This post is on 1 Corinthians 9, and what it means for us as Christians to put Jesus and the gospel first as Paul did.
1 Corinthians 9 is an amazing piece of Scripture. In it, Paul describes how he has willingly and fully and eagerly given up all of his rights that he has as an apostle and as a minister of the gospel (such as being financially supported by those he ministers to, is the most prominent example) all for the sake of the gospel – so that, in his words, he and his fellow ministers and co-labourers “endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 9:12b ESV).
He then goes on to describe how he’s become all things to all people, how he’s put himself into a variety of contexts and experiences to relate to those he ministers to, doing anything he can for the sake of saving some. As he says, “I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” (1 Corinthians 9:23 ESV).
Now, what does this say to us? It says and shows that Paul put the gospel first because he put Jesus first. All of his writings in the New Testament shine with his magnification and exaltation of Jesus, and this chapter of the Bible – among many others – speaks heavily as to his utmost devotion to the mission of Jesus and the Kingdom of God.
Paul was willing to give up anything, to go through anything, to endure anything, just to be a faithful and decent witness to the gospel. He was willing to give up his rights, even!
How should we react to this? How should we internalize it? I believe we should try to imitate Paul, and be willing to go to any lengths to be a faithful witness for Jesus. We should be willing to give up anything, to do anything, to lead others to Jesus while at the same time remaining faithful and obedient to the Scriptures and the character of Jesus (so no missionary dating – not only is it very arguably biblically wrong to do, it’s a really bad way to treat another human being).
Of course, though, this isn’t easy. It’s hard. I’m preaching to myself when I say this. So here’s what we do: we read the Scriptures. We pray on the Scriptures (like we pray to Jesus, asking that He’ll give us the obedience and faithfulness spoken of in the Scriptures, and pray that He will change us into a person more in line with what we’re reading in the Scriptures, and more), and we pray that Jesus will make us willing to give up everything for Him if it comes to that. And most importantly, that He will cause us to put Him first above all else, and the mission first above all else. That we will seek His glory and fame above all else, and that we will live lives that model this. If we pray it earnestly, and mean it, He will give it to us. It may not be all right away at once, but He will give it to us.
I hope this post has been edifying. Grace and peace to you all.