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I am Compelled: Setting Aside Your Rights For The Gospel

Setting Aside Your Rights For The Gospel

The words in this title are not mine; they are the Apostle Paul’s.

These words come in the middle of what I can only call a full-fledged rant. Paul, having dealt with some unfair treatment and feeling very frustrated about it, basically just goes off and vents his frustration to the Corinthians. Essentially, he felt as though his rights were being violated. He sees the way that the Corinthians treat other preachers and teachers and shares his frustration that he and Barnabas not only don’t receive equal treatment but are criticized because they don’t share the same life experience.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:3-6, 11-12,

This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. Don’t we have the right to food and drink? Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?…If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?

Focusing on Rights and Fair Treatment

I feel like this is quite similar to the conversations I hear circulating in certain Christian circles these days; conversations focused on rights and questioning if fair treatment is taking place.

But this is where the conversation diverges. Because Paul doesn’t stop there.

Paul follows this line of questioning with a very important statement:

“But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 9:12b)

He goes on to say, “But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast. For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach.”