Run to Win

Paul shows how to balance our rights and freedoms that come from the gospel by using them to serve the gospel.

Sermon Notes:

  1. When Paul first preached to the Corinthians, they accepted his teaching as the word of the risen Lord.
  2. For two reasons, Paul’s authority and apostleship were now being called into question: the presence of false prophets, and the gullibility of the Corinthian believers, being easily impressed with oration style regardless of the content of the teaching.
  3. Paul did not take money for his message in order to distance himself from the traveling professional orators, and wanted to distinguish the gospel message from the vain sophistry being taught by these speakers.
  4. The false prophets tried to use this to discredit Paul, saying that he was an amateur and so was not able to speak compellingly.
  5. One of the ways that Christians become liberal is by putting themselves at the centre of their theology.
  6. But God’ purposes do not centre around you or I, but Christ.
  7. The value of preaching is determined by what it produces; good preaching should produce good fruit.
  8. Paul reinforces that those who preach the gospel have a right to their living by the gospel.
  9. Early farmers would have oxen tread on their wheat stalks to separate grain from chaff. Eventually that ox is going to take a couple mouthfuls. Greedy farmers would see that as their profits, but the law forbids muzzling them (vv. 8-12).
  10. The primary application of this principle is to people not animals. All workers should do their work in profit. Work should be remunerated.
  11. Capitalism is seen too often as an evil thing, but the idea of private property and the ability to make a profit is your right.
  12. Our work ethic is one of the best ways we can be a light in our society. People look for people who will go through difficulties with perseverance and encourages others.
  13. This has application for pastors as well. It is a good bargain to receive spiritual things in exchange for material things (v. 11).
  14. Those who labour are worthy of double honour. We live in a society that values what is tangible rather than spiritual. We don’t want to motivate pastors to preach what people want to hear. The mature need to generously support a pastor and his family.
  15. Work in Christian ministry should not be thought of as a safe place free from difficulty or a place where value does not matter.
  16. Paul would rather die than have the gospel hindered by any of his behaviours (v. 15). Think of Daniel and his friends, and Jesus’ refusal to turn stones to bread.
  17. Unbridled appetites have the potential to destroy our ministry and steal our rewards.
  18. Food and freedom are not wrong in themselves but if they come between you and the call on your life they are.
  19. Paul reveals the source of his motivation to exercise self-denial in verses 16-18. Preaching is not just something he enjoys doing that may or may not earn him something. Rather Paul says he is in big trouble if he does not preach (cf. Mk. 10:29-31).
  20. In verse 19 Paul answers the question he poses in verse 1: Am I not free? In his freedom he has made himself a servant of all, in imitation of Christ who took on the form of a servant and made in the likeness of man and became obedient unto death (cf. Phil. 2:7).
  21. To lay down your life for the gospel brings an eternal reward.
  22. Paul alludes to Olympic athletes to illustrate his point to be self-disciplined and to focus on the prize (vv. 24-27).  
  23. We must always keep the Lord’s return before us. What are we willing to lay down for Him who laid down his life for us?
  24. We can hang around church long enough to learn the right words to fit in, but that is seeking the crown without the cross. We need discipline to run the race and win the prize.
  25. Some of us feel we have been disqualified from the race because of past failures, but the race is not over, and we are still commanded to run to win.

Application Questions:

  1. Employers: what does it look like to compensate your employees fairly?
  2. Employees: how does your work have a positive impact on your employer?
  3. Christian, what does winning the prize look like? What is the risk of losing?