Christian Liberty - Self-Denial
                                                                1 Corinthians 9:7-27

In 1 Corinthians 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 fellow believers.  We should not do anything which causes a weak brother to stumble.

Paul also says that no man should seek his own, but every man should seek the good of his neighbor - do you do that?

Then Paul now goes on to discuss his own right as an apostle and what this involves.  This includes his right to be supported by the church - he has the right to expect the church to care for him and all his needs as a preacher of the gospel.  Paul uses these personal matters to illustrate Christian liberty.

Paul used himself as an illustration of giving up personal rights.  For example, he had the right to hospitality and to be married.

1 Corinthians 9:7-9
[7] 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?  [8]Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same?  [9]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?

Paul is teaching that we should take care of our preachers and teachers. 

In those days an ox was used to tread out the grain.  They hitched an ox to a horizontal wheel and he walked around in a circle over the grain, separating the wheat from the chaff.  The chaff was then pitched up into the air so the wind would blow it away and the good grain would fall onto the threshing floor.

God said they were not to muzzle the ox that was treading out the grain.  God said ‘You shall not muzzle.’  Why did He command this?

The ox was working and he was permitted to eat the grain as he worked.  He benefited from his labor.  That is the way that God took care of the ox - He made that a law.  The application for us is that the preacher is not to be muzzled either.  He is to be fed for his work.

God says not to muzzle the ox that is working for you - Paul applies that to pastors and teachers.  Paul is saying that as an apostle who has fed others, he has a right to be fed and benefit from his labor for God.

1 Corinthians 9:10-11
[10]Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop.  [11]If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?

Paul is indicating that we should take care of the ones who give us spiritual blessings.  If someone has given you spiritual blessings, spiritual riches, then you should share your material things.

A preacher once said, “You should support the place where you get your blessing.”  Many people get their spiritual blessings in one place but they give their offerings in another place.  This is not a Biblical attitude though.

1.God said the ox should benefit from his work, so should the Pastor who works in ministry.  We don’t begrudge the ox his reward because we benefit from it also.  What is our attitude toward our Pastor who labors on our behalf though? 

2.Are we cheerful givers or reluctant givers when it comes to our Pastors?

1 Corinthians 9:12
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 in the way of the gospel of Christ.

Paul is saying that he had a right to be supported for his work yet, he doesn’t want to do anything that would hinder the Gospel of Christ.  Therefore, he doesn’t receive any payment for his work - he supports himself by plying his trade which is tent making.  It is God’s method that those who have a spiritual ministry are to be supported by those who benefit from that ministry.

1 Corinthians 9:13
[13] 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?

That is God’s method!

1 Corinthians 9:14
[14]In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

It is not wrong for the minister who has been a blessing to his people to be supported by the people.  When people receive a blessing, for the most part, they will support the place where they get their blessing.

1.Since God proclaims that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living from it, if we do not help with the support of our Pastor, what does that say about our relationship with God?

2.What does it say about our willingness to be obedient to God’s Word?

1 Corinthians 9:15
[15]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 deprive me of my ground for boasting.

Paul did not take a salary.  He could say that the church in Corinth was not supporting him because he did not receive anything from them.  Instead, Paul supported himself by tent making.

1 Corinthians 9:16
[16] 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!

Men who are called to preach understand Paul’s point of view!  Necessity is laid upon them also.  They have an inner compulsion to preach and cannot stop giving out the Word of God.  Paul was driven to do what God wanted and to use his gifts for God’s glory.

1.What gifts has God given you?

2.Do you feel necessity is laid upon you to use those gifts?

3.Are you motivated, like Paul, to honor God with your gifts?

1 Corinthians 9:17-18
[17] For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship.  [18] 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.

Paul did not preach the Gospel for an ulterior motive, yet, God has promised a reward that will not disappoint.

1 Corinthians 9:19
[19] For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.

Paul exercised his freedom by making himself a servant!

1 Corinthians 9:20-23
[20] 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.  [21] 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.  [22] To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.  [23] I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

With the freedom that Christian liberty brings, it is important we make wise decisions when exercising our freedom.  Paul says, “I’m doing all of this because I am out on the racetrack.  I am like an athlete out there running.”  What is Paul running for?  He is running for a prize!!
Paul gives us several important principles for effective ministry:
·Find common ground with those you contact.
·Avoid a know-it-all attitude.
·Make others feel accepted.
·Be sensitive to their needs and concerns.
·Look for opportunities to tell them about Christ!

1 Corinthians 9:24
[24] 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.

In a race only one person can win, only one can come in first place, but in the spiritual race we can all win the prize if we are spreading the Word of God!

1 Corinthians 9:25
[25] Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

The rewards that God gives will not swell your bank account down here on earth.  Even if it did, that bank account will still remain here when you leave.  The rewards that God gives are for our eternal enrichment.  At times we must give up something good in order to do what God wants. 

Each one of us has special duties that determine the discipline and denial that we must accept.  With the goal of pleasing God, our denial seems like nothing compared to the eternal, imperishable reward that will be ours.

1.It is easy to get distracted on material things in this life and lose sight of the eternal things that have greater value.  If you were on trial for sharing your material blessings that God has given you - what evidence could you provide?

2.Why is it important that we follow God’s plan in managing material goods?  If we ignore God’s guidance in one area, will we ignore it in another area?

1 Corinthians 9:26
[26] So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.

Paul says he does not run with no purpose in mind, he is not shadowboxing.  He is not playing church! 

1 Corinthians 9:27
[27] But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

When Paul says he might be disqualified, he does not mean that he could lose his salvation.  Rather, he is saying that he could lose his privilege of telling others about Christ.  It is easy to tell others how to live and then not to take our own advice.  We must be careful to practice what we preach!
The Greek word “adokimos” means “not approved”.  Paul is thinking of the judgment seat of Christ.  In 2 Corinthians Paul will talk about that fact that we all appear before the judgment seat of Christ where awards are given.  Paul says that he is on the racetrack trying to run so that he will get an award - that is the reason he preaches the Gospel as he does.  Paul has liberty to choose what to do, and this is the choice that he has made!

All Christians should work for a reward.  We do not work for salvation - it is a gift given by the grace of God.  However, if you are going to get a reward, you are going to have to work for it.  If you are going to get a reward, you had better get out on the racetrack and start moving!

In 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 Paul asserts that he has freedom to do anything.  Then in 1 Corinthians 9:23-27 Paul emphasizes a life of strict discipline.

The Christian life involves both freedom and discipline.  The goals of Paul’s life were to glorify God and bring people to Christ.  He stayed free of any philosophical position or material entanglement that might sidetrack him while he strictly disciplined himself to carry out his goal.  For Paul, both freedom and discipline were important tools to be used in God’s service.

Winning a race requires purpose and discipline.  The Christian life takes hard work, self-denial and grueling preparation.  But as Christian we are running toward and looking to our Heavenly reward.

The essential disciplines of prayer, Bible study and worship equip us to run with vigor and stamina.  Our race is a life-long marathon, not a 100-yard dash.

·Do not just observe from the stands!

·Do not just turn out to jog a couple of laps each morning!

·Train diligently - your spiritual progress depends on it!
Dig Deeper

Below you can use the following links to:

1.Print this lesson