It’s Time to Trade Up- 1 Corinthians 9:1-18

The Seventeenth message in the 1 Corinthians Study.
(Find the other messages from this series here)

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Have you ever played or heard of the game bigger and better?
You start with something small and keep trying to trade for something bigger and better. The bigger, the better.

Bob Goff tells the story of one time his son and his son’s friends played this. They all started with something small and went out into the neighborhood.
Golf’s son started out with a dime.

The first house he went to he said, I’m playing bigger and better and I was wondering if I could trade you this dime for something bigger or better?
The man who answered the door yelled to his wife,
Honey we are playing bigger and better! What do we have that we can trade for a dime?

They had an air mattress that they were no longer using- so they swapped that…
Now that’s pretty great. A large air mattress is pretty big.
However, he kept going. He traded the air mattress for a ping pong table. He traded the ping pong table, and made a dozen more trades as he made his way through the neighborhood…

When he came home, he drove home in an old pickup truck, that he had traded for!
Goff said, he didn’t need a truck so he gave it to a local church to give away to a person starting over…
That trade was the best, because trading the dime up for bigger and better all the way to a pickup was nothing in comparison in trading the pickup for the great sense of joy and love that came from helping someone in need.

In this section of Corinthians, Paul talks about money and how we can trade it for something bigger and better.

God is always giving us chances to trade up and be part of something bigger and better than ourselves.

Money often creates controversy, and it was causing an issue between the Corinthians and Paul.

But it’s not what you would expect. It was creating a problem, not because Paul was requesting funds but because he was refusing them.
What?
Let’s read this passage and figure out what’s going on.

Paul hadn’t needed funds from the Corinthians. He had a means of support that he had worked out through tent making with Aquila and Priscilla- and some of Paul’s critics were using this against him. They were saying that he wasn’t the real deal- that he wasn’t even a full time minister- that he couldn’t be a real apostle if he wasn’t doing this full time.

Paul responds defending his apostleship and saying that he did deserve to receive material goods, but that he had forsaken that right because he found he could go farther, faster without relying on the financial support of the church and God had given him an alternative means of income in making tents.

Paul’s point is that he not any less of an apostle because of this, he has simply chosen to fund his own ministry efforts.

Currently in the FWB partnership of churches we have 2 churches that are on the rebound. They were very near the brink of closing.
They had large amounts of debt and had lost just about all of their people. In both instances the pastor who came there had been uniquely gifted in that they had great skills for and opportunities in the secular workplace.
James Lindsey in Ft Wayne runs a furniture factory.
Travis Penn is a an IT guy and run the IT department for the school corporation in North Indy.

Both of these men are not less than pastors. We do not look at them any differently except that we admire their willingness to pastor these churches and work regular work weeks at the other job.
Because of their skill set and unique calling, the church is able to afford to move forward.

Paul’s response to his critics is strange because he starts by saying I deserve to be paid, even though I’m not.
Paul was defending his authority as an apostle, but he wasn’t trying to establish a precedent that all church leaders should find other employment. So he builds the case for his apostleship and the support of church leaders.

So the first point here in chapter 9 is

Material goods should be supplied to church leaders.

4Have we not power (the right) to eat and to drink?

7Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?

9For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?
10Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.

13Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?
14Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.

Verse 9 is a quote of Deuteronomy 25:4
Refers to the practice of an ox dragging a sledge over grain separating the kernels from the stalk. They were not to muzzle the ox so that he could reap benefits from the grain he was treading.

Then Paul asks, is God concerned for the ox? Paul is saying, If God is concerned about the ox, I’m sure he’s concerned about people- about the leaders of the church.

Paul is saying, if God wants to make sure that the ox who helps harvest the grain gets a share of the fruits of his labor, surely your spiritual leaders and pastors should receive a share in the harvest- the fruits of his labors.
In this passage Paul highlights that fact that every church leader is different, every scenario is different.
Paul mentions that some of the apostles had wives that they were bringing along with them in ministry. Obviously Peter’s responsibilities were different than Paul’s.
Paul had argued that though he didn’t marry, that was well within the rights of a believer.
Paul is now arguing that though he doesn’t receive financial support from the church, that is well within the rights of the church leader.

The next two points are what I want to get to…

Material goods pale in comparison to Spiritual Benefits.

11If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?
12aIf others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather?

In verse 11, Paul uses yet another rhetorical question- if we sow unto you spiritual things, is it a big deal that we reap or harvest carnal or material things?

In other words, Paul is saying the seeds that we have planted in your lives are producing peace, joy, love, restoration, and purpose.
All of these are much greater than what we ask for to support our families and take care of ourselves.

Now Paul isn’t calling this a trade.
You don’t get the spiritual help because you give financial support. You don’t have to give an offering to receive spiritual benefit.
If you call me for counseling and help, I will not discuss payment plans with you first.
When you come to the altar, your benefit is not contingent upon the offering.

So it isn’t a trade, however, Paul is saying that if we compare what we receive with what we are asked to give, the deal is a pretty good one.

However, many people fail to see it this way.
For many, because the spiritual benefits are intangible- they can’t bring themselves to give their money which could purchase them tangible things- something that they can hold, or sit on, or ride in, or watch.

None of the tangible stuff you have purchased in this life comes close to the value that is in the intangible goods you receive through God’s grace.

We struggle with this. We struggle to give and make an investment in the kingdom of God because we can’t see what we are purchasing.

“Faith isn’t a formula or a business deal. In Short there’s nothing on the other side of the equal sign, just Jesus.” – Bob Goff

We’ve traded our broken lives for something bigger and better.
If we’ve trusted Jesus with our lives and received something far greater- why don’t we trust him to trade our material goods for something bigger and better?

My phone is broken. It’s messed up. I can see messages and calls and sometimes I can answer them, but often I can’t. I went to the store to see about getting it fixed. They said, well you’ve got 4 months left on your contract so we’ll let you upgrade, but you have to trade in your phone and since it’s broken, we don’t want it.

Well, if it wasn’t broken I wouldn’t need to trade it in… but because it’s broken I do need to trade it in but can’t.

When we come to the Lord with our broken and shattered lives, he doesn’t say, “uh, well, I was actually looking to take an exchange on a moderately used life, not a broken one….”

When we come to the Lord with our broken and shattered lives, he accepts us, no questions asked.

If the Lord is willing to take your broken life- what sense does it make to not trust him with your money?
If you are willing to trust God with your very life,
why not trust him with your stuff?

Why not trust him with your funds?

“You know your trusting God when you trust Him with your money.” – Nieuwhoff.

You say, well I’m poor. I hardly have any money.
That’s what’s great about the Lord- you don’t have to give a certain amount to qualify- you don’t have to reach some tier of giving- you just need to give.
The Lord calls us to give 10% as a tithe.
For some of you, 10% isn’t very much, but it’s still obedience.
For some of you, 10% is quite a bit but that means your 90% is still quite a bit.

Though our income levels vary, we can all be obedient.

Got a small paycheck, you can still be obedient.

In fact, Jesus made it clear that the woman who had less to give exercised great faith because she gave out of need, not out of abundance.

Though our gifts differ, we can all be part of something bigger and better than us.

Then notice what verse 12 says, if others are partakers with you, are not we also?

Paul is referring to other church leaders and teachers who had come through that the Corinthians had supported.
Paul said, if they are worthy of your support, aren’t we?

We established your church and introduced you to the gospel and now we are doing the same thing in another city, doesn’t that qualify as worthy of support?

Now think about this in 2 ways.
You pay people all of the time.
You pay people to work on your car, you pay for tires, you pay for gas, you pay for cable and internet, you pay for fast food, you pay someone to cut your hair, you pay for everything.

Paul says, if you are willing to pay for all of these things, shouldn’t you be willing to pay to support the people who lead you in a relationship with Jesus?
If the Spiritual is more valuable than the material, why would we only pay to support those that provide the material??
Paul and Silas had established the church in Corinth and were now doing the same thing in another city that didn’t have a church. They were working so that another group of people could experience what they had experienced of the forgiveness and redemption of the Jesus.
Our church exists because Free Will Baptists sent funds and offerings to support Bob Helms as he established a new church.
We are here because God worked through the generosity of other churches to make this possible.

There are missionaries who are doing the same thing right now, they are taking the gospel into cities where it is not represented.
They are establishing new churches in places like Eerie, PA, and Irvine, CA and Tokyo, Japan, and India.

They deserve our financial support.

Last week at the NAFWB we ended the week with the missions service as we do each year. All missionaries who are able to be present come to the stage and are recognized, new missionaries are prayed for and commissioned.
It’s very moving.
Then this week I read of a missionary couple to Tokyo who are resigning and coming home in September because their funds have dwindled.

Material goods are not a motivating factor for noble church leaders.

12bNevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.

15But 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.
16For 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!
17For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.
18What 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.

Paul only used money to reach the next opportunity to preach the gospel.
We are not in this for the money,
we are in this to preach the gospel.

verse 12 says we suffer all things lest we should hinder the gospel…
16 – I do this out of necessity. – Woe is me is I don’t preach the gospel.

Paul was saying, give or don’t give, I’m still going to preach the gospel. Paul says, I’m compelled, I’m called! I must preach the gospel. I do not lead the church because I want the pay- I lead the church because I love the gospel and I must proclaim it!

You will not be consumed with money if you are compelled by the gospel.

Paul said, I’ll walk away from money to preach the gospel.
Paul had traded money and stuff for something bigger and better,
the gospel.

Some of you, you love money. You cling to it. It consumes you. You are always angling to get more, make more, some of you- money consumes you because you spend it so fast on all the stuff that you want and all the stuff you so desperately want…

Let me invite you to trade it for something bigger and better.