Calvary Chapel – Leesville, SC Worship Service Sunday July 19, 2020
In the first half of 1 Corinthians 9, Paul laid out God’s requirement that those who preach the Gospel should be supported by those who receive it.We took an in-depth look at the need for giving to the ministry of the Gospel – financially and with our time and labor. We looked at the dangers of giving indiscriminately, and God’s emphasis on the spirit of the giver rather than the magnitude of the gift.
Paul moves on now to recommend the proper approach to evangelical ministry. It is interesting the Paul would include a discussion of his personal approach to evangelism in a letter to his spiritual children in Corinth. Just as in church congregations today, probably very few of the Corinthian body were in what we might call “full-time ministry.” But that begs the question – Why not?! After all, the final commandment our risen LORD Jesus gave before He returned to His Father was that we should all be evangelists.
19Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.Matthew 28:19-20 – NKJV
In fact, witnessing the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus is the entire purpose for which God has kept us on this earth. Although we would prefer to be together with Him in Heaven along with our beloved ones who have gone before us, yet it is needful for those still languishing in this sinful world that we remain behind for the present as His witnesses, that some might be saved just as we ourselves have been. But this commandment from the LORD doesn’t apply only to those outside the church and those who have not yet been saved. It is equally important that we who are followers of Jesus also encourage and support one another, because the days are evil, and we are all tempted to become discouraged as we await the return of Jesus, especially in our own times when wickedness and the spirit of anti-Christ are growing so prevalent.
23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.Hebrews 10:23-25 – NKJV
Reaching the Lost Wherever They Are
19For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.1 Corinthians 9:19-22 – NKJV
CAUTION – Before we delve into this passage, it is important that we are clear about what Paul is not saying here. This is not a call for us to try to become something we are not in order to “fit in” with those to whom we witness. Certainly not! Indeed, far from making our witness more effective, doing so would be an impediment to it. Unbelievers are quite often prejudiced against belief in the Gospel to start with. If they discern that we are being disingenuous in our evangelism, they will be driven further from belief rather than closer.
19For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more;1 Corinthians 9:19 – NKJV
Paul begins by reminding us that through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and the shedding of His cleansing blood, believers have been set free from the requirements of the Mosaic Law, and indeed earthly law. Nevertheless, we must be careful to always exercise our freedoms for the benefit of others. Remember that Paul cautioned the Corinthians about this earlier in his letter.
23All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. 24Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.1 Corinthians 10:23-24 – NKJV
It is particularly important right now in our country and our world that we remember this admonition. People everywhere are in fear – rightfully so as the terrible Day of the LORD draws nearer. We all need to know the Truth of the love of Jesus for all people – love so boundless that it drove Him to sacrifice His own life on the cross that we might live. Before we respond in anger on social media or in our personal interactions with our brothers and sisters – both inside and outside the Church – we need to ask whether what we say or do reflects the love for them that Jesus has shown for us. If it doesn’t, we need to refrain from those words or actions so we don’t distract from the business at hand – proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus to a dying world, and strengthening our own brothers and sisters in the LORD as the Day approaches.
20and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law;1 Corinthians 9:20 – NKJV
Paul was deeply concerned about the salvation of his fellow Jews. No doubt he was troubled throughout his life that most Jews of his time had enthusiastically supported the crucifixion of Jesus, thinking they were doing God service in it, and not realizing that Jesus sacrifice on the cross for the salvation of all mankind was the very purpose for which God had come in the flesh of Jesus of Nazareth. Furthermore, Paul certainly anguished over his own part in the persecution of the early church. When Paul was literally struck blind, by the glory of the risen LORD Jesus on the Damascus road and a few days later received both his physical and spiritual sight again (Acts 9:1-19) it was symbolic of that temporary blindness which had (and has) fallen over the Jewish people and their universal salvation in Christ that is yet to come. Paul devoted an entire chapter to this subject in his letter to the Romans (Romans 11).
21to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law;1 Corinthians 9:21 – NKJV
Nevertheless, God’s calling upon Paul was primarily to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. Even as Paul (Saul) lay blinded in Damascus following his encounter with the LORD, God made it clear Ananias – the Christian of Damascus who baptized Paul – that He was sending Paul out to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. Indeed, as we know, Paul himself would suffer many things for the sake of the Gospel, and eventually even sacrifice his own life for it.
15But the Lord said to him, [Ananias] “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. 16For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”Acts 9:15-16 – NKJV
22to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak.1 Corinthians 9:22a – NKJV
When Paul speaks of “the weak” in this verse, he very subtly reminds the Corinthians that he is speaking of them. Recall what he said earlier in the letter.
3I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.1 Corinthians 2:3-5 – NKJV
Most importantly, notice that by coming to the weak in weakness, Paul’s intent was to demonstrate the power of God. Remember that Jesus’ “Great Commission is for evangelists to make disciples, not converts. In fact, it is quite impossible for us to make converts. Only God’s Spirit can do that in the heart of the new believer. Jesus Himself said this.
“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.John 6:44 – NKJV
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.John 15:5 – NKJV
Furthermore, our weakness as evangelists is far from being a liability. It provides an opportunity for God to show Himself strong, and thereby inspire the faith the heart unbelievers required for them to be saved. It is the evangelist’s willingness to testify the Truth of the Gospel, not the evangelist’s powers of persuasion that counts. In preparation, the evangelist needs only to be as familiar with God’s Word as possible, so that God Himself gives the testimony using the evangelist as His obedient servant.
I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.1 Corinthians 9:22b – NKJV
The last part of verse 22 is somewhat problematic. First, we must be careful not to read into it. Paul is not saying that we need to change ourselves to witness the Gospel. God Himself has already accomplished the fundamental change of heart required when He sealed our salvation by His Spirit in us. What Paul is saying here is that as far as possible, we should strive in our Gospel witness to “meet people where they’re at” – sharing our testimony in a way they can understand and with which they can identify.
CAUTION – Jesus has rescued many people like myself from a besetting sin with which we have struggled all our lives. In many cases, Jesus has simply removed the temptation to this sin entirely from our lives as He continues His work of strengthening us to resist it. Having been rescued by Jesus out of these sins, our natural desire is to help others who are struggling with them. In some cases, we find ourselves strong enough in our faith and the indwelling power of God’s Spirit to resist the temptation to fall back into our old sin. But often, we don’t have that strength, therefore we must accept that our evangelistic calling from God lies in other areas, and leave witnessing to those embroiled in our own old “favorite” sin to others who are not tempted in that particular way.
Before we move on, the last part of verse 22 is difficult to translate from the Greek, and therefore easily misconstrued. We know clearly from other passages that people are powerless to save either themselves or others. It is God’s Spirit alone who saves. It is He who provides the prerequisite conviction of sin, and He who calls sinners to faith in the Gospel and to repentance. Our evangelistic efforts may provide one means by which the Holy Spirit does this work, but it is He and He alone who saves.
23Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.1 Corinthians 9:23 – NKJV
Recall from the first part of this chapter that Paul wrote in detail about His reward for preaching the Gospel. His conclusion is worthy of another look.
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.1 Corinthians 9:18 – NKJV
Evangelism is its own reward. It is every believer’s calling from God, and the effective evangelist will almost certainly suffer for witnessing the Gospel. Our reward for our Gospel witness is not of this world. In fact we should be very skeptical of “evangelists” in name who prosper in this world from their witness. Such growth and prosperity in Christian ministry is sometimes a true and awesome move of God’s Spirit, but often those who gain personal worldly prosperity from Gospel evangelism are wolves in sheep’s clothing of whom we must beware. The true evangelist’s reward for persistent and patient Gospel witness is to hear our LORD and Savior say to us – “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ (Matthew 25:23) Even more, our great reward is to know that some of those to whom we witnessed came to a saving faith in the LORD Jesus, and thereby became partakers of the Gospel with us.
24Do 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. 25And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.1 Corinthians 9:23-27 – NKJV
Paul’s conclusion to this chapter stands on its own. A dear brother of mine is fond of saying that in our devotion to our LORD Jesus we must be “all in,” holding nothing back each and every day so long as He chooses to leave us here as His witnesses.