I Corinthians 9:19-27

Dr. Steve Viars February 25, 1992 1 Corinthians 9:19-27

- we've been studying I Cor. 8-9 to see what the Lord says to
  us about Christian liberty

- one of our goals in this study is that each one of us would
  be able to think our way through the argument Paul is
  building about how to handle our liberty in Christ
- if I asked you tonight - walk your way through chapter 9 -
    would you be able to do that?

- I hope many would say - I think I could hit the high points
    - that’s important, because in order to make decisions on
      these kind of issues now, and to be prepared to do so
      in the future
        - we have to work at understanding what God's word

- there's been 3-4 keys ideas so far in this chapter (on

1) The first one comes from verses 4-14 - INPUT - what were
     those verses about? (how we treat Christian servants

     - Paul gave us those verses to tell us about his rights
       as a believer in Jesus Christ.
     - several times in those verses he said - we have a

- but then in verse 15 he takes a radical shift in his
  - He says - I didn't exercise that right. (in other words
     - I didn't take a salary from the church when I came to
  - and he says - I don't want you to repay that now

- that brings us to second important point:

INPUT - from verse 15 - why did Paul say he exercised his
        liberty to not take a salary, and why he didn't want
        them to pay him now.

2) He wanted the way he used his liberty to be a special
   source of rejoicing in the Lord.

   - When He thought about God's Person - he wanted to
   - When he thought about God's Word - he wanted to rejoice.
   - But he also wanted to be able to look at his own life:
      what the Lord was doing - and have special reasons to
      give God glory.  (that thought governed the way he used
      his liberty)

   - now, (this is very critical) - many folks would read
      through verse 15 and conclude - "but Paul - you've done
      so much...
           - you came to the city as a Pioneer missionary and
             started our church...surely that’s reason to
              glory in the Lord.

- Paul anticipates that and makes some unexpected statements
  in verses 16-17:

3) Simply coming to Corinth and preaching the gospel was just
     the minimum.

    - it was right     -- it honored the Lord

    - but Paul makes it very clear
    - that’s not what he's taking about in verse 15
    - coming to Corinth and preaching the gospel is to
        special source of glorying in the Lord

        - INPUT - why is that true?  (according to 16-17)
            1) he was under compulsion
            2) he didn't do it willingly
            3) it was a stewardship
            4) he was just obeying the "black and white"
                 commands of God.

4) Paul exercised his liberty not to take a salary because he
    wanted to "rise above" the minimums.
      - it was important to Paul to use his liberty in a way
        that gave him special cause to glory in the Lord.

- one way to illustrate all we've said so far is - Is the way
   you exercise your liberty like an adult cleaning a room,
   or a child cleaning a room?

   - here's what I mean - When you ask a small child to go
     pick up their clothes, what do they often do until
     they're taught differently?
       (the bare minimum - you go in the room later - the
        clothes are picked up/you can look at the mess and
        see little holes where the clothes are gone--but
        there's books, toys, dolls--everything else still
          - they did the bare minimum

   - Paul is saying - I don't want to be like that in my
     Christian life
   - I don't want to be satisfied with the spiritual minimums

   - I want to have spiritual ambition, I want to rise above
       - and I recognize that the way I exercise my Christian
         liberty is a good opportunity for me to do this.

- hopefully, we would have two responses to what we've heard
   so far:

     1) that’s the kind of person I want to be

     2) what steps do I need to take to grow to be more like

- Paul's going to address that question in verses 19-27 by
  giving us three steps to "Using Your Liberty To Rise Above"

- READ 19-27

- verse 19 is a transitional verse -- it "ties together" what
    we talked about Sunday night to the additional points
    Paul makes in these verses

- he says, in order to "rise above",

I. We Must "Enslave Our Freedom"

    - Paul says in verse 19 - "though I am free from all men,
        I have made myself a slave to all."
    - I think we need to point out:

    A. These words don't naturally "go together."

        - the phrase "we must enslave our freedom" almost
          sounds contradictory
        - have you ever noticed how some phrases seem to do

          cf. 1) Chris and Normand Healy - masters in
                  "urban forestry"

              2) jumbo shrimp - (are we talking about big
                 shrimp or little jumbos?)

              3) non-inflammable? (I know what flammable
                 means - I Know what in-flammable means///but

    - some phrases just don't seem to go together very well,
      but this is exactly what Paul is saying
        - If you're going to rise above
        - if you're going to be a verse 15 kind of person
           - you must enslave your freedom

- something else we need to notice the strong language Paul

    B. Paul uses extremely strong words

        - the phrase "I have made myself servant" (KJV) or
           "I have made myself a slave" (NASB) is from 2
           original words:

        1. from 2 original words

            - now we don't normally go throwing Greek words
              around here, but in this particular case, it's
              important that we see that Paul went out of his
              way to communicate this point

            - "edoulosa emauton"

                 - edoulosa - "I make a slave"

   - that word - in and of itself, is a very strong word for
     Acts 7:6 - to describe Israel’s 400 year experience in
     Titus 2:3 - addiction to wine
     Rom. 6:18 - a Christian's new relationship to
     Mark 10:44 - "Whosoever wishes to be first...shall be
       slave of all."

- but what we need to see here is that Paul adds the word

  - emauton - reflexive pronoun - "myself"

   - so the translations we have in our English Bibles sound
      a little wooden - but there's a very good reflection of
      the original

       - "sure there's freedom in Christ"
       - "there's room in-between the buoys in certain areas"

       - "But even in those areas of Christian liberty, I
           made myself a slave"

        3. point - voluntary enslavement

            - Ex. 21:2-6 tells about the OT law which
               required that all Hebrew slaves who had a
               Hebrew master had to be offered their freedom
               every six years
            - but the Bible tells us that those slaves who
              wanted to remain with their masters could have
              their ears pierced with an awl
                - a sign of voluntary enslavement for life

- that's what Paul is saying we must do - if we want to "rise
    above" -- we must enslave our freedom

- another thing we need to see about these words "I enslave
   myself" is the way they fit into this argument (on board)

        4. note the argument

    - why did Paul use such strong terminology?
    - why "I make myself a slave"?

    - to contrast what had been said in verses 16-17

    - when it came to Paul traveling to Corinth to preach the
      gospel, that's all things the Lord did for him
    - Paul goes out of his way to sat that
        - necessity is laid on me (v. 16)
        - I didn't do it willingly (v. 17)
        - God entrusted me with this message - it was a

        - see, everything in verses 16-17 is what God did
        - but Paul says - let me tell you what I did
           - let me tell you how I responded to the freedom
             in Jesus Christ that God gave to me

             - I myself (not apart from the power of the
               Holy Spirit) but I myself enslaved it

- See, how can you tell that a person truly appreciates the
   freedom you give him?
     - look what he does when he gets it

- cf Pools/ Moo Moo - freedom to have a job, make money, make
     - Moo Moo was a great employee because he never abused
        that freedom
     - in fact, he limited it
         - worked hard regardless of supervision
         - tried to limit material costs even though he had
            freedom to order how ever much he wanted to

- see- how do you know if a person genuinely appreciates
   their freedom in Christ?
     - see what they do with it when they get
     - people who "rise above" enslave their freedom

- one more thing we need to say about this point

- we're not talking about "purposeless enslavement"
- this isn't asceticism
- this isn't - "Let's all shave our heads and eat orange

    C. This enslavement has a purpose

        - often in the Bible, a purpose statement begins with
          the word that
        - Paul gives us the purpose for the enslavement of
          our liberty several times in these verses

        - what is that purpose?

        - "that I might win others"

        - Paul says - I want to use my liberty in a way that
            makes it easiest to talk to others about Jesus
        - Prov. 11:30 - "he that wins souls is wise"

        - we'll have more to say about this in a few minutes
             - but Paul is arguing that the way we use our
               liberty ought to help us build bridges, not

- let me just stop and ask you - Are you a person who
    enslaves your freedom?
      - we'll talk more about specific examples in a minute
      - but would those who know you best say that you are so
        interested about your spiritual ministry to others
        that you're like a slave
          - "you've enslaved your freedom - and if called
             upon to do so - you could give specific examples
             of how that's true."

- in order to do that, in the next verses Paul says:

II. We Must Deny Ourselves

    - that point's pretty general - let's try to sharpen it
      up some.

    A. What these verses are saying

    - we've given you a chart in your notes to help follow
      the argument in verses 20-22

- Paul speaks about three different groups of people
- we want to use the chart to see two things

   1) what's similar about what's said about each group

   2) what stands out (doesn't fit the formula)

- in each group - we'll see that he mentions
    1) the audience
    2) what he did
    3) why he did it
    4) "extra" material

- on board

Audience   What Paul did    Why he did it    "Extra" material

1a Jews     became as        that I might
            a Jew            win Jews

1b under    became under     that I might      not being
   law      law              win Jews          myself under

2 Gentiles  became as        that I might      though not
            w/out law        win Gentiles      being w/out
                                               law of God

                                               I am under
                                               law of Christ

3 Weak     became weak       that I might
                             win the weak

- we've talked about what these verses are saying - let's
    talk now about:

    B. What these verses are emphasizing

        - INPUT - as you look over your chart, what words
            come to your mind?

        - I'd like us to think about the concept of "balanced
        - that’s another one of those phrases that doesn't
          readily fit together

        - both words are important (illustrate with hand
            - adaptability - right fist going all over
            - balanced adaptability - left hand controlling
              right fist and not allowing it to travel as far

        1. adaptability

point - I will limit my freedom in whatever way I need to in
  order to win others, within biblical guidelines.
- now that’s going to have different implications depending on
   the kind of person we're working with.
- Paul adapted himself in different ways depending on the

        a. a legalist

           - some unsaved folks are very legalistic
           - even though they're unsaved, some folks have
              very high standards of dress, behavior, dress,
           - that was true of the Jews in Paul's day - it's
              true of the legalists in ours

           I've given several passages where Paul clearly
           adapted himself to the desires and customs of his
           Jewish audience

           Acts 16:3, 18:18, 21:20-26

           - now, we'll give the balancing side in a minute,
             but the point is:
                 - the person who's freedom is enslaved, when
                   working with a legalist says:

           "I must strive to be least offensive as
            possible..." \

- we're talking about situations like this:
   - I have made some friends with people who believe you're
     going to hell unless you conform to certain ultra-
     conservative dress standards.
   - (when I say ultra-conservative - I mean what you're
      wearing right now would be considered sinful)
   - now we would say - wait - there's liberty in those areas
      - that's true--but question is - How are you going to
         exercise that liberty?

      - when those folks ask me over to their house to
        dinner, I'm not going to show up with a yellow tie and lime green shorts
- we ought to "enslave our freedom" and seek to be as least
    offensive as possible
- see, some folks "flaunt" their liberty - and in so doing,
    limit their ministry

- I think some of the new trends in music are an example of
- some churches want to say - we've got freedom, we've got

- when you see where that takes them musically, it's
    sanctified rock (with a lot of rock--and little

- when you talk to them, they say, "we're free, we're free"
   - but look what they do with that freedom

   - its offensive, and it alienates
   - some of those churches have alienated an entire segment
      of the population with that kind of music

        b. lawless

            - Paul says, when I'm with them, I'm not going to
              behave as one under the law
                - and I'm not going to expect them to

            - in our kind of language, we'd say - "We must
              not expect unbelievers to act like believers."

            - now we'll balance this one too in a minute

- but Paul says, there's a different kind of freedom that has
    to be enslaved here
- as believers, we're free to get away from all the trashy
    habits of the world
- but there are times, when in order to minister to people,
   that freedom will have to be enslaved

- cf. Funeral dinner - smoking

        c. weak

          - Paul's talking here about those who are
            untaught, don't know much about God or the Bible
          - sure, you have the freedom to talk about high
            theological statements, but if you want to
            minister to people in this category, you'll have
            to enslave that freedom
              - you'll have to work at talking simply, and
                 plainly - in order to minister

- a couple of questions flow out of this:

  1) Do you work at determining what kind of person it is
     that the Lord has brought across your path?
       - do you take the time to discern - Is this person a
         legalist, are they lawless, or are they weak?

- then do you say:

  2) What facet of my liberty in Christ may I need to limit
       in order to most effectively minister?

- we're talking about adaptability
    - not a "canned evangelistic approach" with a take it or
       leave it attitude
    - but instead - loving people enough to limit whatever
        freedom is necessary in order to minister

- now, of course, what we've been saying has to be balanced
- not just "adaptability," but:

        2. balanced adaptability

    a. Legalist - I must strive to be least offensive as
         possible...without giving the impression that
         adhering to the law saves.

       cf. verse 20 - not being myself under the law

    b.  Lawless - I must be sure not to expect unbelievers to
        act like believers...without giving the impression
        that a Christian lives to him/her self.

        cf. verse 21 - "not being without the law of God"
             - "I am under the law of Christ"

    c. Weak - I must be as simple as possible...without
       watering down the message till it has lost it's power.

- we're talking tonight about deference
    - not compromise, not being a chameleon

- we're talking about limiting our freedom so we can maximize
    our ministry

- now we're not going to have time to develop this point as
   fully as we'd like, but a question that flows out of all
   this is:

   C. What motivated Paul?

        - what caused him not to take a salary at Corinth?
        - what caused him to "enslave his freedom"
        - what caused him to try to discern the kind of
            person he was ministering to, and then adapt his
            style of ministry regardless of what aspect of
             freedom had to enslaved?

        - the answer is - his love and concern for those who
           didn't know Christ

        - Rom. 10:1 - "My heart's desire and prayer for them
             is for their salvation."

        - Rom. 9:3 - For I could wish that I myself were
           accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my
           brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh."

- we must enslave our freedom
- we must deny ourselves

III. We Must Discipline Ourselves

    A. The image - a race

    B. The goal - obtaining the prize

    C. The means - discipline and direction

    D. The warning - "I myself should be disqualified."

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video