Over the last three Sundays we have seen the Bible provide ample wisdom and counsel about unity, sexual immorality and marriage. However, many Christians have fallen short in learning and using this knowledge to impact the lives of those around us. Many of the citizens of Corinth operated under the notion that “Everything is permissible for me.” Before we beat up and chastise the Corinthians for their thinking, we should look at our world today and realize that Paul’s messages are still right on target. First, as believers, we share the same salvation and therefore should be unified by that confession. Second, as believers, we can live holy lives by focusing on Christ’s Lordship and not temporal things. Then last Sunday, as believers, we honor God by keeping our marriage and purity vows. Basically, through these last three lessons, Paul has challenged us, as believers, to embrace God’s standard of holy, righteous living.
Our lesson today is “Influencing for Christ” and we see Paul continue to answer questions posed by the Corinthians. Hopefully their questions today are not as challenging and sensitive as those of the last couple of Sundays. Today Paul will remind us that as believes we represent God by using our influence to bring others to Him. We are to live as examples of what it means to follow Christ.
In our first group of verses, Paul explained why he did not insist on certain rights that he possessed as an apostle of Christ. We will see that he was motivated by a greater desire.
Read 1 Cor. 9:19-23 “Walking In Their Shoes”
What was Paul willing to give up so he could share the gospel with others?
What rights did Paul have?
Paul had a passion to see lost people saved. He knew that his free status and gospel calling included having certain rights and benefits. He willingly put aside those rights and benefits for the sake of focusing people’s hearts on Christ as Savior and Lord.
What was Paul’s concern about sharing the gospel?
What are cultural concessions?
Christ had called Paul to present the gospel to lost people and build up the church. He avoided all potential hindrances to that calling.
What influenced Paul to sacrifice his own time and attention to himself so he could impact others for Christ?
What method did Paul use to influence people?
Why would Paul become weak?
What do you think was the most important element in Paul’s life?
When we apply these verses to our world today, we must understand that as believers we need to be motivated by Paul’s example. We will never win others to genuine faith in Christ by joining in sinful behavior. We can establish friendships through appropriate common interests that give us opportunities to share the gospel. However, it will be our transformed lives and true testimony that point others to the only One who can save them.
In the next three verses Paul continued his emphasis on doing whatever was required to faithfully fulfill his gospel calling. He illustrated his point with an analogy of athletes.
Read 1 Cor. 9:24-27 “Running the Race”
Lots of comparisons of the Christian life to running. With Corinth hosting the Isthmian Games (similar to the Olympics in Greece) Paul’s use of runners in a stadium would have been readily understood by the Corinthians.
How did Paul associate his goal of winning people to Christ to the athlete’s goal of winning the race?
What boundaries did Paul establish for himself?
We need to understand what Paul was and was not implying with his analogy. He was not implying that Christians are somehow in competition with one another for salvation or that only one believer would win that prize. His point was that believers must strive with all our strength for God’s will in our lives, just as athletes strive for their prize.
What did Paul think would disqualify him from sharing the gospel?
When have we disqualified ourselves from sharing the gospel?
Paul was not competing against other apostles. Just like us today, Paul was competing against the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Bring the lesson into today’s world, isn’t our main obstacle to success in the Christian life an undisciplined lifestyle that yields to sinful desires?
As we studied the past few Sundays, the Corinthian’s were coming from pagan religions built around sexual immorality and idolatry. Just as we must be on guard for today, Paul knew that the new believers in Corinth would have many temptations to return to their sinful past. These next verses encourage us to keep our eyes on Jesus and our wills under the Spirit’s control. We are to use our influence to lead others to do the same.
Read 1 Cor. 10:31-33; 11:1 “Following Our Leader”
What was Paul’s challenge to the Corinthian believers?
What did the believer’s influence have to do with what they ate or drank?
We have studied the issues of eating or not eating many times over the years. For believers who knew that all food was from God and idols were not really gods then eating food that had been used as a pagan sacrifice was acceptable. However, Paul did not want to eat sacrificed food if it would hinder the faith of a less mature Christian.
Was Paul being proud or arrogant in 11:1 when he said, “Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ”?
Who was Paul’s model of influence?
Summary: How can we follow Paul’s example to influence people and win them for Christ?
· Be willing to be flexible for winning others to Christ.
· Restrict our flexibility so we do not disobey biblical principles and compromise our witness to the gospel.
· Practice Bible reading and prayer disciplines so that we are strong.
· Christian freedom does not mean we can force others to follow our practices.
Close in prayer, thanking God for His presence and power as we use our influence to represent Him.