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New Testament Letters

1 Corinthians, Chapters 8and9 - Freedom in Christ

INTRODUCTION: Paul wrote about the eating of food that had been offered to idols, and how that could affect relationships within the church. His instruction was an example of the way more mature Christians could have either a positive or a negative influence on the growth of those not as firm in their faith. Paul then transitioned to the legitimacy of workers in the field of Christian evangelism, and the leaders of local assemblies, to be compensated from offerings to the church. Paul made reference to the record in scripture regarding compensation for those who served at the temple of the Lord. Paul was more than willing to forego his freedom in such things as eating meat offered to idols, and of his right to receive compensation from the church. He did not want either of these areas to hinder his call of God to teach and spread the gospel.

NOTE: All scripture is from the Bible in Basic English.


A - LOVE SHOWS THAT TRUE STRENGTH IS FROM THE ONE AND ONLY GOD

1 Corinthians 8 "1 Now about things offered to images: we all seem to ourselves to have knowledge. Knowledge gives pride, but love gives true strength. 2 If anyone seems to himself to have knowledge, so far he has not the right sort of knowledge about anything; 3 But if anyone has love for God, God has knowledge of him. 4 So, then, as to the question of taking food offered to images, we are certain that an image is nothing in the world, and that there is no God but one. 5 For though there are those who have the name of gods, in heaven or on earth, as there are a number of gods and a number of lords, 6 There is for us only one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we are for him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we have our being through him."

COMMENTS: Though most Christians in our present time may not encounter food offered to idols (images), various common practices may seem to new Christians to be associated with pagan belief. Paul said loving concern for other Christians shown by refraining from certain things, is better than fully exercising freedom in Christ that is verified in scripture. There are many forms of gods and lords in the world, but every Christian should be secure in the truth that there is only one God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom are all things; and we have our new life through the true and living God. As Christians mature in knowledge of the scripture, there can be a danger of allowing that knowledge to lead to pride in applying freedom found in Christ, and this can be damaging to those Christians and to others around them who are not seemingly as well grounded. When Jesus summarized the commandments of God, love was a key word in both parts. Matthew 22 ď34 But the Pharisees, hearing how the mouths of the Sadducees had been stopped, came together; 35 And one of them, a teacher of the law, put a question to him, testing him, and saying, 36 Master, which is the chief rule in the law? 37 And he said to him, Have love for the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest rule. 39 And a second like it is this, Have love for your neighbour as for yourself. 40 On these two rules all the law and the prophets are based.Ē


B - PAUL WOULD FOREGO THINGS THAT CAUSED OTHERS TO STUMBLE

1 Corinthians 8 "7 Still, all men have not that knowledge: but some, being used till now to the image, are conscious that they are taking food which has been offered to the image; and because they are not strong in the faith, their minds are troubled. 8 But Godís approval of us is not based on the food we take: if we do not take it we are no worse for it; and if we take it we are no better. 9 But take care that this power of yours does not give cause for trouble to the feeble. 10 For if a man sees you, who have knowledge, taking food as a guest in the house of an image, will it not give him, if he is feeble, the idea that he may take food offered to images? 11 And so, through your knowledge, you are the cause of destruction to your brother, for whom Christ underwent death. 12 And in this way, doing evil to the brothers, and causing trouble to those whose faith is feeble, you are sinning against Christ. 13 For this reason, if food is a cause of trouble to my brother, I will give up taking meat for ever, so that I may not be a cause of trouble to my brother."

COMMENTS: Since there are some Christians with weak levels of confidence in the security they have in the Lord, they can be troubled if they are confronted with situations that seem completely unacceptable for a believer. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, they were very familiar with the practice of pagans eating food that had first been offered to one of the idols they worshipped. Paul firmly stated that God does not judge a believer based on whether or not such food is eaten. But if there is any practice a mature believer might follow with clear conscience that it is not sinful, it should be first considered in light of the effect it could have on another less mature believer. Paul made a strong statement when he said it is a sin against the Lord to do evil and cause trouble by having no concern about the way your actions might affect a weaker believer. Paul said that if such a thing by him would cause spiritual trouble to another believer, he would give it up forever. In the next passage he underscores another example of this attitude in himself especially as an Apostle of Christ.


C - THE WORKER IS WORTHY OF RECEIVING WAGES

1 Corinthians 9 "1 Am I not free? am I not an Apostle? have I not seen Jesus our Lord? are you not my work in the Lord? 2 If to others I am not an Apostle, at least I am one to you: for the fact that you are Christians is the sign that I am an Apostle. 3 My answer to those who are judging me is this. 4 Have we no right to take food and drink? 5 Have we no right to take about with us a Christian wife, like the rest of the Apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? 6 Or I only and Barnabas, have we no right to take a rest from work? 7 Who ever goes to war without looking to someone to be responsible for his payment? who puts in vines and does not take the fruit of them? or who takes care of sheep without drinking of their milk? 8 Am I talking as a man? does not the law say the same? 9 For it says in the law of Moses, It is not right to keep the ox from taking the grain when he is crushing it. Is it for the oxen that God is giving orders? 10 Or has he us in mind? Yes, it was said for us; because it is right for the ploughman to do his ploughing in hope, and for him who is crushing the grain to do his work hoping for a part in the fruits of it. 11 If we have been planting the things of the Spirit for you, does it seem a great thing for you to give us a part in your things of this world? 12 If others have a part in this right over you, have we not even more? But we did not make use of our right, so that we might put nothing in the way of the good news of Christ."

COMMENTS: Paul wanted the Corinthians to consider what he had further said he would give up for others even though he had seen the Lord Jesus, and he now had freedom as an Apostle. Though others may not have accepted Paul as an Apostle, he said the Christians at Corinth were his work in the Lord, and that was a sign to them that he was an Apostle. Paul's answer to those who might criticize him, was that he had a right for many types of food and drink. He also had the right to take a Christian wife as other Apostles had done. Interestingly he mentioned the brothers of the Lord and Cephas among those with wives, and it is not trivial that he said "Christian" wives. He then included Barnabas with himself when he asked if they did not have the right for some rest from work.

Paul gave examples of those who are compensated by others when they are performing various types of service. It is expected that those who go to war can look to someone to be responsible for paying them. Those who plants vines eat some of the fruit as proper compensation, and those who tend sheep likewise have some milk to drink. These examples were common practice throughout the society of that period, and Paul said even the law of Moses contains an expression of this concept regarding the source of compensation for those directly serving the Lord. Deuteronomy 25 "4 Do not keep the ox from taking the grain when he is crushing it." Paul said this phrase was given especially to be applied to the worker because it is right for the ploughman to do his ploughing in hope, and for him who is crushing the grain to do his work hoping for a part in the fruits of it. Therefore, Paul applied a metaphor that he has been planting the things of the Spirit for the Corinthians. Did it seem unreasonable to them to respond by giving part of their material supply for his need? Paul said others had this right to receive from the Corinthians, and his right should be all the more. But Paul did not make use of his right because he did not want anything to be misunderstood that could hinder the effective spread of the good news of Christ.


D - PAUL DID NOT WANT COMPENSATION FROM THE CORINTHIANS

1 Corinthians 9 "13 Do you not see that the servants of the holy things get their living from the Temple, and the servants of the altar have their part in the food which is offered on the altar? 14 Even so did the Lord give orders that the preachers of the good news might get their living from the good news. 15 But I have not made use of any of these things: and I am not writing this in the hope that it may be so for me: for it would be better for me to undergo death, than for any man to make this pride of mine of no effect. 16 For if I am a preacher of the good news, I have no cause for pride in this; because I am forced to do so, for a curse is on me if I do not. 17 But if I do it gladly, I have a reward; and if not, I am under orders to do it. 18 What then is my reward? This, that when I am giving the good news, I may give it without payment, not making use of my rights as a preacher of the good news."

COMMENTS: Paul made reference to the scriptural record familiar to Jews concerning those who served at the temple and the altar of God. His statement that the Lord gave orders that preachers of the gospel were to make their living from that work, was the instructions from Jesus when he sent out seventy others in addition to the twelve Apostles, to spread the gospel. Luke 10 "5 And whenever you go into a house, first say, Peace be to this house. 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will be with him: but if not, it will come back to you again. 7 And keep in that same house, taking what food and drink they give you: for the worker has a right to his reward. Do not go from house to house."

Paul said he had not made use of his right in that respect, and even now he was not asking for any compensation from the Corinthians. He would rather die than have his reason for glory for the Lord taken from him. There is no personal pride when he preaches the gospel of Christ because he would be accursed if he did not preach. Paul then said if he did it gladly, he had a reward; and if not, he was under orders to do it. His reward therefore was that he could give the good news without payment, not making use of his rights as a preacher of that gospel message. This may seem somewhat contradictory without realizing the drive and power the Lord places within some He chooses.

Jeremiah 20 "9 And if I say, I will not keep him in mind, I will not say another word in his name; then it is in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am tired of keeping myself in, I am not able to do it. 10 For numbers of them say evil secretly in my hearing (there is fear on every side): they say, Come, let us give witness against him; all my nearest friends, who are watching for my fall, say, It may be that he will be taken by deceit, and we will get the better of him and give him punishment. 11 But the Lord is with me as a great one, greatly to be feared: so my attackers will have a fall, and they will not overcome me: they will be greatly shamed, because they have not done wisely, even with an unending shame, kept in memory for ever." The power to share the gospel comes from the Lord despite all circumstances, and therefore all praise is owed to the Lord.


E - PAUL SERVED JEW AND GENTILE TO PRESENT SALVATION IN THE LORD

1 Corinthians 9 "19 For though I was free from all men, I made myself a servant to all, so that more might have salvation. 20 And to the Jews I was as a Jew, so that I might give the good news to them; to those under the law I was the same, not as being myself under the law, but so that I might give the good news to those under the law. 21 To those without the law I was as one without the law, not as being without law to God, but as under law to Christ, so that I might give the good news to those without the law. 22 To the feeble, I was as one who is feeble, so that they might have salvation: I have been all things to all men, so that some at least might have salvation. 23 And I do all things for the cause of the good news, so that I may have a part in it. 24 Do you not see that in a running competition all take part, but only one gets the reward? So let your minds be fixed on the reward. 25 And every man who takes part in the sports has self-control in all things. Now they do it to get a crown which is of this world, but we for an eternal crown. 26 So then I am running, not uncertainly; so I am fighting, not as one who gives blows in the air: 27 But I give blows to my body, and keep it under control, for fear that, after having given the good news to others, I myself might not have Godís approval."

COMMENTS: Paul wanted to have the best opportunity to reach all people with the gospel of Christ. he was not being deceptive when he would show respect to Jewish traditions or accept strict observance of the law. To those who were without the law, he did not impose the law even though he always remained under the law of Christ. He was gentle and sparing of stronger details to those who needed a very basic presentation. His intention was to always have the most appropriate method of sharing the gospel to those he addressed that some might be saved. Paul wanted all of his efforts to be used that he would have a part for the cause of the good news of Christ. Paul's last examples in this section relate to athletic competition.

Many may compete in a race, but only one gets the reward. And as the competitors prepare they must follow appropriate disciplines. But the reward for competitions in this world is a crown that will perish. But all the disciplines that a Christian should follow are in expectation of receiving an eternal crown, and the minds of each Christian should be fixed on that reward. Paul said his running was not at all in uncertainty, and he did not have fighting blows going wildly into the air. His "blows" would go to is own body to keep it under control, ďfor the fear of God that, after having given the good news to others, I myself might not have Godís approval.Ē This was an expression of the extreme level of Paul's humility in knowing his undeserved grace of God. He gave more personal detail about this in chapter fifteen.

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

Lord, by the strength you provide to me through your love, I want to have the presence of mind to put love first in my interaction with others. I want to take a loving approach with Christians who follow very strict religious traditions that are more stringent than mine. I thank you, Lord, that there are workers in your harvest field who draw their full compensation from supporters, others who may work part time to supplement income, and still others who may work full time and still have an effective ministry for your kingdom. Paul wanted to have a personal approach to serve both Jew and Gentile, since the wall of separation between them was removed in Christ. I ask that you would guide my prayers and any contributions I can make to help remove the many walls of separation around the world today that hinder the spread and acceptance of the gospel. Amen.

Published 25 March 2018