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RCCG Miracle Land Dundalk
Monday, May 15 2017

Contributor: Isekhua Evborokhai


Last week’s study saw us looking at the proper use of liberty and how Paul waived his rights for the sake of the Gospel. Verses 1-14 was his response to those who challenged his apostleship because he chose not to exercise his rights as an apostle. We concluded with Paul’s inference that although he and Baranabas waived their rights of reaping material things from the church in Corinth for the sake of the Gospel, it shouldn’t be misunderstood or taken for granted. In today’s study, we shall be looking at the concluding part of the use of liberty - Self Discipline.

“But I have used none of these privileges, nor am I writing this [to suggest] that any such provision be made for me now. For it would be better for me to die than to have anyone deprive me of my boast [in this matter of financial support]. 16 For if I [merely] preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast about, for I am compelled [that is, absolutely obligated to do it]. Woe to me if I do not preach the good news [of salvation]! 17 For if I do this work of my own free will, then I have a reward; but if it is not of my will [but by God’s choosing], I have been entrusted with a [sacred] stewardship. 18 What then is my reward? [Just this:] that, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge [to everyone], so as not to take advantage of my rights [as a preacher and apostle] in [preaching] the gospel."

Paul continues his defence by saying that although he had the right to a maintenance allowance, as an apostle, based on both the law of God and the gospel; he hasn’t used any of these benefits; then he becomes very assertive; it was not on his own account that he gave these strong reasons, and undeniably proved the point, that ministers should be maintained by the people; and to prevent people from thinking that he has the plan to start receiving maintenance from the church he categorically stated that he would rather die than to give anyone ammunition to discredit him or challenge his motives! As a matter of fact, he didn’t choose to serve God himself! He was out persecuting the church when he was called by God’s choosing and mandated to serve! So it was clearly not for any personal benefits he was in the business of the Gospel
He then asked a rhetorical question: “What then is my reward?” And answers it himself! “Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.” For it is better to give than receive (Acts 20:35)

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to everyone, so that I may win more [for Christ]. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews [for Christ]; to men under the Law, [I became] as one [c]under the Law, though not being under the Law myself, so that I might win those who are under the Law. 21 To those who are without (outside) the Law, [I became] as one without the Law, though [I am] not without the law of God, but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. 22 To the weak I became [as the] weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means [in any and every way] save some [by leading them to faith in Jesus Christ]. 23 And I do all this for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings along with you.”

In these verses Paul teaches us how to best use our freedom; not for our personal gains but for the benefit of and the service of others. He volunteered himself to become a servant to all and sundry. He went into the world of the religious and nonreligious, the meticulous moralists, and those living in immorality, the defeated, the demoralized—all of them! To experience things from their point of view; so he can appropriately empathise with them (Heb. 4:15); but didn’t take on their way of life. He did this to lead many to Christ! He did not just want to talk about it; he wanted to be in on it! And so, must we! Enough of just talking about reaching out – time to step out and do!

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run [their very best to win], but only one receives the prize? Run [your race] in such a way that you may seize the prize and make it yours! 25 Now every athlete who [goes into training and] competes in the games is disciplined and exercises self-control in all things. They do it to win a [f]crown that withers, but we [do it to receive] an imperishable [crown that cannot wither]. 26 Therefore I do not run without a definite goal; I do not flail around like one beating the air [just shadow boxing]. 27 But [like a boxer] I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached [the gospel] to others, I myself will not somehow be disqualified [as unfit for service]."

Like a bolt out of the blue, Paul switches to a topic somewhat unconnected to his defence; but it is to drive home his point! "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize?" Here, he was referring to athletes who win races; not for the sake of us winning the race but for the preparation they put into winning a race. “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.” So, let us prepare to serve God like athletes who win; not sloppy, not nonchalant; for that is the only way we can achieve what God wants us to. The key words here are “strict”(demanding that rules concerning behaviour are obeyed and observed; following rules or beliefs exactly) and “training”(Organized activity aimed at imparting information and/or instructions to improve the recipient's performance or to help him or her attain a required level of knowledge or skill.)

Paul uses the analogy of athletes to summarise and conclude this chapter of his letter. If athletes who compete for trophies that fade put in so much effort in preparation; how much more should we prepare for our trophies that are incorruptible? We should not be shabby or shoddy when it comes to the work of God! (Colossians 3:23-25).

And when he said in verses 26-27 (MSG)
“I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself."

He was referring to being focused; that he will not be swayed by those challenging his apostleship or those who want to toil with his liberty or any other distractions that may come; because such distraction can cause a faithful servant miss his/her place in eternity.

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