Our Rights?

[Originally posted by peterwclark on 25 November 2015]

I wonder how keen we are to stand on our rights? Doesn’t it get down to what is our motivation to do what we do?

The First Letter to the Corinthians and chapter 9 appears to be about the rights of the Apostle (Paul). The editors recognise that in the title of the Chapter.

In verse 1 Paul writes, “Am I not an apostle?” and yet he presents himself as one who had surrendered many personal rights for the benefits of others. Was this Paul bragging? Probably not. It was obviously an issue raised  by the Corinthians and consequently addressed by Paul. It is a powerful revelation of the motives that drove Paul. We can learn from them.

Let’s look at the rights Paul surrendered…

He gave up the right to marry and travel with a “believing wife” (v.5).

He gave up the right to be financially supported by those he ministered to (vs.6-12).

He gave up the right to live as he pleased in order to meet the expectations of those he ministered to (vs. 19-23).

Why did he give up these rights?

Did they not matter? No that can’t be it. We know Paul better than that.

Was he not strong enough to stand up against opposition? That doesn’t sound like Paul either.

Could it be that Paul wanted to make the preaching of the Gospel a gift and not a purchase?

Good call.

Paul writes in verse 18 “What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it” (NIV)

This is a good principle for us.

Paul also wanted to fit in with others, so as not  to personally offend anyone who needed to hear the Gospel. He did this by “becoming all things to all men”(v.22). Paul’s purpose in this was that “by all means I might save some” (also v.22).

One more thing: We see Paul here, modelling that in his view, the future rewards of following Christ have such a high value, that mere earthly pleasures hold little attraction. (See vs. 24-27)

This is a challenge to me. Does “eternity” and all that goes with it spur me on “to save some”, as Paul yearned for?

Or (which more likely happens) does my standing up for my rights keep me grinding along the old selfish path?

Have a great day,

Peter Clark.