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Setting Aside Our Rights February 8, 2015

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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1 Corinthians 9:16-27

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany

February 8th, 2015


Focus:  God, in His love for us, set aside His rights as He saved us.

Function:  That the hearers set aside their rights out of love for one another.

Structure:  Here is a prevailing view…but here is the claim of the gospel.


Setting Aside Our Rights


“I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.”  Paul’s words from our epistle reading today are arguably some of the best advice about mission, about evangelism.  In order to better reach someone, be a part of their culture.  To the Jew I became a Jew.  To the weak, I became weak.

This is part of the thinking behind career missionaries who go overseas, who immerse themselves in other cultures, learning their language, learning their customs and traditions.  It’s a wonderful way of using relationships to share the gospel.

But that’s actually not why Paul said it.  If we see that as the point of what he said, then we’ve missed the point entirely.  It would be like walking away from my sermon a few weeks ago only remembering the Doritos commercial and the snowglobe.  Or from Pastor Fritsch last week and only remembering that he dressed up some of our kids.  Those were illustrations.  We use them because they’re helpful, they help us better understand the main point.

That’s what this was for Paul.  It was an illustration from his own life to help us better understand what he was trying to say.  The missional life that he talks about is an illustration of something bigger.  It’s not primarily a text on mission, but on the attitude of Christ.

Paul’s evangelism was rooted in Christ’s willingness to set aside His rights, His claims.  This is something that Paul spells out for us entirely in his letter to the church in Philippi.

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, 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. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


We see this struggle for Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, as He prepares for that night, for that sacrifice.  He had every right, every ability, being God, to not go through that.  But in His love for us, He cast aside His rights, humbled Himself, and surrendered Himself to save us.  Christ set aside Himself to serve us.

That’s the point of really the whole Bible, but that’s what Paul’s getting at for us.  That’s why he starts our text by talking about his own paycheck.  He has the right to be paid for his work in the gospel and yet, in that particular community, both he and Barnabas refused.  They set aside their right for the good of the people in that city.

Paul goes on to illustrate with the idea of becoming all things to all people.  That’s firsthand experience for him.  To the Jews, Paul was a Jew, he witnessed to them.  He had the chance to witness to the Gentiles, those outside the law.  He had the chance to go and serve the antimonians, those without the law.  He laid aside himself, his own culture, his own rights, in order to better serve those people.

It’s a reckless generosity, that we set aside our rights, our authority, for another.  We can look in the writings immediately around chapter 9 to see more of what this looks like and how it plays out.

1 Corinthians chapter 6 is all about lawsuits.  This one certainly hasn’t changed today.  If someone totals your car, if they cause you personal injury, or have taken money from you, or slandered you, or there was a medical malpractice, you have every right to sue.  In fact, that list goes on and on, and we might even be more sue-happy than the Corinthians were.  You have the right to compensation.

But the Scriptures tell us otherwise.  We are commanded not to sue a fellow Christian.  In suing them, you are causing great damage to them.  You might be taking house and home from them.  You likely are destroying any relationship that was there from before.  And although the Bible doesn’t forbid suing a non-Christian, ask yourself if it’s worth it.  Is any amount of stuff worth severing the relationship, damaging the opportunity to serve another, for them to hear about the love of Christ.  Paul encourages us to be willing to suffer wrong and to forgive it as Christ did for us.

In Chapter 7, Paul goes on at length about marriage.  So many of our problems today, and theirs then, revolve around putting me first in marriage.  My needs, my wants, my job, my paycheck.  I want to relax when I get home from work, I want to go out tonight, I want to use the money I earned to buy something for myself.  And you have that right.  But if ever there was a human relationship that depends on loving someone else, it’s marriage.  To put your spouse and their needs before your own is the ultimate expression of Christ-like love.  That we would willingly sacrifice for each other.  That’s what marriage is about.

In Chapter 8, Paul discusses food.  For them, the issue was about meat being sacrificed to idols.  Paul was clear on this: you can eat whatever you want.  There’s no harm in that.  If you want to eat meat, go for it.  If you only like vegetables, more power to you.  If you want to eat food that’s been sacrificed in honor of a false god, they don’t exist, so that really does no harm.  But if someone is watching, if eating that meat given to false idol would cause harm to your brother, then don’t do it.  Set aside your rights out of your love for them.

The examples can continue on in our own lives.  It is your right to have your weekend off from work.  But if your coworker desperately needs it either from exhaustion or to care for a family member, or maybe even just for the chance to go on a trip or do something special, set aside your right and cover their shift.

In any relationship, it your right to hold a grudge, to keep a record of wrongs, to be fed up with the fact that they’re late for the third time this month.  But the Christ-like thing to do is to forgive and forget.  To set aside our right to anger and instead choose to value that relationship.

Among siblings, it’s our first amendment right of free speech to go on Facebook and blab about the latest dumb thing they did.  But rather than harm them, we love them, and we leave it off of the internet.

When we start thinking through these things, they start to sound like some of the Commandments, which just goes to remind us that the Commandments are there to show us what loving our neighbor looks like.

In all of these things, the general application for Paul isn’t about his example of evangelism or preaching.  It’s bigger than that.  If I focus on myself, if I hold on to my rights, to what I deserve, then that only goes to puff me up.  But loving someone else, builds them up.  It’s the transforming love of Christ, that He set aside His rights, His needs, to save us.

And so Paul wraps up this section of the letter:

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.


Run the race.  That’s what ties all these different things together.  It’s our vocations, it’s doing what God gave us to do to the best of our ability.  If that’s preaching the good news, then preach it.  If it’s being a brother, be the best brother you can be.  If it’s being a husband or a wife, do that to the best of your ability.  Coworker, friend, neighbor, boss, burger-flipper, do not run aimlessly, but discipline yourself.

Paul doesn’t boast because he knows it’s not about him.  It’s about what Christ has done for us.  It’s about loving others.  He even says he has no choice but to do what God has entrusted him to do.  And so he sets himself aside and becomes all things to all people.  It’s a reckless generosity, to set aside my authority, my rights, for you.  And in doing so, it is my hope that you will see Christ and what He has done for you.





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