All Things for the Sake of the Gospel
Jesus Christ is the Gospel of God. He is the personification of our salvation, a salvation that belongs to God (Ps 3:8; Jon 2:9; Rev 19:1). Thus, when we preach the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, we proclaim Him (Col 1:28), the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:24). Jesus came to save His people from their sins (Mt 1:21). He laid down His life for His own sheep (Jn 10:11, 15). He gave Himself up for His beloved church (Eph 5:23, 25), whom He purchased with His own precious blood (Mt 26:28; Acts 20:28; 1 Pet 1:19).
In love, God predestined us to adoption as sons (Eph 1:5), and in death, He demonstrated His love toward us, while we were yet sinners (Rom 5:8). He poured His love into our hearts (Rom 5:5), when He gave us the Holy Spirit as a pledge (2 Cor 1:22; 5:5). We love Him because He first loved us (1 Jn 4:19). Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord (Rom 8:35–39). Here is love (Jn 15:13).
Christians are constrained by the love of Christ (2 Cor 5:14), who lives in us by His Spirit (Jn 14:17; Rom 8:9, 11; Jas 4:5). We walk in love (Eph 5:2), being knit together in love for one another (Col 2:2), which is the Law of Christ (1 Cor 9:21; Gal 6:2). This is the goal of our instruction (1 Tim 1:5), as we teach others to obey all He has commanded (Mt 28:20). Love is the fulfillment of the Law (Rom 13:10). Here is our motivation to serve.
The Apostle Paul loved the church at Corinth. He had planted it on his second missionary journey (Acts 18). It was a gifted group, but there were numerous problems, as revealed in two extant letters: 1 and 2 Corinthians. One of the problems was a group who had little respect for Paul’s apostleship, which caused him to have to defend his ministry — the very ministry that brought these people to life, spiritually.
The ministry of the Word of God is a stewardship entrusted to the called man of God (1 Cor 9:17), who God gifts with knowledge and aptitude for preaching and teaching (1 Tim 3:2). The man of God equips the saints for the work of the ministry (Eph 4:12), by teaching them sound doctrine and living exemplary as one to follow, as he follows Christ (1 Cor 11:1).
The elder/pastor or missionary/evangelist often suffers harsh criticism for flaws in the execution of his labors. Chief among the critic’s fiery darts is the liberty afforded by God’s grace to perform the work. The minister is a normal guy, living a normal life, who happens to be appointed by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28), to perform the sacred service (1 Cor 9:12) and receive his living from the Gospel (1 Cor 9:14).
The minister is a slave of Jesus Christ (Eph 6:6). He must give an account of His stewardship to Christ alone as Judge (2 Cor 5:10). The objective of the minster’s work is to win souls and see saints grow to spiritual maturity (Prv 11:30; Col 1:28). Paul personalized this by writing, “so that I may by all means save some (1 Cor 9:22c).” Paul was not the Savior, but he owned his calling with that level of commitment. In other words, he ran the race to win (1 Cor 9:24–27).
Instead of trying to rise above others into a role of leadership (Mt 23:10), Paul enslaved himself to serving all kinds of people (1 Cor 9:19). His strategy was to become one with his particular audience, whether they were Jews, Gentiles, legalists, antinomians, or the weak (1 Cor 9:20–22).
Paul was a diplomat, an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor 5:20). His diplomacy was a Word from God for sinners, in their own country and context. He was given a ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18), facilitated by the Word of reconciliation that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (2 Cor 5:19).
The Gospel is an offense to sinners because it begins with the bad news of God’s assessment of man’s condition in sin (Gen 6:5; Jer 17:9; Is 64:6; Rom 1:18–32; 3:10–12; Eph 2:1–3, 12). Once a man has finally come to grips that he is a wretched sinner, he must be persuaded that he cannot participate in his own salvation, by doing some configuration of good works (Rom 4:2; 9:32; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8–9; Titus 3:5).
The Gospel preacher tells men that God has chosen a people for himself from before the foundation of the world. He then tells them that Christ died for this particular group, and only those sprinkled with His precious blood are justified before God and forgiven of their sins (Mt 26:28; Eph 1:7). Although he himself is filled with the Holy Spirit, the preacher can do nothing but be a fool for Christ, as it relates to his hearers (1 Cor 4:10).
It is after a man is baptized, regenerated, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit that he is taught by Him about the process of salvation. Just as Christ emptied Himself of His heavenly glory, in order to serve those He came to save (Eph 2:5–11), so the minister decreases so that Christ might increase (Jn 3:30).
Paul was free to do as he pleased (1 Cor 9:19), not being enslaved to denominational rules and regulations or to the money people in the church, who desire the power to be little lords over Christ’s church. He made himself, personally, as of little offense as possible. As the chief of sinners, he was a friend to sinners. He did not join them in their sin, but he entered their groups, parties, societies, cultures, and politics on a mission.
Paul did all he could to be winsome, as he preached foolishness in their ears. The miracle…he himself knew all too well (Acts 9). Paul, seeking the kingdom of God, lived to be a witness to the effectual call of God to His lost elect. Paul preached the Gospel of grace, always putting his life and livelihood on the line. Most did not believe his message, but some did. Therefore, he pressed on with his high calling, counting everything as loss, unless the gain was Christ and the gospel of peace (Phil 3:7, 14; Eph 6:15).
Today, Gospel preachers must lose their lives in this world (Mt 16:25). They must deny themselves fortune, fame, and even the comfortable life so that others might hear the bold witness of the person and world of Jesus Christ (Mt 16:24). The man of God must become all things to all people, and he must follow Paul’s example of doing all things for the sake of the Gospel (1 Cor 9:23). Some will believe our report, with a transformed life from sin to grace (Rom 5:21), and they will give thanks to God, for raising up and sanctifying the faithful steward, who willingly suffers for the sake of the elect (1 Cor 9:12; 2 Tim 2:10).
Spokane Valley, Washington
November 21, 2022