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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Skip Heitzig » Skip Heitzig - 1 Corinthians 9

Skip Heitzig - 1 Corinthians 9

Skip Heitzig - 1 Corinthians 9
Skip Heitzig - 1 Corinthians 9
TOPICS: Expound, 1 Corinthians, Bible Study

Good evening. Turn in your Bibles, please, to the book of 1 Corinthians, Chapter 9. If you are new to Wednesday nights, most of you probably are familiar with our format. But if you are new, first of all, welcome. We're glad you're here. And we want you to know that for the next hour almost, we will be in the word of God. Wednesday night's a little bit different format. It's not a sermon, per se, like a Sunday morning homiletic outline and delivery like that. It is our verse-by-verse, line-on-line study of the Bible book by book, chapter by chapter, book by book, through the entire scripture. We happen to be in 1 Corinthians. We're tonight in Chapter 9.

We have somebody that I just want to make mention of. So Richard, I know you travel 80 miles one way and then drive home 80 miles from out West. But we have a couple here, Mike and Cindy, from Connecticut, who are here tonight. Just stand up and say hi real quick. Just take a second. OK, great. So they came from Connecticut. And you came all the way out here to come to church. That's what you said. And it snowed. And yeah, we give you snow. This last week, we had to cancel. But so speaking of that, last week, we were poised. I was here ready to go for the study. We then had to cancel it due to weather.

But I was in the foyer. And one of my staff members introduced me to a young couple from Chicago. And I met them, and they said, we listen to you. We watch you online. And I said, great. Well, what brings you out to Albuquerque? And they said the same thing. They said, we flew out here to come to Wednesday night Bible study. And I said, well, I hate to tell you, but Wednesday night's canceled. That's the snow. Now, they're from Chicago, like you guys are from Connecticut. They see the snow last week, what? What?

That's like nothing. That happens like all day long where they're from. But like, we're weasels. We're wimps. We can't handle it. We're not having church. So I felt for them. So I took them in the coffee shop and just spent a little time getting to know them, spent about an hour with them. And they told me their testimony, their background, how they met, the journey of faith. They're both young professionals. And then they had a few questions about the Word, about their relationship, and so forth, their family. And I thought of this epistle. Because in this letter, they had some questions for Paul. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians based upon two things.

If you remember, I've told you before, number one, a report that came from the household of Chloe, that there were divisions among them, number one. Number two, the Corinthians themselves asked several questions about things Paul had not yet covered. And we know what those things are, because there's a phrase that is used over and over again, where Paul introduces a new subject. And it's the phrase, now concerning. And so in Chapter 7, verse 1, "now concerning the things of which you wrote to me," and he starts going through that; then in Chapter 7, verse 25, "now concerning virgins"; and then in Chapter 8, verse 1, "now concerning things offered to idols"; then in Chapter 12, "now concerning spiritual gifts." He is addressing, one by one, issues, questions, that they had of Paul. And so Paul goes in the letter to answer them, to unfold them.

So we are smack dab in the middle of Paul dealing with the issue of personal liberty. So in Chapter 1, he talked about things offered to idols, and we all have knowledge, but we really should mingle our knowledge with our love. So what Paul is dealing with, and he continues to deal with it, this is all a setup for Chapter 9, he continues to deal with the issue of personal Christian liberty, what I can and cannot do as a Christian.

I remember when I was a young Christian, a brand new believer. I came to faith when I was 18 years of age. I smoked cigarettes. And I started when I was 10. And I was 18. I was smoking a cigarette. A lot of us did back then, didn't think, it was a vise. It was a habit. We didn't consider it sinful. But it was an issue among other believers who saw that and had issues with us, problems with it. And it wasn't very long where I just decided, all things are lawful for me, but not all things are expedient, Chapter 6 of 1 Corinthians. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any, also 1 Corinthians, Chapter 6 and 10. All things are lawful for me, but not all things build up, or edify, 1 Corinthians, Chapter 10.

So I decided, I don't need it. I'll give it up. I won't let it control me. By God's grace, I want to control it. So it's not like, if I continued to smoke, I would go to hell because I smoked. But some Christians get the idea, oh, really? You're going to go to hell, because that's where all the smoke is anyway, so, if you're into it, go. Go for it. But we're not saved by works. We're saved by God's grace through our faith. We simply believe in him God declares us justified, just as if we had never sinned. And that's our standing before God.

But is it OK for a Christian to smoke a cigarette? Is it OK for Christians to watch movies? Is it OK for Christians to listen to certain kinds of music? These are the questions that we sometimes have. We would call them gray areas. They're not hard and fast, right and wrong, at least in our minds. So Paul gives us some good Biblical counsel of how to deal with that.

Now, in the days of the New Testament, in Corinth, they weren't asking, is it OK for Christians to go to movies or listen to certain records? They didn't have records. They didn't have movies. Their big issue was, can I go down to Blake's Pagan Burger and have a Zeus burger with Aphrodite cheese on top? Right? That was the issue, meat that was sacrificed to idols.

Now, whenever we ask questions like, is it OK for a Christian to do this or that and still be a Christian, we're asking the wrong question. Because essentially, what we're seeing is, what can I do and still get away with it and still be a Christian? That's like, what are the minimum requirements? Well, the only requirement is the requirement of faith. But why would you ever want to stay at ABC, when you can go on and graduate with your PhD in following the Lord? Why would you want to stay back in kindergarten, when you can grow up and grow in faith? So the question isn't, what can I get away with? But what ways in my life can I further honor and glorify my Lord? And dream big in that.

So we are asking the wrong questions. But Paul is dealing with those issues in Chapter 8 and on into Chapter 9. He continues this thought. Our personal liberty, what I can and can't do, mixed with responsibility, my personal liberty, my responsibility. I can do all things. All things are lawful for me, but I do have a responsibility to others. That's why Paul said, look, if my eating meat is going to cause somebody to stumble, I'll never eat meat again. I would rather prefer to show love to them than stumble a weaker brother or sister.

He continues in Chapter 9, but he is using himself as an example. And he's going to give an example of his own apostleship, that he has certain rights, certain privileges, in the calling that God has given him as an apostle. And yet, because of something that he feels the Lord put in his heart, he would forego certain privileges that people in the ministry, apostles like Paul, are entitled to. But he himself, and he said, it's fine. Peter does it. The brothers of the Lord do it. Other apostles do this. But here's just, I have foregone those privileges, because something God has put on his heart. And we're going to read what that is.

Now, I'm setting it all up, but as part of that, so he's going to use himself as an example. But one thing we read as we go through 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians, is there were some people in Corinth, obviously, who had a problem with Paul's authority as an apostle. And they questioned his authority as an apostle. And Paul is, in part, dealing with that, but really using himself as an example of liberty. You'll see how it all ties together.

So he begins by saying, am I not an apostle? These are rhetorical questions. We would say, yes, Paul, you are an apostle. "Am I not free?" Yes, Paul, you are free. "Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord." Paul is setting out, first of all, the proof of his calling, his apostleship. One of the qualifications to be an apostle is you had to have seen the Lord.

Now, we know that Paul saw the Lord when? He went to Damascus. Damascus Road. He was on the way up to persecute believers. He had a vision of the Lord appearing to him. Who are you, Lord? The Lord said, I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. And later on, he says, in that event I saw the Lord. That was one of the qualifications to be a New Testament apostle. You had to have seen the Lord. Let me take you back to the book of Acts. You don't have to turn there. But in Acts, Chapter 1, after Judas died, he hung himself, so there's a vacancy in the slot of twelve apostles, right? One's gone.

Peter stands up, and he says, look, Judas, he croaked. He's dead. He killed himself. I'm paraphrasing a little bit, of course. He didn't say croaked. But anyway, he kicked the bucket. He's gone. And there's this scripture. He quotes a scripture that it's fulfilled. Let another take his office. He stands up and says, this was anticipated by God. But he said, we need to find a replacement, and it has to be somebody who saw the risen Lord, has seen the risen Lord.

Now, Paul the apostle was not somebody who filled the slot of those original 12. Because Peter said he had to have been with us from the beginning of Jesus's ministry, at his baptism, until his ascension, and be a witness of the risen Lord. Now, Paul did see the Lord in the vision to Damascus, but Paul wasn't following with the clan of disciples from the calling of Jesus at the Jordan River until his ascension. So he's not in that list of those 12. But that was one of the qualifications. You have to have seen the Lord. Paul said, I meet that qualification. I've seen the Lord. Another qualification is the qualification of signs and wonders. In 2 Corinthians, Chapter 12, he says, the signs of an apostle were wrought in me. Now, Paul is called, in scripture, an apostle to the Gentiles, an apostle to the Gentiles. Here he says, my proof of apostleship is, number one, I've seen the Lord.

Number two, you guys in Corinth, you're the proof of the pudding. I've established churches. I've seen the work of God through you, he says, in verse 2. You are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. Now, that idea of a seal, let me just explain that. In ancient times, if you had cargo, and you shipped it from one place to another, they would take a wax seal and take the imprint of the signet ring or the seal, if it was bigger than a ring, and put that in the wax, on the cargo. So that when it got to port, and it was to be reclaimed, you could show, by showing that you have the same seal, you could show that I'm the authentic owner, or these are the authentic goods that will go to the person on the other end.

There was a seal. There was a proof of ownership. Also, seals were put on title deeds, on wills. In the Book of Revelation, Jesus the Lamb of God takes the scroll with seven seals and breaks the seals, proving that he is the, indeed, owner of the earth, and takes the title deed, and unfurls it. So Paul says, the proof of my apostleship is the fact that I've come to Corinth, and this church has been established. You are my seal. You are the proof that I am authentic, that I'm the real deal. Just because you have a business card that says doctor or reverend or minister, or whatever, that is not proof. The proof is in the results of the gift. So if somebody is called to be an evangelist, how do you know that person is called to be an evangelist? Very easy, people get saved.

If somebody is called to be a pastor-teacher, how do you know they're really called? People get fed. So you see the results in the seal that proves the authenticity. So he said, you are it. You are my seal. Are you not, verse 1, are you not my work in the Lord? This brings up a question about apostleship. I have been asked this on a few occasions. Are the apostles something from the past? Is apostleship over with? Or are there apostles today? And here's the answer. Yes and no. Yes, or no, there are no more apostles after the 12 apostles. Yes, in a functional sense, apostleship is a gift that continues. In a firm sense, in a strict sense, there were only 12 apostles.

And this is why Peter made a big deal out of getting somebody to succeed Judas. In Matthew, chapter 19, Jesus told the 12 apostles, he said, in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of his glory, you also will sit on 12 thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel. So he promised them a front row seat and a cabinet position in the millennial kingdom next to him. The 12 apostles get to fulfill that role. OK, well, we have a problem, because Judas kicked the bucket. He committed suicide, betrayed the Lord. You know the story. So to Peter, that vacancy has to be filled. Jesus made a promise. That vacancy has to be filled.

So you remember, in Acts, Chapter 1, there were two different people, one by the name of Joseph, also called Barsabbas, whose surname was Justus. That was one guy; the other guy, Mathias. And it's an interesting thing. I trust the Lord is in it, but they cast lots. Instead of, let's just pray about it, and the Lord will reveal it to us, let's just throw the dice. And they cast the lots, and the lot fell on Mathias. So he is the one numbered among the 12. That was considered the one adopted in Judas's place. So in the Millennium, I anticipate seeing Matthias on that 12th throne.

People would say, oh, wait a minute. What about Paul the apostle? I believe Paul is an apostle. Paul, an apostle by the will of God, he opens most of his letters with. And there's proof of that. But Paul the apostle isn't the same as the original 12 apostles. In the New Testament, they taught the apostles' doctrine. Paul said, the foundation of the church was built upon the apostles and the prophets. So I think there are 12 original apostles. And in a firm sense, there are no more. That does not continue today. But in a functional sense, it does. Because did you know that the term apostle shows up about 75 times in the New Testament, and it doesn't just refer to the 12? Sometimes Paul is called an apostle. Sometimes Barnabas is called an apostle. Sometimes Timothy is called an apostle. On one occasion, Andronicus and Junia are called apostles.

So there are names of other people besides the 12 and besides even Paul, that are also called apostles. So you say, well, what does that mean exactly in a functional sense? I believe a modern apostle is a missionary, somebody who is sent out from a church, usually goes into an area, plants and sows and works in an area, spiritually speaking. And that's how the New Testament, I believe, treated that functional gift of apostleship.

So for example, there was a document after the New Testament called the Didache. Some of you have heard me refer to that over the years, the Didache, or the Didache, it's said in Greek. The Didache is a document that is considered the teaching of the apostles. And it was an instruction manual for local churches on how to spot a true prophet from a false prophet, a true missionary, it is called, the idea of somebody sent out who is a missionary, and how to spot a true or a false one.

So in a functional sense, I think a missionary fulfills an apostolic role. So know there are no more apostles. Yes, there are many more apostles. That make sense? OK. "Am I not an apostle?" Yep, you are. Verse 2, "If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you." I came to your area of Corinth, spent 18 months in that area, led people to Christ, planted a church, taught you, and then moved on. "My defense to those who examined me is this, do we have no right to eat and drink? Do we have no right to take along a believing wife as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working?"

Now, this is sarcasm. He's making a sarcastic remark. Look, all the other people that are even sent out by you have certain rights and privileges. Is it only myself, Paul, and Barnabas who have no rights whatsoever, except we have to work and provide for ourselves? Now, Paul did work when he came to Corinth. We're told the story in Acts, Chapter 18. He comes to Corinth. He meets a couple who got kicked out of Rome. They were tentmakers by trade. Their name was Priscilla and Aquila. Paul met them. He was a tent maker. the Greek word, somebody who works with hides and carves them up and makes tents, usually out of either cloth or most typically, hides. That's what he worked with. Paul was professionally, worked in the secular field as a tentmaker. So he came into that area, worked with tents, worked in that tent guild with that couple, and provided for himself.

Here he gives a defense. Don't we have the right to eat or drink? That is, don't we have the right, as apostles, those sent out, church planters, missionaries, don't we have the right to be supported by the flock or by the church, so that we can eat and drink in that provision? "Do we have no right to take along a believing wife as do the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?"

Now, Cephas, or Peter, is mentioned. There's no record that Peter ever went to Corinth. But because there was a following in Corinth, people followed Peter. We learned that in Chapter 1 and 2. Some said, I'm of Paul, I'm of Cephas, I'm of Apollos. So there was the knowledge of Peter, and some people gravitated toward him as a natural leader. The New Testament indicates that Peter was married. Isn't that interesting? The first pope was married. I say that tongue in cheek. We know in the New Testament that Peter's wife's mother fell sick, and Jesus healed her.

So apparently, after the resurrection, when Peter would travel and do his ministry, he took along his wife. And his wife was supported along with Peter. And that was the practice of the other ones who were sent out, the other apostles, even the brothers of the Lord. They took their believing wives, and the churches took care of them, gave them financial remuneration. And Paul said, that is my right as well.

Now, he's going to give, in the next few verses, four arguments. And then he's going to bring it back. He's going to give four arguments why those in the ministry, including himself as an apostle, have the right to be supported by the people that they work with or are sent out from. He gives four arguments. The first argument is in verse 1, and that is the argument of comparison. Hey, I'm going to compare myself to Peter, to the other apostles. They have the right. If they have the right, than I have the right. That's the first argument, the argument of comparison, comparing himself to other servants of the Lord.

The second argument is in verse 7. That's the argument from human experience. Here it is. "Whoever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?" If you were to go to war for any army of any nation on this earth, the army would not say to you, welcome to your army, but you have to buy your own gun and your own bullets. Or if you wanted to join the United States Air Force and fly an F-18, they wouldn't say, well, you know, usually the F-18s run about $66.9 million, but we'll sell it to you for $50 million. But you have to buy it. Then you can fly in our Air Force.

No, they will provide that very expensive piece of equipment for you to fly. Because whoever goes to war at his own expense? The government will take care of that. The country, the nation, the army, will pay for that. That's just human experience. "Whoever plants a vineyard and does not eat if it's fruit?" Go out there and grab some of the grapes and go, mah, I won't pick them yet. There's still a little bit sour. But a couple of weeks, no problem. Or take them home, put them on your table. "Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock? Do I say these things as a mere man, or does not the law say the same thing also?"

Now he gives the third argument, the argument from scripture, the law. And the law he is referring to is Deuteronomy, Chapter 25, verse 4. He quotes that, verse 9. "For it is written in the law of Moses, you shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain." You understand that picture, right? They had a threshing floor. It was flat, usually made out of stone. And they would take the sheaves of the harvested wheat and lay them all out in the threshing floor. Then they would have their oxen usually just get on top of it and just walk. And it would crush the chaff from the edible part underneath it.

And then the guy would come in the afternoon, when the breezes come by, toss it up in the air with the winnowing fork. The wind would come by and blow the chaff away, and the heavier kernels of grain would fall down to the threshing floor. But since you have the ox walking around all day long on the threshing floor, doing the work for you, you don't put a muzzle on its mouth. You let it eat whatever it finds on the threshing floor. It would be cruel to put a device on an ox while he is doing the work for you. You let him eat part of it. So that's the scripture in Deuteronomy. Paul quotes Deuteronomy 25, and then he applies it.

He says, "Is it oxen that God is concerned about, or does he say it altogether for our sakes?" Then he answers the question. "For our sakes, no doubt." He didn't write that down for oxen. Oxens don't have Bibles. They don't look that stuff up, claim that verse as their own. That was a principle that also covers what we do as apostles. It was written for our sakes, no doubt. "This is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, that he who threshes in hope should be a partaker of his hope. If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a big deal or a great thing if we reap your material things?"

We came to Corinth. You didn't know about Christ. We spread the gospel. We shared the gospel. Many of you responded. Now you have relationships that are vibrant with Christ, and you're part of a vibrant Christian community. You're growing in your faith. There is spiritual fruit. We have worked spiritually in Corinth. Is it really a big deal if we are to partake of your material blessings, if you support those who did that?

Now, that is the same principle, by the way, in Romans, Chapter 15. I just remind you of it. In verse 25, he says, "Now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the Saints. For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors.

For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty", that is the Gentile duty, "is also to minister to them in material things." Same principle, the Jewish people gave Gentile believers a foundation, a heritage. Now in Jerusalem, they're losing their jobs, because they're temple-related. The Pharisees are making all the people who believe in Christ and preach the resurrection, they're making them forfeit their income and their financial benefit.

So Paul went out and took a collection of the Gentile churches for the poor believers in Jerusalem with the same principle. They've given us a spiritual heritage. Is it a big deal if we give them a material investment, or heritage? So he had no qualms in receiving an offering for that reason. That's the idea in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 9.

"If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?" He continues. "If others are protectors of this right over you, are we not even more? Nevertheless, we have not used this right, but endure all things, lest we hinder the gospel of Christ." OK, that's the real overriding thought of these two chapters. Remember what we read in Chapter 8? I can do everything, but for the sake of love, I won't do certain things. If it means eating meat, if eating meat causes you to stumble, I won't do it. So I will say no to a certain privilege that I have, even though I know that there is no such thing as an idol. It's not a real god. It's a false god. There's nothing really behind it.

So I have that knowledge, but I balance out my knowledge with love. Now Paul is applying it personally. I as an apostle have the right to receive offerings from you, be supported by you. Peter does it. The other apostles do it. The brothers of the Lord do it. But even though I have that right, he said, "nevertheless we have not used this right." This is Paul restraining himself, saying no to a right that he had, a privilege that he had. "But we endure all things, lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who minister the holy things of the things in the temple and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar?"

So in Jerusalem, whether it's a burnt offering or a peace offering or a meal offering or a burnt offering, the priest always got a portion that was for himself and his family. Part of it was offered to the Lord. Sometimes the entire animal was, in a burnt offering, was offered to the Lord. But the priest was able to take home the hides of the animals so they could be used for his own tent or for coverings for his family. In other cases, he got a portion of the meat, like the thigh or the right shoulder. And other portions, he was given a token of the meal offering. He always got a portion of the sacrifice that was given. So that is the argument from scripture.

"Even so", verse 14, "the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel." That's his fourth argument. The fourth argument of why it's OK for apostles or servants of the Lord to take financial remuneration from those that they work around is because Jesus Himself said so. The Lord said so. That's the idea when it says, the Lord commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel. Well, where did Jesus command that? When he sent the 12 out around Galilee, in the Gospel of Matthew, he sent them out, and he said, now, when you enter into a village, don't take gold, silver, or copper in your money belt. Don't take a bag. Don't take two tunics. Don't take sandals. Don't take a staff. For the workmen is worthy of his wage.

Eat the things they put before you. The Lord is going to take care of you. Use the hospitality of the people you go to. So Paul remembers that Jesus said that, that it's quoted from the Gospels, and he brings that up here. It's the argument from Jesus Christ. "The Lord has commanded, those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel. But I", verse 15, "I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things, that should be done so for me. For it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my boasting void.

For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of. For necessity is laid upon me. Yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel." And I will say, woe is you if you do not preach the gospel. "For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship. What is my reward, then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel." Paul wanted to be able to boast not in himself, but in the fact that God had been so good to him, that he didn't need, when he came to Corinth, to take any kind of financial benefit from the Corinthians. He was a tentmaker. He had the wherewithal to provide for himself.

That doesn't mean he never took financial support. He did. When he writes 2 Corinthians, he makes a reference to this. He said, I robbed other churches that I might minister to you. Didn't mean he literally went in and stole from them. But the idea is that he let others give to his ministry so that he could minister freely to the Corinthians. He was still getting support not from Corinth, but from other places so that he could minister to Corinth.

Also, when he wrote to the Philippians, he said, you did send aid once and again for my necessities. So he received from different places to be able to minister. And in the case of Corinth, he wanted to be able to say to them, though I have certain rights as a leader, as a pastor, as an apostle, as a teacher, I have forsaken that right, so that I can have the absolute freedom in the Lord as a labor of love. But I love this. I love verse 16 and 17. "For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of. For necessity is laid upon me. Yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel."

There was a compulsion in Paul. He was driven by the calling that God gave him. On that Damascus Road, the Lord told him, you will be a vessel to bear my name before the Gentiles, before kings, and before the children of Israel. And when you read his life from that point on, it's like this guy is like the Eveready bunny, right? Is that even a thing anymore? That's probably such an old commercial. So you wind it up, and it keeps going.

So Paul, just nothing dissuaded him. He just kept moving on from place to place, get beat up, thrown in jail, moves on, gets up, wipes the blood off his face, goes back into town in Lystra and Derbe, preaches again, unstoppable. When he wrote to the Galatians, he said, I was separated from my mother's womb to be an apostle.

We at this church have a process of ordination, where we take young men in the ministry, watch their lives, and identify their gifts, lay hands on them. We take them through a course so they can learn the theological implications and be suited theologically to do it. But it's not like, well, you know, I think I'd like to be in the ministry. If you think you'd like to be in the ministry, you shouldn't be in the ministry.

Charles Spurgeon had a school of ministry, a class, and he told his students, if you can do anything else in the world besides preach the gospel, if you can do that, do it. His implication was, it's only if you have to preach the gospel. I have to be in the ministry, not like, yeah, I think that'd be a good gig. Maybe I'll try this. Don't do it. If you can be satisfied doing anything else, do that thing. I know for me, there's only one thing I can do. It's what I do. There's a certain compulsion. You want to make sure you have to do it.

Acts, Chapter 20, before Paul left Ephesus, he said to the elders, take heed to yourselves and to the flock, whom the Holy Spirit made you overseers. And it's until you know that the Lord has made you for that thing, to do that thing, otherwise you shouldn't touch it. Charles Spurgeon put it this way. He said, "All are not called to labor in word and doctrine, to be elders or to exercise the office of a bishop, nor should all aspire to such works, since the gifts necessary are nowhere promise to all. But those should", and listen to his words, "but those should addict themselves to such important engagements who feel, like the apostle, that they have received this ministry.

No man may intrude into the sheepfold as an undershepherd. He must have an eye to the Chief Shepherd and wait his beck and command. Before a man ever stands forth as God's ambassador, he must wait for the call from above. If he does not do so, but rushes into the sacred office, the Lord will say of him and others like him, I sent them not, neither commanded them. Therefore, they shall not profit this people at all, saith the Lord," quoting Jeremiah 23. Speaking of Jeremiah, now there was a guy who knew he was called. Jeremiah got beaten up. Jeremiah got thrown into a dungeon. Jeremiah sunk in the miry clay. And life got so bad for Jeremiah, that one day, he said, I'm done. I quit.

I'm never going to speak another word in his name. I'm leaving the ministry. I've been a prophet. I want to be a non-prophet organization from this day forward. Turned in his resignation. But you know what he said after that. But his word was in my bones like fire. I couldn't contain it. That's how Paul felt. I have a compulsion. If I do it willingly, I get a reward. If I do it not willingly, I still do it out of obedience, whether I feel like it or not, in season or out of season, week in, week out. I want to be faithful to the Lord.

"I've been entrusted with the stewardship. What is my reward, then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge", he did that to the Corinthians, though he took financial backing from the Philippines and other churches, "that I might not abuse my authority in the gospel."

I loved the day when our media got to the place, where instead of having cassette tapes, like the old days, when if you liked a message, you would go to the tape room and buy a cassette tape. Or then you would buy a CD, because that was cool now. We have CDs. Most people don't even know what that stuff is. A cassette tape is like in a museum. That's antiquity.

But I love the technology that we now enjoy, that you have MP3 and MP4 files that you can download free of charge, and we can broadcast through a number of different ways around the world. And people can get on the website and get any message ever preached absolutely free. When that day happened, I thought, hallelujah, now the word of God can spread more easily.

"For", verse 19, "for though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more." That's his overriding motivation. "And to the Jews, I became as a Jew, that I might win the Jews; to those who are under the law, as those under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without the law, as without the law, not being without the law toward God, but under the law toward Christ, that I might win those who are without the law. To the weak, I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that by all means may save some." What does Paul mean by that? Does Paul mean that, I'm a chameleon, and I change, depending on what company I'm with? Sort of, but not in a licentious way.

It's not like, yeah, man, I go to the bars, and I drink with everybody else so the unbelievers think I'm as cool as they are. Now they'll listen to me. No, they won't, because they'll think you're just like them. Why should they be like you, since you're just like them? They want to see something different, something that stands out from that.

When Paul said, I become a Jew to the Jew, it simply means, I'm not bound to the law of Moses. I'm bound to the law of love, the law of Christ. So I keep my Jewish sensibilities and sensitivities. I know the culture. I know the language. I know the customs. And I can relate to them. And many times, we see Paul, for the sake of love and for the sake of the gospel, tend toward a Judaistic approach. For example, in Acts, Chapter 16, young Timothy, part Jewish, part Gentile, Gentile dad, Jewish mother, Timothy had never been circumcised, because of his Gentile dad. Paul took and had Timothy circumcised, not because circumcision saved Timothy, but now the Jewish audience in Lystra and Derbe will listen to the message of the gospel spoken of by Paul, because Timothy was circumcised, and they knew who he was.

In Cenchrea, in Acts, Chapter 18, Paul takes a Nazarite vow. He shaves his hair off, takes a vow, so that he can once again share the gospel. When he gets to Jerusalem, in Acts 21, the elders of the church say, there are four men here who have taken a Nazarite vow. Paul, we think you should take the vow with them and pay for their expenses, when they make the sacrifice in the temple.

So there's a few occasions when Paul, a Jew, became a Jew, that he might win the Jewish audience. When he was with Gentiles, he didn't necessarily feel it important to keep certain Jewish customs. Because again, he's not bound to the law of Moses. He is bound to the law of Christ and in this case, the law of love in Christ.

Here's an example. When Paul went to Athens, it says he went into the synagogue. He went into the marketplace, and then he went to the Areopagus, Mars Hill, three different places. He went to the synagogue, and in the synagogue, he was a Jew speaking to Jewish people. He would have used the law. He would have used the fulfillment of scripture in Christ to prove to the Jewish audience who Christ was.

But when he went into the marketplace, the Agora , which was the center of free speech and free ideas, sort of like a college campus, people could share their minds and debate issues, he took a different tact, not a Jewish approach. Then later on, he went to Mars Hill, the Areopagus, which where the governing body of philosophers were in charge. It would be sort of like going to the Oval Office and speaking to halls of power.

And when he's on the Areopagus, because he's speaking to philosophers, he quotes a 6th century BC Greek pagan philosopher. He says, for it says in your writings, "in him we live and move and have our being." That's a pagan philosopher he just quoted. "We also are his offspring," another pagan philosopher that he quoted. He has a very different approach to a Jew in the marketplace and in the Areopagus. So he is becoming all things to all men, that he might win some, save souls. Verse 23, "I do this for the gospel's sake, that I may be a partaker of it with you."

By the way, Jesus, himself, didn't have a single approach when he ministered to people. He didn't, like, put his hand on their shoulder every time and say, God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life and then have just a certain spiel. He gauged who his audience was. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a Jewish scholar. He spoke about the new birth. He used things from the Old Testament. When he spoke to the woman at the well, he didn't use that. He spoke about living water that could satisfy her soul, because of her past experiences. So depending on who he talked to, he tailored the same message, but in a different approach, becoming all things to all men, that he might win some. "A partaker of the gospel with you", we finish out the chapter and the last few verses.

"Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate or moderate in all things. Now, they do it to obtain a perishable crown. We do it for an imperishable crown. Therefore, I run this way", or thus, "not with uncertainty", I'm not out there for just a little jog, trying it out for a little bit, trying out my new running shoes, seeing if I like it that day or not. I don't run with uncertainty. "And thus I fight, not as one who beats the air."

I'm not just out shadowboxing. I'm not just posting on Instagram my cool boxing pose. I'm an actual fighter. I'm an actual runner, spiritually speaking. "I discipline my body, and I bring it into subjection, lest when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified." Now, we have studied that passage of scripture a number of times in depth. Let me just close this chapter by saying, it's not unusual for Paul to use analogies from the sporting world. He obviously loved sports. He used it on a number of occasions.

Acts, Chapter 20, which is the chapter I just mentioned, he said, wherever I go, the Holy Spirit tells me that bonds and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me, nor do I count my life dear to myself, that I might finish my race with joy. He saw his life, his ministry, as a race. At the end of his life, he said, I fought the good fight. I finished the race. I've kept the faith. In the letter to the Philippian church, he said, I press toward the goal of the mark of the high calling in Christ Jesus. That's language of a runner in the games, reaching for that square pillar at the end of that raceway in the gymnasium.

The Corinthians were like sporting freaks. They had the Olympics in Greece, but they had a game in Corinth called the Isthmian Games, every two years, that was almost as popular as the Olympics. Everybody in Corinth loved it, went to it, watched it. So he is pulling analogy from something they would be familiar with, speak of the Christian life. So he said, that's what I'm doing. I'm living my life. I'm making decisions because I'm running a race, and I have a goal in mind. So my decision as an apostle to go to certain places, to take support from one church, but not from another, all of that is prompted by a singular calling as an apostle, as one who loves the people for whom Christ died. And I'm running the race to win it. I'm in it to win it.

"And everyone who competes in the prize", verse 25, "is temperate in all things. They do it to obtain a perishable crown." It's interesting. When you would win first place in the Isthmian Games, or in the Olympics, for that matter, the first place wasn't $100,000 or even a gold medal. It was a little wreath of leaves they'd put on your head, sometimes olive, sometimes celery. In Corinth, wispy pine needle wreath was placed on the head. That's it, first place. You do all of that work to win a wreath, a crown, that in a weak, will wither away. You'll have it on your mantle, and you'll, come look at my gold medal, man. And it's just all wilted, kind of gnarly, hanging there. I mean, you did all that work for that? That's Paul's point. You did all of that work for that? He goes, we do it for an imperishable crown.

Now, an athlete makes decisions. An athlete says, I get up earlier. I work harder. I train longer. I don't eat Snickers. I don't have ice cream after dinner. I say no to outings with my friends so I can go to bed early and get a good night's sleep, so I can train tomorrow and the next day. They're very, very focused. They learn to say yes to certain things and no to certain things. Paul said, that's how I live my Christian life. I make decisions based upon my calling, and I do it to win. "Therefore, I run thus not with uncertainty. Thus, I fight not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified."

You and I are on a racetrack. There are a lot of ways you could look at the Christian life. It's a walk. You are walking with the Lord. It's a race. You are seeing the goal in the distance. If you take Paul's analogy, it's a race. How are you doing on the racetrack? Are you pacing yourself? You still at it? Or are you sort of meandering, strolling? Now you're taking the Instagram photos, and it's looking good. People think you're a runner. But you're really, well, what is that called? A poser, right? Or are you just one who used to run on the racetrack, and now you just sit in the bleachers and yell down what you think of those on the track? I don't like the way you're running. I think you should do it better.

Actually, some Christians, that's their whole life. All they do is sit from the bleachers, and look at those who are running, and say, I wouldn't do it that way. You shouldn't say it that way. You should do it this way or say it that way. Really? OK, how's your race? How are you running, man? Where are you going? We each have our own race, our own goal, our own calling, our own decisions to make. What propels us? What prompts us? The calling and the love of God in Christ.

Father, thank you for the incredible example of this apostle, this one who was sent out; in his own words, not an apostle by man, not an apostle by the will of men, but an apostle sent out by Christ. He lived his life. He made his choices, governed by that calling and prompted by Your love, not only Your love for him, but Your love for people, Jew and Gentile, so much so, that Paul would think, how can I win them? What conversation could I get into? What situation would lend itself to a way to reach into their heart and win that man or woman into a brother or sister? Lord, you have placed us where we are. By your calling, by your grace, here we are in this state, at this time, in this country, this period of history. There are certain things we may like about that situation. There are certain things we may not like about that situation. Sometimes we feel like our hearts in it. Sometimes we may not feel like our heart is in it at all. But it's a stewardship. And I pray, Lord, that you would just, by your Spirit now, begin to confirm what that calling is for us, what our place is in this community, in this church, at this time. And Lord, begin to give us eyes to see people, religious people, non-religious people, as potential brothers and sisters, potential children of God, entering into dialogues and conversations and meaningful relationships in a way that would be winsome for them, that we might not just be winsome to them, but win some of them to you. In Jesus' name. God's people said, amen.

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