Sunday, 14 September 2014
For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship. 1 Corinthians 9:17
In his previous comment, Paul said, “I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” Therefore, this verse now follows logically from that thought. If necessity is laid upon him (meaning if he was compelled by a force he could not contain), then no reward should be expected. As he says, “For if I do this willingly, I have a reward.”
Suppose he wasn’t compelled to preach, but rather did it of his own free will. In such a case, he could expect a reward. When he showed up in a town such as Corinth, whatever pay they offered would be this reward and it would be his just due. However, this isn’t the case with him and so he enters the word “but.” This portion will explain the position he is actually in which is, “if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship.”
Using a hypothetical (which is what applies to him) he shows that if one is under constraint to do something, they have been given a directive which is their obligation to fulfill. In this sense, he is likening himself to a bondservant (a term he specifically refers to himself as elsewhere). A bondservant is told what to do and he does it. No pay is expected for such services. Rather, the reward merely rests in pleasing the master of the house.
Like the bondservant, Paul’s efforts in the gospel ministry were not for expected pay, but to fulfill an obligation that he was bound under. The reward is not from the work, but from the approval of the one who assigns the work. His approval and His reward is found in Christ, not in what he can gain from proclaiming Christ.
Life application: The more freedom one has realized in Christ, the more indebted to Christ the person must naturally feel. Paul’s freedom from persecuting the church led him to an attitude of complete servitude to Christ. Some are freed from alcohol, some from drugs or murder or prostitution. Everyone will feel a different level of gratitude and willingness to return to the Lord a measure of appreciation. The question for each is, “How much do I feel I have gained in being saved by Christ?” The level of appreciation should be reflected in the level of willing return to the Lord without thought of receiving something for the effort put forth.
Heavenly Father, the day You opened my eyes to Jesus, I realized the magnitude of the guilt I bore in Your presence. And with it, I realized the immense forgiveness I received through His death in my place. May the work I do for the cause of Christ be acceptable to You, but I know that no matter how much I put forth, it will never be even minutely close to the debt I have been forgiven. Please, never let me forget the significance of the cross, but to set my eyes, heart, and feet on the road of sharing this wondrous message, even if it means I give all in the process. He died for me, I will live for Him until I die! Amen.