1. Party Spirit in the Church, chs 1-4
2. Moral Disorders in the Church, chs 5-7
3. Social Relations in the Church, chs 8-11
a. The Use of Christian Liberty, ch 8
b. The Apostle’s Example, ch 9
i. He Defends His Apostleship & Rights,(1-6)
ii. His Right to Support, (7-14)
iii. The Reason for His Self-Denial, (15-18)
iv. His Method and Motivation, (19-23)
v. The Real Reward, (24-27)
c. A Warning Example, the Israelites in the Wilderness, ch 10
d. Decorum in Public Worship, ch 11
4. Spiritual Gifts in the Church, chs 12-14
5. Fundamental Doctrine of the Church, ch 15
6. Conclusion of the Letter, ch 16
B. The Reason for His Self-Denial (15-18)
1. Paul’s Boast (15) – But I have used none of these things. And I am not writing these things that it may be done so in my case; for it would be better for me to die than have any man make my boast an empty one. (See 2 Corinthians 11:7ff)
a. Paul forewent his rights as apostle & evangelist in the case of the founding the church at Corinth so there could be no criticism of the gospel of Christ.
b. This was a service in which he took joy or exulted (“boasted”), to have been able to give them the gospel totally freely by his own efforts.
2. Paul’s Compulsion (16-17) – 16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. 17 For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me.
a. There was little else about which he could feel the same way, for preaching the gospel was a non-optional requirement laid upon him
b. He could choose to do it willingly or unwillingly but not to avoid doing it.
3. Paul’s Reward (18) – What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel
a. The joy or exultation (“boasting”) he had by freely giving the gospel to the people of Corinth, was for Paul a special reward or privilege.
C. His Method and Motivation (19-23)
1. Self-Made Slave (19) – For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more.
a. Paul had previously encourage those free to remain so (by prudently avoiding falling into debt & bond-slavery) 7:23; he practised this himself
b. Yet he was a bond-slave of Christ by the infinite debt for his salvation
c. But he adopted a slave attitude towards all men to win them to Christ.
2. Slave Methodology (20-22) – 20 And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law, though not being myself under the Law, that I might win those who are under the Law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, that I might win those who are without law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.
a. Paul, though no longer bound by Jewish tradition, would observe tradition when witnessing to Jews, so a not to prejudice them against the gospel.
b. Paul, would keep the intent of the law, but not let Jewish separatism and practices isolate him from Gentiles to whom he gave the gospel message.
c. Paul would not exercise liberty regarding foods, say, if that was going to keep a person from coming the Christ.
d. He made himself a voluntary slave in his actions so as to win people to Christ.
3. Slave Motivation (23) – And I do all things for the sake of the gospel, that I may become a fellow partaker of it.
a. His motivation was determined by what would enhance the gospel.
b. Partaking (sharing) the gospel doesn’t end with a person’s conversion.
D. The Real Reward (24-27)
1. Spiritual Athletics (24-25) – 24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
a. Paul uses physical athletics (running, boxing) here & elsewhere to illustrate the spiritual; was this maybe a human skill God captured for His purposes?
b. Two contrasts were pointed out between physical & spiritual athletics:
i. The perishable wreath for the first; the imperishable (crown), the other
ii. Only one winner in the first; all can win in the second.
2. Paul, Spiritual Athlete (26-27) – 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.
a. Spiritual athletics, like physical, needs exercise, discipline, self-control
b. Disqualified (‘a castaway’): not loss of salvation, but a tarnished record.