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A Preacher's Cause and Effect

The ninth chapter of 1Corinthians has a very important message regarding the work of preachers. This message applies to all New Testament preachers and not only to those men whom are commonly designated as preachers because they speak from pulpits on Sundays. All men who teach the word of Christ to others are preachers of the gospel, and the message of 1Corinthians 9 teaches such men how to be more effective in their work. This message was Paul's personal approach to the work of evangelism.
The limits of this space do not allow for a full discourse of this chapter, so let us study a certain theme of cause and effect that is prevalent in Paul's message. This theme is evident in verse 12 and verses 19-23, so let us consider these and notice the stated causes and effects in Paul's preaching along with some applications.
Verse 12 Cause: "... we endure all things...”
Verse 12 Effect: "...so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ.”
Verse 12 Application: This is the basic theme of verses 19-23. Paul was willing to do whatever was necessary within the bounds of God's will in order to promote the gospel. In the case of the Corinthians, he had determined that it was necessary not to receive material support from them. In other cases, he made different sacrifices. For us, it is also necessary to have the willingness to give up things that hinder the gospel's progress.
Verse 19 Cause: "For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all...”
Verse 19 Effect: "...so that I may win more.”
Verse 19 Application: In the true image of Christ (Phil. 2:3-8), Paul was a selfless servant who put others' interests before his own in order to save them. His example does not compel preachers of the gospel to give up their liberties or take vows of poverty as a rite of passage, but it does mean that effective evangelism may sometimes require a type of slavery to others.
Verse 20 Cause: "To the Jews I became as a Jew...to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law...”
Verse 20 Effect: "... so that I might win Jews... so that I might win those who are under the Law...”
Verse 20 Application: Paul offered his work among Jews as an example of his message. Paul was a Jew, and he conformed to the Law of Moses and other customs in order to be effective when working with the Jews (see Acts 21:17-26 for example). This conformity was not required for Paul, for he was no longer under the Law, even though he was a Jew (he was under Christ's law). Nevertheless, he did this in order to open a door to preach to the Jews. Today's preachers must likewise be willing to conform to the sensitivities of others in order to win them for Christ.
Verse 21 Cause: "...to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ...”
Verse 21 Effect: "...so that I might win those who are without law.”
Verse 21 Application: Just as Paul made concessions to the Jews in order to win them, he did the same for the Gentiles (Peter learned this lesson in Acts 10-11). For us, we must also be willing to make such concessions, but we must always stay within the bounds of the law of Christ (i.e., we must not sin to reach sinners).
Verse 22 Cause: "To the weak I became weak...I have become all things to all men...”
Verse 22 Effect: "...that I might win the weak...so that I may by all means save some.”
Verse 22 Application: Again, Paul wrote of how he conformed to the sensitivities of others, including the weak (i.e., those who had issues of conscience - see Rom. 14; 1Cor. 8). He would go to all means within the limits of the gospel in order to "save some” (he knew that he would not save all). Today, it is sometimes necessary for preachers to conform to similar weaknesses in order to save some. In the end, it will be worth the trouble.
Verse 23 Cause: "I do all things for the sake of the gospel...”
Verse 23 Effect: "...so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.”
Verse 23 Application: For Paul, his priority was to promote the gospel, and his motivation was to partake in the gospel himself (i.e., to be saved). This makes for a very simple and very meaningful mission statement for any preacher today.
Not everyone is able to follow the philosophy of Paul and his approach to evangelism. Indeed, very few if any have the strength and faith to do so today. Yet if we can apply these things at least in some degree, we will be much more effective in reaching others with the gospel message. These words are good for anyone who seeks to save others and not just pulpit preachers. Therefore, let us take up the right causes and hope for the best effects.
Stacey E. Durham