16If I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. 18What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. 19For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21To 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. 22To 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. 23I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. 24Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
Paul tells us he has no earthly master, saying, “I am free from all” (19). Yet, he understands his heavenly Master has “entrusted [him] with a stewardship” (17) to preach the Gospel of salvation in Christ Jesus. In his Christian freedom the Apostle desires to be the instrument God called him to be so that some will be saved (cf. Acts 9). Paul knows this is not about Paul since it is God who brings all whom He has chosen in eternity to faith through Word and Sacrament. Paul is merely a steward discharging a trust, “of the mysteries of God” (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:1). For Paul it is not just about gaining “some” but gaining more for the kingdom of God. “For the sake of the Gospel” (23), Paul willingly goes the extra mile for Christ, going whenever and to whomever God sends him seeking the God-given opportunities to connect people to Christ. If it does not compromise the Gospel, Paul is good with the customs of others, he says, “To the Jews I became as a Jew... To those under the law, I became as one under the law... To those outside the law, I became as one outside the law... To the weak I became weak” (cf. 20-22).
Paul also disciplines his own body, so that he too might receive the “imperishable” prize (cf. 24-27). Paul knows that the prize was won for him, and for us all, by the blood Christ shed on the cross. Therefore, his concern is avoiding sin and complacency, and anything that could hinder the life of faith God has given him. As Christians God calls us to be all things to all people, to be servants to all. We are Christ’s holy people and have eternity with Him. He calls us to boldly confess Christ to our children, spouse, siblings, and our neighbor in our little worlds. That means we should enjoy every opportunity to connect people to Christ. It means learning how we can reach others where they are. And like Paul, we can discipline ourselves to avoid sin, complacency, and anything that could hinder our God given life of faith. We do that by daily remembering we are a Baptized child of God, by being in God’s Word, and coming to the Lord’s Supper often where we receive the “imperishable” prize, won for us by the blood of Christ for today and extending into eternity. What a day that will be when we sit with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the blest in Christ Jesus at the eternal feast of salvation forever and ever.
Grace Lutheran Church LCMS
825 North 1st West
Cheyenne Wells, CO, 80810-0728
Sunday Service begins at 9:00AM
Reverend Steve Zandstra