, Paul was on the road to Damascus when the Lord himself showed himself to Paul and called him to life in Christ and to a ministry in Christ. He taught Paul, he empowered Paul, he sent Paul to do work in his name, and Paul did that work. And so he says that the people, the Corinthians that he's writing to, are the proof of that work himself. You want to know that I'm an apostle, just look at yourselves. In acts we read that Paul, when he came first to Corinth he took a job as a tent maker. How would Paul prove that he was a tent maker? By looking at the tents right, the proof of his work. He's using a similar analogy here to talk about the Corinthian church themselves, these people, he says, you are my workmanship. Here you are, you have the very fact 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 commissioned himself to do. He says it is. They are his workmanship in the Lord, the seal of his apostleship, in the Lord. He and that is the nature of an apostle. Right, he goes, not on his own authorities, not just a speaker of some kind of communicator of some kind. He is an apostle, he is an ambassador. He's been one who has been sent by Christ to do this work, sent by Christ equipped to do 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 to be paid, but he's going to bring up several others as well to kind of combine these things into one to make this argument. He starts with eating and drinking, which is very related to being paid. He has to eat, like every other human being. Paul has to eat. He has to drink, he has to stay alive, and so he grounds this discussion in this very basic right. Do we not have the right to eat and drink? He continues, and he says, do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? This is one of a couple passages where we learned that Peter, one of the apostles, was married. Paul was not, that Peter was. These are rights that he mentions and then he brings up a third in verse six. The third right he mentions is to refrain from working for a living. Now, when Paul says this, he doesn't mean not working at all. Right, he's not saying I have a right to not 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 working in nonministerial work. He says that as an apostle he has a right to earn his living from the Gospel. He has a right to refrain from being a tent maker, which he's doing at the moment. He has a right to refrain from that, as do the other apostles, and that's what he's he's talking about here. In other words, he has a right to earn his food for his work as an apostle. Now, as we continue through this chapter, he begins to get into an extended argument men and give proofs for that. The first proofs that he gives for this right begin in verse seven 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, and he'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 at his own expense? WHO plants a vineyard without eating in an of an any 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 their hands on to business, and he shows that they reap rewards often from the very thing that they are involved in. Well, sometimes, when it comes to 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 laws are that. They are social constructions, they are customs or traditions. But Paul wants us to understand that getting payment for one's labor is not just some human 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 Human Authority? Answer is no. He says, does not the law. And they're speaking of the law. He speaks of the law of Moses. Say the same, for it is written in the Law of Moses you shall not muzzle an ox when it treads the grain. So he proves this point that he's been 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 just judging this on on Human Authority. The and his conclusion of these observations is that this passage about the ox, it was written for our sake and it applies to everyone. The worker deserves his wage. And it's true. And Paul extends the argument even more in what is perhaps a surprising but I think a way that makes sense, when he says in verse eleven, not only is I'm paraphrasing now. He's saying not only do we have a right to this, but we have perhaps even more of a right than in some of these 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 reap material things from you, if others have this rightful claim on you to get paid for their work? Do we not have even more? I'm so he appeals to the nature of his work, the importance of his work, and says this is this is important, this is really important and he and so he's making this point. Then in verse thirteen he adds a little bit more when he points to the priests and the temple. Perhaps you are not aware of this, but when the people brought their sacrifices, many of those sacrifices brought to the temple, we're shared...

...with the priests. There would be a kind of meal that would be had there. The priests would eat some of that food on there were tithes and offerings that were given that were meant to 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 trying to put us back under the old covenant. No, he's using what we sometimes call the general equity of these laws, the general principles that are found in them, and applying them in this new covenant situation. He's not saying we need to go to back to the priesthood, but he says, look at the the the the essence of what's going on here. The priest was paid for his work and so then he could have been finishes this argument in Verse Fourteen when he says very clearly that the Lord has commanded those who proclaimed the 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 not hesitants about making this claim for himself and maintaining and protecting he doesn't just give a sort of a passing glance at it. He spends some some time making arguments from different sources even to prove and argue his point. I mentioned that just to say that sometimes some people look at this passage and some of the things that will get into now and they'll hear exactly the opposite, that ministers are not supposed to be paid or that the work of the Gospel is not supposed 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, belongs to him, and he's taking time to emphasize that. There's other places where Paul, where Paul will maintain his rights. Will get to a verse in Philippians in 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 to get a hearing before Caesar and remain under the protection and arrest and a way of Festus. I'm so as not to go to Jerusalem without getting in all that. The point is that Paul is not afraid to exercise his rights. Paul uses them. And now we get to the however, because we still have half of this chapter left right. So Paul, after making this very strong, very strong argument about the importance and the necessity of ministers being paid for their labors, of eating and drinking and their needs being provided for, Paul makes this a surprising turn, at...

...least for us, when he tells us that he and other the other workers in Corinth there have not made use of this right. So he says this. In verse twelve, he says, nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything 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 made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure such a provision. Right. If Paul stopped here, you would think he's saying, guys, I need my paycheck. Right. He does it say? I say he's not saying. I'm not writing this to secure this provision. In fact, he says, for I would rather die. I would rather die than have anyone deprived me. I like that rights language there that if anyone deprived me of the of my ground for boasting, what is Paul's ground for boasting? It's The gospel of Jesus Christ. That is free. It's a gospel of grace that isn't that doesn't require our works or a payment or anything like that. Paul is not like just some other teacher who 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 wants that to be maintained. Paul is protecting his reputation in a lot of ways here. Let me pause that for a moment and read one more passage to you from Second Corinthians. Second Corinthians Eleven, verses eight through nine, interesting passage related here. This is out written after First Corinthians. He says I preached God's Gospel to you free of charge. I robbed that's him exaggerating, but he says I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. And when I was with you and was in need, I did 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. In Philippians four fifteen through eighteen, we read that these Macedonian Christians regularly contributed to Paul's needs and Paul accepted them. Right. So, in some places at sometimes, Paul is willing to accept from money from the churches. Even in Corinth 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 there are two big ones and, as I was beginning to mention, one is that Paul is protecting his reputation. Right. Remember, at the beginning of Corinthians we read he came into a conflict where there was sort of one teacher and 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 in a 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 the Gospel and he wants to make that very, very clear to these people, to this church here. He doesn't want there to be any confusion about this and I think this is one of the reasons that he withholds pay. He doesn't want to burden them. Is the reason none he gives. In Second Corinthians, this is perhaps a financial thing. Corinthian, the church in Corinth was a 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, but we will come to see that the church and Corinth had another problem that we haven't yet addressed and Paul's beginning to sort of get get, get that ball rolling in this discussion, and that's that there were a number of people in the congregation who didn't work. There were people who were part of this whole client patron system, which will get into it some later time, where there were just wasn't a lot of working going on. And Paul says that needs to 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 they might provide for themselves and their household. And so I think another reason Paul is doing this is he's setting them an example. He doesn't want there to be any confusion that he's not working and just getting money, and so he's working extra hard to make this point and to show to them why, so that the Gospel Ministry that he is proclaiming that there wouldn't be any way to attack it. He's trying to move up and up and up above reproach so that anybody who might come and attack him in this way wouldn't have any thing to say. Paul wants the only thing these Corinthians to get and to understand is 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 the Gospel. 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 says here and here the passion in his...

...heart, his love for these people, for Christ and the Gospel. He says I would rather die in verse fifteen. I would rather die than have anyone deprived me of my ground of boasting, 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. Paul doesn't lay down his rights as a general practice, but he lays down his rights here as a necessity, because he feels that the Gospel is under threat, he feels that his ministry and his preaching in this church is under threatned, and so this is why he lays these things 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 will enjoy, and they will enjoy them together, he says. He says that this is an aspect of his ministry as a whole. This characterizes his life as a Christian and as a minister as a whole. It's not just a money issue. We see that in verses nineteen and following. I'm free from all, though. I'm free from all. I have made a servant to all that I might win more of them. To the Jews, I became a Jew in order to win the Jews. To the gentiles, he becomes like a gentile. To the week, he becomes weak, and so on and so forth. He summarizes it all by saying I have become all things to all people that by all means I might save some you hear what Paul is saying. Paul's not saying he's willing to do sinful things for the sake of the Gospel. He's not saying he's going to do foolish things for the sake of the Gospel. Now he will use all extra he'll exercise all wisdom and holiness, but when it comes to the freedoms that he has, when he comes to the liberty that he'd enjoys, he'll happily give it away all day to anyone if it's for the sake of winning some to Christ. Amazing thing is, and aren't we all blessed there's somebody, and lots of somebody's in this course of history, generations after generations of people who have done this for us, people who have laid down their lives for the sake of the Gospel, people who have given up so much. We Sang and the mighty fortress 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. The reason 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 this right. 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 himself and 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, maybe I 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 up early, spend extra time, push their muscles, push their their will power. They are careful about the things they eat so that they can achieve the goal. Well, says, do I run aimlessly, which is a hilarious image. Right, there's somebody to sort of running around. I think there's a 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. Does he box the air? You're just wildly flailing his arms after something. No, he's, guys, eyes, focused, focused, focused. Paul's not making these decisions randomly. He's not choosing to with grow his rights because he just wants people to think he's a nice guy. He's doing this thing because he sees the Gospel for what it is. He knows how important it is, and so he says in Verse Twenty Three, I do it all for 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 to Jews and he's trying to teach them of Christ, he's trying to point them to the blessings of the fulfillment of the new covenant. And if it means that for a little bit of time he's not going to eat certain foods or that he's going to circumcise Timothy or whatever, he's gonna do it, though not under 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's going to give up certain rides, if it means winning them, and in the other case, if means not eating certain things or looking or acting more like the gentiles in order to win them, he'll he'll do it again, not in sinful ways, but in the areas in which he has freedom, he will let those aside. The question we have to ask is, where does all this come from? Why is Paul so focused? What exactly is the nature of the Gospel? What is the nature and the message of the good news in that would help us to make sense of a man who's willing to die, WHO's willing to not eat...

...or drink and die if it means accomplishing this end. Well, the only thing that would make sense is something that could give you wife, something that could give you eternal life, a calling that was greater and higher than the things in this world. Then reputation than on or van wealth or even simply eating or drinking. What kind of word could possibly come to us which would allow us to say, like goods and 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, a message that goes forth, but a word that is a person. That little word that Martin Luther speaks of in that hymn is Jesus Christ himself, this one who is little in the sense that he gave up his rights to love us. Jesus took on a body that would be tempted, tried and suffering. Jesus took Jesus, who is crowned in heaven with all the glories that are 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 body or things that he felt as well. The crook in his neck from wine in the wrong position, being tired after a long night, the being weary, being hungry, all of these things the lord willingly endured. And he did it for us. He did it for love, he did it for something greater. He did it to save us from our sin. He did it to give us eternal life. He did it to rescue us out of a world that was so turned in on itself, so perverted, so twisted, so chasing after other gods, that all was and is coming to an end. A lot of times we live our lives, we spend a lot of 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 of the Apostle, Paul himself. There's something good in that, there's something important about that, and we ought to do those things. But it's also true that there's a cap on that. There's...

...a limit to what we can attain and 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 to change. When we think about Psalm Twenty three and when we think about you know, the Lord is my shepherd and I know I shall not want we read this at funerals right right leading us through the Valley of the shadow of death. That's not just like the last few minutes before we die, that that's our whole life. We live constantly under the shadow of death. And sure we can and we should and we will in a minute. Will have a picnic and will enjoy, I hope will enjoy some good food and fellowship together and it will be wonderful. But we have to remember that that won't last forever. The picnic will end, the Sun will get too hot, the bugs might come or, worse, some trying to. That is my not my invitation the picnic. That'll come later, but it's but you see what I mean. Right. These things have their limits and we have to remember that. We have to have to remember that, because if we think that this life is all there is, then we'll grab onto everything we can and it will constantly be about us, and then we will die and we will have nothing. But in Christ. He promises to lead us through the Valley of the shadow of death to a place where there is victory and blessing and communion and fellowship, a place where you will no longer feel the need to 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 from outside of us. And that all comes to us through this one and through Jesus Christ, who gave up his rights to live and to die for us. That's the message that Paul knows, that's the past message that Paul understands and that he has been sent to preach, and it's the message that all of us have been called to believe and live in. I'm a Minister of the Gospel. Perhaps one day some of you may be ministers of the Gospel. The bigger point is that we all have a calling in Christ and sometimes 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 re enforce these things on other people. All Paul can controls himself. So he does. He makes these choices and he makes them wisely and he makes them lovingly 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 Corinthians would believe what he's saying. So, brothers and sisters, let's believe them and hold fast to the Gospel that he is preaching and live in light of that Gospel that he is preaching and have hope for the things to come. Let's pray together.

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