24 February 2015

1 Corinthians 9:16-23

“I do it all for the sake of the gospel ...” (v. 23)

Psalm: Psalm 116


Just prior to this passage, Paul has argued that apostles deserve to be economically supported (most probably by the Corinthian house churches). Yet he himself does not receive such support, indeed he would rather die than rely on their resources! He is obligated to no one. Paul passionately justifies his independence as essential for his proclamation of the gospel (the good news about Jesus).

The question of whether those who claim to proclaim God's word can be trusted is an old one. If they are beholden to others, might these obligations potentially distort the message they proclaim? For example in Jeremiah 14:13-18; 23:9-40 there is the question of whether the words of professional prophets can be relied upon. Paul is clear that he is free to preach the gospel without being swayed or compromised by other obligations.

In Pauline thought no one culture had ultimate authority, and Paul often crossed or challenged cultural boundaries and identified with those whose lifestyles were very different from his own. At all times, the gospel remained his motivation and focus. "For the sake of the gospel" he could be "all things to all people" with integrity, and offer faithful witness. For Paul, community in Christ took priority over any community defined by humans. Paul has only one allegiance, and that is to God through his son, Jesus.

To Ponder

  • When have your actions or words have been negatively affected by fear of, dependency on, or obligation to others?
  • What helps you to maintain your integrity as a follower of Jesus?

Bible notes author

The Revd Nicola Price-Tebbutt

Nicola Price-Tebbutt is a presbyter in the Methodist Church. She has previously served in circuit in Sheffield and as a tutor at Hartley Victoria College in Manchester.