In 1 Corinthians 9:1-23 we see Paul writing to a letter to the church of Corinth about his rights as an Apostle. An apostle translates as “a messenger, one sent on a mission, focusing back on the authority of the sender”. So, as an apostle, v4 Paul has the right to eat and drink freely, to have a wife and enjoy sex, and to make a living from his work. These are all good and acceptable, but Paul chooses to go without these. Let’s explore why.
What Rights Do We Have?
Food and Drink
In 1 Cor 9:4 we see that we have all have the right to eat and drink whatever food we like.
We are free to eat as we please (although we must show wisdom and love, as covered in 1 Corinthians 8)
In verse 5 we see that it is good to to be in a marriage as a husband and wife. In fact nearly all of the apostles were married; verse 5 mentions specifically that many apostles including the Lord’s brother and Peter (Cephas) were married. Here we see that is is ok for church leaders to be married, this was common practice, an acceptable practice – and a right.
Verse 6, opens up the idea that it is ok to work for a living. It’s ok to earn a financial living for the work we do. Ministry work included. Paul goes on to explore this idea and defend his position. Common wisdom shows us its ok to benefits from your own efforts:
- Thinks about it. What soldier pays for themselves to go to war. What soldier covers the financial expenses to send themselves into battle. Should they not be paid for their service?
- As emphasized in verse 7, who plants a vineyard and does not eat the grapes. What Waikato dairy farmer does not drink their own cows milk.
- Verse 9, we are not to muzzle and ox while it is treading out the grain. This way the Ox can feed while it works. In the same way, verse 11, those who sow spiritual seed should also reap a material harvest, the right of financial support (verse 12).
Why Does Paul Give Up His Rights
Despite Paul’s evidence to cling to the mentioned rights, he is adamant that he would sacrifice anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. Verse 15 “I have not used any of these rights.”
Paul has deliberately, chosen to sacrifice his rights to food, marriage, and finance – that he might preach the gospel free of charge (verse 18). Why? That by all means possible, others may see the magnificence of Jesus, at no cost, with no hindrance. Paul was ready to do whatever it takes.
Giving Up Our Rights
We too must be free to give up our rights, that may also not hinder the gospel message from going out. What rights can you give up that others might see Christ for who he really is? Is it money? Time? Family? Education? We are called to DO WHATEVER IT TAKES – in verses 19-23 we see Pauls example to us, to sacrifice our ‘rights’ our ‘freedoms’ that we might reach all people. “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”
Tell Us Your Story
Do whatever it takes. How are you imitating Christ. We are interested to hear from you, that we may encourage one another. Please tell us your story about how you are doing whatever it takes to share the Gospel. What rights or freedoms do you lay down?