Jesus had given Paul the task of spreading the gospel, the good news of his salvation, around the Roman empire. Paul knew that when Jesus told him to do something, he had to obey – Jesus was the Lord; so he had no option but to go around telling people the good news of Jesus. He knew that he could have expected those who responded to his message to support him with hospitality and expenses – a few sentences earlier in this letter he had quoted Jesus’ command that those who preach the gospel should make their living from it. But, unlike all the other apostles, he had decided to earn his own living and to preach without asking for support. He expected no credit from preaching the good news; that was just obeying orders. He did expect a reward for doing it for free – but the reward was not so much payment from God as the joy of presenting glad tidings without any strings attached.
Paul was completely captivated by the good news of Jesus, and had devoted his life to spreading it far and wide. All he wanted was to ‘win’ people, to bring them into the kingdom of God by helping them to accept Jesus as the Lord and Saviour of their lives. That was no easy task. His own people, the Jews, had their laws and culture and way of life, and he had to be accepted as one of them in order to get a hearing. The Gentiles had a very different culture, and he had to become equally at home in their company, without lessening his commitment to Jesus and his ways. The ‘weak’ were probably people with a ‘weak conscience’ who abstained from all sorts of things. They too needed to be helped into God’s kingdom, and Paul would also abstain from the things they were concerned about so that there would be no obstacle to the good news. ‘I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some’ (v.22).
Despite this single-minded dedication to the gospel, Paul did not adopt a ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude. He was not above the people he was talking to but on the same level, needing the same forgiveness and acceptance from God that he encouraged them to believe in. He made all his sacrifices in order to promote the good news of Jesus, so that he might ‘share in its blessings’. He did not presume that he had reached the goal. In the next few sentences of the letter he talked about athletes training for a race; he was just as serious about the race of life, he had to be just as self-disciplined in order to gain the prize.
He knew that it is easy for us to slacken off in our spiritual journeys and take things easy; and that by so doing we might lose our way, or simply not finish. In the next chapter he told the Corinthians not to rely on the fact that they’d been baptized and received Holy Communion and belonged to the church community. What matters is our relationship with Jesus Christ, and cannot just be taken for granted. As with all relationships, our relationship with God needs time and attention!
Paul wanted to bring the good news to all kinds of people. In doing so he was following the example of Jesus, who did not want to stay in one place only, but to preach in all the villages around. That was why he was sent!
1) What has Jesus called you to be and to do? How are you getting on?
2) How important is it to you that others hear the good news of Jesus?
What more should we be doing?