Wait on the LORD: be of good courage,
and he shall strengthen thine heart;
wait, I say, on the LORD.
- Psalm 27:14
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How will I exercise my Christian Liberty? 2/05/2012
How far am I willing to go in order to bring people to Jesus Christ? What would I be willing to give up if in order to bring a loved one to Christ? Would I give up my life? Would I? Will I? Would You? Will You?

This question is what the Apostle Paul is discussing with the Corinthians who are suffering from divisions within their congregation(s). Last week we jumped up to chapter 13, and now this week we are going to back up to chapter 9 in order to get a better grasp on this all important discussion that applies so greatly to ourselves in our lives and in our congregations today.

We recall that Paul began this discussion in the 8th chapter by way of introduction in the first three verses:

KJV 1 Corinthians 8:1 Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.
2 And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.
3 But if any man love God, the same is known of him.

He went on to say that those who have a clear and mature knowledge that salvation is by grace through faith should not be puffed up over those who do not have this knowledge. He referred to the latter as having weak consciences, but weak consciences and all, those people need to be honored by the mature Christians. The principle of being a helper to bring people to a clearer knowledge of salvation by grace through faith is in the forefront here and Paul used the issue of the day to help the hearers work through his explanation. It was not so much about whether to eat or not to eat the meat that had been offered to idols, but it was all about how we use the God given knowledge that we possess. Do we seek to help others who are weak in their conscience, or do we lift ourselves up in our pride and disregard them and their developing walk of faith?

How will we use our liberty/freedom in Christ is the question before us in this meditation.

That is the question that was before the Apostle Paul. At the end of the chapter 8, he made this astounding statements.

9 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.
10 For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols;
11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?
12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.
13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

He now shows by his very own life as to what he means when he wrote the last verse. It was not hyperbole by which he was making an outlandish claim as to his spirituality, but he was stating the truth of the matter!! Prayerfully let us read through this 9th chapter, asking the Lord for His Spirit to open us the message for us in our day and in our lives.

KJV 1 Corinthians 9:1 Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?
2 If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.
3 Mine answer to them that do examine me is this,
4 Have we not power to eat and to drink?
5 Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?
6 Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?
7 Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?
8 Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?
9 For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?
10 Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.
11 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?
12 If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.
13 Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?
14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
15 But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.

Paul now uses his life to illustrate that which he had taught concerning the exercising of our Christian Liberty. Paul explains in this chapter that even though he has the right to be paid according to the teaching of Christ, he does not exercise his right in order to not impede the gospel.

This message is not to put the burden on the giver, but this message speaks to the one who is preaching it. It should be that the speaker has the message directed at him so that it is a message for the speaker and not so much about the speaker. .

Paul's main point in this entire discussion is that he has the right to be paid, but he does not exercise it.

16 For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!
17 For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.
18 What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.
19 For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.
20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
21 To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.
22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
23 And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.


Now in this portion he will explain as to why he chose not to accept payment. As we look at this part, we need to think of how we will use our freedoms responsibly for the impact upon others and their search for life.

15 But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.


Now Paul begins the second half of his argument and now begins to explain as to why he did not exercise his right to be supported by those who are under his ministry. He is ministering in the midst of some people who are suspicious of him, and so that those who are suspicious of him will not have excuse to ignore his message, he does not wish to depend upon them for his pay. He will not be a stumbling block to them. He himself will give them no excuse.

He is yet building upon the concept of the exercising of liberty in their lives. He is using his personal example to illustrate that idea that we all have freedom, but we do not use the freedom for boasting, for personal gain or for selfish reasons.

What is he saying here? It would be better for me to die than that anyone would deprive him of his boasting in that he is not going to use his liberty wrongfully. Is he saying that it would be better for him to die physically than to offend anyone as concerning salvation?


NJB 1 Corinthians 9:15 However, I have never availed myself of any rights of this kind; and I have not written this to secure such treatment for myself; I would rather die than that . . . No one shall take from me this ground of boasting.

We need to understand that the word boast is not always to be taken in a negative manner, but can be also used in a good and positive sense. Here it seems to be that Paul is boasting in the fact that he chose to limit his freedom by not accepting payment from the Corinthians. He would rather die than to have that happen. He would rather die than to have someone offended by his exercising of his right to be paid. His boasting is in his "independence of help from them."

16 For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!
17 For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.
18 What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.

He explains here that the boast is not in that he preaches the gospel, for it is not his idea to be a preacher of the gospel. He is one that is sent, one that was drafted. Being that he was sent, he has no freedom in this area. He is doing that which he has been created for, what he has been called for and there is no provision for the exercising of his liberty or freedom. God gave Paul a significant role, and there is no absolutely not any freedom for him to not preach. This does not say much at all about Paul, but it says everything about God. Here a significant point is coming up:

Those things which God has called us to be and to do really have nothing to do with us, but what is important is that our inner character is seen when we are given opportunity to exercise or not exercise our rights toward others.

We are Christians by God's grace, how will we demonstrate that which we say we possess?


Others will not care to hear how much we know until they know how much we care.

19 For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.
20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
21 To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.
22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.


He is now moving away from the money topic and he now speaks in general terms. What he is saying that he is free to live without anyone telling him how he should act in life. No one can dictate to him concerning those things that God has left up to the individual conscience. What is he saying here? What does this mean for us today? What does this mean for me? Let us pause here and remember how Martin Luther wrote in a concise manner concerning out topic.

"A Christian is a free lord over all things and subject to nobody. A Christian man is a ministering servant in all things and subject to everybody."

Paul does not say, I let people make a slave of me. But he said, Being free, I made myself a slave.

Love is the motivater that causes Paul to say what he says in these verses.



How do we become as a Jew unto the Jews? We accommodate their traditions and practices, but we do not live as under their jurisdiction. Basically, we understand that they need to hear more of what God says in His Word so that they will be able to see that the things that they now dearly hang onto are no longer in effect. We have much latitude in going along with their way of thinking, but always stopping short of giving them the impression that what they are believing and practicing is according to Scripture.

Those without law are those who are living not under the law of Moses, but yet are under the divine law of God. We seek to understand as to how they think and act according to their current world view. We might say that these would be people who would be non Jewish in practice, but would not necessarily be converting from Judaism to Christianity. They could be called Gentiles, or pagans. Even though they do not understand the divine law of God, they yet have it imprinted in their hearts in creation. How can we seek to reach these people?


Finally, we consider the weak. If we are with a group of people that believe that they can do less than we are able to do in our freedom of conscience, our know that our obedience of God does not consist of what we eat or do not eat. When we are with those people, we will limit our actions so that we do not confuse them with our behavior. We will not purposely offend them with our freedom. If a person is convinced in their conscience that something is wrong and we come over there and totally snub them with our freedom, how will that help them see justification in a clearer manner? It will not.


There are three groups of people that Paul speaks of here. The Jews, those without law and the weak. We understand that the Jew was yet under the law, those without law would most likely be the Gentiles who now were without the law, but yet had come under the law of Christ which is love. The weak Paul has previously referenced in chapter 8 as those whose consciences yet are in a state of maturation concerning to eat or not to eat.

How far am I willing to go in order to bring such people to Jesus Christ? What would I be willing to give up if in order to bring a loved one to Christ? Would I give up my life? Would I? Will I? Would You? Will You?

Let us conclude by summarizing:

Exercising our freedom in love for the purpose of blessing others spiritually:

1. It does not mean pleasing people to make them happy , agreeing with their false religions or their sinful practices.

2. We like Paul, do not use his freedom to make people happy, but we refrain from using it when we have an opportunity to avoid miscommunicating the gospel to them.

3. We like Jesus and like Paul will associate with all groups of people, coming into contact with them without receiving a stain or leaving with them a false impression as to whom we are in Christ so that we may win them for Christ.

4. We recognize that the danger is that may yield too much to love, which then ceases to be love, but becomes accommodation or assimilation.


Eph 4:14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

May the Lord add His blessing to our meditation in His Word this day!

Pastor Orval Wirkkala











Posted on 05 Feb 2012 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
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