Winning by Losing

1 Corinthians 9:19–23

Posted by Ian Rush on October 8, 2023
Winning by Losing
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Main idea: Those who are marked by the gospel make themselves servants of all so that unbelievers can hear the gospel and trust in Christ as their Savior.

  1. You Have Rights (19a)
  2. You Have a Responsibility (19b-22)
  3. You Have a Reason (All of the verses!)
  • Automated Transcription
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    Good morning, everybody. It's good to be with you this morning and to be able to share in this brief but profound passage of scripture. Really, it has a simple message. But one I think is somewhat difficult for us to put into practice. So hopefully we can be encouraged together. As we look at it this morning. We're going to have our reading. Now. It's first Corinthians chapter nine. We're going to begin in verse 19. So please stand for the reading of God's Word. First Corinthians nine, beginning in verse 19. says this. So Paul is speaking He says, For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews, I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law, I became as one under the law, they're not myself being under the law, that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law, I became as one outside the law, not being outside the law of God, but under the law of Christ, that I might win those outside the law. To the weak, I became weak, that I might win the weak, I have become all things to all people that by all means, I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. Let's pray together. Father, we gather this morning with many weights on our hearts and distractions on our minds from the outside world. Many burdens that we have and just ask now that you'd help us to leave all of these things with you. Now. Captivate and convict us by your word. encourage and equip us through Your Word, light to fire in our hearts, we pray, Father to reach the last with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Amen. Thank you, please do have a seat. As I think I commonly do, I forgot to say this is the word of the Lord. And then you guys say thanks be to God. So sorry. But I know you're all thinking it in your hearts. So I did it first. I don't know why I never do it. Second hours, forget I'm sorry. All right, we have out the front of our house, we have an apple tree we inherited it is a funny shape. It's got branches going all over the place. It kind of goes up and down like this. And it's unusual, but it grows up or so it does what it's supposed to do. So I'm thankful for that. The other day, I went out the front of our house. And I haven't seen this before. But this time I saw a squirrel under the apple tree looking for remnants of dropped apples that it could eat to make itself fat for the winter. That's what that's what the squirrels are all about at the moment. They want to make themselves fat. So I think like the apple tree, and like the squirrel, you look around at nature, you see similar things like one creature, depending on another creature to survive, right? They get the thing that they need from another part of creation in order to survive. You think like over the summer, you see all kinds of beautiful flowers around. And then you see honey bees as well, right? So the honey bees go, they get the nectar, they turn that into honey, and then they we get to eat as well. And it's enjoyable, right? We like honey. And then what the bees also do is they pollinate the flowers. They help the flowers to keep growing so it's kind of like a mutual, mutually beneficial thing that they've got going on. Now scripture compares the kingdom of heaven. To bury treasure tells us that what we have in the gospel of Jesus Christ is of utmost value. There is nothing more valuable than it is something that is so valuable in fact that we should be willing to give up and Everything in order to obtain it. In a different parable, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a pearl of great price. This is a it's a spectacular blessing for those of us who are in Christ to possess. Now God's intent for us as believers is that we be not Scrooges with the wonderfully valuable blessing that he has given us. But that we share it. Like what we see in creation. Like we see all of these things, depending on other things in order to live and grow and have what they need. So what we see in our passage this morning, in First Corinthians chapter nine, is Paul really encouraging us to do this. He encourages us to share the valuable gift of the gospel that we have been given. And he also shows us how to do this in the verses as well. So I'll give you a bit of context, for those of you that might have forgotten or maybe weren't here, the last couple of weeks, we've been in this series through Corinthians. And the church that Paul is writing to, is one of the first Christian churches that ever existed. And it was in this city of Corinth, which is in Greece, Paul writes to them in the middle of the first century AD, this is about 20 years after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. So things are still very fresh. I don't know if any of you can remember the time when you got saved, I'm sure it's easier to recall to mind for some of us than others. But if you think about that time, how easy was it for you to know the things of Christ, and to live by the things of Christ? Even now, I would say but especially back then, there's a lot of simplicity about the gospel, and about the truths of scripture that make it very simple to believe, and to live in that way the Christ calls us to. But sometimes there's an overwhelming amount of things as well. And it's like, what, what do I do first? What needs to change? First, what do I need to learn? First, there's all these things that other Christians talk about. And I have no idea what they're talking about. I'm a believer. And I really want to know, and I really want to believe those things, too, and see where they come from in the Bible. But I'm just not there yet. And it just takes time for those things to sink in. And for us to get to know those things, right. That was the same for the Christians in Corinth. Christianity was fresh. The people back then didn't have Bibles. They were learning, they were knowing they were believing and living things for the very first time in their lives, they've been confronted by new things. So as you can imagine, church life for them had become a little bit messy. Believers were sinning against one another. So Paul wrote them this letter to help them and he gave them instruction from God as to how they can correct or live more faithfully with Christ as a church. He was teaching them about what life looks like, for someone who is marked by the gospel. In chapters eight to 10, Paul addresses the topic of Rights and Freedoms, specifically, the responsibility of believers to give up their rights and freedoms for the spiritual benefit of others. Now, in the last couple of messages, we've seen this play out in relationships between beliefs. How can I live to benefit another person in the church spiritually? What can I give up for their sick? So today in our passage, poor shows that shows us that this must also play out a willingness to sacrifice our own preferences, rights and freedoms must also play out in our relationships with unbelievers. So the main idea this morning, is this. Those who are marked by the gospel, make themselves servants of all so that unbelievers can hear the gospel and trust in Christ as their Savior. That's your task believer. Your task is to live a sacrificial life, to live as a servant of all.

    That you may bring the gospel of Jesus Christ, to their hearing into their minds that they might also trust in Christ as their Savior. If you picked up one of the faith weeklies on your way in, you'll see in there that there's an outline for the message. So you can follow along there three points we're going to break down, the main idea is in there as well. So the first point is this. You have rights, you have rights. And we see that right at the beginning of verse 19. Paul says this, For though I am free from all for though I am free from all. Now this first part of verse 19 points back to the freedoms and the rights that Paul highlights in chapters eight and nine. He says things like in chapter eight, verse eight, food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off. If we do. Chapter nine and verse four, do we not have the right to eat and to drink? So Paul is highlighting his freedoms and his right to be able to eat and drink as he chooses, because it doesn't have any effect on his standing with God. He has the right to do that. Then in verse five of chapter nine, he says, do we not have the right to take along a believing wife? He has the right to choose or not choose to be married? That's a right it's a freedom that he has. In verse six. He says, Is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Then verses 11 and 12? If we have certain spiritual things among you, is it too much if we've reaped material things from you, if others share this rightful claim on you, do we not even more, and then verse 14, in the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. So Paul is highlighting that it is it should be considered a right or a privilege or freedom or benefit that he has, that he gets paid by the work that he does, because he preaches the gospel, and he is faithful in leading the church. It is his right that he get paid by the church. So to say that he is free from all, Paul is saying here in verse 19, that he is not Obliged by anyone to give up the things that he has just outlined, that are considered normal rights. He doesn't give up those things because he's obliged or bound by anyone. He's not controlled by anyone to live the way that he lifts. Like being able to eat and drink certain things or get married to the person of his choosing. He has the right just like any other person to do these things. We likewise have rights. Now, I'm going to have to be careful here, because I'm about to give as an English man, my own assessment of American history. Okay. So I apologize for any errors that I make. But I think we would all agree, America is a nation that's built upon the ideal of freedom and rights. Right, the first Europeans to come west for a new life had left England and other places in pursuit of religious freedoms, amongst other things. Then 150 years later, those nasty oppressive Brits were at it again, this time, through the Revolutionary War and the Declaration of Independence. America desired to achieve desired and achieved political freedom. You hear in one of the statements at the beginning of the Declaration of Independence. It says this, we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men were created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The very first time I came to America, I landed in Newark Airport in New Jersey. And as you're on the approach, if you've ever flown into Newark, if you know, you can look out the window and see the Statue of Liberty, as you come into land, which is another image of the freedom that the United States stands for stood for, when people would come into New York on those boats coming from Europe, that was the first thing they would see on their way, a mark of freedom from the oppression perhaps that they were leaving behind the national anthem, land of the free, and the home of the brave the Pledge of Allegiance one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice, for all. So I don't think it would be a stretch to say that freedom is the blood that runs through the veins of this nation. And I think in reality, though, it's maybe not as evidently seen on the outside. All of the other nations in the world hold to these things to maybe they manifest themselves in slightly different ways. Now, all of those freedoms, which can be good and appropriate in the right setting, and when they're administered, rightly, are on a national scale, is talking about a nation, it's talking about government and all those types of things. What Paul is addressing here is not those things, but personal freedoms, rights, much like the ones that Paul highlights of his own, the freedom to eat, and drink, we have that freedom to write the freedom to believe, and think and say, and do, what we choose. The freedom to dress, how we want to dress, to learn the things that we want to learn and in the way that we want to learn. The freedom to work or not work, the freedom to decorate our homes in the way that we want them decorated. We have the freedom to raise our children in the way that we think they should be raised, to spend our time the way that we choose. Being able to watch what we want, when we want. We have the freedom to be able to play what we want for when we want and for however long we want. We have the freedom to choose a well put together and clean house. The freedom to have dinner or whatever time we choose to have dinner, spend our money the way that we choose, have friendships and relationships with the people of our choosing. But as we have seen through chapters eight and nine, Paul's end goal is not merely to bring to mind the freedoms that we have. That's not where he wants to leave us. God has called us to a far greater purpose than freedom. Which brings us to point number two, you have a responsibility. You have a responsibility. I'm going to read the next part of verse 19. And we're going to go all the way down to verse 22. Paul says, I have made myself a servant to all that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law. They're not my not being myself under the law, that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law, not being outside the law of God, but under the law of Christ, that I might win those outside the law. To the weak, I became weak that I might win the weak. I become all things to all people that by all means I might save some. So Paul has just told us that he is free from all but now he shows us that he doesn't grasp on to his freedoms, but gives up his freedom gives up his rights to the fullest degree possible. By enslaving himself to others. My Bible says, I have made myself a servant to all it literally says in the Greek. I have enslaved myself to or to everyone. He's enslaved himself. He says to the Jews I became as a Jew Paul willingly lived in culturally Jewish ways. He did things that helped him to fit naturally in with Jewish people like he was one of them. Of course, Paul was a Jew.

    But being saved, he realized I don't need to live this way anymore. I don't need to live according to all of these traditions, and all of these ideas. I'm not I'm not obliged to I'm not obligated to. But he gave up his right, in order to gain an audience and friendships and be able to love the Jewish people. He was not bound by anyone to do that. He did not need to do this for any particular personal gain, or for any spiritual gain. He was free from all. But he enslaved himself to others. He says to those under the law, I became as one under the law, though not being myself under the law. It follows on really from the previous one, Paul willingly subjected himself to live by Old Testament laws, to live by those commands. He knew that they didn't achieve anything with God in a spiritual sense, his standing with God was already secure. It had already been purchased by Christ. We see here as well that he says he was like, or as one under the law. He wasn't actually under the law. But he lived as if he were under the law. He knew he was free from the law. He didn't have to live that way. But he chose to. He says to those outside the law, I became as one outside the law, not being outside the law of God, but under the law of Christ. So sometimes, depending on who he was with Paul would live in Jewish ways, and according to Jewish customs, and laws. But here we see when he was with non Jewish people, Gentiles, he lived like a person who had no Jewish religious connections. He lived like a Gentile person. I guess import important to emphasize this does not mean that he lived an immoral lifestyle. It just means that he lived a life in which he did not submit himself to the legal codes, the traditions of the Old Testament, He did not follow the rituals and the codes, the traditions that were common to those connected with Judaism, so that he could associate himself with and perhaps be accepted by those who are outside the law, the Gentile people. He says to the weak, I became weak. This is a term that we've seen before in chapter eight, where Paul already explained the importance of and his willingness to lay aside his rights for the spiritual benefit of fellow believers who had weak consciences. Now, here, he applies the same principle to relationships with unbelievers. They might be weak in the sense that they are without God, and lost in their sin. Perhaps they were socially weak. Instead of being the powerful well thought of religious or political leaders of Corinth. They were the working class, working their fingers to the bone. Just to live type of people. They were the poor. The people that didn't have anything. Paul became one of them. They were the homeless. They were the sick. The week were the people that Jesus walked by on the streets who begged him to touch them the destitute of society. Paul proved himself to be willing to identify with these people to become one of them. In this example, I think is interesting to see that he doesn't use as or like, as he has done previously. He said I become as a Jew, or maybe your Bible says, like a person who does not live under the law. But here he says I actually became weak. I became like, One of them. Not just like one of them, but actually as one of them. And he says in summary Next, I have become all things to all people. I've become all things to all people. I think this is what he means in verse 19, when he started by saying, I have made myself a servant, to all I'm willing to lay everything aside. I'm willing to lay all of my privileges aside, all of the things that are right. They're not they're not even things that are sin. They're just, they're just things that I'm I'm allowed to do. I'm permitted to do them their rights. They're just normal rights and, and permissible things, privileges. I enslave myself to others, by laying aside all of those things. I think our church we have such an exceptional example, through the missionaries that are connected to our church. We have a wonderful legacy of missionaries here at Faith Bible Church. I'll highlight one of them for you. Many of you will know the name but many of you won't. Evelyn Hatton moved as a single young woman to be a missionary nurse in Africa. And she served there for decades, for decades. She knew what it meant to give up the privileges of life, for the benefit of others. Even after returning to Spokane, in retirement, she continued to serve in the church. She volunteered unpaid, a medical clinic to take care of people. She served here in children's ministry. She was involved in outreach to Napoli's refugees who had come to Spokane. I think I could spend a sermon, at least on each of the missionaries that are connected to our church, and how God has worked through their sacrifice. It's not just missionaries that we see that in, it's really encouraging for me every week, whether it be Sunday or Wednesday or anywhere in between, to see the sacrificial service of the members of our church, you guys, as you give up your time, you give up your resources, you give up your energy, you give up your preferences, things that are important to you, in order to bless others and glorify Christ. It's such an encouraging thing to see. And this is not only the pattern of faith Bible Church, but it's the pattern that we see in the Church throughout church history, all the way back to the head of the church, Jesus Christ. servanthood and sacrifice is at the center of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Because servanthood and sacrifice are at the center of the person of God. They are the center of who Jesus is and what he came to do. John chapter three and verse 16, we know For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. God sacrificed, he gave Jesus sacrificed. Mark chapter 10 And verse 45, Jesus encapsulates the mission of his whole life, here on Earth. He says about himself, For even the Son of Man, meaning him, came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. You think of all of the people who have ever lived on this planet, who have deserved to be served. Jesus is infinitely at the top of that list. As the creator and God of all existence who has lived eternally He came in if anybody who's lived, he had the right and should have been served.

    But he laid that aside. And he said, God said this, I haven't come to be served. I've come to serve, and to give my life as a ransom for many. In Philippians, two, verses three to eight, has become probably one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture. And it really highlights how the servanthood and sacrifice of Jesus should inspire and motivate the believer to like servanthood and sacrifice. In these verses, Paul encourages the Christians in Philippi, to do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit. But in humility, count others more significant than yourselves. He's says, Look, not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. And the reason for this, the model for this is Jesus Christ. This type of sacrifice is to be modeled after the person and life of Jesus, who the verses go on to tell us, though he was God did not grasp on to the privileges of being God. He did not grasp on to his own divine rights and freedoms. What did he do instead, it tells us He emptied Himself. He took the form of a servant, it says, He was born in the likeness of myth. He came to live in his own creation, which had been tarnished by sin. From heaven, from eternity. He decided to need to eat, he decided that he would come and be hungry. He decided that he would come and be tired and need to sleep. He decided that he would come and need to walk in order to be able to get to places. The God of this universe, he decided that he would come knowing that he would get dirty and messy and need to wash himself. But that's not all. Philippians two tells us that being found even in this form, he went even further. And he humbled himself to the point of a horrific, humiliating death. So brother and sister believer, you have a responsibility that has been modeled by our God and our Savior, Jesus Christ. The responsibility is this, to lay aside your freedoms and your rights for the spiritual benefit of others, specifically, here, the last unbelievers. This is the sure sign of one who has been marked by the gospel. I was thinking about this this week, and how does this apply in real life? Like what are some real examples that we could follow that we could do, of how this plays out? And I was, these are just things that I thought for myself. So number one, I was thinking like, I have kids in my home. And I assume at this point, most if not all of them are unbelievers. So there's a mission field for me. I've unbelievers in my house. So how can I associate with them? When my kids asked me to play Lego, get down and play Lego with the kids. Spend time with your children. Love them and be interested in the things that they're interested in. It might not be Lego, it might be something else. prefer them above yourself. It might mean with wisdom and counsel from other believers that you think about taking a different job. The you could decide to work somewhere with mostly unbelievers instead of believers, so that you have opportunity to know them and love them and bring the gospel to them. It might mean, as is probably true for most of you, that you are already in a workplace, or you're already in a school, where you're surrounded by unbelievers. Get to know them, and love them and be interested in them. And share Christ with them. I'm always tempted when I go home, to and don't get me wrong, like we need to have rest, we need to have peace and quiet. But when I go to my house, I'm always like, Okay, shut the doors, pull the curtains, let's just sit down and relax as a family. And it's like, I don't know, maybe some of you are like that, too. I need to prioritize my family. I need to spend time with my wife, I need to spend time with my kids. But what could I be giving up, I have my own preferences, conveniences, and comforts, knowing that my house is surrounded by homes that are full of unbelievers that I don't know. And I've never shared the gospel with

    you might have a neighbor that you know, and that you've spoken to, that you're in some kind of dispute with, or a family member, that maybe you just back down about my right is that I can stand up and fight for this. But I'm going to choose to back down. You could think about who society considers weak? Who are the downcast and the downtrodden of our society? And how can I associate with them? How can I love them? How can I generate or earn an opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them. So as has already been implied, we don't just lay aside our rights, so that we can associate with others and become friendly with them and make them feel good. There is a far greater reason. And that's point number three, you have a reason. And really this reason comes from all of the verses. Paul says things like that I might win more of them. Verse 20, etc. He says, in order to win the juice, that I might win those under the law, that I might win those outside the law, that I might win the week. That by all means I might save some and then verse 23, I do it all, for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. Now, this whole idea is where the title of this message comes from. Winning by losing poor does not consider holding on to his rights as a victory. He considers laying aside his own preferences and entitlements for the spiritual benefit of another that they would know and follow Jesus to be the victory. Winning by losing. This is the reason Paul lays down his life. This is the reason that Paul serves others, not just because he wants to meet their earthly needs, not just because he wants to be their friend. But so he can share the gospel with them that they might be saved. He will give up any right in order to gain an opportunity to share the gospel with any unbeliever and love them. That they might be able to share in the blessings of salvation with him. That's victory. That's winning, that's gain. He wants to share the goodness of belonging to Jesus with others. Now, this idea is one of the wonderful paradoxes of Scripture that reminds us of the foolishness of the wisdom of the world that we live in, compared to the wisdom of God, according to the internet, so you have to be careful what dictionary you used. I don't know which one I use, but I typed into a search a paradox is a statement or a figure of speech that seems to contradict itself but contains some truth or reason. So an example for you, should you believe someone who claims to be a compulsive liar? All right. I don't know. It melts your brain a little bit, doesn't it? Oh, no. How about a Bible example. Jesus teaches this idea. We gain everything from God by giving everything up for him. Right? He calls disciples to come and follow him. Leave everything behind, leave everything behind. And come and follow Me. And you will gain everything, by giving up everything in life. And here we find as well in our passage, the same truth that we actually gain when we lose the paradox. It goes against the wisdom of the world, which tells us to do everything that we can to preserve our rights, and what we have. But here, we're told by giving up our very freedoms and enslaving ourselves to others, which is the opposite of freedom, we gain a shared participation in the Gospel with those who God saves. And that is victory for us. That is true gain. So, in order to be able to share the gospel, we first need to know what the gospel is right? I think, sometimes we can get in this stuck in this trap of like we understand, and we know what we believe personally. But then translating that to a clear conversation with someone else who's an unbeliever and who's never heard these things, is a very different thing. So I would encourage you to rehearse and write down what are the key components of the gospel? What are the pieces that I need to share? What does someone need to hear? I always like to start with the good news. The word Gospel means good news. And I can't think of anything else that gives me greater joy, or comfort, and thankfulness than to be able to share with you the fact that in a world of bad news, there is still good news. And that's a wonderful comfort, isn't it? It really is. It's a relief, that there's good news. So I will begin with sin. Genesis three shows us that rather than an existence of life and blessing with God, humanity sinned against God, and chose an existence of punishment and death and suffering without God. The sin of humanity that earned that punishment and death and life without God was choosing to love and follow other things instead of God. So sin, and its consequences. But then there's Grace, Grace, God, in His goodness, and grace, still makes access to life and blessing available to us all through his Son, Jesus Christ. So sin, Grace, Jesus. Jesus is the sinless god man. As such, he did not deserve to receive the punishment of God, but substituted himself in our place, taking our punishment upon himself, that we would be forgiven by God, set free from the curse that we earned and chose and given a good and right standing with God. He accomplished all of this through His death on the cross. And then his resurrection gives us a wonderful hope. We don't serve a Savior who is dead. We don't serve a Savior who is not dead yet but has yet to die. We serve a Savior who died, and then was more powerful than death, and overcame death. So those who are in Him, likewise will overcome death through that same power. And he will freely bless us with that same power if we are in Him. And that same life giving power is at the disposal of all who trust in Him. Sin, Grace, Jesus, faith and repentance. The Bible calls us to turn away from the lives we've been living without him, and to come and follow Him. So confess your sin, that you've been living for other things and rejecting God. Ask Him for forgiveness, and salvation, and he will freely give it to you, because He is good and gracious.

    So if you have not yet trusted in Christ, and turn to him, and believe the gospel, I encourage you to believe it. Believe that good news and come and follow Christ. For the rest of you who are already believers, hopefully it's needless to say this first part without sinning, take any opportunity that you can to get to know and love unbelievers and be ready to share the gospel with them. Imagine what creation would be like if none of the creatures did what they were designed to do. So like if the flower didn't produce the nectar that the bee needed to make the honey. If the bee didn't fly around to the flower to re pollinate flowers and cause flowers to grow. It would be chaotic. Eventually, a very sad world that we would live in death. believer in Christ, you have been given a great blessing to enjoy. But the only way to enjoy it, the fullest way to enjoy it is by living the way that he has called you to live. That is laying aside your own rights. That you may be the tool that God uses to get the good news to someone who needs it, that they might be saved. Let's pray.

    Father, thank you so much for the clarity and the simplicity of the verses that we've read together this morning, the way that you've instructed us. Please help us to commit to giving up our own rights and preferences so that others would hear the gospel and be saved. I ask that you'd help all of us to make and take opportunities to share the good news with people this week, and that you would save some Christ's name, Amen.

Ian Rush

Ian is the Youth Pastor of Faith Bible Church. He and his wife, Claire, have 5 kids and recently spent a few years serving in a small church in England.

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