Consider the formula: Giving up rights = Gospel advancement. Rights are those preferences and freedoms we enjoy as Christians related to what we eat, drink and enjoy and even some things that we are owed or deserve.
To us in the West, willingly giving these up is an uncomfortable concept.
However, in 1 Corinthians 9 we discover that Paul’s main method of evangelistic ministry was focused upon giving up his rights. Three are mentioned explicitly: the right to get married (9:4), the right to eat and drink certain things (9:5), and the right to refrain from working rather than just preaching the gospel (9:6). He did not fight for his personal liberty to do everything that God allowed, but purposed to live and speak so as to give no offense to anyone (9:12). He sacrificed what was rightfully his for the interests of others because he did not think of himself more highly than he should have. The gospel he preached was wildly offensive, but his conduct was not.
Among the most signifiant of his sacrifices was that he consistently gave up his right to receive money. As a laborer in the gospel he had a right to be compensated, but he chose not to make use of it (9:15) in certain situations. He worked hard at his “secular” job so that he could labor in the gospel. Evangelistic ministry always costs somebody something, but Paul made sure it didn’t cost his hearers. He preached for free. He loved the reward of costly preaching, and was able to win more Jews, Gentiles and weak believers because of it (9:19-23).
This ministerial strategy is consistent with the incarnation and life of Christ. Jesus gave up his rightful place with the Father in order to become a slave. He was born in a feed-trough, lived in a working class home, obeyed his parents, prepared for 30 years to minister for three, and was crucified as a blasphemer. He came to serve, not to be served.
What about you? Are you slavishly protecting your Christian freedom to do everything that pleases you? If you are, that may be the very thing that stands in the way of the gospel moving forward in your family, workplace, church, or city. Will you give it up?
“Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 9:12
© Kole Farney 2013 revised 2018