Christian Liberty - A Pattern of Self-Denial
                                                                1 Corinthians 9:1-6

In Chapter 8 Paul dealt with the matter of Christian liberty in regard to eating meat which had been offered to idols.  The principle he laid down was that in doubtful matters the motive for Christian conduct was regard for our fellow believers.  We should not do anything which might cause a weak brother or sister to stumble. The point is that there is a limitation on our Christian liberty.  You have a right to swing your fist any way you want to, but where my nose begins your liberty ends.

Paul lays down this principle several times in the Epistle to the Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 6:12
[12] “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.

1 Corinthians 8:8
[8] Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.

1 Corinthians 10:23
[23] “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.”

Paul goes on to say that no man should seek his own good, but every man should seek the good of his neighbor.  Christian liberty has its limitation for this reason.

Paul now goes on to discuss the following:
·His own right as an apostle - his official right.

·His right to be supported by the church.

·His right to expect the church to care for him and all his needs as a preacher of the gospel.
He uses these personal matters to illustrate Christian liberty.  Paul first defends his official right as an apostle - he was in the habit of defending his apostleship because it was challenged in many places.  Some Christians questioned Paul’s authority and his rights as an apostle. 

In his own defense, Paul gave his credentials.  He had actually seen and talked with the resurrected Christ who called him to be an apostle.  Such credentials make the advice he gives in the letter more persuasive.

1 Corinthians 9:1
[1] Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord?

“Am I not free?” - of course the answer is yes. 

“Am I not an apostle?”  The answer again is yes, Paul is an apostle.  The way this question is couched in the Greek demands a positive answer. 

“Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?”  One qualification of an apostle was that he had personally seen Jesus Christ - Paul had satisfied that requirement on the road to Damascus. 

“Are you not my work in the Lord?” - Corinthian believers were the evidence of his apostleship.  Changed lives were the evidence that GOD was using Paul.

You can be a life changer as Paul was, helping others grow spiritually, if you are willing to do the following:

·Dedicate yourself to being used by GOD.

·Let Him make you effective.

1.Paul was willing to put aside that which was rightfully his in order to win others to Christ.  What was more important to him - his rights as an apostle or the salvation of others?
2.What is more important to you - your rights as a believer, or the salvation of others?

3.How can you show this in your consideration for others?

1 Corinthians 9:2
[2] 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.

Paul says - “If I am not an apostle to others.”  However, he was an apostle to others.  He is using the word ‘if’ conditionally to prove his point. 

Paul goes on to say, “Yet doubtless I am to you.  For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.”  As far as the Corinthian church is concerned, he didn’t have to defend his apostleship.  It was evident to the Christians there that he was an apostle.  In other words he was saying, even if others do not see me as an apostle, those Christians in the Corinthian church should.

1 Corinthians 9:3-4
[3] This is my defense to those who would examine me.  [4] Do we not have the right to eat and drink?

It is as if Paul was in court and was being charged concerning his apostleship.  He is giving his defense to those who examine him.  What is his defense?

“Do we have no right to eat and drink?”

As an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul had a right to eat and drink - as an apostle he had that liberty.  However, that liberty is curbed and curtailed by his concern for others.

1 Corinthians 8:13
[13] Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

Paul would not do anything that might offend his brother.  He had the right to eat meat, but he was not going to eat meat if it had an adverse effect on his brother.  Paul is exercising his free will - he deliberately chose not to do something that he may have enjoyed when by not doing it, his brother gained the benefit.

Paul goes on to use himself as an illustration of giving up personal rights. 

Paul had the right to hospitality, to be married and to be paid for his work.  However he willingly gave up these rights to win people to Christ.  When your focus is on living for Christ, your rights become less important than the goal of leading others to Christ.

1 Corinthians 9:5
[5] 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?

Evidently “the brothers of the Lord” refers to the half brothers of Jesus, James and Jude, who were apparently married.  Peter was also married.  These men took their wives with them when they went out on their missionary journeys. 

Paul says that he has the same freedom, but he chose not to have a wife because he felt his ministry would be curtailed and hindered by doing so. 

Paul says he has the right to take a wife with him - he has that liberty - but he made the decision to remain single.  He was a pioneer missionary and lived a very rugged life.  Not only would his ministry be hindered by bringing a wife along, it would be a very hard and dangerous life for her as well.  Paul is considering the welfare of others in more ways than one.

1 Corinthians 9:6
[6] Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living?

Paul is saying that he and Barnabas could stay home if they wished.  In other words, “We don’t have to go as missionaries - our salvation won’t be affected if we stayed home.”  This is an absolutely true statement.

1.What would have happened if they had stayed home? Who would have been impacted by their absence?

2.What will happen if you stay home?  Who will be impacted by your absence?

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