Paul's Ultimate Goal - The Saving of Souls

I was thinking of my dad, who pastored a church he started from nothing for 26 years.  He didn't want to accept money from the congregation monthly but they did force him to take at least $100 a month.  He decided that he wanted to work and support himself and his family, rather than to live off the gospel (although he had a right to as the Bible states).  He told me years later he did that so that no one could say they made him rich or bought his house and his car, etc.  My dad would drive a modest car and dress us in Kmart specials lol.

I started reading about Paul and how he himself did the same thing.  I really dug into the account in 1 Corinthians 9 and wanted to share my study with you all.  Paul was a man to be admired!  He reminded me of my dad, in that, though he had the POWER; the right; to live off the gospel - he chose rather to make his own way as not to hinder the gospel.  Notice the verse that states this:

Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.  ~ 1 Cor. 9:12

Paul suffered and didn't live off the church to prevent the hindering of the gospel.  Now, you may say to yourself, HOW could he hinder the gospel by taking what is rightfully his?  He tells us in a later verse:

But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void. ~ 1 Cor. 9:15

Others couldn't say he was getting rich off of them or abusing the gospel for gain.  He didn't want to give an opportunity for anyone to try and destroy his ministry this way and therefore hindering the gospel.  He cared so much for souls and seeing others saved, that he didn't want to do anything to hinder that - even taking what was rightfully his.  He suffered for others!  Amazing!

Here is Barnes' commentary on the end of verse 15:

“Any man” would have made that “void,” if he had supported Paul; had prevented the necessity of his labor, and had thus exposed him to the charge of having preached the gospel for the sake of gain.

The charge of having preached the gospel for the sake of gain is one that is common today and sadly there are those that are doing just that!  You hear about them being arrested every few years because they were stealing money, getting rich of the gospel wrongfully and causing many to turn on the gospel because of their abuse of the gospel for gain.

I couldn't help but see the parallel of my dad and Paul.  My dad loved the people in his church so greatly that he refused to accept his rightfully-owed pay.  Yet, he spent 26 years of his life working a full-time job, pastoring a church and suffering to see souls saved.  He also spent hours crying and praying for those people that they don't know about but I remember.  I remember those times when my dad went up to the barn in the middle of the night to pray to God.  I remember the calls in the middle of the night and how he would rush out to help someone.  Things unseen and he did it all for others and not for money.

Where are men like these?  Ones that would even go so far as to not take what was rightfully theirs to prevent accusations such as Paul described because they loved souls more.  Paul said he made himself an example.  Notice what Peter said:

Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.  ~ 1 Peter 5:2-3

Ministers shouldn't pursue the gospel as an easy way to make a living but rather for the love of souls and out of willing heart to preach the gospel.  They also shouldn't "lord" over God's people but rather be an example to them.  The world "lord" here means to control or dominate.  I really like Wesley's commentary on this:

Behaving in a haughty, domineering manner, as though you had dominion over their conscience. The word translated heritage, is, literally, the portions. There is one flock under the one chief Shepherd; but many portions of this, under many pastors. But being examples to the flock - This procures the most ready and free obedience.

Most of the time, those that seek gain from the gospel are also guilty of being proud, controlling and domineering.  They have to be this way so that they can control the people and get the money.  In essence they are making profit off of other's consciences.  Thereby they prevent the people from giving money WILLINGLY and FREELY - the people give because they are forced by this mental dominance.

Later on in the passage, Paul says:

What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel. For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. ~ 1 Cor. 9:18-19

What is Paul's ultimate goal if he preaches without compensation, thereby escaping the accusation of the abuse of power in the gospel, and then making himself a servant to all??  SO THAT HE MIGHT GAIN MORE SOULS!  Wow!  Paul counts his reward, not as monetary, but rather that of winning souls for Christ. What an ultimate sacrifice for others!  Who could deny Paul's love for people?  He made himself a voluntarily slave for no gain to the saving of the souls of others!

Barnes' commentary sums it all up:

A heart warmed with zeal for God, and breathing after the salvation of men, will not plead and insist upon rights and privileges in bar to this design. Those manifestly abuse their power in the gospel who employ it not to edification but destruction, and therefore breathe nothing of its spirit.

Ministers that plead and insist upon the rights, lord over God's heritage only cause their own destruction.  They will create a people whose giving is unwillingly out of a heart of fear, guilt and obligation.  It will be a people most miserable and will only feed the pride and covetousness of the minister who is more interested in gaining wealth and "employees" rather than the saving of souls.

Part 2 - Blessings Deprived