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All Things to All People

The Voice of Sovereign Grace / Doug Agnew
The Truth Network Radio
June 13, 2022 2:00 am

All Things to All People

The Voice of Sovereign Grace / Doug Agnew

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June 13, 2022 2:00 am

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Chapter 9. Read the chapter in its entirety.

As we continue our trek through Paul's letter to this group of Christians in the early church ball. As you recall, has just finished addressing a question of the day had concerning the eating of meat offered to idols and in his answer, he established the principle of Christian deference deferring to those with a weaker conscience in our text tonight.

Paul continues with this theme by using himself and his status as an apostle.

As an example of Christian deference in action. So will get it together tonight. First Corinthians chapter 9 beginning at verse one am I not free. Am I not an apostle.

Have I not seen Jesus our Lord, are not you my workmanship in the Lord. If two others.

I am not an apostle.

At least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

This is my defense to those who would examine me, do we not have the right to eat and drink do not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas, or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living, who serves as a soldier at his own expense, who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit, or who attends a flock without getting some of the milk. Do I say these things on human authority is not the law say the same for it is written in the law of Moses. You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain. Is it proximate God is concerned, is he not speak certainly for our sake.

It was written for our sake because the plowman should plow in hope, in the thresher thrash in hope of sharing in the crop.

If we have some spiritual things among you, is it too much. If we reap material things from you.

If others share this rightful claim on you. Do not be even more 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, do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple and those who serve at the altar sharing the sacrificial offerings in the same way the Lord commanded those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel, but I have made no use of any of these rights nor my writing these things to secure any such provision for would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting brief.

I preach the gospel that gives me no ground for boasting or necessity is laid upon me low to me. If I do not preach the gospel provided us of my own will. I have a reward, but if not of my own will and still entrusted with the stewardship. What then is my reward that in my preaching. I may present the gospel free of charge so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel for though I am free from all I have made myself a servant to all that I might win more of them to the Jews. I became as a Jew in order to win Jews to those under the law became as one under the law, but not bring up myself under the law, that I might win those under the law to those outside the law I became as one outside the law not being outside the law of God, but under the law of Christ that I might win those outside the law to the week. I became weak that I might win the week I have become all things to all people that, by all means I might save some.

I do it all for the sake of the gospel that I may share with them and its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize so run that you may obtain it.

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly.

I do not box as one beating the air, but I discipline my body and keep it under control. Last, after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified as the word of the war. Let's pray together. Heavenly father, thank you for revealing yourself to us in your word.

Thank you that in these words we find life and truth and freedom.

Thank you. That along with your word you give us the Holy Spirit to regenerate our spirits and open our minds and and harness our wills so that your word can do its intended work in us, or Jesus not only have you set the perfect example for us in obeying every stipulation of God's law, but you've also paid the price for our failing to do so so father-son and Holy Spirit, we thank you for the indescribable riches that are ours, by grace through faith in Christ.

We ask that you please not take this living and powerful word transformer, minds and character in a very lives with it. Pray in Jesus name, amen.

Back in chapter 8. Paul has just called Christians to yield their freedoms, their rights for the sake of love and deference to the weak consciences of others. But Paul recognizes that deference doesn't come naturally to fallen people and so he presses the point home a little further here in chapter 9 and he does this verse by making himself an example of what deferring to others. Looks like and then by giving several motivations for this practice of deference to others and and he closes with some very practical instruction as to how to go about doing this. What were going to see in these verses is that deference to others is not the mark of some week Christian. Rather it is the primary means of identifying with and imitating Jesus Christ. In fact I would go so far as to say we are never more like Christ than we were voluntarily laying down our rights for the sake of the gospel and if that's the case, then we ought to be looking for opportunities to do just that.

And we ought to rejoice in those opportunities when they come in verses one through 12 we see first. An example of Christian deference in these verses Paul demonstrates from his own life. What Christian deference looks like is his ministry to the Corinthians. In fact, was itself a living demonstration of Christian deference and to make the point Paul begins this section by building the case for his rights as an apostle.

He takes great pains to establish the fact that as an apostle of Jesus Christ to the church. He has every right to claim the privileges and the perks that come with that status. Notice he begins with a series of rhetorical questions all making the same point, namely that Paul deserves to receive material provision from the church. He says in verse one am I not free. Am I not an apostle, and I not seen Jesus our Lord, are you not my workmanship in the Lord, and of course Paul knows the answer to all of these questions. And Paul knows that Corinth knows the answer to all of these questions is a resounding yes to all of them.

He is a legitimate, proven and credentialed apostle to the church now, that's his status and what are his rights as an apostle, verse four. He has the right to have his physical needs met by the church. Verse five he has the right to have his family's needs met by the church. Verse six. He has the right to be freed from vocational responsibilities so that he can give full attention to his labor for the church. But Paul doesn't stop there. He begins to stack up a whole pile of arguments in order to prove his point beyond a shadow of a doubt. First he turns to arguments from natural law. In verse seven he says, who serves as a soldier at his own experience another rhetorical question and the obvious answer is no one soldier who risks his life to protect citizens deserves to be compensated for the services he provides. That should be obvious. Paul continues who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit, or who attends a flock without getting some of the milk, a hard-working farmer deserves to enjoy the fruit of his labor, again, that should be obvious that Paul's point is that just as a soldier in a farmer deserve compensation for their work. So, an apostle of the church deserves to be compensated for his labor. It is right. It's his privilege. But Paul is still not finished. He goes on to make an argument now from the Mosaic law. In verses eight and nine, and this demonstrates to the Corinthians that Paul isn't making this stuff, but it's been a principal that was established all the way back in the Old Testament verse eight do I say these things on human authority does not the law say the same. And he quotes Deuteronomy 25 four you shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain. About the point of that law was not primarily to ensure that towels were taken care off. It was to ensure that laborers would receive a fair compensation for their labor if if God cares about oxen getting what they deserve. And certainly he cares about apostles getting what they deserve.

Paul gives one final argument down in verses 13 and 14, this time an argument from the Levitical priesthood here lies the Corinthians that the Old Testament priests who spend their time sacrificing animals for religious purposes. Also got to eat some of the meat that they sacrificed. This was not a sacrilege. It was it was expected. It was even commanded in the same principle then applies to those who proclaim the gospel. Paul says they should get their living by the gospellers. There's nothing crass or inappropriate or unspiritual about a church providing the material needs of those who are providing for their spiritual needs. Nothing wrong with that. On the contrary, it's very normal.

It's an established principle, so the right which Paul claimed to have over the Corinthians was not something humanity himself. It's a principal that's embedded in nature.

It's a principal that was observed by the priest of the old covenant and it's a principle that is preserved in the very law of God as it was given to Moses. Verse 11 then is a clear articulation of this principle in the form of a question.

If we have some spiritual things among you, is it too much. If we read material things from you. And so, from God's law will write down the very nature of things. No, it's not too much. Paul deserve to be compensated materially for the spiritual blessings he brought to Corinth well after taking all this effort to build this case, we expect Paul to say so.

Corinth pay me what you owe. But it doesn't say that in fact he says the exact opposite. Just as the budget committee at court is getting nervous. Paul voluntarily forfeits his apostolic right to compensation verse 12. Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right in verse 15 that I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. Why would Paul forfeit what he was owed. What what would've motivated such a sacrifice. While this brings us to our second heading which is the motives for Christian deference the motives and Paul tells us what his motives were the first motive was for the sake of the gospel.

Verse 12 we endure anything. Rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ is a Paul is about to call the Christians at Corinth to forfeit their own rights, just like he has done it so he he makes it clear what the proper motivation for such a sacrifice is it's for the sake of gospel clarity and effectiveness your rights as a person as of as a husband as a wife as a parent as a son or a daughter as an employee as an employer are not as important as the advancement of the gospel and so for the sake of the gospel. Paul gladly sets aside his rights.

In so doing, he's calling us to do the same thing to imitate him so his first motivation is for the sake of the advancement of the gospel. There's a second motivation that drives Paul to lay down his rights.

We see it there in the latter part of verse 15 he says, for I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting that's an odd statement.

It seems out of place. It seemed like Paul has just taken a very self-centered, narcissistic term here, but don't be thrown off by that word boasting we we tend to think of boasting is only a bad thing and probably 99.9% of the time.

It is a bad thing, but there is a legitimate and virtuous version of boasting in us the kind of boasting.

Paul is talking about here and be like a parent who says to their child. I'm so proud of you. We know that pride is bad but but the kind of pride being expressed by that parent is not a self-centered, arrogant, sort of bright. It's a good pride it's it's a privates. Others focus right.

Paul's doing that here. Paul's boasting is simply his way of saying he wants to be able to take proper satisfaction in his ministry at Corinth by being able to say I gave you the gospel free of charge so you have no excuse, no grounds for for suspecting me of of foul play. Nope, no reason to doubt the truthfulness of what I've preached to you. So the second motivation to defer his right to compensation has to do with his desire to receive a compensation of a reward.

He calls it.

In verse 18 it is not material. This reward that Paul seeks is the satisfaction that the sense of a job well done that come from his having preached without pay. He knew that had he insisted insisted upon his right to material compensation at Corinth. It would've put an obstacle in front of their hearing and receiving the gospel so there was a certain delight. Paul had in the fact that he had conducted himself in Corinth. In such a way as to adorn the message of the cross with a beautiful and sincere self sacrificial love Paul's delight in making that sacrifice was his reward. It was his compensation and he didn't want that to be stolen from him just pause there from and ask ourselves, do we delight in the gospel like that we able say with Paul. My reward my wage in this life is the joy of knowing that my witness to the power and beauty of Christ has indeed been worthy of the sacrifice Christ is made for me.

I think of missionaries like Elizabeth Elliott whose husband was killed by a savage tribe and yet she embraced that sacrifice and carried on the work of evangelizing the very men who murdered her husband or admiring Johnson, who endured the deaths of two wives before eventually sacrificing his own health.

For the sake of evangelizing the Burmese how how petty our squabbles about status and entitlements sound when compared to the sacrifices of the great host of faithful witnesses who have gone before us. Do we value the gospel that much now. We are not apostles like Paul was so our set of rights will be different from his. However, all of us have some point of privilege some freedom. Some claim and that is rightfully ours, but that could become a hindrance to the gospel.

It may be our reputation.

It may be some temporal convenience or pleasure. Whatever it is. Paul is calling us to purposefully and joyfully lay it down for a far greater and eternal good will. This brings us to our third heading, in which Paul explains the practice of Christian deference. How do we do it. What will this principle look like in action, Paul mentions four prerequisites for Christian deference for things that deference requires first of all deference requires a servants heart. Paul's deference demonstrates itself in servant heartedness and that servant heartedness intern wins people over government angry with someone or annoyed with someone but then they turn around and they treat you with great honor and and respect, and they begin to sacrifice for you and and serve you. All of a sudden you find a really hard to remain angry with them humble acts of service are extremely winsome and persuasive will turn that scenario around. Suppose someone is angry at you annoyed by you disagreeable toward you, and you begin serving them in meeting their needs looking out for their wishes, honoring their preferences above your own those acts of humble service and deference go a long way toward making a friend out of an enemy or making a Christ follower out of a Christ reject or Paul says in verse 19. For though I am free from all I have made myself a servant to all that I might win more of them. Deference requires a servants heart. This is not a call to be everyone's doormat.

It's a call to gladly willingly voluntarily subject yourself to the preferences and weaknesses of others, even though by right, you don't have to. We do it in order to win them over.

First, when their affections in their minds. Eventually their spiritual allegiance the cause of Christ, Martin Luther, the great reformer said that a Christian man is the most free Lord of all and subject to nine and at the same time is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone is both a and so how do we defer to others by becoming a servant to all, in order to win them over to Christ. Secondly, deference requires a yielding of my identity a yielding of my identity yielding the rights to my own identity in order to identify with others is often God's means of persuading others to embrace the claims of the gospel.

We see this in verses 20 through 22 where Paul describes his practice of conforming to the cultural norms of either Jews or Gentiles is under the law those out from under the law, depending on who he's ministering to any given time. He doesn't want morally insignificant cultural customs to hinder the progress of the gospel and so he formally states this principle of deferring his identity for the sake of others. In verse 22 principle which by the way, is often quoted out of context and misapplied Paul says I have become all things to all people that, by all means I might save some. Someone once claimed that most of the heresies that have been introduced into the church come into the church under the banner of evangelizing the lost and I think a lot of times there is truth to that. In fact, verse 22 is often the slogan that you use to justify all sorts of pragmatic and un-biblical methods of evangelism. There is no doubt here that Paul is calling us to accommodate a diverse range of preferences and and worldviews, and religious stances. If we just dismiss this need of accommodating others. We run the risk of unnecessarily alienating people to the gospel but at the same time. If we carry this accommodation too far. There comes a point doesn't there where we begin to compromise the very gospel were called to proclaim. So where is this balance between accommodation on the one hand, and unnecessarily alienating people on the other.

How do we know where the lines ought to be drawn is an important question for us as believers. At the very least this balancing act requires that we wisely distinguish between the moral absolutes of God and the moral scruples of other people or the cultural preferences of other people. We've got to make that distinction.

At the start verse 22 is not a license to to contradict the will of God in the name of evangelism. Paul would never have said to the thief I have become as a thief that I might reach thieves so anything that goes against the law of God against his moral absolutes is out of balance. It's not a matter of Christian deference. At that point, unless it's something that is morally neutral but I think we can can take this a bit further. The purpose of this principle of Christian deference is to clarify the gospel to make it clearer to make its meaning more clear to make man's need for it more obvious. That's the purpose of this principle of Christian deference. Paul says as much in verse 23 says I do it all for the sake of the gospel. That's a very important clause for the sake of the gospel. If my accommodation of others on some morally neutral point doesn't clarify the meaning of the gospel or doesn't drive home someone's need for the gospel, then it's probably an accommodation.

It's not worth making. Sadly, many Christians in an effort to contextualize the gospel have ended up obscuring the gospel so badly that they've ruined their testimony. When I was in high school I watched youth pastor after youth pastor in our church do this very thing they they set out I guess with good intentions to make the gospel attractive by adapting it to certain tastes and preferences, but they failed to carefully evaluate whether or not there adaptations were actually clarifying or obscuring the gospel. In other words, they pay more attention to the desires of the people they were accommodating into the message they were trying to proclaim in one by one these ministers began to compromise and one by one they morally collapsed and ended their ministries under church discipline church. There is a temptation to love the novelty and creativity of contextualizing the gospel more than we love the gospel say that again because I think it's a blind spot in our world today in the church today. There is a temptation to love the novelty and creativity of contextualizing the gospel more than we love the actual gospel. So it is so crucial that we always ask ourselves if our becoming all things to all people is actually clarifying the gospel we preach, or merely obscuring it behind the taste and pleasures of a lost world.

Having said that though there is also the temptation of not giving adequate thought to how we can wisely accommodate the weaknesses of others, and that's what this text is about. That's what the Corinthians were doing and and sadly it's often what we do because it's easier than its comfortable. It comes naturally to just dismiss those weird people out there that are different from us. It would be so much simpler to just adopt a policy of either exclusively indulging the culture or exclusively separating from the culture. But Paul would have us put in the hard work of thinking through how to balance freedom and restraint for the sake of gospel clarity. We don't want to be too quick to censure nor too quick to embrace and the litmus test is always this does it clarify or obscure the gospel message because in the end it is the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, not my ability to conform to the culture nor my ability to abstain from the culture. It is the gospel that is the power of God into salvation.

So Paul defers to others by serving them in by yielding his identity in order to meet people where they're at all in order to bring clarity to the gospel message. Thirdly, we see deference requires perseverance to the finish line perseverance all the way to the end. Verse 24. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize so Ron running this way, that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

Paul knows that deferring to week consciences, limiting our freedom for the sake of the gospel can get exhausting it can get tiring, but he exhorts the Corinthians that it's worth it. So stick to it. There is there is joy at the end of the journey for those who have not grown weary in well doing, there is a reward for faithful Christian for faithful Christian living and faithful witness. There will come a day when faithful followers of Christ will hear the Lord say well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master the prize at the end of the race is not something we earn by trying to impress God but it is nevertheless a motivation to labor hard and to labor sacrificially the joy at the finish line is worth the perseverance it takes to get there so don't give up. Paul says finally. Deference requires that I mortify my sin that I put my sin to death.

We see this in verses 26 and 27 Paul says so I do not run aimlessly. I do not box as one beating the air, but I discipline my body and keep it under control list after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. Sin just really messes everything up. Doesn't we can even defer to others the right way because we like the ones at work trying to reach with the gospel are also sinners. Paul acknowledges this and so he concludes with an exhortation warning really not to let our sinful tendencies ruin or taint our attempts to reach others with the gospel.

We are not saviors reaching down trying to save drowning people were drowning along with them. We need the same Q4 that they need and if we would but recognize this than I think deference would come much easier. In fact, the very practice of deference will go a long way toward helping us to put to death those actions and attitudes in and thought processes that so often lead us astray and lead us into the weeds of self-centeredness and self-love in and self absorption. Christian deference by its very definition requires death to self. And that's a good thing.

So Paul in this text is given us an example of Christian deference in his own life. He's given us some motivations for showing deference and he's instructed us as to how to go about practicing this Christ honoring gospel clarifying and and sin, mortifying trait is a glorious, glorious ideal to which were being called, and in fact it is this ideal that is at the very heart of the gospel as I study this chapter last week I began to realize that Paul's exhortation in these verses runs a close parallel to Paul's description of the mind of Christ. In Philippians 25 through 11 we just share this with you briefly as we close your familiar with the passage in Philippians 2 after after calling Christians in Philippians 2 to to do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but rather to count others more significant than yourself. By the way, that's an excellent definition of Christian deference: says this he says let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant sound like verse 19 in first Corinthians night making myself a servant to all, in order to win more Paul says in Philippians 2 that Christ not only took on the form of a servant. He also was born in the likeness of men and was found in human form that sounds a whole lot like Paul's agitation first review is not for us to become all things to all people become like the ones were trying to win that we might win the more Philippians says that after having endured the cross, Christ was highly exalted, and given a name that is above every name thing that corresponds to the imperishable reward. The prize that Paul says is a legitimate motivation for everyone who will persevere to the end. But then what about this fourth requirement. This issue of mortifying sin. Christ had no sin to mortify if Philippians 2 does tell us that Christ humbled himself to the point of death, even death on a cross, Christ had no sin in himself to mortify the Christ most certainly became sin on the cross for you and for me. George, do you see that this call to lay down our lives in service and deference to others to to humble ourselves by identifying as much as is humanly and morally possible with the loss, the dying, the blind spiritually dead is not some peripheral principle of the Christian life know it is front and center in the Christian life because it was front and center in the person and work of Jesus Christ. We are never more like Christ than when we are voluntarily laying down our rights for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of those who most need the gospel and if that's true, and shouldn't we be seeking out opportunities to show this sacrificial sort of love to others. Shouldn't we be rejoicing when those opportunities prevent present themselves. The world may not encourage or value or pursue this degree of radical humility, but when they see it in us. It often becomes for them. An irresistible attraction to the gospel and that's because Christian deference. As Paul calls us to hear has the aroma of Christ all over me. That aroma infuse every interaction we have with each other in every interaction we have with the lost and dying world, to the praise and glory of God the spring or Jesus you are not only the perfect end and best example of these things for us. You have also absorbed absorbed God's wrath against our failure to be and do what Paul is calling us to be and do in these verses ordered you. Forgive us for our self-centered pettiness.

Forgive us for our vaulted view of ourselves teachers to yield our rights the sake of the gospel teaches to die to ourselves for the good of others, teach us to proclaim Christ and him crucified through the humility and love. We show to those you called us to serve and pray in Jesus name, amen


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