A. SACRIFICING ONE’S RIGHTS
1. Paul demonstrates what he means by sacrificing one’s rights for the sake of others, by showing how it affected his own life (and that of Barnabas, his co-worker).
2. In so doing, he now proceeds to list the rights he could have exercised, also giving the basis for those rights:
a. First of all he was an apostle ( a special messenger) of God who had been privileged to see the living Christ in a heavenly vision (which implies that he was entitled to be sustained from the work he did.).
b. God himself acknowledged his work in Corinth by raising up this congregation.
c. They were indebted to him because they received eternal life through his labour.
d. He and Barnabas could have availed themselves of the comfort of being accompanied by wives like the other apostles, even Cefas and the Lord’s brothers, but did not do so (so as not to burden the congregation).
e. When engaged in such an important task as laying the spiritual foundation of a new congregation, is it not reasonable for them to have been freed from the manual labour of providing for themselves?
f. Having sown spiritual seed, is it asking too much to be allowed to reap a mere material harvest?
g. Does a farmer not sow in the expectation of reaping something?
h. Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes?
i. Who shepherds a flock and does not eat of it’s increase?
j. Where would you find a soldier using his own funds to go to the battle front?
k. Does not even the Law of God, penned by the hand of Moses, state that an ox that is treading out the grain, is not to be muzzled?
l. Do not the priests and Levites that are appointed to attend to the holy duties in the temple, eat from the offerings?
m. The Lord Jesus himself, during his earthly ministry, made it clear that those that proclaim the Gospel were to be sustained by the proceeds of the Gospel.
3. Having put forward all these irrefutable arguments to prove his rights, he demonstrates what it means to lay down one’s rights by stating: “None of these rights did I exercise but laid them down and rather provided for myself in order not to become a burden to you and thereby a stumbling block to your receiving and growing in Christ.”
4. His reason for doing so was his deep love for them.
5. (One cannot help but ask the question: “How many ministers of the Gospel do we know, that would likewise lay down their rights and work with their own hands to sustain themselves in order that they might draw men and women to Christ and build up one congregation after the other?”)
6. The purpose for explaining these truths in depth to them in this way, is that they will grasp the important lesson that, though a Christian may have all sorts of rights, they are all subject to the laws of humility, service and love, which means that he will often not exercise his rights.
B. SACRIFICING ONESELF FOR THE SAKE OF THE GOSPEL
1. The foundational principles of ministry:
a. Father, Son and Holy Spirit sacrificed Themselves in order to give salvation as a gift (freely) to mankind.
b. God calls and instructs persons that belong to Him, to minister this Gospel to others.
c. Such a called one is under his strict orders and woe to him if he does not carry out those orders.
d. In so doing, he is to minister in the likeness of Christ that gave himself and never demanded personal services.
e. Since a person does this work because he is called by God, he cannot boast to men that he is doing them a great favour for which they should repay him.
f. (God will, in his own way, provide in the needs of his called servant.)
g. By accepting this commission happily and carrying it out joyfully and freely, the minister qualifies for a heavenly reward.
h. Becoming a minister or even a Christian, means that you are becoming a giver; you receive freely from God and freely give to God and men.
2. The wrong attitude in ministry:
a. To demand some kind of reward from man, is to act contrary to the principle of a free salvation.
b. By going against the will of God, the minister loses his heavenly reward for he has replaced it with an earthly one.
c. Even being unwilling to sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel in whatever way (grumbling) may cause a minister to lose his heavenly reward.
d. In that instance God also no longer covers his mistakes by grace, but keeps a record of them and holds him accountable like a bookkeeper that has to give account of every dollar he receives. (He will not lose his salvation but lose his heavenly reward for service.)
e. It is better to die of hunger than to thus lose one’s heavenly reward by demanding an earthly quid pro quo (something for something) for one’s services.
3. This is how sacrificing yourself for the sake of saving others should work out in practice:
a. Do not practice your freedom in Christ in a haughty, know-all way because you have been en-lightened.
b. Without sacrificing your Christian convictions and lifestyle, live and think as a Jew to win the Jews, as a worldly man to win the lawless ones and as a very sensitive person to win those that live in fear of violation their culture in order that at least some of such may be saved.
c. By doing this, you yourself will spiritually be immersed into the depths of the Gospel: into the deep laws of humility, love and service and become a living example of the message you preach.
4. In sacrificing yourself, have the attitude of an athlete:
a. He does not eat or drink or do anything that will keep him from attaining the highest possible speed so as to win the race against his opponents, for he knows that the opposition is very fierce and the least weakness on his part, will cost him the crown of victory.
b. He does not spare his body, but trains it to endure severe punishment and will not accept any excuse to run at a lesser pace.
c. (This does not mean that the Christian is to beat (win) his fellow Christians in life or ministry. He that gives himself wholeheartedly in serving the Lord is having the same attitude as the athlete and is indeed busy winning the race day by day.)
d. Another example to follow is that of a boxer that is not merely making a show in pretending to hit at someone, but forcefully hits straight at his opponent with the purpose of inflicting a knockout blow.
e. Athletes pay this supreme price of sacrificing themselves for the sake of winning a human crown of twigs that will wither in a day or two; how much more we that run to receive a crown that will never wither.
f. The minister of the Gospel (and indeed every Christian) must practice what he preaches and subject his body to whatever punishment may come his way so as not to fail the test of dedication himself.
C. BEING A MEMBER OF A BLESSED CONGREGATION IS NO GUARANTEE OF BEING IN FAVOUR WITH GOD.
1. You cannot judge the quality of a football team by the beautiful jerseys they received as a gift.
2. Likewise you cannot judge the quality of the members of a congregation by the richness of ministry they received from God.
3. Take God’s nation Israel that left Egypt as an example, for they can verily be compared to a present day congregation.
4. They all had a part (were baptized) in the ministry of Moses, miraculously walked through the dried bed of the Red Sea, were protected, guided and comforted by God’s cloud, ate of the heavenly manna; yes indeed they ate and drank of the life of Christ that later died for them and yet, most of them were not in favour with God and He scattered their dead bodies in the wilderness.
5. This He did because they worshipped idols, engaged in sexual immorality and tempted Him by grumbling whenever their needs were not met.
6. The Lord wrote this down as a warning to us that are living in the last days.
7. Let no-one therefore brag about how firmly he stands spiritually; he may unexpectedly trip and fall.
8. On the other hand, be encouraged, God will not allow temptation to be more that what man can withstand and will, at the right time, provide a way out.
D. PRACTICING CHRISTIAN FREEDOM IN THE MIDST OF IDOLATRY
1. A Christian knows that there is only one God that created everything and is therefore free to eat whatever he chooses, but must not create the idea that he is paying tribute to idols.
2. What you eat, where you eat it and with whom, gives a message to others regarding your faith:
a. The Old Testament believers expressed their communion with God when they ate of the meat which they sacrificed to him.
b. Christians express their communion with Christ when they partake of the Holy Communion.
c. The heathen express their communion with demons when they eat of the meat sacrificed to idols.
3. Therefore never join the heathen in their ritualistic meals.
4. In so doing one would create the impression of serving their idols.
5. (This would mean that a Christian is not to participate in a meal prepared as part of a ritual of offering to the spirits of their ancestors.)
6. Buying meat from a butchery, is a different matter: buy and eat without enquiring as to where it came from.
7. However, if someone informs you that it had been offered to idols, don’t buy it if in so doing a weaker Christian may be tempted to do something (eat) what he believes is sinful and be condemned by his conscience.
8. The rule which was explained earlier, applies: enjoy your freedom but if, in so doing, someone else will be harmed, rather not exercise it fully.
9. This attitude blesses others and will bring glory to God.
10. This is what Paul did and what he recommends others to do likewise.
E. LEVELS OF AUTHORITY AND WAYS OF EXPRESSING THEM
1. Man’s functional authority in the Kingdom of God:
a. One of the characteristics of the Kingdom of God, is that it functions on the basis of levels of authority.
b. This principle is first of all found in the Godhead where the Father is the Head of the Son and the Spirit.
c. (The Father however is not superior to the Son and Spirit – in the essence of their beings They are equal.)
d. Levels of authority are also found in the realms of the angelic world.
e. At creation, God gave Adam authority over all the earth which he was to protect and develop.
f. Having levels of authority to order the functioning of God’s Kingdom, is therefore good and necessary.
g. As regards human beings in our days, the Lord directed that Christ be the Head of every man.
h. Following on, He directed that man be the head of the woman.
i. Two reasons for this ruling for man to be the head are that:
i. The woman was created from man and not vice versa: she is therefore part of him. (Man must not uplift himself because of this and would do well to remember that he is born of a woman.)
ii. Secondly woman was created for the sake of man and not man to fulfil the woman’s need.
j. Authority brings responsibility: the one holding authority, is to protect and develop the one under his authority.
2. Visibility of levels of authority in Christian gatherings:
a. Under the Old Covenant, spiritual truths were often depicted visually (the tabernacle, the different offerings, the clothes which the priests and the high priest wore, circumcision, etc.)
b. Under the New Covenant most of these pictures have fallen away, yet at least three new ones have taken their place:
i. The water baptism of believers, depicting their dying with, and resurrection with Christ.
ii. The Holy Communion signifying the believer’s partaking of the life of Christ.
iii. The wearing, or not wearing, of a head covering during congregational sessions to depict authority.
c. In this regard, the Lord directed that a man is not to wear a head covering for he is to reveal (uncover) the image of God (Christ). In covering his head, he would dishonour his Head, which is Christ, by not revealing him.
d. Regarding a woman, He directed that she should wear a head covering to denote that she is subject to the authority of man (not only her husband). In not doing so, she dishonours her head, which is man (and in not keeping the Lord’s directive, she would dishonour the Lord as well.)
e. In our obeying of this instruction of God, even the angels will observe who is subject to whom.
f. What the head covering should look like, is not prescribed but left to women’s creativity.
3. Arguments put forward by Paul for the wearing/not wearing of a head covering:
a. He points out that the natural instinct of people was for men to cut their hair short and for woman to wear it long. In so doing they showed their sensing of the fact that God created men and woman to be different from one-another and were to play different roles in society.
b. By wearing her hair long, a woman would feel symbolically covered and shaded from the eyes of men in general, keeping herself chaste for her husband or future husband, whereas cutting it would cause her to feel naked and ashamed.
c. He then extends this principle of a man “uncovering” himself and a woman “covering” herself to the wearing or not wearing of a head covering.
d. He definitely does not say that a woman’s wearing of long hair, is all that is required in terms of her denoting submission to man. The wearing of a head covering over and above long hair, makes sense, since the natural hair growth of some nations, like Africans, that have short cropped hair, do not allow for long “covering” hair unless they are “unnaturally” stretched, straightened or uncurled.
4. Further Scripture references on the issue of hair to indicate that the way in which a person kept his/her hair, indeed carried a message (in the Old Covenant dispensation):
a. Lev 13:45 reads that a leprous person had to rent his clothes and allow his hair to hang loose and cover his beard/mouth.
b. Lev 5:18 ordered that a woman suspected of adultery was to be brought to the priest who had to loosen her hair and then proceed to determine her guilt.
c. Num 6:5: A person that had made the vow of a Nazarene to God, was to allow his hair to grow freely until the period of the vow expired.
d. Jug 16:19: Samson the judge, that had been a Nazarene since birth, wore his long hair in 7 locks and when these were shaved, God’s anointing of power lifted.
a. The directives as in par 2c and d, regarding the covering of the head, still stands and are at present to be followed in congregational gatherings.
b. Christian men and women would do well to dress themselves and do their hair in a way that will clearly indicate their gender in accordance with their culture. (See Deut 22:5 )
E. DIRECTIONS AS TO THE LORD’S SUPPER
1. There must be a clear distinction between:
a. Coming together to enjoy a meal for the sustenance of the body (including a Christian “Love Feast” to promote communion amongst Christians) and
b. Gathering together to partake of the Lord’s Supper (the Holy Communion to commemorate his sacrificial death on the cross.)
2. Their meals were chaotic in that:
a. They were very choosy in regard to whom they would dine with, and who not.
b. They would not share their food with one-another.
c. Those that had no food, stood around shame faced and hungry, watching the others eat.
d. Some over indulged and even got drunk
3. Since they were partaking of The Lord’s Supper at the same time, this disorderly conduct spilled over into it and disgraced the Name and indeed the body of Christ that had been sacrificed for them.
4. How could they then even brag about their Christianity?
5. In having Holy Communion:
a. Do it the way the Lord Jesus himself did it (11:23-26). Follow his example.
b. Prepare the heart beforehand (see if there be any unconfessed sin).
c. Do not do it unthinkingly – think deeply about the immensity of his sacrifice and long for his return.
6. Partaking of the Holy Communion in a disrespectful way:
a. Results in God having to chastise his children by allowing them to be afflicted by all kinds of diseases.
b. Brings God’s judgment upon the unbeliever.
c. Has the effect that some transgressors are in poor health and that others have passed away.
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