Calvary Chapel Leesville Sunday Morning Service – July 12, 2020
Recall that Paul wrote this letter from Ephesus to the church in Corinth which he had established a few years before. After beginning the letter with the traditional greetings, he got down to business addressing some of the sin issues in the Corinth church that he had heard about in Ephesus – divisions within the body and sexual immorality in particular. Beginning in chapter 7, he also began to answer some of the questions the Corinthians had asked him either by letter or by emissaries. Unfortunately, we don’t have the specifics of those questions available to us, so as we study the apostle’s answers, we have to read between the lines, and infer for ourselves what those questions might have been. Such is definitely the case here in chapter 9, which Paul devotes entirely to the subjects of financial support and personal freedoms for preachers of the Gospel.
To understand this chapter, it is important for us to keep a few things in mind (Acts 17:16 – 18:18).
- Remember that when Paul established the church, he had just come from Athens where he had little success winning believers. In Athens, he had attempted to persuade the philosophers of the city – who were famed as a people constantly seeking new knowledge – of the Truth of the Gospel with cleverly devised arguments. Having had little success using this approach in Athens, Paul had determined upon arrival in nearby Corinth “not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.“ By this straightforward, ‘just the facts‘ approach to his Gospel presentation, Paul had much greater success in convincing the Corinthians of the Truth than he had in Athens.
- Because of the tremendous work of salvation God had done through Paul’s preaching, he stayed on in Corinth for about eighteen months as what we would call today the “head pastor” of the church. The believers in Corinth truly were Paul’s spiritual children just as he reminds them here in the passage we’re considering today. During the time of his ministry in Corinth, Paul did not receive any monetary support from the church, but continued to work at his tent making trade along with two other church members – Priscilla and Aquila, who then accompanied him to Ephesus when he left Corinth.
- During that same period, Paul asked all the churches he had established or visited in Greece and in Asia Minor to make a donation to the poor believers in Jerusalem. There may have been a famine in Palestine during that time, so everyone there was suffering, but the Christians in particular would have been hit especially hard because following Jesus meant that they had been ejected from their synagogues. It is hard for us in the modern world to understand the serious repercussions of this for those brothers and sisters in the LORD. In ancient Jewish society, the synagogue was the hub of economic as well as spiritual activity. A person who was removed from their synagogue could not buy or sell anything within the Jewish community. Jesus had forewarned His disciples about this in the upper room on the night He was betrayed.
“They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.John 16:2 – NKJV
So keeping these things in mind, let’s launch into our study of 1 Corinthians 9.
1Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? 2If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you. For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.1 Corinthians 9:1-2 – NKJV
The Greek word ἀπόστολος apostolos here means a delegate, a messenger, or one sent forth with orders. This clearly applies to Paul, who was literally sent forth by the Jerusalem council (Acts 15) to bring their rulings to the churches he had previously established in Asia Minor. Furthermore, as Paul himself wrote at the end of 1 Corinthians 7, he was clearly under the direction of God’s Holy Spirit to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentile world. Traditionally in the church, the title of apostle has been used to refer specifically to those few men who saw the risen LORD Jesus. Paul is unique in this group, because his encounter with the LORD happened after Jesus’ ascension to the Father witnessed by the other “apostles.” Paul mentions this distinction and his own bona fides as one sent forth with orders later on in this letter. In particular, he reminds the church in Corinth in both these passages that it was by Paul’s preaching that they themselves received the Good News.
3For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. 9For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.1 Corinthians 15:3-9 – NKJV
NOTE – Paul emphasizes in 1 Corinthians 15:3 & 4 that the incarnation, death on the cross, and resurrection of Jesus were all “according to the Scriptures” in fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies which Paul – the Pharisee – had studied his entire life (c.f. Isaiah 53).
3My defense to those who examine me is this: 4Do we have no right to eat and drink? 5Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? 6Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working?1 Corinthians 9:3-6 – NKJV
The natural question that arises when we look at these few verses is exactly what were the accusations against which Paul felt compelled to defend himself and Barnabas? Unfortunately, no record has survived of these accusations so far as I know. Since Paul’s defense is contained here in this letter to the Corinthian church, we can infer that accusations came from someone within that body. This makes sense in the light of the fact that Paul began this letter with a condemnation of the divisions within the church body at Corinth. Those divisions may have come about at least partially due to accusations made against Paul and Barnabas by some faction inside the Corinthian church. However, the accusations that Paul addresses here in 1 Corinthians 9 might certainly have come from elsewhere, and been brought to Paul’s attention by messengers from Corinth. Paul may even have learned about them from somewhere else entirely, and merely included his response in 1 Corinthians 9, because he was writing a lengthy letter to them anyway, and wanted to take the opportunity to answer the accusations before news of them reached Corinth.
Regardless of where the accusations came from, though, it is apparent that someone was questioning Paul and Barnabas’ freedom to earn their livings from their Gospel ministry, their right (even duty) to request financial contributions in support of that ministry, and their freedom to be accompanied by their families in their ministerial travels. Paul’s defense is interesting in the light of the fact that we know he continued to work as a tent maker rather than relying on financial support from the brethren during the time the Corinthian church was founded (Acts 18:3). Nor was Paul married, as we know from 1 Corinthians 7:8.
Is Paul defending Barnabas here in 1 Corinthians 9 rather than himself? From Acts 4, we learn that Barnabas (whose birth name was Joses) was a Levite who hailed from Cypress. He apparently owned property in the Jerusalem area, and became a Jesus follower very soon after Jesus’ ascension – possibly on the day of Pentecost when over 3,000 were added to the church. After being saved, Barnabas sold his property and gave the proceeds to the church as most of those in the church at Jerusalem did during that time (Acts 4:36-37). It was Barnabas who first introduced Paul to the church in Jerusalem after Saul’s conversion and his time in Arabia (Acts 9:27). Afterward, the church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas out in search of Paul after he had returned to his home town – Tarsus in Cilicia in what is now SE Turkey. Barnabas accompanied Paul on his first church founding journey throughout Asia Minor, and suffered with Paul the persecutions they encountered along the way (Acts 11-14). Barnabas was not with Paul at the time of the founding of the churches in Macedonia and Achaia (Greece) at Thessalonica, Berea, Philippi, and Corinth. They had parted after a dispute between them over the eventual gospel writer John Mark (Acts 15:36-41). Sometime afterward, though, the two must have reconciled, since we read of Paul’s advocacy of Barnabas’ freedoms in Christ here in 1 Corinthians 9. Since Barnabas was from the tribe of Levi, his livelihood prior to his Christian conversion would have derived from service in the temple. When he became a Christ follower, he would have been cast out from service in the temple, and therefore without any income. Very likely, he had no secular trade like Paul’s tent making that he could fall back on. Thus we find Paul defending Barnabas’ earning his livelihood through Christian ministry. Initially, Barnabas was likely supported financially by the church in Jerusalem, but as time wore on, and the financial prosperity of the Jerusalem brethren declined, Barnabas very likely began to rely for support upon the churches in Greece and Asia Minor which he had helped to found.
So having stated his position regarding the rights and freedoms of Gospel ministers, Paul makes a few supporting arguments.
7Who ever 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?1 Corinthians 9:7 – NKJV
In his letters, Paul often used military, agricultural, and athletic illustrations. Just prior to his own death, Paul wrote a letter of encouragement to his protege, Timothy, reminding him of the reward the faithful Gospel preacher can look forward to only if we persevere in the spiritual battle to which God has called us and the hard work of planting God’s good seed.
1You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 3You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. 5And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops.2 Timothy 2:1-6 – NKJV
Without doubt, Paul recognized the spiritual battle that has been raging within the hearts of mankind ever since the serpent first deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden. Indeed, if we do not suffer for Christ’s sake, the logical inference is that our great enemy does not consider our ministry as a threat, and is content to leave us to our own devices. If we do not experience opposition from the evil one, we need to examine ourselves and our ministries.
11Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.Ephesians 6:11-13 – NKJV
Of course, Paul’s ministry over the years had also been fraught with physical battles and suffering. He had been beaten for his Gospel witness a number of times, once so severely that he was left for dead.
24From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep;2 Corinthians 11:24-25 – NKJV
8Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also? 9For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.”[Deuteronomy 25:4] Is it oxen God is concerned about? 10Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope.1 Corinthians 9:8-10 – NKJV
Paul refers twice to Deuteronomy 25:4 in relation to Gospel ministers being entitled to a reward for their labors – here and in 1 Timothy 5 with regard to the appointment of elders for the administration of church affairs. The illustration is, of course, to animals who were hitched to treadmills and continually driven in a circular path to grind grain into flour. The animals were rightfully entitled to a portion of the fruits of their labors. The reference in Deuteronomy is very strange, however. This single verse that Paul quotes in 1 Corinthians 9 and 1 Timothy 5 stands on its own in the midst of two passages that are entirely unrelated to the subject of reward for labor – the administration of lashes for punishment, and the obligation of men to their brothers’ widows. Furthermore, the concept that oxen at the treadmill deserve rewards for their labors is not mentioned anywhere else in God’s Word. Because Deuteronomy 25:4 is orphaned in this way, it is difficult to glean from the original context the symbolic implication Paul assigns to it that the verse applies not literally beasts of burden, but symbolically to laborers in the Gospel. Once again, we must simply accept that Paul was being led to write this letter by God’s Holy Spirit, and therefore Paul’s contentions about Deuteronomy 25:4 are correct.
11If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? 12If others are partakers 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.1 Corinthians 9:11-12 – NKJV
Paul points out here that the Corinthians have provided material support to the ministries of others – perhaps Apollos who was likely serving as pastor of the Corinthian church at the time Paul wrote this letter. We don’t have Biblical confirmation of this idea, however. Apparently, someone was reaping material support from the Corinthians in return for spiritual ministry, as Paul points out here. Nevertheless, although Paul rightly claims justification for requesting material support from the Corinthians, he is careful to point out that he has never claimed this benefit from them. He will expand on that shortly. The reason he and Barnabas never called up on the Corinthian church for material support was that they didn’t want anyone to be able to call the Gospel they had been preaching into disrepute if they were materially profiting from their preaching of it.
For this same reason, many modern churches do not take up an offering, but provide an unobtrusive offering collection point (e.g. the Agape Box found in most Calvary Chapel churches) at which those who feel so led may leave their donations to the church. Like Paul and Barnabas, the leaders in such churches believe that the collection of an offering during church services distracts from the worship of God and the sharing of His Word. Contrast this idea with the fact that the primary focus of many modern Christian “ministries” is to raise funds for the ministries themselves – in particular for the people who run them. Christians should carefully consider the ministries they support, and do the research to learn exactly how their gifts will be used.
CAUTION – It is easy for us to become too overzealous in our determination the our financial support is used properly. Yes. The primary focus of any Gospel ministry must be the promulgation of the Gospel Truth to a lost and dying world that desperately needs to hear it. But we must always remember exactly what Paul is talking about here in 1 Corinthians 9. The ministries that we support also need to pay their bills and provide for the material needs of those who do the labor of the ministries and their families.
For example, one of the ministries I financially support – Truth for Life – has a laudable mission…
Truth For Life’s mission is to teach the Bible with clarity and relevance so that:
Unbelievers will be converted.
Believers will be established.
Local churches will be strengthened.https://www.truthforlife.org/about/our-mission/
I have personally been blessed over the years by listening to Truth For Life broadcasts which did indeed serve to better establish me in my Christian faith. I believe and trust that others have also been so blessed by this ministry. Consequently, I believe I am called to support it financially. Recently, Truth for Life completed construction of a multi-million dollar media facility. Certainly, the money spent on that facility did nothing directly to further Truth for Life’s stated mission, however the facility the ministry created with that money will now be used to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ more broadly and efficiently than ever before. There’s nothing wrong with a ministry using a portion of the donations they receive to create the infrastructure needed to carry out the ministry itself. In fact such spending is absolutely necessary, provided that underpinning of the ministry doesn’t become an end unto itself, and the mission of the ministry in support of the Gospel get lost in the process.
Christians are clearly called to financially support their “home” churches and other ministries as God’s Spirit leads. Nevertheless, God doesn’t require people to give financially to Gospel ministries. Nor does God need financial or other material support to accomplish His purposes in His plan of salvation for mankind. God is not particularly interested in the magnitude of anyone’s gifts, but rather in the spirit through which the gifts are given. Paul reminded the Corinthians of this in his second letter to the church with regard to the gifts he had asked all of the churches to provide for the destitute believers in Jerusalem.
So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.2 Corinthians 9:7 – NKJV
Jesus was particularly adamant about hypocritical giving intended to garner the notice and respect of other people.
1“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.Matthew 6:1-4 – NKJV
Note also that the charitable deeds that Jesus is talking about here are not limited to monetary donations, but also to our time and labor devoted to Gospel ministry. God is more pleased with a simple act of kindness like visiting a shut-in, teaching children about the LORD, or sharing the Gospel with a stranger on the street than He is in our labor building church facilities or even providing material support for the poor. Our labor in these physical ministries, is certainly a good thing, but the more important thing is the spreading of His Gospel and the reflection of His love.
“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.Luke 11:42 – NKJV
We are all certainly called to share the material blessings with which God has blessed us. But it is more vitally important for us to share the love that God has shown us – particularly the love He demonstrated on the cross by taking the punishment of death for our sins upon Himself.
13Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? 14Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.1 Corinthians 9:13-14 – NKJV
Paul is referring here in verse 13 to the Levites who served in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple. A portion of the offerings brought to the Temple was reserved for the Levites. The entire chapter of Numbers 18 is devoted to defining the specific allocations for the Levites. The Israelites were also commanded to devote one tenth (מַעֲשֵׂר ma`aser) of all the produce of the land to the LORD. This tithe was given to the Levites for their sustenance by the command of God (Leviticus 27:30-33). Paul compares this provision for the Levites – commanded by God – to the provision for those who preach the Gospel, which he says is also commanded by God. The need for provision to those who preach God’s Gospel is clear, and so is God’s command of it. Yet God does not command specific amounts to be given by the church to those who minister in it. God has left it up to the common sense, and genuine gratitude of the church members to decide upon reasonable amounts. Paul tells us that God has commanded us to provide a living for those who preach the Gospel, but God certainly did not command that the sheep of the flock submit themselves to being fleeced by their pastors. Sadly, over the years – particularly since the advent of televangelism – many so-called “Gospel” preachers have misused their positions of trust to line their own pockets out of greed rather than genuine need. Consequently, this has led many believers to be skeptical and mistrustful of any Gospel preacher who requests support, even when the need is genuine. Even more tragically, this distracts from the mission of preaching the Gospel, and causes many to simply tune out the message itself. Those who abuse their positions as ostensible Gospel minister should beware of the stern warning given by James.
My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.James 3:1 – NKJV
15But I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things that it should be done so to me; for it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my boasting void.1 Corinthians 9:15 – NKJV
Having clearly made the case that he and Barnabas (and all who preach the Gospel full-time) are entitled to earn their living from preaching the Gospel, Paul is now careful to point out that he has no intention of claiming anything from the Corinthian church. Why? He says here that doing so would make his boasting void. What in the world is he talking about? What does preaching the Gospel have to do with boasting? The Greek word καύχημα kauchēma translated “boasting” here in the NKJV can also mean glorying or rejoicing. In some other English translations, the word is indeed translated in this verse as glorying. So what boasting or glorying or rejoicing is Paul writing about here? In truth, no one has any right to boast about anything apart from their blessings and callings from God. After all…
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.James 1:17 – NKJV
Recall that Paul had reminded the Corinthians of this fact earlier on in this letter when he was chastising them about the divisions that he had heard about within their body.
For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?1 Cor 4:7 – NKJV
Indeed our very salvation is the greatest gift we have received – purely by God’s own grace and mercy although none of us in any way deserves it.
8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.Ephesians 2:8-10 – NKJV
And so it is with the calling to preach the Gospel. Those like Paul and Barnabas who have received this calling have no cause to boast, because the calling itself is an undeserved blessing received from God.
But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.Galatians 6:13 – NKJV
16For 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!1 Corinthians 9:16 – NKJV
Here, Paul strikes to the heart of the matter. Those who preach the Gospel must be called, and God’s calling to the preacher is irresistible. This doesn’t imply that they must be capable or prepared to preach – merely that it must be God’s will. One of my favorite radio preachers – Alistair Begg – hosts an annual conference for pastors called Basics. In one of his messages at one of these conferences, Alistair said that if anyone listening could do anything other than preach the Gospel, they should do it. Alistair wasn’t complaining about the burden of preaching the Gospel, merely stating in a somewhat humorous way the same thing Paul writes here in 1 Corinthians 9:16. Those who are truly called to preach the Gospel really have no other choice, because God has placed the necessity of it into their hearts. Those who preach the Gospel without this compulsion from God will soon learn that they don’t have a calling to it, and should seek some other avenue in which to serve the God we love.
Following his failure to win many to believe the Gospel in Athens, Paul may have questioned his calling to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. But shortly after his arrival in Corinth, Paul received a much needed reassurance of his calling from God in a vision.
9Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; 10for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.” 11And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.Acts 18:9-11 – NKJV
Perhaps the most stark example of God’s compulsion of his chosen preachers is found in God’s calling of Jeremiah as a prophet.
4Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: 5“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” 6Then said I: “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.” 7But the LORD said to me: “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ For you shall go to all to whom I send you, And whatever I command you, you shall speak. 8Do not be afraid of their faces, For I am with you to deliver you,” says the LORD.Jeremiah 1:4-8 – NKJV
Note that just because God calls someone to preach His Word, doesn’t imply that the preaching will be well received. Indeed, Jeremiah’s preaching was met with derision, and even threats against his life from those whose sins Jeremiah prophesied against at God’s command. At one point, Jeremiah had decided to knuckle under to these threats and abuse, quit preaching, and fade into peaceful obscurity, but God compelled him to continue preaching.
7O LORD, You induced me, and I was persuaded; You are stronger than I, and have prevailed. I am in derision daily; Everyone mocks me. 8For when I spoke, I cried out; I shouted, “Violence and plunder!” Because the word of the LORD was made to me A reproach and a derision daily. 9Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him, Nor speak anymore in His name.” But His word was in my heart like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, And I could not.Jeremiah 20:7-9 – NKJV
Of course, Paul also suffered greatly for his preaching the Gospel, but persevered through it all in fulfillment of his calling from the LORD. In the end, just before Paul was executed for preaching the Gospel, he wrote a final letter to Timothy his protege with a stark warning that remains as relevant today as it was when Paul first wrote it.
1But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!2 Timothy 3:1-5 – NKJV
Who can deny that we are now living in the perilous times of which Paul warned Timothy? Tragically, many preachers in the modern church have walked away from their holy calling to preach the Truth of God if indeed they ever did have a true calling. In the interest of church growth and financial prosperity, many preachers particularly in America have bowed before the tide of ungodliness we see all around us to preach in the place of the true Gospel founded in the Word of God a watered down, sugar-coated “pseudo-gospel” which is very long on God’s love, mercy, and grace, but woefully short on God’s holiness, righteousness, and abhorrence of sin that is utterly powerless to save anyone from God’s coming fearsome judgement. In many cases, such preachers have even succumbed to the temptation to condone the sin that God abhors, and made themselves also subject to God’s judgment against them.
who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.Romans 1:32 – NKJV
Small wonder James advised that not many among us become teachers, knowing that ours is the stricter judgement. Those who would dare to enter a pulpit today to preach the Gospel would do well to keep in mind Paul’s final commandment to Timothy, and all the more as we see the time of the LORD’s return approaching.
1I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 5But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.2 Timothy 4:1-5 – NKJV
17For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship. 18What 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.1 Corinthians 9:17-18 – NKJV
Clearly, Paul viewed his calling to preach the Gospel as a sacred trust and obligation. No doubt the memory of his complicity in the stoning death of Steven, and the abject awe of his encounter with the risen LORD Jesus on the Damascus road when he first received his calling from God strongly motivated the apostle in the work of his mission day-by-day even many years later as he wrote this letter to his spiritual children in Corinth. He was obviously deeply concerned that any of his own words or actions not distract him or his listeners from the primary focus of that mission and calling – the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and its power to save us out of death. So, although Paul had made a compelling argument in this chapter for the authenticity of his own calling as an apostle and his God-ordained right to earn his living by Gospel ministry, he steadfastly refrained from claiming that right lest someone might miss out on the opportunity to hear and believe the saving Truth that Paul preached.