Tuesday, 9 September 2014
If 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 9:12
After all the previous verses of chapter 9, Paul will begin to explain why he chose not to exercise his apostolic rights. Before he does though, he makes an obvious statement –
“If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more?”
He has spent seven verses showing how the rights of the one who labors include their entitlement to being supported by those they labor for. As this is a right which goes all the way back to the Law of Moses and which included brute beasts, it should be considered a universal axiom.
As it is, and because the other apostles used this right when visiting Corinth, weren’t Paul and Barnabas even more entitled to using it? It was they who originally came and shared the gospel with them! In fact, Paul said to them that “you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord” (verse 3). Because of this undeniable fact, he was certainly entitled to the right of payment for his labors.
And yet, despite this certainty, Paul continues with “Nevertheless we have not used this right.” This shows that Paul had an agenda other than profiting off of those in Corinth. If sharing the gospel was his passion and his life’s main purpose, and yet he didn’t earn his keep from it, then it showed a sincerity of heart that others should have recognized. If a person played major league baseball for nothing more than food money and a place to sleep, it would show a true love for the game. But when there are millions of dollars up for grabs, one can never really tell if the players are on the field for love of money or love of the game.
The same is true with televangelists. Just because someone has great oratory skills, doesn’t mean that their love for Christ is sincere. Knowing that there are literally millions of dollars available to those who preach the gospel, along with fame, power over others, and Lear jets waiting in the hangar, one can’t really be certain that Christ is the purpose for the preaching. Paul desired to avoid any such pitfall in the minds of those he ministered to. Instead he notes that they “endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ.”
He was willing to go to great lengths and through any trials to share the gospel, even without exercising his rights as an apostle. The word translated “endure” is the Greek word stegomen. It means to cover closely (so as to keep water out). In essence, “to contain without leaking.” The external pressures on a ship as it passes through heavy seas is immense. Such a test of the ship will show its true colors. If it survives such a beating, it is a worthy vessel to trust one’s life with. Paul was showing to them that the message he preached was a worthy message; one in which another could trust with their eternal soul. There was nothing which could harm their fate, and Paul’s willingness to suffer externally without cost or benefit was a demonstration of this.
The word for “hinder” is the Greek word enkopēn. It is only used here in the New Testament and it basically means an “incision” or a “cutting into.” Hence Paul gives the idea of an impediment on a path which would interfere with following that path. If he were to come and lollygag around, eating food, schmoozing with the church, and expecting special treatment, those in the church could easily question his motives concerning the sharing of the gospel.
He wanted no such thing to occur, and so he worked diligently and without charge to share the wondrous message which had been entrusted to him.
Life application: About the secrets hidden inside each of us the Bible says –
“The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9
Only the Lord can truly search out the heart of man. But our eyes should be used to evaluate those around us, particularly those in positions of power or leadership. It is a foolish thing to implicitly trust someone who acts in one way while speaking in another. If a leader were to spend all of his time on the golf course while telling others about the importance of work, it would show a corruption of the heart which was obvious. Likewise if that leader’s wife were to tell those around her to only eat certain foods she deemed healthy and yet she was often seen eating foods which weren’t on that list, it would show the corrupt and twisted thinking of a person who merely wanted control over others. In such cases, evaluating the actions would show the heart of the person. Let us reasonably evaluate our leaders, both in the church and elsewhere, and not blindly follow them because they have fine speaking abilities or some other highly noticeable trait.
Lord, help me to be discerning in how I evaluate others. Help me not to be overly judgmental, but at the same time, give me the wisdom to not blindly follow those in leadership positions. Help me especially in the church to properly and wisely evaluate leaders and to not get caught up in idolizing them or their great abilities. I know if that were to happen, I would blindly trust them, even if their message wasn’t sound. Grant me such discernment so that I will follow Your word above all else. Amen.