1 Corinthians 9:1-23

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1 Corinthians

2 Corinthians




A True Servant of the Gospel


Years ago when he William Sangster pastored a church in Scarborough where he had an eccentric member who tried to be a zealous Christian.  Unfortunately, the man often did the wrong thing. While working as a barber one day the man lathered up a customer for a shave, came at him with the razor in hand, and asked, “Are you prepared to meet your God?”  It was said the frightened man ran from the shop with the lather still on his face!

After telling his readers that it is better to give up your freedoms then to cause another to stumble, Paul tells the Corinthians just how he had done that in his own life.   That being sold out for Jesus and for the gospel is first in his own life.

In V1-18, Paul makes powerful arguments that he has the rights of an apostle.  The right for provision, food and drink.  The right to bring others with him in his evangelistic campaigns, like Peter and the others brought their wives.  And the right to financial support.  Apparently the Corinthians were supporting other teachers but not Paul who had planted their church in the first place. 

Paul makes three arguments to the Corinthians, about his rights as an apostle.  First he argues natural provision.  Those who serve the Lord full time are like someone in the army, they aren’t asked to supply their own tanks, no one goes into the Air Force and brings their own jet.  Like the military, those who are fighting in the Lord’s service - should be allowed to be supported by those they minister to.   Then using the same argument Paul likens ministers to a farmer, who gets part of the harvest for his own, part of the flocks for his own family.    

Secondly as he does so well, Paul brings in scripture.  Doesn’t (Deut 25) say—“don’t muzzle the ox that is treading out the grain.”   Don’t stop the working animal for eating  - and then he lets us know that God is not just considered for the animals, but it speaks of those who have sown spiritual seed in the harvest fields of God. 

Then his third argument is from those who serve in the Lord’s temple, that they have the right to a portion of what is offered, “it’s the Lord’s command” that those who preach the Gospel should receive their living form that work.  So Paul lays it out, he has the right to support from the Corinthians.  As I said apparently they were supporting others but not Paul. 

But after clearly establishing the fact that he has these rights, Paul reminds them that he has laid them down.   “It doesn’t matter, I’d ratter continue to make tents, I’d ratter not uses these rights, if that is going to make you more mature.”  In fact he says – “I will boast - that I have not received any help from you.”  I like Paul’s attitude, he doesn’t want it to be a “stumbling block” to those he is ministering to.  He is compelled to preach, not for a paycheck, but because that is his talent and his calling from God.

What can we learn from this?  Three things.

1.      Its ok (good) to pay your pastors.

2.      They should receive their livelihood from the church, in order to better minister to the church.

3.      Motivation is everything.  Are they willing to give up that right?  If they need to make tents will they do that?  

Here in the fellowship.  The church supports me full time.  I receive a salary, housing allowance, insurance and small retirement.  Occasionally I go and make tents as needed. Five years ago I worked about 50% outside the church – 8 years ago, I did not know if I would get a salary and we went week to week to see what God provided. 

Today we also give Pastor Barry and Greg a small monthly offering.  As we grow we would hope to do more so that more time could be devoted to the ministry that God is doing here in the Fellowship.

In all this - we see Paul’s life matches his teaching.  In chapter eight he taught “Do not cause others to stumble by your actions.”  He was passionate about the gospel, and he was passionate about how he lived, the two were never in conflict - his life matched his teaching.  That is the heart of what chapter nine speaks to us today.  

Every Christian be they a pastor, an evangelist, a Sunday School teacher, or just a member of the church should be able to say what Paul says:  “My life, matches up with my teaching.”   A true believer is one who lives out their faith.  And can say with confidence.

Phil 3:13-14…Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Are you pressing on, are you growing in faith and knowledge and obedience to the Lord?   That is what we can receive from this first part of chapter 9.  

Having considered the majority of today’s text, I would like to look at V19-23 in some detail. 


Paul is a true servant of the Gospel.  He tells the Corinthians that his motivation is that of someone who is compelled to preach, and is willing to give up his rights to do so. 

2 Cor 5:14-15  For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

Paul is compelled to preach, as he looked at the love of Christ, he must preach.  As you and I consider the love of Jesus Christ who died to make us right with God.   We should be compelled to no longer live for ourselves, but for God.   So Paul then he puts into application how we no longer live for ourselves.

1.      BECOME A SLAVE. V19

A slave is one who serves because he must.  He is compelled to serve.   A true minister of the Gospel is one who serves not because of a paycheck but because he must, it is his calling, it is his passion, it is what God has intended for them to do. 

Politics aside, we see an example of this type of servant in former President Jimmy Carter, who to this day teaches an adult Sunday School class in Plains Georgia.   He doesn’t need money, he’s not seeking fame, but when Don and Marti Denham our missionaries to Kosova, were in Georgia a few months ago, they stopped by and were able to participate in his Sunday school class and were truly blessed.  

Jesus disciples were always arguing about their own worth, and jostling for position.  Over and over again Jesus had to remind them that the kingdom of God was not about them – in fact it was about them - becoming less then they were.  One of those times is found in.

Mark 9:33-37 (Jesus said to them)  "What were you arguing about on the road?"  But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.  Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all."   He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me." 

The disciples are arguing about their own greatness, I can just hear them now.  Maybe one said, “well, I cast out five demons, maybe Peter argues that he raised six lame people and besides “Jesus takes me everywhere.”   Jesus knowing what they are saying gives them an opportunity to come clean.  But they don’t because they know they’re in the wrong. 

Jesus looks at them and tells them if you want to be first, become last, and serve one another.   Then he gives them an object lesson.  He takes a child and holds him and said “if you want to be great in God’s kingdom, serve those who most people do not think have any value.”  Serve the least, serve the children, the lame, the poor, the lost – those who others will not serve. 


Gal 5:13-14  You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."

The law is summed up in love - because love fulfills Jesus teaching, the greatest is the one who humbles themselves and serves.  First, to become a slave. 


Paul is showing practically how he will not cause anyone to stumble.  During those days the Jews separated themselves from the gentiles.   They would not intermingle with them, they would not even have a meal with them.  Which is one place they disobeyed God.

Isa 49:6… It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept.  I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth."

Israel was to be the light to the Gentiles, to usher in the Lord’s salvation to the ends of the earth.  But when God said, “do not touch any unclean thing”, they took it to mean segregate yourselves from the rest of the world. 

As Christians we can learn from Israel’s failures.  We are to be separate from the world, but not segregated from those in the world.   Jesus was accused of eating with tax collectors and prostitutes for one reason -- its because he did.  He hung out with folks that his society said were “unclean.”  He spoke to a gentile woman when her daughter was demon possessed.  He ministered forgiveness to Levi the tax collector, to the woman caught in adultery, the lepers, a Roman solider, and many others.  Jesus always seem to meet unbelievers where they were.  He lived what he taught, and what many Christians still don't seem to understand – “that harvesters have to get out in the field.”


Someone figured out that of 132 contacts that Jesus made with people.   Six were in the Temple, four in the synagogues and 122 were out with the people in the mainstream of life.  That’s the principle Paul gives us here - to relate to whom you want to minister- go into the harvest fields.

Relate, wow- that can be a loaded gun!  It implies all kinds of crazy things we see in the church today.   But Paul is not talking about compromise, he’s not talking about changing the gospel, nor is he talking about becoming something your not.  But like we saw in chapter eight, where we are not to cause others to stumble, we relate to those who we minister to - so that we will not become a hindrance to the work of God.

To the Jew Paul becomes a Jew.  That does not mean he became totally legalistic, rather that he would not eat ham or a pork chop in their presence.  Paul would not show up at the synagogue in shorts and tank top.  To the gentiles he would become like a gentile.  Maybe pork was on the menu, maybe it’s a beach ministry, a suit and tie might not be the best thing to relate.

I think it is almost comical when you see the Mormon missionaries wearing a white shirt and tie riding a bicycle.   Come on, who are they relating to?  They are conforming to something they think makes them look more spiritual.   Friends, be yourself, don’t become something you think you need to be, but respect those who you are ministering to.

In the assistant living center we dress modestly, we sing conservatively, we relate so we might win some for Christ.   In Nicaragua we make sure our dress and speech are not offensive to their culture.  At the skateboard park I go and hand out waters from time to time, I talk their lingo the best an old man can.  I don’t wear a tie, I wear my shorts, and become someone who can speak to them at their level about the uncompromising message of God.  

That’s the key, un-compromised message.  It’s the only message we have – Jesus Christ and who bore our sins, and by faith in him, we are made right with God.

2 Cor 5:21  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

First Paul says, be a slave, second, relate finally, check your motivation.


Paul’s motivation is simply God’s motivation – he desires to see people get saved, he wants people to repent of their sins, to turn to God, and have a right relationship with him.

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

This is the heart of the gospel, that God loved the world so much - he made a way.  A way for the lost to come to God and have right relationship with him.   God does not delight in the death of the lost, God does not take joy in any who parish without knowing him.  God’s desire needs to be our desire, that everyone would come to repentance.

Gen. William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, could never be accused of mincing words or doing things half-heartedly.  He believed if he could hold each of his young Salvation Army officers over hell for a few minutes, he would never have any trouble keeping them motivated about being witnesses to Christ.

As D.L. Moody walked down a Chicago street one day, he saw a man leaning against a lamppost. The evangelist gently put his hand on the man's shoulder and asked him if he was a Christian. The fellow raised his fists and angrily exclaimed, "Mind your own business!"   "I'm sorry if I've offended you," said Moody, "but to be very frank, that IS my business!"

Church, we need to have the motivation Paul has that:  “Even if people reject the gospel, we still must love and tell them.” 

What is your heart?  Are you a slave for the gospel?   It doesn’t matter if your are full time ministry you are a fellow worker for the kingdom.  We are all to use our talents, our abilities, our lives - to minister the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.  Not causing others to stumble, but like Paul says in our text. 

“I become what I must so that I might save some.”  Obviously Paul doesn’t save anyone, obviously we do not save anyone.  Salvation is of the Lord.  But we become the instruments that God uses.  We are the ones who invite others to church, we are the ones God uses to share the good news.  We are the ones who pray, and watch God work.  God uses you, he uses me - to save others.  

Hudson Taylor said:  “I used to ask God to help me.  Then I asked if I might help Him.   I ended up asking Him to do His work through me.”

The final thing Paul says in our text today shows us his motivation in being a slave for the gospel. 

1 Cor 9:22-23 NLT … Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone so that I might bring them to Christ.   I do all this to spread the Good News, and in doing so I enjoy its blessings.

“I will be what I must, I will give up my rights, I will not cause others to stumble, I will do what I have to do for the sake of the gospel.”   “And the result will be I will share in the blessings or benefits of the Gospel.”  What are the benefits / blessings of the Gospel? 


The benefit of sin, was we reaped a harvest of shameful things, things we were not proud of.   The harvest we were gathering was death.  Eternal separation from God.  Like Adam and Eve, separated from the presence of God because of sin.

But now things are different, if Jesus Christ is your Lord, if salvation rules your life, you are set free, free to worship God.  You’re free to love the Lord, free from the control of death.   We were slaves to sin, now we are slaves to God, the benefit is holiness, the result is eternal life.  Because as V 23 says.  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

With Christmas upon us, most of us like to give presents, we like to see the joy on someone’s face when they are surprised.   Its like that as you are a slave for the Gospel with others.  You get to be part of the joy they have in receiving and then you receive yourself because as Jesus said.

Acts 20:35  …'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"

Give the gospel, give hope in Jesus Christ, give and you will receive back the blessings or benefits of the Gospel. 

Ps 103:1-5 Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits —  who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,  who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,  who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

Church give praise to God and remember his benefits, forgiveness, healing, redemption, love, compassion, satisfaction, and a renewal of your life.  If Jesus is not your Lord and Savior, I would like you to consider the benefits of knowing God.  Healing, redemption from sinfulness, love compassion and satisfaction having a right standing with God.


Series: 1 Corinthians  -Through the Bible
By: Rich Lammay
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 9:1-23
Date: November, 2005

(C) High Sierra Fellowship 2008