A Higher Priority

1 Corinthians #15: An exposition of 1 Corinthians 9:1-18. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, March 6, 2011.

“Self-centered, self-serving and myopic” not a flattering description but one that too often describes those of us who have the honor and privilege of serving the church of the Lord Jesus.  That’s not an easy thing for me to say.  I just don’t like talking against my own kind but I have to be honest.  Let me quickly add it is not just a description of those who serve as pastors but the same can be said about many of those who sit in the pews.  I’m afraid that for those of us who are “at ease in Zion” a common affliction is that we become self-absorbed.  It is all about my wants, my desires, my longings and above all, my comfort.  Such an attitude quickly leads to an insistence on “my rights.”  The church at Corinth was a wonderful, confused, mixed up, sinful bunch of folks or as I like to call them, “Your average Baptist church.”  Paul, with a pastoral heart wrote to them in response to some questions they had raised and in response to some reports he had received.  You can divide the book into three parts: Divisions, Disorder and Differences.  They had their share of problems but you will note that Paul addressed them as “saints.”  These are genuine believers.  These are those who have been brought from death to life by the power of the Holy Spirit.  The apostle calls them to live up to their name.  You are saints.  You are those who are set apart by the Spirit of God – now act like it!

In chapters 8-10 the subject is Christian liberty.
As followers of Christ we are “free.”
We are not subject to a yoke of bondage.
We are not restricted by Old Testament dietary laws, ceremonies and days.
But we are not free to “do as we please.”
We are not free to do whatever we want because we are under grace.
In fact, according to chapter 8, Christian liberty is limited by love.
I am to be more concerned about my brother’s well being that about my liberty.
I will set aside my rights for the sake of his good.

Some then come to chapter 9 and think that Paul takes off on a tangent.
Perhaps this is an insertion of a portion from a separate letter.
As far as I can tell this chapter makes perfect sense as the natural flow of the thought.

Paul is showing that he is not calling on the Corinthian believers to do something he, himself, is not willing to do.  Love limits freedom and here is an example from my own life.  Here is one of the ways I live out this principle.  Our text is found in 1 Corinthians chapter 9.

Text: 1 Corinthians 9:1-18

As we work our way through this text Paul establishes two facts and then points to a higher priority.

  1. Paul, as an apostle and a minister of the Gospel, was entitled to material support from the churches.  (9:1-14)
  2. Paul, as a matter of conscience and personal choice, refused such support.  (9:15-18)

Paul was compelled by a superior priority – (9:12b, 23)

It’s not about rights – it’s about what is right.
Love causes me to limit my Christian liberty.
Love for Christ, love for my brother, my sister in Christ, love for the lost.

The “take home” principle is this: Love for Christ and concern for the advancement of the Gospel trumps all rights and privileges.

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