Aug 14 2013 - 1 Corinthians 9:1-18 – Not hindering the gospel
Paul’s argument in these verses seems to have been prompted by two issues he had become aware of in Corinth. Firstly, as we saw yesterday, there were those at Corinth who were jealous – even boastful – of their rights. Paul seeks to show that such a preoccupation is incompatible with the gospel.
Secondly, there are some who seem to have been speaking against Paul and disparaging his ministry. Maybe they pointed to the way in which he had worked with his hands while he was among them and said that he was not a real apostle, he was only a tentmaker! Paul is concerned to defend his right to be called an apostle, not for his own sake, but to defend the authenticity of the work in which he has was engaged.
Paul reminds the Christians at Corinth that it is both a principle of natural justice and of Scripture that the labourer is worthy of his hire. He and Barnabas would have been well within their rights to have sought financial and practical aid from the Corinthians while they laboured among them. But they did not do so; nor is Paul now seeking some compensation from them. Paul was pleased to preach the gospel to the Corinthians free of charge. His conduct reflected the free nature of the gospel itself. Paul was concerned to do nothing that would hinder the effectiveness of his preaching or lead to misunderstandings; he reminds the Corinthians, “We put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:12).
Paul provides us with practical and instructive principles. We are reminded that the labourer is worthy of his hire. Those set apart by the church to work full time in the care of his people should receive proper remuneration. Those engaged in evangelistic work, however, and church planters should not ask for money from those to whom the gospel is being proclaimed. The buckets passed round in the past at evangelistic campaigns presented entirely the wrong message; it is the glory of the gospel that it is free of charge, it is all of grace. This means, however, that those engaged in such work need to be properly supported in their work by the Christian community from whom they are sent.
But what Paul has to say is not applicable only to the financing of Christian workers; Paul clearly expects each of his readers – including us – to be ready to put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ: put up with hardship; put up with slander; be ready to deny yourself a legitimate pleasure or enjoyment if it might act as a barrier to someone else coming to know Christ or growing in knowledge of him; put up with anything…
This may seem a hard call, but is it not simply the call to Christian discipleship? “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8). How much am I prepared to put up with in order that the gospel might not be hindered?
May the mind of Christ, my Saviour,
Live in me from day to day,
By his love and power controlling
All I do and say.
Lord, fill me with the Spirit of Christ that I may make this my determined aim and daily practice; “I will put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.”