Committed to Serve

KEY VERSE: “Though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.” —I Corinthians 9:19

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: I Corinthians 9:1-7, 19-27

THE APOSTLE PAUL was a wonderful example of a Christian in many ways. One of these was his service to Jesus, his Master, and to God, his Heavenly Father. It seems paradoxical that the Corinthian Church should question his zeal and motives. In answering those in that church who would “examine” (vs. 3) him, he defends himself by citing the rights that were his. “Do we not have the right to our food and drink? Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a believing wife as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who at any time pays the expenses for doing military service? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not get any of its milk?”—I Cor. 9:4-7, New Revised Standard Version

First we note that Paul asks, “Am I not an apostle?” He answered this question on another occasion by referring to himself as “Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father).” (Gal. 1:1) No man had anything to do with his apostleship. Rather, he was appointed by Jesus and the Father. He also asks, “Am I not free?” Paul is alluding to the rights that he possessed, and Barnabas too, who had been his companion during the first journey they had taken to establish new ecclesias of the Lord, and who was now toiling as a servant of the Lord in this capacity on the island of Cyprus. As stated, one of their rights was that of being supported by the brethren as they performed this work.

Although Paul knew he had the right to receive support from the brethren, he preferred not to be chargeable to any. Toward the close of his ministry as he met for the last time with the elders of Ephesus, he said, “I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.” (Acts 20:33,34) Likewise in writing his first letter to the brethren in Thessalonica from Corinth, he said, “Ye remember, brethren, our labor and travail: for laboring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the Gospel of God.” (I Thess. 2:9) We note the loving zeal displayed by Paul in his service to God, working day and night. He worked to supply his needs, and used the remaining time to serve God!

Of course there were many brethren whose hearts were full of magnanimity and love for God who insisted on assisting the Apostle Paul. One of these was Lydia, who insisted that her home be the home for Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke. (Acts 16:14,15) What a privilege it is for brethren to share what they have with those engaged in full-time service for the Lord.

In verses eight to eighteen of this epistle, the apostle gives examples from the Law, and from the Old Testament, citing this right. But what really motivated him was that he might “make the Gospel free of charge, not making full use” of his rights. (I Cor. 9:18, R.V.) These sentiments remind us of our Lord Jesus’ words, “Freely ye have received, freely give.”—Matt. 10:8

So intense was the Apostle Paul’s desire to serve God that he was willing to forego all his personal preferences and desires. He said , “Though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.” (I Cor. 9:19, NRSV) By willingly so doing, Paul sought to convince men of all persuasions and walks of life to see the wonderful Gospel message and the call of Christ. He ran the race for the prize. He was a good example. He fought the good fight victoriously.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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