The Reward of Liberty

"Focusing on Christ"  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  1:00:16
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Jesus Christ wants the church to be one.
We know that our Lord desires UNITY in the church. The Apostle Paul said to the Ephesians,
Ephesians 4:3 KJV 1900
3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
“Please endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Ephesians 4:4–6 KJV 1900
4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
He said, “There’s only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one hope of your calling, one God and Father of us all.” He was emphasizing UNITY.
There is to be unity in the body. In 1 Corinthians 12, when we get there we’ll see how God designs the body for unity, that they’ll be a mutual ministry within the body of Christ and a beautiful kind of unity. This is a very important aspect of the Christian church, and yet it’s one that we see today not really happening in the way our Lord would want.
We know he desires unity, and yet there is the absence of it in so much of the church.
What cause disunity in the church?
1 Corinthians 3:3 KJV 1900
3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
Favoritism and Cliquishness.
1 Corinthians 6:6 KJV 1900
6 But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers.
2. Christians attacking each Other.
2 Corinthians 11:13 KJV 1900
13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
2 Corinthians 11:20 KJV 1900
20 For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face.
3. False Teachers
2 Corinthians 12:20 KJV 1900
20 For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults:
4. Failure to Repent
Symptoms of disunity.
2 Corinthians 12:21 KJV 1900
21 And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.
Galatians 5:13–14 KJV 1900
13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Galatians 5:13 KJV 1900
13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
5. Misuse of Liberty.
This is what we have been discussing in 1 Corinthians 8, 9, 10.
And here we have a graphic picture of it. Paul has just really spent 4 ½ chapters describing their liberty—primarily chapters 3, 4, and the beginning of 5. The whole book, really, is on liberty. But he spent all this time discussing their liberty and now he wants to show them what their liberty does not allow. I mean, you’re free, and so forth, and so on, but here’s where your liberty ends.
“You have been called to liberty, but not to use your liberty for an occasion to exercise your flesh, but rather, by love, serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, and that is, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
In other words, you’re given liberty but not so that you can run out and in your flesh do whatever your liberty allows, no matter how it affects anybody else.
Rather your liberty is to be limited by what?
If you bite and devour one another, take heed that you’d be not consumed one of another.” If you’re like a bunch of brut, beast animals going around literally, the Greek says, “Biting each other and gulping each down.” If you go around devouring each other, how? By a misuse of your liberty, all you’re going to do is destroy the church. Yes, we have liberty, but we have to limit it by love.
Now let me give you a little background. That’s the principle of 1 Corinthians 8. Let’s go to it. We gave you this principle a couple of weeks ago when we looked at the 8th chapter. Let me give you the historical basis for it.
There are things in the Bible stated to be right.
There are things in the Bible stated to be wrong.
There are things in the middle that the Bible doesn’t say are right or wrong; they’re neutral.
Like, eating a ham sandwich, smoking cigarettes, whatever you might think.
There are just some things that aren’t good or bad, they’re just gray area things. The Christian as a liberated Christians who is not trying to merit his righteousness has liberty in that gray area to do whatever he wants technically.
But in the exercise of his liberty in that gray area he must consider how what he is doing will affect somebody else. And that’s very important.
There are certain things that we have a technical right to do but we fail to do because we choose not to do them for the sake of love for someone else. Now in the case of the Corinthians it was meats offered to idols. The Corinthians were saying, “Hey, you know, the meat we buy in the butcher shop, some of it’s been offered to an idol before it gets there so we eat it.” Some of the Corinthians would say, “Eat up. What’s the difference? The idol’s nothing anyway, nobody’s home there. It’s just a big thing, there’s nothing there. What’s the difference? God doesn’t care about that. God doesn’t care what you eat.”
But some of the weaker Christians couldn’t accept that because they had just been saved out of that idolatry, and to them it was desecrated meat. Now the strong Christian had the right to do it technically, but Paul says, “You ought to limit yourself by love for that weaker brother, and so his conscience can allow him to do that, and to accept that as something that’s allowable.”
Now having stated that principle in chapter 8, Paul illustrates it in chapter 9, and he illustrates it from his own life. It’s a personal illustration.
He says, “Let me show you how I had a liberty, how I had a right, how I had a privilege, how I had a freedom, but I set it aside for the sake of love. Let this be an illustration to you of what I’m driving at.”
So, first of all, in verses 1–14 he establishes the right that he has.
Then in 15 to 18 he Excludes that Right. Notice His

Disallowance of Liberty.

1 Corinthians 9:15 KJV 1900
15 But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.
I want to show you verse 15, and here we get to kind of the heart of this whole thing.
“Paul, why … why don’t you take support? Why have you set this right aside?”
Here it comes … the middle of verse 15, “Because it is better for me to die … and this is a Greek expression that show great emotion. It’s a broken expression. He said, “I’d rather be dead than that any man should make my glorying empty. I would rather be dead than be confused with somebody who did it for money. I would rather be dead than be accused of being in the ministry for pay. I am not a balaam. I am not a prophet for hire. I am not … as Peter said in 1 Peter 5 … in it for the filthy lucre. I am not in it … as it says in 2 Peter … to make merchandise of people. And I don’t want that to be confused with my ministry and I wouldn’t allow that. I would rather die than make my glorying void.”
1 Corinthians 9:16 KJV 1900
16 For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!
Well verse 16 tells us what it isn’t. “Thou I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of,

It’s not Because of the Gospel.

You say, “Paul, you mean you don’t boast in the gospel?” “That’s not what I’m talking about, yeah, I have a sense of rejoicing in the gospel.” But in reference to this point he’s saying, “There’s something special that I’ve contributed to my ministry that I get excited about. And it isn’t the gospel because I had nothing to do with that. God gave me that.” You say,
“Well what is it?

It’s not Because of my Ministry.

Is it your preaching?” “No. Necessity is laid unto me, yea woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel.” So he’s saying it isn’t the message and it isn’t the ministry of preaching. And this is interesting. Paul says, “I’ve got something in my life that I love, that just thrills me. It’s something that I can say, ‘Hey, Paul has a part in this. I had something to do with this. I made a contribution to this.’ ” “Well what is it?”
“Well it isn’t the gospel. I made no contribution right? I had nothing to do with it.
Secondly, it isn’t my ministry. I had no choice about that. I was walking down the road minding my business on the way to Damascus. The next day I was in the ministry. One day I’m killing Christians; the next day I’m preaching the gospel. I had nothing to do with it. God slapped me down in the middle of the dirt and said, ‘Saul. Saul, why persecutest thou me.’ And I said, ‘Lord, what do you want me to do?” And he says, ‘I want you to go to the Gentiles to turn them from darkness to light, to give them the message of forgiveness of sins and turn them to the gospel.’ And I was in the ministry and there’s nothing I did about it.”
In fact, he says in Galatians 1, “It was from my mother’s womb decided before I was ever born.” He says, “The facts are, if I don’t do it I’m in a lot of trouble. You know, what kind of a deal is that? I got into this … I didn’t want to and now that I’m in it if I mess up I’m in trouble. I didn’t even ask for this, and now I’m stuck and I’m really on a hotspot.”
So he’s saying, “I have something that I personally rejoice in.” And what he means by that is it has to be something that he was free to do or not to do, something he was free to receive or free to reject. There’s something personal here.
Verse 17, he further shows what it isn’t.

It’s not Because of Willingness.

1 Corinthians 9:17 KJV 1900
17 For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.
He says, “If I did this willingly I should have a reward, but if it’s against my will a dispensation (stewardship) is committed unto me.” In other words, you could say, “All right, you’re going to be rewarded for being in the ministry.” Sure, if I did it willingly. But friends it isn’t willingly. Don’t reward me. This whole thing is against my will. I never chose this. A stewardship from God has been committed onto me. Don’t pat me on the back. My boasting in not in my ministry. My boasting can’t be there. I had no choice in this. Boy I really read that. Do you hear that? You know, don’t exalt the preacher, don’t exalt the man of God.
Listen, this is … he is there because God has put him there. There’s no glorying in that. A man in the ministry is a fool if he does that. And he makes suspect the fact that maybe he’s there apart from God putting him there.
You say, “Well then Paul, what is it that gets you so excited here? What is this dispensation that’s been committed onto you?” “Well it’s the preaching of the gospel.”
“What is this stewardship?” The word dispensation is lakanamia. It means stewardship. “What is this stewardship God has given you?” Well it’s to preach and to teach his Word, but that isn’t what excites me, that isn’t what thrills me because … it does thrill me in a sense. I don’t mean to say it doesn’t thrill me at all, but the thing that thrills me that I have a personal part in is in verse 18, watch.
1 Corinthians 9:18 KJV 1900
18 What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.
What is my reward then? It’s synonymous with his boasting. What is the thing that thrills me?

Decision of Liberty

It’s this: that when I preach the gospel I may … don’t have to … wasn’t commanded to … I may make the gospel of Christ what?… free of charge.

It is Because of Choice.

You know something? God never told me to do that. I got to choose. That’s the one part of my ministry I chose, and I get excited about that privilege. And I make the gospel free of charge, that I abuse not my right in the gospel. It isn’t the preaching that I get excited about, when I see it from my perspective. It isn’t the preaching that I thrill over because I’ve made a contribution, it’s the fact that I can preach for nothing because that’s something I don’t have to do, but I’ve chosen to do.
Paul had to preach, and he had to preach the gospel, but he didn’t have to preach for nothing. That was his special contribution. And in that he had a special rejoicing. You see what he’s saying here.
1 Corinthians 9:18 KJV 1900
18 What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.
Look at the word abuse. It literally means to not use at all. So he says, “I have not used my right at all. I have a right to support. I have refused it, absolutely. I have never made any use of this right. And you know that’s the thrilling thing about my ministry.
Now you know that’s the attitude you ought to have when you set aside liberty. Some people might say, “Well I have the liberty to do that but old Joe over here is so weak I can’t do it, so I’m not doing it because of him. But, Joe, will you get with it and grow up so I can do what I want to do?” In other words, you can restrict your liberty but it’s a question of motive.
If you really want to love the world and win them to Jesus maybe there’s going to be some liberties you have you’ve got to set aside. And if you want to love your brother and see him grow up, maybe there’s some liberties you ought to set aside.
Not say, “Un, I’ve got to set my liberties aside. Why do all these weak brothers have to come into our church? Why don’t they go into another church, you know?
But instead of that what you ought to be saying is, “With that kind of privilege I ought to really have joy in my heart to be able to love people like that.”
Listen, evangelism isn’t all just evangelism; a lot of it is pre-evangelism, preparing to be heard.
1 Corinthians 9:19 KJV 1900
19 For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.
He sums it up in verse 19, “Though I’m free from all … I mean, I can do what I want. I make myself a servant to all, in order that I might gain the more.
Listen, I’ll restrict myself, even though I’m free I’ll become a servant if it means somebody’s going to get saved.”

I do it to Gain the More.

I do it to Gain the Jew.

1 Corinthians 9:20 KJV 1900
20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
In verse 20, “That I might gain the Jews.”

I do it to Gain those Under the Law.

Later in verse 20, “That I might gain them that are under the law.”
1 Corinthians 9:21 KJV 1900
21 To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.

I do it to Gain those Without Law.

In verse 21, “That I might gain them that are without law.”
1 Corinthians 9:22 KJV 1900
22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

I do it to Gain the Weak.

In verse 22, “That I might gain the weak.”
He continually talks about this. He talks about running to obtain. He talks about a reward. He’s got something in mind. And what he has in mind here is winning people to Christ, that’s the objective of this whole passage.

It is Because of the Gospel’s Sake.

1 Corinthians 9:23 KJV 1900
23 And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.
What mattered in life was not him and his rights, but the gospel. The gospel was the consuming passion of his life. Why? That he might partake of the gospel with other believers. By being faithful to the gospel he would share in the redemption of the gospel with other believers.
What a man. What a life. That guy had one thought—How can I win people? I do everything for the gospel’s sake. My whole life is set with that intention that I might be a partaker of it with you.
Partaker … sunkoinonos… that I might be a co-sharer with you. I want you and me to be in the family together and so I’ll do anything to see that happen … self-denial.

Discipline of Liberty

If you’re going to really limit your liberty, it’s going to be a discipline, you’re going to have to say no to some things that your ole body wants to do. You’re going to have to cut out some things, you’re going to have to narrow that deal down and live a life that’s going to be circumscribed by the wishes of other people. And that isn’t easy.
Self-denial comes first. I’m not the most important, they are.
1 Corinthians 9:24 KJV 1900
24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.

Run in Order to Win.

Number two, I’m going to have to discipline me. Watch verse 24, and he uses an athletic metaphor: “Do you know not … don’t you know, really, that they who run in a race all run but one receives a prize.”
So you run that you may win. Listen, if you’re in this race to win souls then you’re going to have run to win it. In the Greek contest there can only be one winner. In the Christian life the prize is open to everybody.
Everybody runs his own race. And you can run to win. The Corinthians were so busy grasping at their rights they were losing the prize. Instead of gaining the prize which was to win souls they were grasping their rights along the way and losing the prize of being able to win souls.
They were cutting off their testimony and as well they were cutting off their ability to bring along weaker brothers to a position of strength.
Now notice, people, the prize is not salvation, it is winning men to Christ. I want to win men to Christ so I will run as hard and as diligently and as rapidly as it will take me to win that prize.
1 Corinthians 9:25 KJV 1900
25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

Run with Discipline.

Everybody who runs to win is temperate. You know what that word means? Self-controlled … self-controlled. You can’t break training rules. Any of you who participated in athletics, you know how this works. But it’s true in everything.
There are only two kinds of people in the world, the people who have self-discipline and the people who don’t. And the people who have self-discipline are running the world. You never succeed in anything unless you’re disciplined. You never succeed academically, you never succeed spiritually, you never succeed in your marriage, you’ll never succeed anywhere, anytime unless you’re disciplined to that goal.
And so, he’s saying—Look, everybody that runs to win has self-control in everything.

Run with Focus

1 Corinthians 9:25–26 KJV 1900
25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
But if you’re going to win you’re going to have to have self-control. No broken training rules … discipline.
And you know, athletes in my mind are the most disciplined people in the world because there’s such an ego factor in it. And you … people will discipline themselves for their ego’s sake, for self-sake. It’s incredible how they will but they will. I know, I went through that. When I think about the things I did in order to obtain a trophy, it’s incredible … how ridiculous.
I mean, we’re … we’re trying to win an incorruptible crown, a crown that the Lord is going to give us and the way we win it is by winning souls and the way we win souls is by self-control, by setting a goal and going at that goal. Now this is amazing. Listen, he says, if a man can submit to such discipline to win a pine wreath what should a Christian do to win a crown that fades not away?
Paul says—If I can watch a guy discipline himself to win a pine wreath, you watch me discipline myself to win somebody to Christ. I’ll cut out anything in my life that stands in his way. You know, it isn’t … an athlete has a right to eat a chocolate sundae before he runs 100-yard dash, that’s his privilege … not smart. And if he doesn’t sacrifice that right he’s in trouble. It isn’t wrong it’s just not smart. It just cuts him down and he can’t win. So, athletes deny themselves many lawful pleasures, many rights … so must the Christian.
Verse 26, “I therefore so run, not as uncertainly,” stop right there.

Mental Focus

Listen, I know where the goal is. I know what the boundaries of the track are. And I know how to get to the goal. You know, if you don’t know the goal is, and you don’t know where the boundaries of the track are, you’re going to be roaming all over everywhere. You’re not going to even be able to run the thing.
A man with no goal and no bounds to the track runs with no effort.
I know my goal, I know the boundaries of my track, I know what I want to do—I want to win people to Jesus, and it takes self-control and that’s the way I’m going to go. And I’ll set aside anything that stands in the way … anything. Now that’s the positive … that’s the mental effort. That’s Paul saying in his mind—I’m going there and that’s where I’m going and I’ll pay any price. That’s the positive.
But there’s a negative cause something’s in his way. Look at verse 26, he introduces it:

Physical Focus

1 Corinthians 9:26 KJV 1900
26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
“So fight I, not as one that beats the air.” Now you say—What are you doing? What is this? Now he’s mixing his metaphors. I thought you were in a race, what’s the boxing match have to do with it? Well, while I’m running I got this opponent that I have to keep knocking out because he wants me to get off the track. And so, he says, I don’t shadow box, you know, not just sparring, I bang right on the nose. I know where the opponent is and I flatten him.
You say—Who is this opponent?

Runs with Physical Focus

1 Corinthians 9:27 KJV 1900
27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
Verse 27: “My body, my flesh, I’ve got to bring it into subjection.” So, he says, “I keep under my body,” that’s really not a good translation, the words literally in the Greek—I give my body a black eye—literally, I knock them out. I put his lights out. I say to the flesh,—Humh—take that. See. That’s what he’s saying.
You know what the problem is negatively?
Positively my mental toughness—I’m going.
Negatively—what I have to do is—boom have to pound on that body to keep the body under control.
Now those are the two things that make a good athlete. Thinking of track and competition, two things make a great track athlete, one is subdued body. In other words, have you ever seen an athlete and looked at his body, his body, if he’s a supreme athlete, if he’s a world-class athlete, or … or really any good athlete, his body is in control. He doesn’t come out 13 pounds overweight—blup-blup down the track. You know, it doesn’t happen. Or you don’t see his legs withered and shriveled up, it just doesn’t happen. Or you don’t see him looking emaciated and pale and peaked and his face all sunken and gray. He doesn’t look like that. He is healthy.
Why? Because he subdues his body, he nourishes his body. He controls his body. He says I will control you, body, to do what I want you to do.
Lost people in our world are controlled by their bodies. Their bodies tell their minds what to do. Feed me more. Put me to sleep. You know, this kind of thing. Don’t overdo me. I’ve run far enough. Set me down. You know, this kind of stuff. We … we do not … we do not Control the body but the body controls us. That’s why Paul says—Mortify the flesh. But an athlete has two things going for him. One is he knows how to subdue the body, and secondly, he has the mental toughness to know what his goal is. Two things make a great athlete, a subdued body and a mental desire to put out the effort. Paul says—Positively my mind is set, I know where the bounds of the track are, I know where the goal is, I know exactly where I’m going. Negatively, I subject my body to get me to the place I want to go to. Worldly lusts, passion, the flesh, whatever the spiritual battle might be that would rob you of the crown, Paul says—Get that body into submission, make it your slave.
Why Paul, Why do you do this?

Runs not to be Disqualified.

1 Corinthians 9:27 KJV 1900
27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
Verse 27: “Lest that by any means when I have preached (heralded) to others, I myself should be castaway (disqualified).”
Now this is a metaphor right out of the Isthmian games. When the Isthmian games began a herald came out, trumpet was blown to call the attention of everybody and the herald stood up and what he did was announce the contest, announce the event, announce the names of all the contestants and announce the rules. And then the contestants entered it. Anybody who violated any of those rules was disqualified.
And Paul says—The one thing I would never want to happen to me would be for me to be the guy who gives everybody else the rules and then gets in the race and breaks them and is disqualified. I’m the guy who has to herald this. I’m the guy who’s telling everybody else. I’m the Apostle who spreads the word. What would happen if I became disqualified? And I could be disqualified if I didn’t subdue the body. Boy, there are a lot of people in Christian service who started out to serve the Lord but their flesh got away with them and they’ve been disqualified. They’ve been set on a bench. Paul says I don’t want it to happen to me so I have that mental toughness to say there’s my goal, I’m going and I have that desire to subdue the body.
Listen, the reckless, flabby Corinthians thought they could indulge their liberties to the hilt while the devoted Apostle was engaged in a life of self-denial and self-control to gain entrance for the gospel into the hearts of men. And he sets for us the model of how we ought to live.
Evangelism doesn’t just come by accident, it comes to those who are ready to be used of God.
How are you using your liberties?
Are they attracting people to Christ, or are they deterring people from Christ?
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