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1 Corinthians 9

When Others are More Important than our Rights

1 Corinthians 9:19-27

Teaching Moments

1. This is a very important text for the Cordova Community Church. It contains our motto: "by all possible means." The text explains and embodies this motto.

2. The context is a discussion of "rights". Paul has the right (authority) to "food and drink" (9:4). Paul has the right (authority) to marriage (9:4). Paul has a right (authority) to expect support from those whom he teaches (9:4). Paul defends this latter point at great length in verses 7-14. But Paul does not exercise this right (9:13, 15). Paul has the right to expect support from the Corinthians, but he refuses to ask for it because he believes it would hinder the spread of the gospel if he did.

3. Paul explains this principle of self-denial in 9:19-23. Why is Paul willing to deny himself? It is for the sake of evangelism. Though Paul is free, he will make himself a slave through self-denial for everyone in order to win as many as possible (9:19).

4. What does this principle mean for Paul? To the Jews, he will be like a Jew. To those not under the law, he will become like them. He becomes like the people he is trying to win.

5. Paul uses the analogy of an athletic competition for the Christian life, and in particular for the Christian pursuit of evangelism. Paul preaches so that he will share in the blessings of the gospel (9:23) and so that he himself will not be disqualified (9:27).

6. The prize is a crown of glory, but the race is not simply the Christian walk as a whole. Here it is applied to the task of evangelism as we deny our rights for the sake of others. Paul does not run "aimlessly" (9:26), but he runs with a purpose, a goal. He has a purpose. He denies himself so that others might be won. The principle of denying our rights for the sake of others is applied to evangelism.

7. The application is whether we are willing to engage self-denial, train ourselves and expand our "comfort" zones for the sake winning others. Are we willing to be like "Generation X" to reach "Generation X"? Are we willing to use "all possible means" to reach some?

Discussion Questions

1. What does this principle mean for Paul? What does it mean to be like a Jew, or to be like a weak person, or to be like those who are not under the law? What would that look like? Can we imagine how that life would look like at different times?

2. In this text, whose rights are more important than ours? What is the ultimate goal? Whose interests should we exalt over our "rights"?

3. How has the Cordova Community Church applied this principle? What concerns should we have as we apply this principle? Are we willing to expand our "comfort zones" for the sake of others and how it might reach others our culture?

4. How does this apply within the Christian community itself? How does Paul's statement in 8:13 reflect this principle for inter-Community disputes? What is different about the way we treat our brothers in community and the way we "become like" those we are trying to evangelize?

5. What is the race that Paul is running here? What is the prize? What is the training he must do? Draw out the athletic analogy here. How do athletes prepare for an event and how do they pursue it with the prize in mind?

6. Why does Paul use this "race imagery" in this context? How does this signal the importance of the present topic? How does this apply to the topic of evangelism or preaching the gospel? What is Paul's point in comparing the Christian life to a race?

7. Does Paul teach asceticism here ("beat my body"--deny your body pleasures and beat it into submission by self-inflicted wounds)? What is the principle of making your own body a "slave" to yourself? Who controls you: your mind or your body? How does Paul's promotion of self-denial here differ from asceticism?


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