The Christians in Corinth were complaining that Paul was not acting like a free person. They believed that they should take advantage of all their rights as Christians. But Paul did not do that, so they considered it hard to respect his authority.
For example, they claimed a right to eat any food, even food that people had offered to a false god. Paul agreed that they had that right. However, he refused to do it. He did not want anyone to imagine that he was giving honour to a false god (1 Corinthians chapter 8).
They also claimed that their church leaders had the right to receive wages. Paul agreed, but he refused to accept the money (9:6-18)!
Now Paul explains the reason for his attitudes, which seemed so strange to them. He did such things because he wanted to bring more people into a relationship with Christ. If any of Paulís rights made it more difficult for someone to trust Christ, then Paul would not claim that right.
Paul was only doing what Jesus had said in Mark 10:43-44. A Christian leader should not behave like a ruler or a master, but like a servant. In order to obey Christ, he must even work like the slave of all. That does not mean that he must obey everyoneís orders. He obeys God - but he works for the benefit of everyone. Only a free person has the right to become like a slave. That was the right that Paul wanted to claim. He would serve all people as he brought Godís good news to them.
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© 2014, Keith Simons.