1 Corinthians 9:16-23 – Why do I do this?

Updated: Mar 7

If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.


For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so 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 I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.


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The thought came to me today, about how long I have written interpretations and insights for others to see, only to find few actually read what I go to the time to write, fewer comment about what I write, and there is nothing reaped, other than costs and debts. It all seems like I am beating my head against a wall. It seems as if nobody cares.


Then, I read Paul telling me he felt the same way; but Paul knew there were people who needed his encouragement. Paul was not writing to a godless void called the “Internet.” Paul was writing to Christians, at a time when Christianity was growing by leaps and bounds. Still, Paul was beating his head against a wall too; but it was because of him not having enough time to write letters to all the Christians in the world.




I read these verses from Paul’s first letter to the Christians in Corinth and I hear him telling me, “Christianity isn’t about saving the world. That is God’s Will, through His Son being reborn in individuals, each saving one soul – one’s own – by becoming Jesus Christ resurrected in the flesh. Even if nobody is listening to you, you are listening to God speaking to you through His Son; and, if God says to tell the world via the Internet, then that is what you must do.”


I hear you talking to me Paul: “If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!” I gain nothing materially by writing these posts. Therefore, I am nothing by doing so. However, being nothing is better than being condemned for doing nothing!


Paul tells me: “For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.” I know nothing of value about Scripture on my own. I never paid a dime to enroll in a seminary or theological school of knowledge, so I could pay for the right to proclaim what I have been educated to sell for profit. I never once studied hard and memorized quotes, because I knew there was money to be made in the televangelist market. I know nothing and have no credentials. Therefore, nobody will ever follow behind me like they will follow behind false prophets. My only reward is unseen and unknown; so, I keep on doing what God says do, not stopping to ask, “When do I get paid?”


I write freely, with no one telling me I must do it. “For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.” As a slave, I will never know who has been won to the Lord. All I know is faith in God will lead me to what I must do next.


Paul wrote to me these words: “To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.” I preach to Jews, to Christians, to atheists, and to Muslims, telling them all the same things. I stand on no platforms constructed by any of those groups, as there will be no “room” in heaven just for Jews, or just for Christians, or just for Muslims. No organizations will ascend beyond this earthly plane. All members of all groups must stand before God naked and alone, when the time comes for the soul to be judged. I preach to all the same, because all will face the same reckoning.


That is why Paul’s words made so much sense, when he wrote: “I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.” The gospel is the truth of the Word. God tells me the truth and I marvel in them. My soul delights in the truth coming from words so few can understand. Nobody could ever tell me the meaning the way God tells me. I am sure God told Paul in the same way; and, Paul could never write enough words to describe the truth God reveals to one individually married to His Holy Spirit. Paul wrote for the same reason I write: So I [not anyone else] may marvel it the blessings that come from the truth.


That marvelous feeling is what drives one to want to share that feeling in as many words as are necessary to lead one to listen to the truth himself or herself. How many words does it take to do that?


This reading has been selected as the Epistle reading for the fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, by the Episcopal Church. It will be read aloud by a reader [if the doors of the Episcopal churches are open and people are allowed to come inside to hear words read aloud] and possible some words will be preached by a priest. The question is: Will the message of God be told so individuals will respond?


The lesson is clear to me. It was clear to Paul. Hopefully, the message is clear to the priest, so it can be communicated to those hearing a sermon. The only one who truly knows the glory of the Gospel is the one who hears the voice of God telling it.


R. T. Tippett

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