“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!”
(1 Corinthians 9:16)
The preaching of the Gospel was the core of Paul’s ministry activity; it was the “hub” to which every other thing he said or did was firmly attached. This was the divine imperative laid upon Him by the risen Lord Himself (Acts 26:15-20). “Woe is unto me,” wrote Paul, “if I preach not the gospel!” Of course Paul was motivated by the love and grace that the Lord had shown Him (Romans 5:8, 20; Galatians 2:20); his ministry was an expression of love and appreciation for the Savior that loved Him first. Being a scholar of Judaism and of its Scriptures (Acts 22:3; Galatians 1:14), Paul was also aware of Jonah’s experience, and no doubt wanted to avoid the dire consequences of ignoring the call to do the Lord’s work! How troubled and disappointed he must have been to find out that his sincerity and legitimacy as an apostle were in question among the believers at Corinth. In response, Paul reminded his readers that as a genuine spokesman for Christ, he had every right to be supported in his work. Nevertheless, he refused to exercise this right (1 Corinthians 9:14-15). “What is my reward then?” asked Paul, “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” (1 Corinthians 9:18). Paul’s “reward” was to preach the Gospel free of charge. How was this a reward? By preaching the Gospel freely, he would effectively close the mouths of those who were speaking against him. This would also encourage trust in the hearts of those he ministered to, as well as guard himself against abusing his authority. For Paul, the Gospel message was too great to jeopardize, and no sacrifice was too great to further the message of God’s reconciling love for the world displayed in the redemptive work of Jesus. Christ and His Gospel are inseparable, and Paul dedicated his life to preaching both (1 Corinthians 2:1-2). It is important to understand that no area of theological study stands apart from the Gospel. This includes eschatology (the study of the last things). As we look at events unfolding around us, we are naturally interested in what the Bible says about the events that will precede the end of the world and the second coming of Christ. We must always remember that the entire course of human, angelic, and even cosmic history was determined by the Lord’s redemptive work as encapsulated in the Gospel. Everything God will do in the future depends upon what His Son has done in the past. His finished work has gained Him the name above every name (Philippians 2:5-11). Our own future as glorified priests and kings was secured by the Lord’s death and resurrection as well (Revelation 5:9-10). In whatever area of theological study we engage in, let us commit to giving Christ and His Gospel preeminence (Colossians 1:18), for God’s glory, and for our own edification and emboldened witness.