30 Mar 2004

What was Paul's reward?

Submitted by theshovel
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The Bible says: "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. For if I do this voluntarily, I have a REWARD; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. 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." And if I understand you correctly, you are saying Paul's reward is to preach the gospel for free. Somehow I read that passage differently. Paul is saying that it is his job to preach the gospel, and because it is his job he can't expect a reward for it...he is a slave doing what a slave is supposed to do. Note that he says he is not free to do otherwise, but is under compulsion. So...Paul makes no claims of reward based on his work. Nevertheless, Paul expects a reward for something...and that something is that he preaches the gospel free of charge, even though as a worker he has the right to require payment from those who benefit from him. The question 'what then is my reward?' means 'FOR what then do/will I receive a reward?' So while I agree with your overall point, I think you are 'off' regarding these verses. No? Rob

Hello Rob!

The question 'what then is my reward?' means 'FOR what then do/will I receive a reward?'

Are you sure you're not giving the question a meaning to support your idea that Paul's concern revolved around some other reward than what he so clearly presented in the whole context? After all, the question IS worded, "What then is my reward?" ... and it fits rather well. Near the end of this chapter Paul had liken his race with the Olympic games in saying this:

They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 1 Corinthians 9:25

Now, I realize that many have long-since used these verses to promote their beliefs that by such effort one might gain heaven, the kingdom, entrance, or what have you ... which is so bogus it's not even funny. The simple reality in this section is a clear display of the heart of this man, Paul, who was compelled FROM WITHIN by the love of Christ. This is, of course, EXACTLY what he stated in the second letter, "for the love of Christ constrains (compels) us", and he was referring to the EXACT same compelling drive to take the good news freely to all. No, the "under compulsion" was not that "preaching the gospel" was his "job", it was the very heart beat of Christ within his own being that would not let him get sucked into the self-righteous, self-serving business of others who were none other than "ministers of righteousness". What is this "imperishable"? It is no different than what he declared everywhere.

For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even YOU, IN THE PRESENCE OF OUR LORD JESUS at His coming? For YOU are our glory and joy. 1 Thessalonians 2:19


If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things SO THAT WE WILL CAUSE NO HINDRANCE TO THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST. 1 Corinthians 9:12

He purposely did not "share the right" of being supported by them.

But I have used none of these things. And I am not writing these things so that it will 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. 1 Corinthians 9:15

What is this BOAST? And how would it be made "empty"? And why was it so important to him?

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. 1 Corinthians 9:16

He had nothing to boast of in preaching the gospel because of the fact that it was the inner compelling of Christ that wouldn't let him rest. And not only could he not boast for preaching the good news, it would make him miserable NOT to preach the gospel (yeah, "woe is me").

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. 1 Corinthians 9:18

This was his "boast"! You see, while others - you know, those self-serving "super-apostles" (yuck, yuck) - were boasting in their "God-job", through which they were non-stop taking advantage of the Corinthians (see the last chapters of the second letter) Paul was making it very clear that they had no place for any such boasting. For there is no place for fleshly boasting regarding the good news of Christ. And this is why Paul's "boast" was so strikingly different, for his boast was found in the reality of Christ alone, not from the fulfilling of a "stewardship" in exchange for gain.

FOR THOUGH I AM FREE from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, SO THAT I MAY WIN MORE. 1 Corinthians 9:19

In other words, his reward.

so that I might win Jews 1 Corinthians 9:20

Yep, his reward.

so that I might win those who are under the Law 1 Corinthians 9:20

You guessed it, his reward!

so that I might win those who are without law. 1 Corinthians 9:21

Isn't it so perfectly obvious?

I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a FELLOW partaker of it. 1 Corinthians 9:22

Fellow partaker of it? Yes, this was his reward ... to share in the life TOGETHER with those to whom he "won" through the gospel!! This is what drove him. He cared for and loved these people and only desired that they would come to partake in the life of Christ through his preaching of life.

They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 1 Corinthians 9:25

His whole drive was in total contrast to what the Corinthians were witnessing from the men who were grudgingly performing their "jobs" in exchange for what they demanded from the people.

Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:27

Do you realize what this "disqualification" was all about? It's simple! The very picture of disqualification was in the so-called "stewardship" of the self-professed, self-righteous, self-serving men that were at that time taking advantage of them.

But what I am doing I will continue to do, so that I may cut off opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds. ... For you tolerate it if anyone enslaves you, anyone devours you, anyone takes advantage of you, anyone exalts himself, anyone hits you in the face. 2 Corinthians 11:12-15, 20

Yes indeed, Paul's reward was found in being able to offer the good news of Christ without any strings attached so that the people would come to share in the life of Christ together with him. Jim Minker

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Hi Jim, I am new on the shovel. I have always been uncomfortable with all these rewards, mansions, kingdoms etc that where said to be ours when we go to heaven depending on our performance, of course. in this response you say that Paul’s reward was the people he won for Christ. What about what Jesus told Abraham in Genesis 15 ’ I am your exceeding great reward’? I thought the reward is Him. What of what Paul calls pressing on towards the prize in Philippians 3? Am I mixing things up? Cheers, Grace P.s. Thanks a lot for this by the way. Its so cool
theshovel's picture

Hello my dear Grace! Thanks for writing. :)

For Paul, everything was Christ, and Christ was everything. If you read back through all I attributed as representing Paul's reward, it had nothing to do with how many people he led to the Lord " which is, by the way, how I learned it in Bible college " rather it had everything to do with the life in the sharing together with them. And who is that life if not God himself in Christ?

The fact that Paul spoke of his rewards was not actually a discussion of how to get rewarded ... at least not in the sense we usually think of it. It was written as a contrast to their current situation. For in the midst of all the fleshly boasting among the Corinthians, especially by those who appeared to be something special among them, everything Paul wrote about his reward was meant as a rebuke to those who gloried in the flesh. While the supposed super-apostles were gaining physical benefits for their supposed service to God, Paul claimed to find his reward in his privilege of freely preaching Christ. The contrast would have stood out clearly to his beloved "children" who had been getting sucked into the hoopla that was going on in their gatherings. The impostors were looking for dominance and superiority, Paul reward in contrast was a desire to share freely among them in a true fellowship that had no levels.

I hope to hear from you again, Grace.


Aah! It finally makes sense after all this time!! Thank you, thank you, thank you! IT was right there! And I was blinded to it. Man, all these stuff in the books and sermons..

so that I might win Jews 1 Corinthians 9:20 Jim, Most of us are asking WHY he has to ‘win’ others ‘for’ Christ? We have been taught that the meaning of this wining stems from a fleshly motivation for sure. However we have also been taught that the WIN itself is a fleshly thing as well. Do you have anything you can share regarding this? Another thing here, notice:I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a FELLOW partaker of it. 1 Corinthians 9:22 What most are teaching here is that Paul, through his doing of “all things’[in other words works], would be a fellow partaker of SALVATION. No, not of the Life in the here and now, no that he meant that he would be SAVED by his doing of ALL THINGS. And we wonder why so many end up in hospital beds trying to uphold this ridiculous notion from the natural mind of man.

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