1 Cor. 9:16-23 – The Way of the Cross (Part 1)

Translation and Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS, 05 Apr 2009



15. But as for me, I have not made use of any one of these things,

neither do I write these things in order that it might become thus to me,

            for it would be better for me rather to die than that my boast in any way be empty!

            16. For if I happen to be evangelizing, it is not to me a boast,

            for necessity presses upon me;

            for woe be unto me if I have not evangelized!

            17. For if I practice this voluntarily, I have a reward,

                        but if involuntarily, I have been entrusted with an administration.

18. What therefore is my reward?

            That when I evangelize I might set forth the gospel without cost

                        in order not to make absolute use of my authority in the gospel.

19. For, being free from all men, I enslaved myself to all men in order that I might win the more:

            20. so I became to the Jews as a Jew in order that I might win Jews,

            to those under law as one under law (not being under law myself)

                        in order that I might win those under law,

            21. to the lawless, as a lawless one

                        (not being lawless in respect to God, but rather within the law of Christ)

                        in order that I might win the lawless,

            22. I became weak to the weak in order that I might win the weak.

I have become all things to all men always in order that I might save some.

23. Yes, I’m doing all [these] things on account of the gospel in order that I might become its co-sharer.


Introduction: Jonah, the antithesis

Jonah is easy to appreciate because he makes us all feel better about how selfish, disobedient, and unloving we all are.


In the first half of chapter nine, Paul established the fact that

We saw that Paul was setting the pace for the Corinthians by his own example of giving up rights in order to advance God’s good news in the lives of other people.


In the second half of this chapter, Paul focuses in on why he gave up his right to financial support from the church. The way I’ve organized it, I see 5 reasons. I want to cover the first four this week and look at the last one more in depth next week. So, why did Paul preach the gospel for free in Corinth?


I)        Evangelism is an urgent obligation (vs. 16-17)

A)    Paul was called by God to preach and thus was under obligation to preach the gospel

1.      Act 22:14 “The God of our fathers hath appointed you [Paul] to know His will, and to see the Righteous One, and to hear a voice from His mouth, for you will be a witness for Him unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.” (cf. Acts 9:6 & 15, 26:16, Gal 1:15)

2.      The Greek word here for “preach the gospel” is euangelizw, and is transliterated over into English as “evangelize.” It literally means to be a messenger of good. When John Wycliffe translated the Bible into English, he translated this Greek phrase for “good news” into the Old English word “Gospel” (literally “good spell”).

3.      What is this good spell/good news? It is the message that God has provided mankind with someone who can save us from all that is wrong in the world. In the Bible God reveals that all that is wrong in the world is that we have offended God by failing to worship Him, failing to follow His rules, and setting up other things and other people in His place. Every bad thing in the world comes from this. If everyone could be reconciled to a right relationship with God, then all that is bad in this world would go away. The Gospel/the good news is that Jesus made a way to restore us to a good relationship with God by dying on a cross and suffering the punishment that God said must be suffered for our rebellion against Him, and then rising from the dead and leading us spiritually into a restored relationship with God which, over time, will eventually make everything good again.

4.      God had entrusted the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles to Paul. To cop out on this stewardship/trust/dispensation/position of administration would be to disobey God and invite His curse (“Woe be unto me”).

5.      It’s possible that the word Paul chose here translated “laid/compelling/pressing upon” is an allusion to Jeremiah 20:9 where the Septuagint Greek translation of the passage uses the same word to describe how Jeremiah couldn’t hold to himself the message God had given him because it was like fire “laid up” in his bones!

6.      Whether or not Paul wanted to do this job, God had made it clear that He wanted Paul to do it, so Paul’s only choice was, “Will I do this willingly or unwillingly? Voluntarily or involuntarily (like Jonah)? Cheerfully or begrudgingly?” Calvin wrote, “Whenever God has enjoined anything upon us, we are mistaken if we think we have discharged it aright when we have performed it grudgingly.”

B)    You can’t boast about performing an obligation. Since Paul is a slave of Christ and was commanded to preach, he can’t boast that he has preached.

C)    What about you? Is evangelism an obligation laid upon you?
William Carey’s classic apology in 1792 on this topic is a sufficient answer:
“Our Lord Jesus Christ, a little before his departure, commissioned his apostles to Go, and teach all nations; or, as another evangelist expresses it, Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. This commission was as extensive as possible, and laid them under obligation to disperse themselves into every country of the habitable globe, and preach to all the inhabitants, without exception or limitation… There seems… to be an opinion existing in the minds of some, that because the apostles were extraordinary officers and have no proper successors, and because many things which were right for them to do would be utterly unwarrantable for us, therefore it may not be immediately binding on us to execute the commission, though it was so upon them. To the consideration of such persons I would offer the following observations.
FIRST, If the command of Christ to teach all nations be restricted to the apostles, or those under the immediate inspiration of the Holy Ghost, then that of baptizing should be so too; and every denomination of Christians… do wrong in baptizing with water at all.
SECONDLY, If the command of Christ to teach all nations be confined to the apostles, then all such ordinary ministers who have endeavoured to carry the gospel to the heathens, have acted without a warrant, and run before they were sent. Yea, and though God has promised the most glorious things to the heathen world by sending his gospel to them, yet whoever goes first, or indeed at all, with that message, unless he have a new and special commission from heaven, must go without any authority for so doing.
THIRDLY, If the command of Christ to teach all nations extend only to the apostles, then, doubtless, the promise of the divine presence in this work must be so limited; but this is worded in such a manner as expressly precludes such an idea. Lo, I am with you always, to the end of the world.
…We cannot say that it is repealed, like the commands of the ceremonial law; nor can we plead that there are no objects for the command to be exercised upon. Alas! the far greater part of the world, as we shall see presently, are still covered with heathen darkness! Nor can we produce a counter-revelation, concerning any particular nation, like that of Paul and Silas, concerning Bythinia; and, if we could, it would not warrant our sitting still and neglecting all the other parts of the world; for Paul and Silas, when forbidden to preach to those heathens, went elsewhere, and preached to others. Neither can we allege a natural impossibility in the case…”

D)    If telling this good news is an obligation laid upon you too, will you do it willingly or begrudgingly?
ILLUSTRATION: I know that it is my calling and duty as a father to disciple my children in God’s ways, so I try to do a lesson with two at a time when I have a free evening. But many evenings, I’m just tired, and collecting my thoughts to teach a lesson and focus my attention on the lives of my children feels like more mental energy than I want to expend. I’d rather go to bed early or talk to my wife or even get some “real” work done in the office. That kind of attitude is foolish. If the Lord has called me to do something, I had better do it cheerfully. God warned the Israelites of old that He would “curse” them if they did not “serve” Him “joyfully with gladness of heart!” (Deut. 28:47)


II)      Gospel ministry has inherent rewards (vs. 17-18)

A)    False apostles apparently insinuated to the Corinthians that Paul was preaching the Gospel because he got some something out of it. Paul debunks their accusations with this boast that he ministered freely, cheerfully, and willingly.

B)    As Paul points out in v. 17, if you do something cheerfully, it feels like a reward, whereas if you do it begrudgingly, it feels like an administrative burden.

1.      It’s like Tom Sawyer and the fence he had to whitewash. He saw it as a drudgery, but when he convinced the other boys that it was a privilege, they gladly paid him for the reward of getting to paint Aunt Polly’s fence!

2.      Your attitude is very important in how you approach the work of the Lord and the giving up of your rights. The Lord loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor 9)

C)    In his commentary on I Cor, John Calvin wrote of this “reward” in his native French as a “chef d’oevure” – a masterpiece that is enjoyed for its own sake, because it is a worthwhile work, the artist finds satisfaction in having given birth to a masterpiece. The community of believers was that masterpiece for Paul that he appreciated for its own sake, independently of what pay he could get in return for his labor on them.

D)    Although Paul of course needed food and shelter, there was a certain gratification in offering the good news of Jesus free of cost to the Corinthians, and instead receiving his support from other churches in Macedonia which had already been established and wanted to support the spread of the Gospel (2 Cor. 11:8-9).

E)     “He who labored more than all others has yet in view no higher reward for himself.. than just the salvation common to allbelievers.” (Meyer)

F)     Will you accept the call of God to spread His kingdom for the sake of the rewards He offers?

1.      Would satisfaction and joy be a good reward?

2.       John wrote in his third epistle, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”


III)    The goal of life is to win more souls (vs. 19-22)

A)    Paul made himself a “servant to all in order to win more.” (v.19)

B)    That’s the reason why he gave up his right to demand support; he discerned that more people would become Christians in Corinth if he gave up his right, and since his goal was the salvation of more souls, he accepted the personal loss that would result.

C)    Notice how many times the phrase occurs: “that/so that I might win/to/so as to win” I count 5 times in these four verses, and it’s even more than that if you count the phrase “that I might save” at the end of v. 22, which seems to be a summary statement of the five earlier statements. When something is repeated, it generally means it’s important!

D)    He mentions adapting himself to 4 groups of people:

1.      “the Jews” –

(a)    Acts 16:3 “Paul wanted him [Timothy] to go forth with him; so he took and circumcised him because of the Jews that were in those parts”

(b)   Acts 21:20-26 – Paul did the ceremonial cleansings at the temple, attended the Jewish holidays at the temple, and even sponsored some Jewish guys who had taken the Nazarite vow.

2.      “those under law” = Gentile Proselytes to Judaism?

(a)    Paul is speaking of the entirety of the Mosaic law.

(b)   Paul often ran into proselytes because he started off his ministry in each town in the Jewish synagogues. Often he was kicked out of the synagogue but these proselytes followed him out! (Acts 13:43ff)

3.      “the lawless/those without/outside of/not having the law” = Pagan Gentiles

(a)    Rom 2:14 “Gentiles… not having the law, are the law unto themselves”

(b)   Gal 2:3 “Titus, being a Greek, was not compelled to be circumcised”

(c)    Act 14:15 “We also are men of like passions with you, and bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things unto a living God”

(d)    Act 17:23 “As I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription, TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. What therefore you worship in ignorance, this I set forth unto you.” then Paul quotes a pagan prophet to prove a subsequent point!

4.       “the weak”

(a)    Refers to 8:7ff “…some through an intimate knowledge of idols until now are eating as though it were a thing sacrificed to idols, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.8. But food does not give us standing by God... 9. But keep watching how this authority of yours might not become a stumbling block to the weak ones, 10. for if someone happens to see you (the one who has knowledge) in an idol’s temple sitting down [to eat], would not his conscience, being weak, be fortified so as to eat things sacrificed to idols?” 11. So he is being undone by your knowledge…12. and sinning thus against your brothers and wounding their weak conscience, y’all are sinning against Christ! 13. Therefore, if food scandalizes my brother, I will never eat meat in this age in order that I might not scandalize my brother.”

(b)   2Co 11:27 “in labor and hard work, frequent sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, in frequent fastings, in cold and nakedness, Besides those exterior things, there is… anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak?...”

(c)    Note that although we should accommodate the weak, we are not called to accommodate the obstinate. Paul would not bend on Titus’ circumcision, but he had Timothy circumcised.

E)     All things to all men was within limits. Only in things indifferent, that God leaves to our choice, can we be thus accommodating. (Calvin)

F)     Greeks had some experience with the pickyness of the Jews. Even nowadays, especially in areas like South Florida where my wife and my mom grew up, it’s not hard to find jokes about Jews being stingy, finicky and hypocritical. If Paul fulfilled the stereotype of a Jew, he could lose opportunities to share the Gospel with Gentiles.

G)    So… “Paul ate kosher with the Jews and pork with the Gentiles… He also observed the foolish scruples of some people in order not to prejudice them against the Gospel.” (Clark)

H)    People today have had bad experiences with Christians, especially with reformed theology enthusiasts, and they have difficulty relating to weirdo home­schoolers and Christian schoolers. How can we shatter the stereotypes so they can hear the Gospel? What barriers keep the residents of Manhattan from wanting to hear the Gospel?

1.      One big thing is to humble ourselves. Our pride in having arrived at the truth and at the very best practice makes others feel condemned and shuts down any interest in hearing what we have to say.

2.      One way we can demonstrate that we don’t think we’re better than everybody else is to learn something from the culture around us and adapt to it.
One thing I’m adapting to is the difference between and institutional mindset in the culture around us and the home-centered culture that I have cultivated. I’ve been informed that it scares the bejeepers out of normal people for me to invite them to my home upon their first visit to church. For me and my wife, it’s the most natural thing in the world because our world revolves around our home, but for others, home is not that important a place – or else it’s a very private place – and for some, home is not where you get good food, so if you want to get to know somebody in a nice place over a nice meal you go out to a restaurant. So I’m trying to adapt myself to that by trying to notice who would prefer meeting me at a restaurant without my barnfull of kids and meet them that way.

So, Paul preached the Gospel to the Corinthians for free (1) because of his duty and calling before God, (2) because he saw intrinsic rewards in doing it, and (3) because he wanted to see more people saved. He also did it because he knew he had to press on rather than rest on his laurels:


IV)  It is important not to be left out (vs. 20, 21, 23 & 27)

A)    v. 20 “not being under the law myself” – First step is to make sure you’re “in”

1.      Apparently Erasmus didn’t have a Greek manuscript in his collection that included this phrase, so the phrase was not published in his Textus Receptus Greek New Testament that the KJV is based on, so it’s not in the KJV versions, but it’s in the vast majority of ancient Greek manuscripts which came to light after the Reformation, so the phrase is included in the modern English versions.

2.      Its inclusion does not create any new theology, however, because Paul taught this same basic truth in other passages where the manuscripts are more fully in agreement:

(a)    Rom 6:3 “…all who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death. 4 We were buried therefore with him through baptism unto death: that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life… 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under law, but under grace. 15 … we are not under law, but under grace… 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death.”

(b)   Gal 2:16 “…a man is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, and we believed on Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law: because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. 3:23 … the law was our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now faith that is come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For all of you are sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus… 4:4 “…when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 that He might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons…. 7 So you are no longer a bondservant, but a son… 5:18 …led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”

3.      The point is that Paul recognizes the true way of salvation. It is not by being under the law and trying to be good that he is saved. Rather it is by coming under Christ Jesus and trusting Him and being led by Him that Paul is saved.

4.      “He is still bond by the moral law, but free from the penalty of law because of [Christ’s death] and free from ritual law because Christ fulfilled it…” (Clark)

5.      So how about you? Will you be left out, or will you be found in Christ?

B)    v.21 “not being lawless in respect to God bur rather under the law of Christ

1.      lit. “in” the law of Christ / responsible to-JFB,

2.      False apostles apparently accused Paul of licentiousness, so he debunks these accusations in this parenthetical statement. As Evans put it , Paul is “not an outlaw, but an in-law of Christ.”

3.      God’s law is good. “No work is good and acceptable to God that is not included in God’s law.” (Calvin)

4.      John 13:34 Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, so you also love one another.” This is the law of Christ.

5.      Gal 6:2 “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

6.      Are you obeying these commands from Jesus? Don’t be left out because you ignored His law.

C)    v.23 “that I might be a fellow partaker/sharer”

1.      Paul didn’t want to be left out of receiving the blessings of the Gospel. He wanted to be a partaker or sharer of these blessings with the Corinthians.

2.      This word for partaking or fellowship in a shared blessing was already mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:9 which spoke of being “…called into the fellowship of [God’s] Son Jesus Christ...”

3.      Mt. 10:22 “He that endures to the end shall be saved.” We must continue to walk in the way of the cross.

4.      Calvin wrote, There is “no reason to feel satisfied on the ground of having once entered the race prescribed in the gospel unless he persevere in it until death… We must not get weary after a short time, like one that stops short in the middle of the racecourse, instead, death alone must put a stop to our running.”

5.      Are you feeling weary in your spiritual journey? Do you want the blessings of the Gospel? Do you want fellowship with Jesus in heaven where everything that is wrong will be made right? Press on in the hope of partaking! (v.10)

D)    v.27 lest I myself be disqualified/cast away/rejected after testing

1.      What will cause you to be disqualified/rejected by God? Here are some verses that use this word and explain what causes people to be rejected:

2.      Forgetting God: Rom 1:28 They did not “regard/acknowledge/retain the knowledge God to keep him on their mind,” so God “rejected” them.

3.      Hypocrisy: Tit 1:16 “They profess that they know God; but by their works they deny Him, being abominable, and disobedient, and disqualified in regards to every good work.”

4.      Denying the truth: 2Ti 3:8 “they stand against the truth. Men corrupted in mind, reprobate/Disqualified concerning the faith.”

5.      Bearing bad fruit: Hebrews 6:7-12 “…land which has drunk the rain that comes often upon it, and brings forth plants fitting for them for whose sake it is also tilled, receive blessing from God: 8 but if it bears thorns and thistles, it is rejected and … burned. 9 But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation… 11 And we desire that each one of you may show the same diligence unto the fulness of hope even to the end: 12 that you be not sluggish, but imitators of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

So, Paul kept preaching the Gospel for free in order to stay focused on the salvation that is only found in Christ, in order to demonstrate love and fulfill the law of Christ, in order to persevere in his calling until death and enjoy fellowship with Jesus, and in order to keep from being disqualified.

V)    Also because Self-denial is a normal part of a Focused life (vs. 24-27)

Let’s look at this next week


Closing: Example of Jesus

At the beginning of this sermon, I brought up the anti-type of Jonah. I want to close this sermon with the true type of Jesus.

  1. Jesus obeyed His father and laid down His life in order to save us. John 10:17-18  Therefore doth the Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again.  18  No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment received I from my Father.” Jesus chose the way of the cross out of obedience to his Father. Let us follow in His steps!
  2. Jesus recognized the reward of bringing salvation to us and pursued the way of the cross for the glorious masterpiece of grace it would accomplish. Heb 12:2 “look unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
  3. Jesus was concerned about saving and winning more souls rather than pursuing His own comforts: John 10:15 “…I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring…”
  4. Although the way was hard, Jesus finished well and sits with satisfaction in heaven after a job well-done. Hebrews 12:3 “consider Him who endured such antagonism from sinners against himself, that you not grow weary, fainting in your souls.”

Let us walk in the way of the cross, laying down our rights for the spiritual well-being of others that more people will be won to Christ.



Order of Worship


5-Apr-09 – Palm Sunday


Col 3:15 NASB  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.


Psalter 132B (String ensemble)






Acts 5:30-32

"The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. "He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. "And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him."




O Sacred Head (String ensemble)


1 Chronicles 16:23-36

NT Text

John 12:1-32




Amos Wilson

Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, *said, "Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?" Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. Therefore Jesus said, "Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. "For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me." The large crowd of the Jews then learned that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead. But the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death also; because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and were believing in Jesus. On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, "Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, even the King of Israel." Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written, "FEAR NOT, DAUGHTER OF ZION; BEHOLD, YOUR KING IS COMING, SEATED ON A DONKEY'S COLT." These things His disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him. So the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead, continued to testify about Him. For this reason also the people went and met Him, because they heard that He had performed this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, "You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him." Now there were some Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast; these then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." Philip *came and *told Andrew; Andrew and Philip *came and *told Jesus. And Jesus *answered them, saying, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. "He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. "If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him. "Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour. "Father, glorify Your name." Then a voice came out of heaven: "I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again." So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, "An angel has spoken to Him." Jesus answered and said, "This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes. "Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself."


Awake My Soul Stretch Every Nerve (Keyboard)


1 Cor. 9:16-27 "The Way of the Cross"




Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted (String ensemble)

CommunionText Mark 14:22-26

While they were eating, He took some bread, and after a blessing He broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Take it; this is My body." And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And He said to them, "This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. "Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.


Be Thou My Vision (a cappella)


Psalm 116:6-9

The LORD preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me.  (7)  Return to your rest, O my soul, For the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.  (8)  For You have rescued my soul from death, My eyes from tears, My feet from stumbling.  (9)  I shall walk before the LORD In the land of the living.


All Glory Laud and Honor (v.1)


Why does Paul preach the Gospel? (vs.16-17)


What is the reward for evangelism? (v.18, 25)


Why does Paul become all things to all men? (v.19-23)


How can you align w/ God's agenda, so you don't miss out or get disqualified? (26-27)