16 For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!
17 For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.
18 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.
The great English preacher Charles Spurgeon once said, “The gospel is preached in the ears of all men; it only comes with power to some. The power that is in the gospel does not lie in the eloquence of the preacher otherwise men would be converters of souls. Nor does it lie in the preacher’s learning; otherwise it could consist of the wisdom of men. We might preach till our tongues rotted, till we should exhaust our lungs and die, but never a soul would be converted unless there were mysterious power going with it – the Holy Ghost changing the will of man. O Sirs! We might as well preach to stone walls as preach to humanity unless the Holy Ghost be with the word, to give it power to convert the soul.”
Other than Jesus Christ, the greatest man of New Testament times was the apostle Paul. In fact, Paul was the greatest man in everything he did and if you go back to the time when his life was not lived in Christ, through Christ and for Christ, he was even great in what he did then. Someone said Paul was great in everything he did whether it was good or whether it was bad because he did nothing half way. If you consider him as a sinner, he was exceeding sinful — that's what he said, "exceeding sinful." He gave description of himself—he said, “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil that I would not, that I do.”
It depends upon how you view or consider Paul, if you consider him as a persecutor, he was mad against Christians — he persecuted them even in strange cities. He was not content to persecute them at home — he had to travel even to Damascus with letters giving him permission to destroy the people of Christ. He was so bold until he didn’t mind holding coats and watching as Stephen was stoned to death. If you consider the apostle as a convert, his conversion was remarkable; he met Christ in a real and personal way on the road to Damascus, blinded by the light, falling into the dust, looking up into that light, crying, "Lord what wilt Thou have me to do?"
If you consider this man as a preacher of the gospel, he stands out as the prince of preachers, the greatest of them all, crying, "I am ready to preach the gospel to them that are at Rome also; I am determined to know nothing among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified." "God forbid," he said, "that I should glory save in the cross of my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ." Whatever Paul did, he did with all his heart; he did nothing halfway. If he was rebelling, he was rebelling; if he was bowing, he was bowing; if he was worshipping, he was worshipping; if he was preaching the gospel, he was preaching the gospel.
There was no nonsense in anything he did when it came to speaking about God. When he wrote this text, "for though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of, for necessity is laid upon me, yea, woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel," he writes it with an unshaking hand; he writes it with a firmness, with a dedication and with a determination! "I preach the gospel. Yea, woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel." No nonsense in anything connected with the praise of God, with the worship of God, with the glory of God, or with the gospel of God. He was direct and focused on what he had to do; he was a messenger of Christ, not of himself or anyone else and he knew it.
Eventhough the words of Paul in all of his 14 letters included here in the New Testament are preached around the world by millions and millions of today’s 21st Century preachers, I submit to you that there are only a few who actually feel about preaching the Word of God in the manner Paul did. There are good Preachers out there, but there are also some who are the complete opposite of the Apostle Paul. These Preachers believe they are " walking wonders" and there are people who actually believe these Preachers are the walking wonders they have projected themselves to be.
There are those who are great orators and have a magnetic personality, which could be turned off and on like a faucet. The greatest danger to a preacher’s spiritual growth is narcissism and arrogance. I have discovered that some of the most effective preachers although they are not very popular are those who have a very humble characteristic. Where pride always precedes a fall, humility goes a long way.
In our text, Paul begins by saying, “For though I preach the gospel…” Now, what is it or what does it mean to preach the Gospel?
1.) Paul Was Compelled To Preach The Gospel…
The obvious answer is—to preach the truth about God. Additionally, Gospel means “Good News.” There is only one gospel, but it is described in different ways. It is called the “Gospel of the Kingdom of God”, the “Gospel of the Grace of God”, the “Gospel of God”, the “Gospel of Christ”, the “glorious Gospel” and the “Everlasting Gospel”. And when Paul declares, “For though I preach the Gospel…” he is referring to his compulsion to preach the Gospel. In other words in saying here that he must preach the Gospel. He did not glory because he was called to preach. Being a preacher of the Gospel was no reason for him to glory more than a Lawyer or Doctor is a reason for them to glory. Simply put, God called him to preach the Gospel. He was compelled to preach, he did not have a choice—he could not negotiate with God by asking Him, “What’s in for me?” Paul wants to make it clear that he does not preach for his own benefit. But he preaches because the Lord commanded him to preach. The gospel is his priority, Paul felt compelled to preach it was his duty and all he wanted to do was preach the Gospel in the way God would have him preach it.
Sadly today in America and maybe elsewhere there are preachers that do not talk about sin but wrap their entire message always around happiness, joy, and prosperity. They totally ignore or overlook what the Bible says concerning the wages of sin they are preaching another gospel and man-made worldly gospel. However, the gospel Paul preached came from God, not from man. In fact Paul said so himself, “For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
Here in the text, Paul says it was “laid upon” him to preach, he was constrained, required, and duty-bound to preach. This in itself ought to help us realize that it is not about the messenger; it’s about the message.
2.) Paul Was Held Accountable To Preach
I am thoroughly convinced that the highest, holiest, and most difficult calling for a man of God is to preach the Word of God. When God calls a man to preach he should be a mighty preacher for God. Preaching is not man’s idea, preaching is God’s idea, if preaching were man’s idea then his preaching would be accountable to man and to man only.
But since preaching is God’s idea, then our preaching of the Gospel is accountable to Him. Look how serious Paul took his accountability of preaching the Gospel he says, “…woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” One of the major reasons Paul was driven to preach the gospel was the terrible judgment he would face if he failed to. The word “woe” means that the day he stood before God he would definitely have to face regret, distress, disaster, denunciation, and grief. Just because a person is called to preach does not mean that they are exempt from any judgment.
All preachers especially pastors are accountable to God, let me go a little further and say that all Christians regardless of their position in the Church are accountable to God too. Romans 14:12 tells us about the accountability of Christians: "So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God." How about the arrogant, big shot, and narcissistic preacher? Yes, he’s accountable to God. How about the name it and claim it or push it and blame it preacher? All I can say is “woe” and they are accountable too. Every one of us preachers and laypeople are accountable to Him.
We are accountable to how we treat and love one another in the Church—in everything that involves the Church we have accountability to God. But the man who carries the Word with him behind the Sacred Desk has an overwhelming accountability. God called Paul to preach, the stewardship and trust of preaching was his. The call to preach is an awesome responsibility, God placed His Gospel into his hands and how he treated it was extremely serious. Paul said when I preach—I do it willingly. I know of a preacher who was asked to preach but turned down the invitation immediately after discovering that the house was not as full as he would have liked it to be. I also heard of another preacher who became very irate with the host pastor because the money he received was not enough for him after he preached. Again, it’s about the Gospel message and not about the messenger.
3.) Paul’s Reward As A Gospel Messenger
Whenever a Church looks for a new pastor one of the most issues to be discussed is his compensation. In fact, this is one of the most controversial issues within the Church body. And a pastor should be paid nicely because, “the laborer is worthy of his reward” however, preachers need to remember first and foremost that when we labor together in the gospel, this is God's work and not our own. We plant and water, but God gives the increase. "For we are laborers together with God" (1 Cor. 3:6-9). As we all labor together, our focus must be on pleasing God, saving our own souls, and saving the lost. With regard to paying the preacher, he should not focus on squeezing every possible penny out of the Church, and the Church should not focus on pinching every penny while keeping the preacher as poor as possible. When our attitudes are right toward the work of the Lord, they will be right toward each other as respects the preacher's pay (Phil. 4:10-18).
I wonder how many preachers have left the Church they pastored high and dry because he didn’t get a raise when he wanted it, eventhough he was receiving a great salary already? I wonder how many churches mistreated their pastor by not giving him a livable wage to take care of his family and by not putting him on a good life insurance plan?
Paul had the power, that is, the right to be paid by the Corinthian church; but he did not receive payment, because he wanted the reward of preaching to be free of charge.
What was his reward then? I’m glad you asked, Paul enjoyed the privilege of seeing people saved free of charge, and the confidence of people in him, because he was free of greed—for Paul there was a removal of any charge that he was only in it for the money. Before I make anyone become angry with me—this does not mean that a preacher/pastor is to work for nothing, it does not mean that a Church is not suppose to pay its pastor and pay him well. It was simply Paul’s method and strategy; it was how he handled it on a personal basis. I don’t a pulpit committee to walk away believing that their candidate should not be paid.
But the truth is we preach out of necessity and not for the money. We minister for the purpose of helping people and not to get gain. If we are greedy preachers it reflects on the Kingdom of God, there should be an even balance when it comes to preacher’s reward. Lately we’ve heard so many scandals concerning greedy so-called men of God until the true message of God has harmed. Good ministers are inadvertently placed under the same umbrella as those who desire to “milk the church” for capital gain. When the truth of the matter is, it’s messenger it’s the message.
You see the messenger is flesh and blood; he puts his pants on one leg at a time just like the rest of us. Some of us are just as guilty as the celebrity preacher in our local church because we are the ones who made him a celebrity. My point is not to decry our love for great and godly preachers, but to draw our attention back to the message and not the messenger. We ought to spend less time, effort and money building up the big names simply because of how well he can preach and sing, God will maintain and take care of his ministry with or without us. But let us concern ourselves a little bit more with what is being preached and not whose preaching it, because the Word of God is alive and powerful in the world today, and it is “sharper than a two-edged sword.”
The preacher, God’s preacher and not money’s preacher, but God’s preacher should constantly search his heart and make sure his heart is pure and cleansed of any wrong motive. Let him be found blameless, it doesn’t that they won’t try to blame him—but that when they do, he will be found blameless. Amen.