Laying Aside Our Rights

Laying Aside Our Rights

Choosing to sacrifice for others requires constant self-control. He compares it to the training an athlete maintains to remain at the top of his/her game. God’s Spirit here shows us that laying down our rights for the ministry of the Gospel requires a permanent and focused commitment to discipline.

1 Corinthians 8 showed us that love for Christ and His people determines how we use our “rights.” As applied to eating food offered to idols, we learned that even if we no longer fear demons or false gods ourselves, even if we have no conscience issues personally with eating offered food, we must abstain. Why? Eating food offered to idols emboldens weak believers to sin against their conscience, because that food is immediately associated with idol worship to which they recently were enslaved.

If, by exercising our “rights” we encourage our brethren to sin, we actually “sin against Christ” [1] (v.8:13). Our decisions affect others. Love for Christ and love for His people demand that we lay aside our rights for the sake of the Gospel.

In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul illustrates for us that he was not telling the Corinthian believers (and us!) to do something that he was not willing to do himself. He was a true apostle called by Christ (vv.1–2), not a self-proclaimed apostle motivated by selfish ambition such as some at Corinth who strove to discredit him. Paul was real. As proof, he often laid aside his rights, preferences, comfort, and sacrificed much to help unbelievers come to saving faith and for believers to be strengthened. The Corinthians knew this since they had experienced his life and ministry firsthand (v.2).

Paul delineates for us ways that he laid aside his rights for the Gospel. It is his “defense to those who would examine him” (v.3).

His Right to Financial Support

Paul was committed to a self-support model of ministry, particularly in a church plant. He doesn’t explain his reason here. It wasn’t because it was some kind of superior model of ministry or especially strategic. He declined support that people normally expected to give so that unbelievers and new disciples would not be confused about his motives or message. [2] He also did this to avoid being a burden upon the poor and to exemplify hard work where the example was desperately needed. [3] He chose this much more difficult path of self-support in most cases. He did this out of love to remove obstacles in making disciples. Enemies constantly challenged his motives as an apostle.

Paul knew and taught that God-sanctioned gospel workers were worthy of financial support. He knew and taught here that the norm was for gospel laborers to be supported by God’s people (vv.6–18). But he also knew that in his circumstances, it was important to be primarily self-supporting to protect his testimony and message. At great cost to himself, Paul “made no use of any of these rights” (v.15).

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