The passage of this lesson is a continuation of Paul’s discussion on the matter of food offered to idols and eating in an idol’s temple. Paul builds on the principles he has laid out in the previous chapter. By way of his personal example, Paul demonstrates that true love calls for self-sacrifice, serving others, and self-discipline.
Did You Know...?
- The command “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain” is taken from Deuteronomy 25:4.
- Running a race (vv. 24–26): “Track events were the key element in any set of Greek games. The original event was the stadion, which was the length of the track, about 630 feet (the equivalent of 192 meters). The prestige of winning the event was such that the winner’s name was often attached to the set of games; Greek historians refer to the year in which “x” won the stadion at the Olympic Games.” [ref]
Paul asks a long series of questions in this segment. What is the rhetorical effect of these questions?Hide Answer
Paul’s rhetorical questions stress how much he is entitled to as an apostle—a fact that the believers may have taken for granted. They help the readers become aware the great extent to which Paul has chosen to forgo his rights as an apostle and think about the reason why he has done so.
What is implied by the question “Am I not free?”Hide Answer
The question implies that Paul has somehow given up his liberty. The subsequent questions reveal that he is alluding to his liberty to exercise his rights as an apostle as well as to make personal choices that he is entitled to make. But for the ministry and the brethren he has voluntarily limited this liberty.
What is Paul saying that he is entitled to?Hide Answer
As an apostle who proclaims the gospel, Paul is entitled to depend on the believers’ material support for his livelihood.
Explain why Paul chose to forgo of his rights as an apostle.Hide Answer
He does not want to let his rights become an obstacle to the gospel (v. 12).
If Paul had exercised his right as an apostle, how might that have affected his ministry? cf.
2 Cor 11:7–13Hide Answer
While Paul could have rightfully received material support from the Corinthians, his critics would have likely used that as grounds for accusing him of being no different from the false apostles who had an ulterior motive in ministering to the church.
Paul’s boasting alludes to his preaching the gospel to the Corinthians free of charge. He did not depend on the church in Corinth for material support even though he was entitled to it.
Why would he go to such extremes to make sure that no one deprives him of his ground for boasting?Hide Answer
Paul considers it his reward to present the gospel free of charge, not making full use of his right (v. 18). Doing so ensures that no one would ever be mistaken about his intentions in preaching the gospel and thus discredit the message he preaches. Paul is willing to let go of anything that may possibly hinder the work of saving others—a mission he regards as more important than his own life.
How does Paul’s personal example as illustrated in this segment help answer the matter about eating in an idol’s temple in chapter 8?Hide Answer
Just as Paul has given up his rights as an apostle so as to not place a stumbling block in the faith of the believers, the strong brother who thinks that there is nothing wrong with eating in an idol’s temple ought to refrain from exercising his rights for the sake of the weak brother.
How can we also be servants to all?Hide Answer
Being a servant to all is not limited to lending help to those who are in need. In the context of this passage, we see that being a servant to all also involves forgoing our convenience or comfort so as to not place an obstacle in winning souls.
How does being a servant to all enable us to win others?Hide Answer
When we are willing to accommodate and be more open to the values and mindsets of the people we are trying to win, we make it easier for them to accept the message we share with them.
For example, when reaching out to someone who is very health-conscious, we can try to learn more about healthy habits and be sensitive when choosing what to eat when we are in their company. If we are getting to know someone who has just gone through a divorce, we can try to listen to what they are going through instead of keep teaching them the importance of having a strong marriage. Then when it comes time for us to tell them about the Lord Jesus and our faith, they would be much more willing to hear us.
What is the sense of the repeated word “become”? How do we become someone we are not?Hide Answer
The word “become” here does not suggest pretense, but connotes making an effort to accommodate those who are different from us. As much as we are able, and as long as we do not compromise God’s commandments, we can make adjustments to our habits, lifestyle, and customs so as to be more accessible to others.
How can you make Paul’s lifelong goal as stated in verse 23 your own?Hide Answer
In verse 17, Paul tells his readers that he has been entrusted with a stewardship. Because he views preaching the gospel as his mission, he is always thinking about living in such a way to reach as many people as he can. In the same way, if we consider preaching the gospel a mission entrusted by our Lord, we would also make every effort to do what is necessary for the gospel.
What kind of race are believers running?Hide Answer
Paul states in verse 25 that our goal in running the race is to receive an imperishable crown. Elsewhere in the New Testament the Bible discusses the unfading crown of life for those who love the Lord (cf. Jas 1:12;
1 Pet 5:4; Rev 2:10). Peter also mentions the inheritance that is incorruptible ( 1 Pet 1:3–4). It seems, therefore, that the imperishable crown Paul speaks of is the eternal life we shall receive at the coming of our Lord Jesus. If so, Paul has in mind in this segment the fact that we as believers must exert our utmost effort in running this heavenward race.
How does the topic of self-control and self-discipline relate to the rest of the chapter as well as chapter 8?Hide Answer
While the race pertains to attaining our eternal life, the discipline that is required in this race also applies to the subject matter of
1 Corinthians chapters 8 through 10, particularly the liberty of believers. As part of this spiritual race, it is important for us to care for the wellbeing of our fellow believers, whom Christ loves and for whom Christ has also died. Doing so often calls for restricting our personal liberty in exercising our rights for the good of others.
Why would the lack of self-control lead a preacher of the gospel to be disqualified from the race?Hide Answer
As Paul points out in 8:11–12, wounding the conscience of a weak brother is sinning against Christ. The Lord Jesus also warns us that, even if we preach in His name but do not do the will of our Father in heaven, we are evildoers in His sight and He will not acknowledge us in that day (Mt 7:21–23). Therefore, preaching the gospel is not a guarantee that we will be accepted into the heavenly kingdom. If Paul fears the possibility of being disqualified from the race, we must also be diligent in doing all things to please the Lord.