Quick note: I was in the wilderness outside of Eugene over the weekend so I was unable to post yesterday. Now resuming a consistent schedule! 🙂
Do you like rhetorical questions? Well, of course. They work to make you think and agree with the speaker while not slapping your face like a statement. Paul uses them throughout 1 Corinthians 9. Wasn’t Paul as good (better) than any of the other leaders who were trying to claim the Corinthians attention? They were the church that he had planted, his workmanship, hands-on project (another interesting use of this word is in Ephesians 2:10). They were the seal of his apostleship, like the stamp of authenticity on a certificate.
Paul is talking like he is in the hot seat of a defense trial and needing to present his argument. Such patient responses! I often find myself responding in exasperation…
Paul fires off three examples of places where workers expect to receive part of the harvest: a solider, the master of a vineyard, and a shepherd. Hey, even Moses, the revered Jewish leader of the Old Testament expected the worker to be able to hope for part of the harvest. And Jesus has the final okay on it! Spiritual seeds should receive at least material things, Paul argues. I so often have it flipped around in my head, valuing the things that will disintegrate from this world more than God’s eternal treasures.
But Paul would rather work for his living than put any obstacle in the way of the gospel. His focus is not on this world. Why do I put so little value on heaven?
Next, Paul talked about his boasting rights. It was mandatory to preach the gospel. But if he did it without using the right of funding requests, he had a reward. How far would I go for the gospel? Paul gave everything, and saw an amazing community of believers spring up in the cities where God directed him.
Paul worked to be socially understandable to whichever group he was ministering to at the time. With the Jews, he acted under the Law of Moses, with the Gentiles he did not adhere to these rules, but followed the Law of Christ. Paul uses another metaphor of an athlete putting everything on the line for a perishable prize. Believers have so much more coming! So Paul disciplined his body and did not let himself sink back into the easy-chair of previous accomplishments, but continued working so that he wouldn’t fall after teaching so many. Pastors have a great deal of pressure and temptation – pray for them!
God, how far will I go to pursue You? Thank You for the leaders that boldly spread Your word. Please help them to have accountability and wisely guide their lives toward Yours as they lead others. And please help me to do the same in my responsibilities. Amen.