1 Corinthians 9:15-18 (ESV)
15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting. 16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. 18 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.
What do we tend to want to boast about? In general, it is true that we boast when we do something that costs us greatly. We do not boast about doing something we have to do, but when we do something that goes beyond. So, for example, a person does not boast about how well they breathed today or how they never gave up sleeping last night. No, we do not boast about what we have to do, that just would make no sense.
The flow of Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 9 is interesting. He spends time answering the question of why he chose not to receive payment from the Corinthians, but instead chose to take a job as he preached to them. I intend to comment on the sacrifice that Paul made and what that says to us in a future post. But for today, I am fascinated with the “boasting” that Paul does right here.
Paul says in verses 15 to 19 that he does not want to be deprived of his boast. I’m guessing that he is speaking in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way here. Paul has something to be proud of, and he does not want to lose it. Paul’s pride does not come in preaching the gospel to the Corinthians. Instead, his pride comes in the ability he has been given to preach to them without charge.
It is not the joy that Paul expressed in preaching without financial benefit that I want to focus on today. Rather, it is what Paul says about preaching to the Corinthians that got my attention. Paul says that he can take no pride in preaching the gospel to them. Why? Paul says that he can’t take pride in preaching the gospel, because he could not stand it if he were not preaching the gospel to them. Sharing the message of God with the people of Corinth is so essential to who Paul is and what he does that he cannot imagine what life would be like did he not make gospel proclamation is mission. That is why Paul says, “For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”
Draw some personal application from Paul’s statement. Paul said it was a necessity, a drive, an unquenchable urge he had to preach the gospel. Paul says that he would experience woe, hardship, desperate sorrow if he were not to preach the gospel. Paul took no pride in his preaching, because preaching the gospel, telling the truth of the good news of Jesus, was life and joy to Paul. And telling the truth of Jesus to others can be, and should be, life and joy to us as well.
God has given you and me a calling and a mission. We are called to make disciples of the nations (Matthew 28:18-20). We have been told by God that we are to be part of how he impacts the world with the gospel. We do not take pride in telling the world the gospel. Instead, we should tell the world because we love telling them about Jesus. We should tell them about Jesus because we find ourselves compelled by God to do so. We should have a drive, an urge, a passion for making the Savior known to those who do not know him.
So, what if you don’t have that passion? Pray. Ask God to grant you the desire that your heart should have. Look to Scripture, study the gospel, and se its compelling beauty. Love Jesus, and watch as God stirs in you a desire to make Jesus known. Share your faith, and watch as God gives you a more full understanding of all the good we have in Christ (Philemon 6).
Paul felt a drive to tell the world about Jesus. Today, ask God to give you that same drive. May it be true of you and me that we find no grounds for boasting in our evangelism. Instead, may it be true of us that we find it a necessity to tell others about Jesus. May we have hearts that cry out, “Woe to me if I do not share the gospel!”