In the previous chapter, Paul explains how the Lord and the Gospel are the priority of his life. In this chapter, Paul connects it by being an example of prioritizing the gospel in his own life.
SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT (vv. 1 – 18)
This is my defense to those who would examine me (v. 3)
The Corinthians church feels entitled to a certain leader, which Paul does not meet. He does not fit in their mold. Paul is defending himself (vv. 1- 3) from the Corinthians judgment of what a leader should look like. He defends himself by using rhetorical questions to address their ideas. The Corinthians have this sense of entitlement because they want to be in control, but Paul shows how God is number one. Paul’s intention isn’t to have them pay him for his work, but to show that he acknowledges that the Lord has entrusted him with a treasure that he is responsible for protecting, investing, and stewarding. Paul has found something better than entitlement. He’s found the free-of-charge Gospel.
FOR THE GOSPEL (vv. 19 – 23)
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them … do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings (v. 19, 23)
Paul is addressing what it means to be an effective witness for the Gospel. We must be prepared to witness, endure the task, and persevere through whatever may come. Throughout this passage, Paul does what is needed to proclaim the Gospel. This is his way of being an example to the people. Paul is not being legalistic, but being flexible within the law of Christ. He is solely focused on Christ.
RUNNER’S DISCIPLINE (vv. 24 – 27)
But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (v. 27)
In this passage, Paul is stating that we need to forego our entitlements for the sake of the Gospel. Paul uses a runner as an analogy of how we are supposed to do the work Christ has entrusted us with. Like a runner, we know the prize and will do what it takes to obtain the prize. During this process, we could fall into distractions and/or sins that take us away from the prize. If you’ve seen “Race Skit,” (used commonly in STSM) then you would have a visual of what it means to run the race. Paul reminds us the importance of growing spiritually through Word and prayer, so that we can persevere through all things in order to reach the prize of the crown that awaits us.
We need to remember that God should be first in our lives. We must exemplify that in our daily lives. During this time of hardship, we should be examples to others through our actions by making Jesus the center of our lives. These are things we can meditate upon and learn from Paul’s letter.