Sacrifices made to Win Men
1 Cor. 9:15-27
Last week, we mentioned that Paul refused to get any support from the Corinthians though he has
all the rights and privileges to do so. Today we will know the reasons behind his refusal. This does
not mean or teach us that Pastors or ministers should refuse to accept pay or financial support from
the church. For the sake of the gospel, Paul is sacrificing his rights and below are the reasons why he
is doing it.
Illustration 1: All Labor and Trials Will Cease
Do not be worn out by the labors which you have undertaken for My sake, and do not let
tribulations ever cast you down. Instead, let My promise strengthen and comfort you under every
circumstance. I am well able to reward you above all measure and degree. You shall not toil here
long nor always be oppressed with griefs. A time will come when all labor and trouble will cease.
Labor faithfully in My vineyard; I will be thy recompense. Life everlasting is worth all these conflicts,
and greater than these. Are not all plentiful labors to be endured for the sake of life eternal? Lift
your face therefore to heaven; behold I and all My saints with me—who in this world had great
conflicts—are now comforted, now rejoicing, now secure, now at rest, and shall remain with Me
everlastingly in the kingdom of My father. Thomas a Kempis
I. Reasons (1 Cor. 9:15-18)
A. He wanted to make the Gospel free (1 Cor. 9:15-18). He gloried in a free Gospel of
free grace! He preached the Gospel willingly and rejoiced at the privilege. Our
duties and responsibilities in winning the lost and serving the Lord though full of
hardships and difficulties as well as sacrifices should still be treated as blessings not
burdens. “But even if I did not preach willingly,” says Paul, “I would still have to
preach, because God has committed a stewardship (dispensation) to me.” There is a
practical principle here: we must not let the unbelieving world as well as the false
teachers and ministers find way to discredit us as messengers and the message we
are proclaiming. We wonder what sinners are thinking when they attend “Gospel
meetings” where a preacher spends thirty minutes taking offerings or scolding the
crowd for not giving more!
B. He was eager to exercise his ministry in the most fruitful manner possible (1 Cor.
9:16-18). He wanted the Lord’s reward, so he preached the Word of God willingly
rather than grudgingly and with great zeal and sacrifice, going “above and beyond
the call of duty”. Note that it is not wrong for the believer to serve Christ with a
desire to be rewarded. This should certainly not be his only motive, but it is not a
wrong motive. At the same time, it is not merely doing one’s duty that is rewarded,
but it is doing it with a willing heart (1 Cor. 9:17).
C. He wanted to win as many as possible (1 Cor. 19 b – 23). Though Paul enjoyed
liberty as a worker, he willingly made himself the servant of all men that he might
win them to Christ. This does not mean that Paul followed the worldly slogan,
“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” That would be compromise rooted in fear.
Paul’s attitude was based on love, not fear. He was not lowering his standards;
rather, he was laying aside his personal privileges. It was not hypocrisy, but
sympathy: he tried to understand those who needed Christ and enter into their
experiences. He was a Jew, so he used this as a key to open the Jewish heart. He was
a Roman citizen, so he used this as a key to open the door to the Gentiles. He
sympathized with the weak and encouraged them. “All things to all men” (v. 22)
simply means the wonderful ability of accommodating ourselves to others,
understanding them, and seeking to lead them into the knowledge of Christ. Paul
was no tactless “bull in a china shop” who used the same approach on all he met.
Rather, he used tact to get contact; he willingly sacrificed his own privileges to win
D. Paul understood that the ministry of the gospel is a great obligation and that the
minister is accountable for it (1 Cor. 9:16-17). God has committed to us the word of
reconciliation and we are Christ’s ambassadors in this great endeavour (2 Cor. 5:18-
20). The gospel is to be preached to every creature (Mk. 16:15). Jesus told the
parable of the pounds to warn that each believer will be judged on the basis of what
he does with the ministry that God has given him (Lk. 19:11-26).
Illustration 2: How Many People Will Be in Heaven Because of Us?
The renowned 19th-century English preacher C. H. Spurgeon told this story about King Cyrus, the
man who conquered Babylon and freed the Jews from captivity: A visitor who was admiring Cyrus’
gardens said it gave him much pleasure. “Ah,” said Cyrus, “but you have not so much pleasure in this
garden as I have, for I have planted every tree in it myself.”
Spurgeon then commented, “One reason some saints will have a greater fullness of heaven than
others will be that they did more for heaven than others. By God’s grace they were enabled to bring
more souls there.”
Those words should cause all of us who know the Lord to do some serious thinking. How many
people will be in heaven because of us? Our desire should be that when we reach our eternal home,
some will say to us, “I’m so thankful for you. It was your testimony, your life, your invitation to
accept Christ that accounts for my being here today.” The apostle Paul anticipated the joy in heaven
of seeing people who were there as a result of his ministry (1 Th. 2:19-20).
Yes, heaven’s joys will be the fullest for those who have helped lead others to Christ. So, do all you
can to bring to Jesus those who are lost in sin. That’s how you can lay up pleasures in heaven!
RWD, Our Daily Bread, Sept.-Nov. 1997, page for September 10
II. Warning about becoming a castaway (1 Cor. 9:24-27).
A. Paul was concerned that he would be “castaway” in the sense that he would be put
on a shelf in this life by becoming disqualified for Christian service or that his
ministry would be disapproved at the judgment seat of Christ.
1. The Greek word translated “castaway” (adokimos) means “unapproved, i.e.,
rejected; by implication, worthless” (Strong). It is also translated “reprobate” (2
Cor. 13:6) and “rejected” (Heb. 6:8).
2. In the same epistle Paul taught that Christ preserves the believer (1 Cor. 1:7-9),
so it is obvious that he was not saying in chapter 9 that he was afraid that he
would be lost. What he feared was falling short of God’s high calling for his life.
3. The context makes this plain. In this passage Paul is talking about running a race
and winning a prize. To confuse this with salvation is to misunderstand the
gospel of Jesus Christ. Salvation is not a reward for faithful service. The Bible
plainly states that salvation is by grace, and grace is the free, unmerited mercy
of God; it is a gift (Eph. 2:8-9). Anything that is merited or rewarded in any way,
is not grace (Romans 11:6). If any price whatsoever is given for something, it is
no longer a gift. On the other hand, after we are saved by the marvelous grace
of God, we are called to serve Jesus Christ. We are created in Christ Jesus “unto
good works” (Eph. 2:10), and the believer can lose his reward for service.
B. The believer is wise to run his race for the Lord earnestly and diligently and
sacrificially. The world makes such sacrifices for mere temporal rewards. How much
more should the believer follow this example with the objective of winning an
eternal reward! One missionary wisely observed, “He is no fool who gives up that
which he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
C. We see that Christian service is a serious business. We are saved by grace but we are
saved unto holiness and “good works” (Eph. 2:8-10; Titus 2:11-14). If a Christian is
carnal or slothful in his service to Christ, he will be chastened by the Lord (Heb. 12:6-
8) and if he does not respond, God will reject his ministry and might even take him
home (Rom. 8:13; 1 Cor. 11:30; 1 Jn. 5:16).
D. We see that the believer can win an incorruptible crown (1 Cor. 9:25). This is a
position of authority in the kingdom of Christ (Rev. 2:26-27; 3:11; 20:4).
E. We see that the Christian minister must be very strict in his service to Christ. Paul
kept his bodily appetites under subjection. He was concerned to avoid not only that
which is unlawful but also that which is lawful but which would lead to bondage or
in any way hinder his ministry.
Illustration 3: A Reward for Results
After a preacher died and went to heaven, he noticed that a New York cabdriver had been given a
higher place than he had. “I don’t understand,” he complained to St. Peter. “I devoted my entire life
to my congregation.” “Our policy is to reward results,” explained St. Peter. “Now, what happened,
Reverend, whenever you gave a sermon?” The minister admitted that some in the congregation fell
asleep. “Exactly,” said St. Peter. “And when people rode in this man’s taxi, they not only stayed
awake, they prayed.” Ray Heit, in Reader’s Digest
Illustration 4: Wrote Exit Visas Against Orders
When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Jewish refugees poured into Lithuania. A large group went
to the Japanese Consulate, where they found a sympathetic diplomat named Chiune Sugihara.
Against his government’s orders, Sugihara issued exit visas for an estimated 6,000 Jews, writing
them by hand almost nonstop for a month until the Soviets closed the embassy. His “reward” was
eighteen months in a Soviet prison camp with his family after the war, and dismissal from his post
when he returned to Japan. For years he lived in obscurity, feeling disgraced. But in 1985, Sugihara
was honored by the Israeli government for his heroic efforts.
Today in the Word, September, 1997, p. 33
There are many sacrifices, difficulties, heartaches, etc, you name it which we as servants
of the Lord Jesus Christ must endure to win souls for Him. The road is dangerous
sometimes and it may even cause us our lives. However, the price will always be beyond
what we can expect. Will you sacrifice yourself to win men for Christ?