February 4, 2017 | Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
16 Yet preaching the Good News is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I didn’t preach the Good News!
17 If I were doing this on my own initiative, I would deserve payment. But I have no choice, for God has given me this sacred trust. 18 What then is my pay? It is the opportunity to preach the Good News without charging anyone. That’s why I never demand my rights when I preach the Good News.
19 Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. 20 When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. 21 When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ.
22 When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. 23 I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.
1 Corinthians 9:16-23 | New Living Translation (NLT)
This is the fifth Sunday after Epiphany. It is the last Sunday before Transfiguration Sunday which finishes up the season after Epiphany and then we transition into the season of Lent.
The season that follows Epiphany often speaks of the Kingdom of God and the mission of Jesus. Our passage today follows in that theme. Paul is writing about preaching the Good News or the Gospel. Paul writes, “How terrible for me if I didn’t preach the Good News!” I think most preachers feel this way. There is something about the call to be a pastor or preacher that compels us to preach the Gospel. I love how Paul describes this. Paul speaks of this call to preach the good news not as something that he wants to do – of his own initiative, but it is something that he is compelled to do – God has called him and God has entrusted him to preach the Gospel.
I know this passage gets into the issue of pay for those of us who preach the Gospel and I know that this can be a controversial issue. Paul has decided in his mind that when he preaches he does not want payment. Last year, we had a revival here at McCrae Brook and our speaker for the week told us that any offerings we take should go back into the local ministry. We took those offerings and gave them to people who were in need.
Paul has a compulsion to make sure that every man and woman, boy and girl, Gentile, Jew, free and slave makes sure that they here the Gospel. He changes his methods of preaching the Gospel to fit the audience Again this is controversial, but Paul always preached the Gospel in context. I once had a man tell me that we shouldn’t strive to be relevant. This is the opposite of what Paul is saying. If the Gospel ceases to be relevant, we might as well turn off the lights, close the doors, and go home. Jesus and Paul were a master of delivering the Gospel in the context of their culture. They engaged the culture. If we don’t engage the culture than are we really preaching the Good News. I know that some say that when we do this we are watering down the Gospel, but I don’t think so.
Paul says, “I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.” This speaks to preaching the gospel in context and make it relevant to all. This is my prayer God continues to call me to preach.