Exposition of 1 Corinthians 9:15b-18, Pauls gift to Corinth

1 Corinthians 9:15b-18

15b And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast. 16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. 18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.

At times, strong emotions break into Pauls thinking and writing; 1 Cor. 15b is one such verse. Here are three translations of verse 15b:

(NIV) . . . for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast.

(NET) In fact, it would be better for me to die than — no one will deprive me of my reason for boasting!

(Thiselton[1]) I would rather die than — well, no one shall invalidate my ground for glorying!

The last two translations are much closer to Pauls Greek text and demonstrate his strong feelings about what his life is about — telling people about Christ crucified and seeing them grow into mature believers.

Verse 16 is rather simple in concept, though it sounds a bit strange to our ears. Just recall how many amazing heroes — from the war in Iraq or Afghanistan or some death-risking rescue — say that they were not a hero because they were only doing their duty. Paul sees himself as a steward of the gospel (I am simply discharging the trust committed to me 1 Cor. 9:17b). Christ commissioned him to take the gospel to the gentiles. If he did not do so, he would be miserable over failing Christ (Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 1 Cor. 9:16b). In preaching the gospel, Paul was doing his duty.

Paul thoroughly grasps the position he is in, because the prophet Jeremiah wrote eloquently of being under similar compulsion (Jer. 20:7-9). Jeremiah suffered severe persecution for speaking Gods message and considered remaining silent. Jeremiah tells what happened then (Jer. 20:9b): His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. Paul understands that inner fire by personal experience. Since Jesus commanded his followers to make disciples in every nation, the fire of witness is to spread through us.

The only way Paul would be entitled to a reward is if he did something entirely by personal choice.[2] Thus, the first half of verse 17 says, If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward. Thiselton explains, If Paul cannot freely give his apostolic work (since to this he is pressed by God without choice), what is left to give freely is his toil and labor as a leather worker and salesman in the commercial [market].[3] So, Paul surrendered his right to financial support as his own gift (1 Cor. 9:18). In this way he is going the second mile (Matt. 5:41).

So, how does this apply to the Corinthian church? Thiselton relates the ideas of Dale Martin by saying, Paul does not ask every reader to give up a right, but those who have rights to give up, i.e. the strong or socially influential. . . . Low-status persons, the weak, by definition have no [rights] to give up.[4] The socially influential are exactly the people exhibiting spiritual pride and trying to form stronger factions within the church. By example, Paul calls on them to imitate him instead.

Copyright 2013 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 676.

[2] Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 696.

[3] Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 697.

[4] Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 69798.

Exposition of Romans 4:20-22, In all, get on God’s page!

Dallas Cowboys football fans have shared some common experiences. One happened when quarterback Tony Romo threw a deep-out to the sideline only to have the pass receiver cut sharply away toward the center of the football field. Then we heard the commentator tell us what we already knew: “Tony and the receiver were not on the same page.” We football fans would grit our teeth and wonder how much more money it would take to get them on the same page!

An errant pass in a football game means little in the grand scheme of things. But what happens when we are not on the same page with God?

(ESV) Romans 4:20-22

No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was counted to him as righteousness.

Romans 4:20 ties very closely to 4:19, where Paul said that Abraham did not weaken in faith when considering Gods promise in relation to his own physical condition and that of barren Sarah. Paul uses the contrast between weak and strong; in 4:19 he said Abraham did not weaken, and in 4:20 he explains how his faith grew strong.

The Greek verb translated waver in 4:20 is diakrino, which in the active voice means “to conclude that there is a difference, make a distinction, differentiate.”[1] Here in 4:20 we actually have the passive voice, but there is value in pausing to consider this verb carefully. Abraham had believed God when he left Haran and many times since, but he could have balked at this promise due to old age. In other words, Abraham could have made a distinction between what God had done in other situations and what he would do in this one. In effect, Abraham would be saying: “God, I believed you about all those other things, but this one is more than I can accept.” This one is different.

We have all had those thoughts at some point, but we probably did not have the nerve to say so overtly to God. We kept the conflict within ourselves. That is how the passive voice of diakrinofunctions, to express internal doubt or wavering. The lexicon says the passive voice of diakrinomeans “to be at variance with someone.”[2] But, in relation to God’s promise of a multitude of descendants, Abraham would have been at variance with God. Romans 4:20 tells us Abraham was never at variance with God about this promise!

Unlike the people described in Romans 1:18, who rejected the truth in unrighteousness, Abraham embraced God’s promise about descendants. Abraham took the view that whatever God said, God would do! Abraham saw no reason to pick and choose among the things God said as if some were reliable and some were not. Abraham struggled at times, but not much overall.

The clear implication of 4:20 is that when we take God at his word and act accordingly, our faith grows stronger. But what does “as he gave glory to God” (4:20) mean? Thomas Schreiner says: “The secret of Abraham’s faith is that he acknowledged God’s glory by acknowledging his ability to carry out his promises . . . . The supreme way to worship God is not to work for him (4:4-5) but to trust that he will fulfill his promises.”[3] Living by faith gives glory to God.

In light of what we have said about 4:20, the meaning of Romans 4:21 is plain as day. C.E.B. Cranfield adds the insight: “Abraham’s faith was faith in the God who had promised, not merely in what had been promised.”[4]

We encounter the now-familiar verb logizomai (counted) in 4:22. Abraham’s response pleased God who counted Abraham as a righteous man. Schreiner says: “We perceive that the faith that results in righteousness is not a vague abstraction. Genuine faith adheres to Gods promise despite the whirlwind of external circumstances that imperil it.”[5]

Who is the quarterback?

All of us have to decide whether we are going to carry out the plays God calls or set out on a rogue play of our own. This metaphor should make it obvious how much success we can expect if we try to pick and choose what part of God’s promises we will believe and which part we will reject.

1. What part of God's revelation is a struggle for you? What can you do to identify the source of your difficulty and seek to resolve it?

2. In what ways have you found that trusting God in specific situations leads to growth in your faith?

The secret to Abraham’s greatness was his wholehearted acceptance of what God had said. Certainly there were times when he did not understand what God wanted of him — times they were not on the same page — but it was never a matter of rejecting what God had said. His example inspires us all to get on the same page with God.

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] BDAG-3, diakrino, differentiate (active), q.v.

[2] BDAG-3, diakrino, to be at variance with someone (passive), q.v.

[3] Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998) 238.

[4] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 249.

[5] Schreiner, Romans, 239.

Exposition of Romans 3:25b-26, Some confuse God’s forbearance with tolerance

Suppose one child grows up in a home where mom and dad impose discipline consistently after bad behavior. Another child has parents who forbid certain behaviors but never punish violation of their standards. These two children will become adults with very different expectations about standards and consequences.

Is either set of parents like God?

(ESV) Romans 3:25b-26

This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Perhaps the best answer to the question posed in the introduction to this lesson is yes and no. :-)

Throughout the Bible God condemns sin (1:18-3:20), but those declarations mean little unless God is willing to punish those who sin. If he is not willing to punish sin, then his promises of punishment would be false. Under those circumstances, who could trust his promises of blessing either?

The veracity of God’s statements, his faithfulness in doing what he says, his fairness in judging, and the consistency of his actions are all part of what we may consider to be his righteousness. Douglas Moo takes God’s righteousness “to designate what we might call an aspect of God’s character, whether this be his justice (. . .), his impartiality and fairness, or his acting in accordance with his own character.”[1] It is God’s own righteousness that is meant by the two instances of righteousness (Greek dikaiosune) in 3:25b-26.

When Paul says, “This was to show God’s righteousness” (3:25b), he looks back to God appointing Jesus as an atoning sacrifice to propitiate God’s justifiable wrath against human sin (3:25a). The execution of Jesus on the cross provided a public demonstration of how seriously God takes sin.

In saying he had “passed over former sins” (3:25b), the temporary delay in the demonstration of God’s righteousness was a matter of “his divine forbearance” (3:25b). C.E.B. Cranfield shows insight by saying, “God has in fact been able to hold his hand and pass over sins, without compromising his goodness and mercy, because his intention has all along been to deal with them once and for all, decisively and finally, through the cross.”[2]

What is meant by “former sins” (3:25b)? Moo says: “The sins committed beforehand will not, then, be sins committed before conversion, or baptism, but before the new age of salvation.”[3] That age began at the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, or perhaps as early as the incarnation.

(ESV) Romans 3:26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Cranfield lights the path here: “Paul recognizes that what was at stake was not just God’s being seen to be righteous, but God’s being righteous.”[4] This is not a matter of mere appearances.

Thomas Schreiner joins Moo and Cranfield in saying that the idea of the final clause is that God is just even in justifying the one who has faith in Jesus.[5] Only God could craft a salvation that imposes justice and offers mercy in the same act: the death of Jesus for our sins.

Like a compass needle which always seeks magnetic north, Paul always returns to faith in Jesus (3:26).

Is God just an old softy?

No! In an age that wants to focus on God’s mercy rather than his justice, we hear a lot about God’s love but little about his wrath. Yet anyone who minimizes the wrath of God against sin not only attacks the character of God but also demeans the sacrifice Jesus made for each of us on the cross.

1. Peter tells us that in the last days people will be saying Christ is not going to return, that there will be no reckoning for sin on a day of judgment (2 Pet. 3:2-4). But Peter says the delay is instead a matter of God being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9, NET). How does patience show God's mercy while repentance confirms God's intention to judge? Describe how Peter and Paul agree.

2. Why do people want to leave aside any discussion of God's wrath?

Take a moment to express your praise to the One who is just even as he justifies us because of our faith in Jesus. Of course, if you have never expressed such faith, your time within God’s forbearance is running out!

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 237.

[2] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 212.

[3] Moo, Romans, 240.

[4] Cranfield, Romans, 213.

[5] Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998) 198.