When Love Trumps Liberty.

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience—I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience?  If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. – 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 ESV

Paul revisits an point he made back in chapter six. “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12 ESV). The Corinthians had made a big deal out of their liberties or freedoms in Christ. They were convinced that there were certain things that they were at liberty to do because of their newfound freedom in Christ. And Paul doesn’t contradict their conclusion. He simply argues with their motivation. They were only looking at things from self-centered perspective. They were motivated by their own rights and focused on their own selfish pleasures. Which is why Paul repeats their point of reference back to them again. “‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up” (1 Corinthians 10:23 ESV). Yes, they had certain freedoms in Christ, but they were not to let those freedoms be driven by selfish desires or motivated by self-centeredness. They were to ask themselves whether those freedoms were helpful and edifying. Paul’s emphasis is on others. In the very next verse, he writes, “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor” (1 Corinthians 10:24 ESV). Paul was elevating compassion over lawfulness. He was promoting selflessness over selfishness.

Paul concedes that they were free to eat any meat offered for sale in the marketplace. “For ‘the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof’” (1 Corinthians 10:26 ESV). Even if they were invited to an unbeliever’s house, they were free to eat whatever was served. But should that friend acknowledge that the meat had been sacrificed to idols, the circumstances took on a different light. They were no longer “free” to eat what was served. Why? For the sake of conscience. Not their conscience, Paul asserts, but the conscience of their lost friend and anyone else who might be in attendance. The lost friend would not know of or understand the concept of freedom in Christ. In telling their Christian guests that the meat had been sacrificed to idols, they would be assuming Christians would not want to eat such meat because it would violate their faith. Should the Christian go ahead and eat the meat, the message conveyed to their pagan friend would be confusing. Should a less mature believer be in attendance at that same dinner and see the more mature believer eat meat sacrificed to idols, he or she might be caused to follow their lead, even though their conscience told them it was wrong. 

Paul follows all of this with two logical questions that he knew the Corinthians would ask. “For why should my freedom be limited by what someone else thinks? If I can thank God for the food and enjoy it, why should I be condemned for eating it?” (1 Corinthians 10:29-30 NLT). In other words, why should a Christian let the conscience of a lost person dictate their behavior? Or why should a more mature believer allow the ignorance or a less mature believer determine their actions? Paul answers both questions with a single answer. “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NLT). We are to always ask the question: What would bring glory to God? Not, what would bring pleasure to me? The bottom line for Paul was God’s glory and man’s salvation. “I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10:33 NLT). He was willing to give up his freedoms so that others might know what it means to be free in Christ. He was willing to die to his rights so that others might be made right with God. Later on, in chapter 13, the great “love chapter”, Paul says that love “does not insist on its own way” (1 Corinthians 13:5 ESV). Love cares about others. It focuses on building up and edifying others, even at the expense of self. Christ-like love focuses on the good of others and the glory of God. It is selfless, not selfish. It is sacrificial, not self-centered. Jesus gave Himself as the example to follow. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NLT). Jesus died so that we might live. All He is asking us to do is die to self. Love trumps liberty every time. Giving up our rights for the sake of others and for the glory of God is well worth any sacrifice we may have to make.

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For the Sake of the Gospel.

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. – 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 ESV

Paul knew his rights all too well. But he didn’t let his rights get in the way or become a hindrance to his God-given assignment to share the gospel. In fact, Paul says that he made himself a servant to all. The Greek word he uses is δουλόω (douloō), which means “to make a slave of” (“G1402 – douloō – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 16 Aug, 2016. <https://www.blueletterbible.org). Metaphorically, which is how Paul uses it here, it meant to “give myself wholly to one’s needs and service, make myself a bondman to him). As far as Paul was concerned, he would rather consider himself a slave to everyone, than to demand his rights or selfishly flaunt his freedoms in Christ. In fact, while he understood himself to be “free from all”, free from their judgment, criticism, demands, legalistic requirements, false accusations, and unrealistic expectations, he willingly chose to serve them. He even describes what he means by that. When he was with the Jews, he lives like a Jew, even though he was free from having to do so. When in their company, he would keep the law, out of a desire to win them to Christ. When he was with Gentiles, he would set aside the law of Moses, because they were not obligated to keep it (and neither was he). Instead, he would live under the law of Christ – the law of love. Paul told the Galatians, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 ESV). This is the exact opposite of how the Pharisees lived. Jesus said of them, “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger” (Matthew 23:4 ESV).

Paul’s philosophy of ministry and life was simple: “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22 ESV). His ultimate goal was their salvation. His freedoms took a back seat in order that he might see them find freedom from sin and death through faith in Christ. Everything he did was for the sake of the gospel. To him, it was unacceptable to think of putting his needs above those of others, either the saved or the lost. He spent his life selflessly sacrificing himself and putting his needs and rights in second place. He describes the impact this attitude had on his life in his second letter to the Corinthians:

I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. – 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 NLT

Why was Paul willing to go through all of this? So that he might share the gospel with those who had not yet heard it. As he so clearly states, “I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:23 ESV). He had experienced the blessings of the gospel first hand and was not willing for anyone to miss out on hearing the same message that had radically transformed his life. It is interesting to note that many of us, while highly appreciative of what the gospel has done for us, are unwilling to share it with others. We allow our rights and freedoms to get in the way and hinder us from telling others of the good news of Jesus Christ. We feel we have a right not to associate with those who don’t believe as we do. But Paul would ask us, “how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” (Romans 10:14 NLT). We are not free to do as we please. We have an obligation, an assignment from God, to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. We have been given a job to do. “God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20 NLT).

We exist for the sake of the gospel. We sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. We die to self for the sake of the gospel. We give up our rights for the sake of the gospel. We forego our freedoms for the sake of the gospel. We do all things for the sake of the gospel.

 

An Unobstructed Gospel.

Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?

Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting. For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. – 1 Corinthians 9:8-18 ESV

At first glance, it might appear that Paul is making a bigger deal out of all this than might be necessary. It seems that he is belaboring the point that he has the right to compensation for his work as an apostle. After all, he was the one who helped plant the church in Corinth by sharing the gospel with them in the first place. But Paul has a much greater issue in mind here: The gospel. This really isn’t about peoples’ rights to eat meat sacrificed to idols or Paul’s right to remuneration for his ministry activities. It is about the responsibility of every believer to ensure that the gospel is presented clearly and represented accurately to a lost and dying world. Paul said, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16b ESV). He was obligated by Christ to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. It was his God-given commission. And he was not going to let anything stand in the way of him accomplishing his responsibility, including demanding his rights to have all his financial and material needs taken care of by those under his care. 

Paul made it clear that he had every right to expect compensation. He used the Mosaic law to defend his rights. Even an ox treading grain was left unmuzzled and allowed to eat as it worked. The man who plows the field and the one who threshes the harvested wheat both do so in hopes of getting their fair share of the crop. And there were others who ministered to the Corinthians who were being compensated for their efforts. So why not Paul and Barnabas? Were they not just as deserving? But Paul said, “we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:12 ESV). Paul didn’t want anyone being able to say he did what he did for money. He refused to give anyone the satisfaction of accusing him of doing ministry for self-serving reasons. The gospel was too important to him. He was willing to give up his rights for the sake of the gospel.

Paul’s whole approach to the gospel was different than that of others. He saw himself as compelled by God to do what he did. He couldn’t help but preach the gospel. It was not something he had decided to do on his own initiative. It had not been his idea. He had been called by God and given a non-negotiable command to take the gospel to the Gentiles. If Paul was doing this on his own, he would have every right to demand payment for his services, just like every other teacher or rabbi. But Paul saw his reward as coming from God, not man. He had a radically different perspective: “What then is my pay? It is the opportunity to preach the Good News without charging anyone. That’s why I never demand my rights when I preach the Good News” (1 Corinthians 9:18 NLT). For Paul, it was rewarding to be able to share the gospel free of charge. So he paid his own way. He covered his own expenses or was aided by the generous contributions of others who supported his ministry. In fact, in his second letter to the Corinthians, he explains how he was able to minister to them without demanding anything in return.

Was I wrong when I humbled myself and honored you by preaching God’s Good News to you without expecting anything in return? I “robbed” other churches by accepting their contributions so I could serve you at no cost. And when I was with you and didn’t have enough to live on, I did not become a financial burden to anyone. For the brothers who came from Macedonia brought me all that I needed. I have never been a burden to you, and I never will be.  – 2 Corinthians 11:7-9 NLT

The bottom line was that Paul was more interested in spreading the gospel than getting what he rightfully deserved. He labored long and hard. He sacrificed greatly in order to travel around the known world at that time, taking the good news of Jesus Christ to lands in which the name of Jesus had not yet been heard. He suffered physically. He did without financially and materially. But he was able to tell the Philippians, “I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13 NLT). He did what he did for the sake of Christ and in the power of Christ.

Remember what Paul has already said to the Corinthians earlier in this letter.

Even now we go hungry and thirsty, and we don’t have enough clothes to keep warm. We are often beaten and have no home. We work wearily with our own hands to earn our living. We bless those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us. We appeal gently when evil things are said about us. Yet we are treated like the world’s garbage, like everybody’s trash—right up to the present moment. – 1 Corinthians 4:11-13 NLT

Why was Paul willing to suffer such things? He gives us his answer: “We would rather put up with anything than be an obstacle to the Good News about Christ.” (1 Corinthians 9:12b NLT). When my rights get in the way of getting the good news out, I become an obstacle to the will of God. I have allowed my rights to take precedence over the primacy of the gospel. When facing the prospect of losing His own life, Jesus was able to say, “not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42 ESV). He gave up His rights as the Son of God to be honored and treated with the highest esteem. Instead, He allowed those He had created to humiliate Him and take His life. All for the sake of the gospel. Are we not willing to give up our rights and die to our own wills so that others might hear the good news?

Loving Others. Not Self.

Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

This is my defense to those who would examine me. Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? – 1 Corinthians 9:1-7 ESV

While Paul was on the issue of rights and the Christian’s need to die to them, he took the opportunity to address his rights as an apostle. There were evidently those in Corinth who were questioning if he really was an apostle at all. Others may have been by confused by some of Paul’s actions, because at times he did not appear to behave as an apostle. Some of this had to do with how Paul had handled himself when he had ministered among the the Corinthians. Rather than allow the Corinthians to meet all his financial needs and provide him with food and shelter, Paul and Barnabas had chosen to work (Acts 18:3). Evidently, other apostles, like Peter, had a reputation for bringing their wives with them while doing ministry and the churches were expected to cover their expenses as well. Paul didn’t fall into this category because he had no wife. But Paul’s point is that he had every right to expect the Corinthians to care for him while he was ministering among them. And if he had been married, he would have had the right to bring his wife with him and expect the church to pay her way. But Paul didn’t do those things. And yet that did not make him any less an apostle of Jesus Christ. He met the criteria. First of all, he had seen the risen Lord and had been commissioned by Him to take the gospel to the Gentiles. He was every bit an apostle as much as Peter, James or John. And the Corinthians themselves were living proof of his apostleship, because their lives had been changed because of his ministry.

Paul gives three illustrations from daily life to prove his right to expect compensation and care from the Corinthians. First of all, he uses the example of a soldier. No member of the military is expected to pay his own way. He serves on behalf of the people, giving his time and, if necessary, his life in defense of his nation. In return, the citizens of that nation pay his salary and supply his needs for food, clothing and shelter. It is a mutually beneficial arrangement. The second illustration Paul uses is that of a farmer and his vineyard. No farmer in his right mind would plant a vineyard and not expect to benefit from the fruit that it yields. He is the one who tilled the soil, planted the vines and harvested the grapes. As a result, he had every right to enjoy the fruits of his labors. The final illustration Paul gives is the shepherd. To deny a shepherd the benefit of the milk his flocks provide would be ludicrous and unfair. He is the one who has provided for and protected the sheep, keeping them well-fed and safe, so he should be the one who enjoys some of the benefits of his hard work.

As we will see a little later on in this same chapter, the main concern Paul had was not regarding his rights but about the integrity of the gospel. His primary goal was that the gospel not be hindered in any way. That is why he and Barnabas had chosen to work rather than demanding their rights and expecting the Corinthians to pay their way. These two men did not want the Corinthians to resent their presence or reject the gospel because of a financial burden. So they willingly gave up their rights. Remember, this goes back to chapter eight and Paul’s warnings about those in the church who were allowing their “knowledge” of right and wrong to cause their brothers and sisters in Christ to stumble. They were allowing their rights to cause them to do wrong. And Paul was simply using himself as an illustration of how dying to one’s rights is the right thing to do some times.

At the core of the gospel is the message of love – God’s love for mankind. He sent His Son to die in the place of sinful men and women, out of love. Jesus had told His disciples that they were to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12 ESV). In the very next verse, Jesus gave what He believed to be was the greatest expression of love for another human being. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13 ESV). And in keeping with His teaching, Jesus would do just that, giving His life as the consummate expression of His love for mankind. The apostle John wrote, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:12 ESV). And that was Paul’s primary point in his letter to the Corinthians. Just as Paul had been willing to give up his rights and lay down his life for them, he was expecting them to do the same. The gospel is not about rights, but about righteousness. It is about dying to self and living for God, which means loving those whom He has made in His image. God did not save us to make us isolated islands of self-righteousness where our rights rule the day. He saved us so that we might die to self and live for Him. And one of the best ways we can express our love for God is by loving those around us, sharing the gospel message of reconciliation in both words and actions. Jesus Himself made it perfectly clear and simple: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 15:35 ESV).

When Rights Are Wrong.

Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. – 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 ESV

With the opening words of this chapter, Paul reveals that he is answering yet another one of the questions sent to him by the church in Corinth. It had to do with food offered to idols. To modern, 21st-Century Christians, this will sound like a strange discussion that has nothing to do with us, and little in the way of practical application. But Paul’s primary point has to do with knowledge and what we do with it, especially in our interactions with “weaker” or less spiritually mature Christians and with the lost.

There are two major views as to what was going on in the Corinthian fellowship that caused them to raise this question with Paul. The more traditional view is that there were former pagans in the church who had come to faith in Christ and who were still buying meat in the marketplace that had been sacrificed to idols. It was a common practice for pagan priests to offer sell in the market some of the meat left over from a sacrifice to their god. This was considered good, high-quality meat. The converted pagans in the church knew that the meat was good and they also knew that there was no such thing as idols. So their conclusion was that it was perfectly acceptable to buy and eat the meat and even serve it to their believing friends. And Paul confirms their conclusion when he writes, “we know that ‘an idol has no real existence,’ and that ‘there is no God but one’’ (1 Corinthians 8:4b ESV). Their “knowledge” or understanding of the matter was correct, but that same knowledge was a source of pride. It was causing them to look past the negative influence they were having on their fellow church members. There were younger, less mature believers in the church who did not yet understand the truth regarding idols. Paul writes, “not all possess this knowledge” (1 Corinthians 8:7a ESV). These people were confused by the actions of their fellow church members. And when they saw what they were doing, they were tempted to sin against their consciences. They could not help but eat that same meat and feel like they were being unfaithful to God. The spiritual arrogance of their brothers and sisters in Christ was causing them to stumble in regard to their faith.

But there is a second view regarding what was going on in Corinth that carries an even more shocking indictment on those who were eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. It seems that this was more than just a case of buying meat at the market and serving it for dinner in your home. The problem involved a continuing practice of eating meat sacrificed to idols in the very temple dedicated to that idol. In verse 10, Paul writes, “For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols?” It seems that there were those who had gone back to celebrating at the feasts as part of the worship of the false gods. These were common affairs in the Greek culture and were well-attended. They were social gatherings where the community came to worship their god and to share a celebratory meal together. Evidently, there were believers in the church in Corinth who were attending these meals and justifying their behavior based on their “knowledge” regarding the non-existence of idols. Their reasoning was that if idols do not exist and God is the one true god, then what difference does it make whether we eat meat in the temple of an idol or not. And while their logic made perfect sense, they were leaving out the Savior’s admonition that we love one another. They were disregarding the spiritual well-being of those within their fellowship who might be confused by their actions and caused to follow their lead.

For Paul, the issue had little to do with meat sacrificed to idols, eating in temples, or spiritual knowledge. In fact, he simply states, “this ‘knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1b ESV). Their knowledge had led to pride and arrogance, rather than love. They cared more about their so-called rights than they did about the spiritual well-being of their fellow believers. They enjoyed eating meals in the temple. The food was good and the fellowship was great. They got to be with all their pagan friends and act as if nothing had changed in their lives. They may have even used the excuse that being in the temple with their lost friends and neighbors gave them the opportunity to share the gospel. But Paul knew that their actions were motivated by selfishness, not selflessness. They were doing what they did for themselves, not for the sake of others.

Paul makes it clear that the issue has nothing to do with meat. He writes, “Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do” (1 Corinthians 8:8 ESV). But the issue is about rights. “But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak” (1 Corinthians 8:9 ESV). For Paul, it was simple. He would rather give up meat altogether if it was going to cause a brother to stumble. It wasn’t worth it. If our freedoms in Christ cause a brother or sister in Christ to become enslaved to their own sin, we have missed the whole point of the gospel. Not only that, Paul says that we have actually sinned against them and against Christ. We have become a stumbling block in their spiritual path. As Christians, we have certain rights based on our newfound freedom in Christ. But when we let those rights tempt our brothers and sisters in Christ to do wrong, we stand as guilty before God. My rights should never deter another believer in their pursuit of righteousness. It would be better to die to my rights than to die for them.

Submission Is Not A Dirty Word.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. – Ephesians 5:22-24 ESV

Submit is not a four-letter word. But in our culture and context, it has become a dirty word, conjuring images of slave-like subjugation and subservience. These two verses strike fear into the hearts of many pastors and insight anger among women. This passage is viewed as old-fashioned, a throw-back to some cultural context that has no bearing on our more sophisticated modern milieu. Many conclude that Paul was writing to a people trapped in an antiquated social structure that doesn’t apply to us as modern Christians. Either that, or he was just misogynist, trying to keep women in their “proper” place.

But what most of us fail to realize is that submission is a non-negotiable requirement of every believer in Christ. These two verses, like so many others in Scripture, are typically lifted from their context and treated in isolation. But Paul has been talking about how believers were to live their lives – how they were to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1 ESV). They were to live differently than those who were unsaved. Their behavior was to set them apart as children of God. They were to walk in love, as children of light, exhibiting the wisdom of God, not the foolishness of the world.

The verses that often get overlooked when dealing with this passage are located right before it. In them, Paul gives an admonition to every single believer – male and female.

…be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. – Ephesians 5:18-21 ESV

Submission is expected of each and every follower of Christ. A lifestyle of submission is one of humility and honor, not subservience and servitude. When done properly it reveres Christ, because it models the very lifestyle that He lived. Jesus Himself described His mission in terms of submission and a servant-like attitude. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28 NLT). The apostle Paul told the believers in Corinth:

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. – Philippians 2:5-7 NLT

This had nothing to do with Jesus’ rights. He was the Son of God. He was divine and powerful. He had created the world and all those who lived in it. Yet, He was willing to submit to His Father’s will and set aside His divine privileges and prerogatives in order to serve mankind by giving His life. In the upper room, on the night that Jesus was to be betrayed and arrested, He washed the feet of His disciples. He set aside His robe, wrapped himself in a towel and did what none of the others would have dared to do. Jesus told His disciples, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand” (John 13:7 ESV). When He had finished, Jesus said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:12-17 ESV).

Jesus’ act of submission was meant to be a living lesson to the disciples about what their lives were to be like in the days to come. They were to serve one another. They were to submit to one another. Titles were not to stand in the way. Rights were to be set aside. Status was to be ignored. Submission was to be a key characteristic of their lives. And what the disciples did not yet understand was the foot washing by Jesus was simply a symbol of His ultimate act of service that would take place on the cross just a short time later.

When James and John, two of Jesus’ disciples came to Him and arrogantly asked if they could have positions of prominence in His coming Kingdom, the rest of the disciples became angry and jealous. Jesus responded, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45 ESV). Among you it will be different. In His Kingdom, sovereignty was marked by slavery. Honor was achieved through humility.

So what does all this have to do with wives? In this chapter, Paul is going to use a number of earthly relationships to illustrate Christian submission. He will talk about husbands and wives, children and parents, and slaves and masters. As believers, we do not operate in a vacuum. We are not independent agents, acting on our own and focused solely on our individual walk with God. We live in the context of community. Wives have husbands. It is in that context that they are to practices submission. Notice that Paul says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands.” He does NOT say that all women are to submit to ALL men. This has nothing to do with the value or significance of women in general. It has everything to do with the context of marriage. What more difficult place to practice submission than in a marriage. Just as the disciples would never have lowered themselves to wash the feet of one another, wives will find it difficult to submit to their husbands. Especially if their husbands fail to love as Paul commands. Yet submission is not optional. It is a willing coming under the other, making them more important than yourself. It is NOT an admission of their superiority, but a recognition of God’s divine order. He has made the husband the head of the household, not because He is smarter, more spiritual or even better equipped to lead, but in order that there might be order in the home. He holds the husband responsible. Just as He held Adam to a higher standard than He did Eve when it came to their mutual sin against Him.

Submission is essential to every relationship in which we find ourselves as Christians. And submission is one of the hardest things for us to do. We long to be first. We see ourselves as somehow better than others. We long to be in control. But when we submit to others, we are really submitting to God. We are coming under His divine authority and recognizing His righteous order for His creation. At the end of the day, submission is about trusting God. It involves a realization that He is in control and that He has authority over the husband. A believing wife must submit to her husband “as to the Lord.” She is trusting God to lead him and protect her. But the temptation will be to step in and take over, stepping out from under God’s ordained plan. Submission will not always make sense. It will not always appear to work. It may even be uncomfortable at times. But even Jesus humbled Himself to the point of death, offering Himself as a ransom for many. Submission is not a dirty word. It is a way of life for the believer.

Dead To Rights.

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. – Romans 14:13-23 ESV

Paul bookends this section with virtually the same words. He opens with “let us not pass judgment on one another” (Romans 14:13 ESV) and ends with “blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself” (Romans 14:22 ESV). The only difference is the one on whom the judgment is assessed. We are not to judge each other and our actions toward one another should give us no cause to judge ourselves. And in both cases, it all seems to revolve around the issue of rights. Paul used himself as an example. He declared that had the right to eat whatever he wanted, because nothing was unclean for him. Paul would have been very familiar with the teaching of Jesus. “It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart” (Mark 7:15 NLT). When Jesus had spoken those words, His disciples were confused, so He provided clarification. “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you? Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes)” (Mark 7:18-19 NLT).

So Paul, even though he was a Jew, lived his life with a new-found freedom when it came to his eating habits. He no longer lived under the dietary restrictions associated with his Jewish heritage. But he was willing to give up his rights for the sake of a brother or sister in Christ. It all goes back to the “weaker” brother narrative in the opening verses of this chapter. There will always be those in the church whose understanding of the life of faith is less developed. They will bring to their faith a certain degree of legalistic expectations, believing that what they do or don’t do is what earns them favor with God. In Paul’s day, both Jewish and Gentile believers brought their own list of restrictions to the table. There were converted Jews who still felt it necessary to maintain the dietary laws of their Jewish faith. There were also Gentile believers who felt convicted about eating meat that had been sacrificed to pagan idols. Paul had to deal with this issue in the church in Corinth. He told them, “we all know that an idol is not really a god and that there is only one God” (1 Corinthians 8:4 NLT). But he went on to say, “However, not all believers know this. Some are accustomed to thinking of idols as being real, so when they eat food that has been offered to idols, they think of it as the worship of real gods, and their weak consciences are violated” (1 Corinthians 8:7 NLT). Then Paul dealt with the real issue. “It’s true that we can’t win God’s approval by what we eat. We don’t lose anything if we don’t eat it, and we don’t gain anything if we do” (1 Corinthians 4:8 NLT). But for Paul, it all boiled down to the spiritual well-being of his brother or sister in Christ.

But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble. For if others see you—with your “superior knowledge”—eating in the temple of an idol, won’t they be encouraged to violate their conscience by eating food that has been offered to an idol? So because of your superior knowledge, a weak believer for whom Christ died will be destroyed. And when you sin against other believers by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ. So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble. – Romans 4:9-13 NLT

While a certain food may be perfectly fine for him to eat, Paul was not willing to demand his rights if it was going to cause a brother in Christ to stumble by sinning against his conscience. That is why he wrote, “It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes a brother to stumble” (Romans 14:21 ESV). It is a wonderful thing to enjoy the freedom that comes with the life of faith. Our right standing with God is not based on adhering to a long list of prohibitions and restrictions. But there will always be those who don’t understand this truth. They will have strong convictions regarding what they eat or don’t eat, what they can wear or not wear, and even what activities they can participate in or abstain from.

For Paul, the final word on all of this had to do with faith. “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23 ESV). For the immature or weaker believer, conscience ends up playing a far greater role than necessary. Rather than enjoying the freedom that comes with knowing that his standing before God is fully taken care of by the finished work of Christ, he ends up operating off of his own inner sense of right or wrong. So if his conscience tells him not to eat something and he believes it is of God, to violate that belief becomes sin for him. He becomes burdened down with guilt for having done what he believed was against the will of God. Paul says, “whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith” (Romans 14:23 ESV). So the stronger believer, rather than wearing his or her rights like a badge of honor, should love their weaker brother or sister in Christ, willingly setting aside their rights so that they might not cause a fellow believer to sin against their conscience. We are always to build up, not tear down. We are to lovingly teach and instruct one another, not boastfully and arrogantly display our rights and flaunt our freedoms in Christ. Peter summed it up well when he wrote, “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8 NLT).

2 Samuel 13-14, 1 Corinthians 9

Rights Run Amuck.

2 Samuel 13-14, 1 Corinthians 9

Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 9:12 ESV

We put a high priority on our rights. But the problem with rights is that they can become expectations, and those expectations, when unmet, can lead to disappointment which can culminate in sin. So much of what we label as rights have more to do with what John refers to as “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life” (1 John 2:16 ESV). There are things in this world that we believe are “rightfully” ours to have. It could be a new car, a bigger house, nicer clothes, a better paying job, respect, popularity, good health, or more money. And while God has not necessarily promised us these things, if we convince ourselves that we somehow deserve them, we will not be content until we have them. We will see it as our right, and anyone who stands in our way of fulfilling that right will be seen as our enemy. Many of the things we want or believe we deserve are perfectly fine to have, but the issue is less about rights than it is about lust. And when our perceived rights become an obsession for us, the result is an incapacity to love those around us. Our love of our rights takes precedence over our God-given responsibility to love others.

What does this passage reveal about God?

When asked what the two greatest commandments were, Jesus was quite specific. He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39 ESV). So according to Jesus, we are to love God and love others. Everything else found in the law of Moses and in the writing of the prophets could be summed up in these two commands. But our rights have a way of hindering our ability to faithfully fulfill either command. If I don’t get what I think I deserve or what I believe is rightfully mine to have, I will become frustrated with God. I might even find myself falling out of love with God, because I am disappointed in His failure to give me what I want. But my obligation to love God should take precedence over any obsession I may have regarding “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life.” I must be willing to die to my rights for the sake of loving God and loving others. Paul knew this well and lived it out in his everyday life.

What does this passage reveal about man?

What an amazing contrast there is between the life of Paul and the life of Amnon. At first glance, you might think there is little to compare between these two men, but at the heart of both passages is the subject of rights. Amnon believed he had a right to satisfy his lust for his half-sister, Tamar. The author makes it quite clear that Amnon desperately wanted Tamar, and while it says that he loved her, his real attraction seems to have been sexual in nature. He was so obsessed with her that he literally made himself sick. “Amnon was so tormented that he made himself ill because of his sister Tamar” (2 Samuel 13:2 ESV). And with encouragement from “crafty” friend, Amnon eventually demanded his rights, forcefully raping Tamar against her will. He believed he had a right to what he wanted, and he did whatever he had to do to get it. Interestingly, the passage says that “Amnon hated her with very great hatred, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her” (2 Samuel 13:15 ESV). Not only had Amnon failed to love God by violating His commands, he had allowed his rights to get in the way of his love for Tamar. Lust superceded love. Perceived rights got in the way of doing what was right in God’s eyes.

But Paul gives us a model of what it means to hold on to our rights loosely. The entire ninth chapter of 1 Corinthians has to do with the issue of rights. Chapter eight dealt with a problem in the Corinthian church regarding meat offered to idols. There were more mature believers who were demanding their right to eat this meat because they knew that there were no such thing as other gods. They were spiritually mature enough to know that the meat was perfectly fine to eat. But Paul was telling them to give up their rights out of love for their weaker brothers. If someone else, who had just come out of a pagan religion where those false gods were very real, still believed that eating meat sacrificed to those gods was wrong, the last thing you would want to do is to flaunt your rights and cause them to violate their own conscience. Paul refused to make a big deal out of his rights. “Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:12 ESV). Rather than demand his rights, Paul died to them. He didn’t want anything to stand in the way of the gospel, including his rights.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

It is so easy to let our rights get in the way of our primary objective as followers of Christ. We are to love God and love others. Our focus is to be outward, not inward. But as soon as I start making a big deal out of my rights, I lose focus. It becomes all about me. But Paul would remind us, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4 ESV). Put others first. Don’t make it all about you. Be willing to die to your rights. And Paul provides Jesus as a perfect example of this very attitude. In fact, Paul tells us to have the same attitude that Christ had: “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8 ESV). Jesus gave up His rights as the Son of God and came to earth. He gave up His divine privileges and position of power and honor next to the Father. He set aside His rights in order to love mankind. Rather than look out for His own personal interests and demand His rights, He placed our well-being ahead of His own. When we allow our rights to rule us, we will end up loving ourselves more than we love God or others. Amnon is a perfect example of this truth. But Paul provides us with a viable alternative. He gave up his rights, so that he might keep his eye on the prize: the faithful presentation of the gospel and the unselfish expression of God’s love for others through his own life and ministry.

Father, forgive me for making far too much out of my rights. Don’t let me be like Amnon, who was driven by his own desires and convinced himself that his rights were worth doing anything for. I want to be like Paul, willingly giving up my rights for the sake of the gospel and out of love for others. May I increasingly have the same attitude that Christ had. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

1 Corinthians 11:2-16

Order Amidst the Chaos.

1 Corinthians 11:2-16

But among the Lord’s people, women are not independent of men, and men are not independent of women. For although the first woman came from man, every other man was born from a woman, and everything comes from God. – 1 Corinthians 11:11-12 NLT

I would by lying or delusional if I said this was not a difficult passage. There has been much debate and confusion regarding the words of Paul found in these verses and, I for one, am not sure I am the one to bring clear insight into their meaning or application for 21st-Century Christians. These verses are controversial and, while some use them to justify their particular denomination’s modern-day practices, others simply write them off as admonitions from Paul that had a limited-time, cultural significance that does not apply today. And yet, God chose to include these verses as a part of His inerrant, infallible Scriptures. So what are we to do with them.

I think we have to consider the cultural context, as you do when you read any of the books of the Bible. You have to remember who Paul was talking to and what was going on in their particular community and context. Paul’s letters are specific and general in their content and application. Some of the things he wrote were meant to address very specific issues that were unique to that particular fellowship. While there may be principles that can be applied to today’s modern context, the specifics do not. For instance, we do not struggle with the problem of eating meat sacrificed to idols. That was unique to the believers living in Corinth. But there are underlying principles that apply to us today. In the verses for today, we must look carefully for what it is that God would have us take away and apply to our current cultural context.

He deals with everything from headship and authority to women’s head coverings. What is his main point? What is the real problem going on in Corinth? What are we to take away as the lesson or spiritual insight for the modern church? There is no doubt that Paul is addressing an underlying problem of the lack of order within the church. If you recall, there were those among the Corinthian believers who were embracing the idea that, because of their new found freedom in Christ, they were free to do things as they wished. Their attitude had become, “I am allowed to do anything!” Under the context of personal rights and freedoms, they were beginning to determine their own rules of behavior within the body of Christ. This included eating meat sacrificed to idols and, according to these verses, it seems that some of the women began to question the whole idea of authority. This was symbolized culturally by the use of the head covering. Evidently, some of the women were choosing to NOT cover their heads, as was the custom of their society. Even among the Greeks of their day, a woman usually covered her hair and head when out in public. It would seem that some of the women in the Corinthian fellowship had decided that they didn’t have to adhere to this cultural mandate any more. But Paul raised a much more basic and fundamental issue: The biblical concept of authority and headship. He reminded them, “But there is one thing I want you to know: The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3 NLT). Even within the Godhead, the Trinity, submission and headship was practiced. This was God’s divine plan and His order for mankind. The real problem, as far as Paul was concerned, was the danger of rejecting God’s divine order. The removal of the head covering was a cultural symptom of a much greater issue. Eating meat sacrificed to idols was not the primary problem. It was that individuals in the church were using their so-called rights to cause their brothers and sisters in Christ to stumble. Think of what it would have been like if the believers in the church in Corinth had begun to throw off all the accepted cultural norms within their society. Those outside the church would have looked in and questioned the validity and value of the church and its practices. For Paul, everything always revolved around making sure that he did nothing to prevent the spread of the gospel. So if the women in the church suddenly decided to stop wearing their head coverings, it would have been a turn-off to those outside the church and been viewed as too radical and revolutionary; thus preventing them from ever entering into a relationship with the Corinthian believers and thereby hearing the gospel message.

It would see to me that much of what Paul was addressing had to do with accepted cultural norms. It would have been shocking for a woman to go out in public with her hair uncovered. It would have been even more disturbing for a woman to pray in a public worship service with her head uncovered. The real issue for Paul seems to be the confusion and chaos these acts would cause both inside and outside of the church. To not wear a head covering would have been as shocking in that day as a woman shaving her head – unthinkable and unacceptable. But what Paul really seems to be addressing is the need for order within the local body. Anything that would detract from the unity of the body or the spread of the gospel was to be avoided at all costs. Anything that gave the impression that there was no accepted order or need for authority or submission was to be rejected. Rather than seek our rights and demand our way, we need to always keep in mind that we exist for God’s glory. It is not about us. It is about the overall health of the body of Christ, the spread of the Gospel and the cause of the Kingdom of God. We are to do things God’s way, not ours. We are to be willing to die to our rights if it will benefit the body of Christ. We are to give up our freedoms if it will help others come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Father, this is a difficult passage, but it is even more difficult to live out our lives with a sense of otherness rather than selfishness. It would be so much easier to make these verses all about head coverings and hair cuts. But it seems you are calling us to live in unity and humble submission to one another. Our pride is to take a back seat to the well being of the body of Christ. Open our eyes and help us see the lessons You have for us in these verses. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

1 Corinthians 9

The Law of Christ.

1 Corinthians 9

When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 9:21 NLT

Paul continued to address the questions raised in a letter he had previously received from the church in Corinth. In it, they had communicated a number of concerns regarding a variety of topics. In chapter nine, he addressed a question regarding the validity of his apostleship. Evidently, there were those in the Corinthian church who were raising doubts about his apostleship in an attempt to diminish his authority over their lives. Paul didn’t spend a lot of time defending his apostleship, but instead used the whole issue as a chance to talk about rights and their relationship with the context of the Body of Christ. Six different times in this section of his letter he brought up the topic of rights. This was in direct response to the claims of the Corinthian believers that they had every “right” to eat meat sacrificed to idols, because the “gods” behind these idols didn’t really exist in the first place. Paul has been trying to get them to understand that their rights had to take a back seat to their love for others. And he used his own life and ministry as an example. As an apostle, Paul had the right to expect compensation for his work among them. He had the right to expect the same kind of treatment that they had afforded Peter when he had come to minister among them. He had the right to expect the same kind of support the Corinthians had given to other ministers of the gospel.

But rather than demand his rights, Paul said, “We would rather put up with anything than be an obstacle to the Good News about Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:12 NLT). Paul was not interested in demanding his rights. He was more interested in preaching the Good News. He was compelled to do so. He wasn’t in it for the money or the material benefits. “What then is my pay? It is the opportunity to preach the Good News without charging anyone. That’s why I never demand my rights when I preach the Good News” (1 Corinthians 9:18 NLT). For Paul, it was not a matter of rights, but responsibilities. He had been given a “sacred trust” by God to preach the gospel and he would not let anything – including his own rights – stand in the way. As a result, Paul took the attitude that he was a slave to all. Yes, he was a free man who had all kinds of rights he could have demanded, but he willingly set aside those rights so that his rights would never stand in the way of leading others to Christ. When he lived among the Jews, he willingly kept their Jewish laws and dietary practices, even though he no longer obligated to do so. When he ministered among Gentiles, like the Corinthians, he set aside those very same Jewish laws because he knew that they would confuse them, causing them to consider the law necessary for salvation. But Paul made it clear that he was not ignoring the law of God. He was simply obeying the law of Christ.

“The Law of Christ is the moral Law as found in the Old Testament, preached by the prophets, and interpreted, lived, and applied by our Lord and His apostles—only now in a new covenant context. The term ‘law’ here refers to the commandments Jesus and His apostles give us and which constitute a holy life, pleasing to God and beneficial to men and women. The Law of Christ is the standard for the Christian and Christian community, not our feelings or uninformed ideas. It calls us to a righteous and holy life. Holiness has particular reference to our relationship with God and righteousness involves the living out of that relationship with those in the world” (Greg Herrick, Beliefs Leading to Christlikeneess – The Spiritual Life, Bible.org).

In his letter to the believers in Galatia, Paul wrote of the same law of Christ. “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important” (Galatians 6:2-3 NLT). In his letter to the Romans, Paul encouraged them with the same idea. “We must not please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. For even Christ didn’t live to please himself” (Romans 15:1-3 NLT). Later on, in that same letter, Paul would write, “Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law” (Romans 13:10 NLT). Jesus Himself had said, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13 NLT). Love should be our motivation. Love for God and love for others should be what drives our actions and attitudes. Not rights. Paul was willing to set his freedoms and rights aside for the sake of others. For Paul, the Christian life was not about rights and privileges. It was about discipline and required determination. The Christian life was like a race and he ran it to win. He ran it with purpose in every step. He disciplined his body. He set aside his rights. He gave up certain privileges. All so he could see others come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Father, I worry way too much about my rights. I spend far too much time worrying about whether my rights have been respected or even violated. But give me the attitude that Paul had. Help me obey the law of Christ. May I learn to make self-sacrifice and selfless service the norm for my life. May I learn to give up my rights for the sake of others. Forgive me for spending so much time trying to please myself instead of serving others. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org