23 March 2017
1 Corinthians 9:15-27
“What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.” (v. 18)
In the verses that come before today's passage,
Paul has been talking about his entitlements as an apostle - food
and drink, a wage, the right to a family life - for 'those who
proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel' (1
Corinthians 9:14) (Gospel, in this context, means the good news
of Jesus Christ). But here, Paul says that these basic rights are
of no interest to him - they are not the motivation for his
missionary work. His real reward, his true wage, is to make the
gospel 'free of charge' to those whom he meets. This echoes what we
have been reading in Paul's letter this week about not wanting
anything - any attitude, behaviour or concern - to be a stumbling
block to others in finding or persevering in faith.
But today Paul takes it further. He talks about
the lengths to which he will go as a missionary preacher and
evangelist: becoming all things to all people so that some, at
least, might come to faith. This is not a cynical PR exercise
(trust me, I've seen enough of those both inside and outside the
Church) - rather, Paul is mining his own experience and identity
that he might find common ground with others. He is committed to
seeing things from their perspectives and to walking authentically
with them so that they might realise that the gospel he offers
really is good news for all - not just for a chosen few.
At the beginning of this year, my father became
suddenly and seriously ill. He was admitted to A&E on the
Monday after New Year's Day and didn't leave hospital until
February. During his time there he received exceptional care and
life-saving treatment - care that was 'free at the point of
delivery'. Nevertheless, Dad's treatment was hugely costly - both
financially and in terms of resources. I have never been more
grateful for the NHS.
Paul sees his mission as making the gospel 'free
of charge' so that others may come to faith - but, like treatment
on the NHS, what is 'free' for them is deeply costly for Paul. He
speaks starkly about the price he pays for his dedication - and the
strength of will and discipline required to follow through on his
principles. Paul paints a picture of mission and evangelism that is
deeply challenging - but utterly grounded in reality.
- How much might it cost you to make the gospel 'free of charge'
to those whom you meet?
- Do you ever feel like you try to be 'all things for all
people'? How is it possible to do this authentically?
Bible notes author: Anna Drew
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