Tuesday, May 28, 2024

The Duty of Preaching (1 Corinthians 9:15-18)

"… woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!" (1 Cor. 9:16).

Paul recognized his calling to preach the Gospel as an obligation before Christ, not as an option. This does not mean that Paul performed this duty reluctantly, for in other passages we see how he preached with great joy (Rom. 1:5; 11:13; 15:15–16; Gal. 1:15–16; Eph. 3:8). But it does mean that he was no different than a slave obeying his master, joyfully yet dutifully. This is why he could not boast before others. How can someone boast about something that is obligatory? He can’t. However, in the case of refusing financial support, Paul could boast because this was an option. He could either accept support or refuse it. He was not commanded by God to refuse his support, and the reward he received for making that decision was the advancement of the Gospel as others saw his integrity and committed self-denial in preaching.

Notice Paul’s attitude in this passage toward his calling: It was an honored duty. He would not receive any reward (technically speaking), for he was doing nothing else than that which he had been commanded to do. This is the concept behind Jesus’ teaching when He asked his disciples, “Does he (the master) thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things that were commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do’ ” (Luke 17:10). Paul’s recognition that his calling was obligatory gave him great freedom. As it is for every Christian, when we become enslaved to Christ we are freed from the trappings, opinions, demands, and expectations of men.

As slaves who obey their master, we should not expect reward and praise for doing that which we are commanded to do. Ministers of the Gospel can often be guilty of expecting some kind of “reward” for the work they do. But they can expect no such thing, for what they do is a duty, laid upon them by Christ. And it is not unusual for Christians in every facet of life to expect praise and recompense for doing that which is a duty, not an option. While God will certainly shower His people with rewards on that final day, those rewards will be given graciously and not because we deserve them.

Do you ever expect someone to praise you or reward you because of something you did, something that you were obligated to do in the first place? Do you ever expect God to grant you good things because you have obeyed Him? It is easy to fall into this “I deserve it” mentality. Pray today for humility before God and others.