1 Corinthians 9:15-16
But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done to me…
I. THE OBLIGATION OF SPEECH. No doubt the apostle had, in a special sense, a "necessity laid upon" him. But though he differs from us in his direct supernatural commission, in the width of his sphere and in the splendour of his gifts, he does not differ from us in the reality of the obligation. The commission does not depend upon apostolic dignity. Christ said, "Go ye into all the world," &c., to all generations of His Church.
1. That commandment is permanent, it is exactly contemporaneous with the duration of the promise which is appended to it. Nay, the promise is made conditional upon the discharge of the duty.
2. Just because this commission is given to the whole Church it is binding on every individual member of the Church. The whole Church is nothing more than the sum total of all its members, and nothing is incumbent upon it which is not incumbent upon each of them. You cannot buy yourselves out of the ranks, as they used to be able to do out of the militia, by paying for a substitute. We all, if we know anything of Christ and His love and His power, are bound to tell it to those whom we can reach. You cannot all stand up and preach in the sense in which I do it. But the word does not imply a pulpit, a set discourse, a gathered multitude; it simply implies a herald's task of proclaiming. Everybody who has found Christ can say, "I have found the Messias," and everybody who knows Him can say, "Come and hear, and I will tell what the Lord hath done for my soul." No man can force you. But if Christ says to me, "Go!" and I say, "I had rather not," Christ and I have to settle accounts between us.
3. This command makes very short work of a number of excuses.
(1) There is a great deal in the tone of this generation which tends to chill the missionary spirit. We know more about the heathen, and familiarity diminishes horror. We have taken up, many of us, milder ideas about the condition of those who die without knowing the name of Christ. We have taken to the study of comparative religion, forgetting sometimes that the thing that we are studying as a science is spreading a dark cloud of ignorance and apathy over millions of men. And all these reasons somewhat sap the strength and cool the fervour of a good many Christian people nowadays. Jesus Christ's commandment remains just as it was.
(2) Then some of us say, "I prefer working at home!" Well, if you are doing all that you can there, the great principle of division of labour comes in to warrant your not entering upon other fields; but unless you are, there is no reason why you should do nothing in the other direction. Jesus Christ still says, "Go ye into all the world."(3) Then some of you say, "Well, I do not much believe in your missionary societies. There is a great deal of waste of money about them. I have heard stories about missionaries taking too much pay, and doing too little work." Be that as it may, does that indictment draw a wet sponge across the commandment of Jesus Christ?
4. I sometimes venture to think that the day will come when the condition of being received into and retained in the Church will be obedience to that commandment. Why, even bees have the sense at a given time of the year to turn the drones out of the hives. Whether it is a condition of Church membership or not, sure I am that it is a condition of fellowship with Christ, and a condition, therefore, of health in the Christian life.
II. THE PENALTY OF SILENCE. "Woe is me if I preach not the gospel."
1. If you are a dumb and idle professor of Christ's truth, depend upon it that your dumb idleness will rob you of much communion with Christ. There are many Christians who would be ever so much happier and more assured if they would go and talk about Christ to other people. Like the mist, which will be blown away with the least puff of fresh air, there lie doleful dampnesses, in their sooty folds, over many a Christian heart, shutting out the sun, and a little whiff of wholesome activity in Christ's cause would clear them all away, and the sun would shine again.
2. The woe of the loss of sympathies, and the gain of all the discomforts and miseries of a self absorbed life.
3. The woe of the loss of one of the best ways of confirming one's own faith in the truth — viz., that of seeking to impart it to others. If you want to learn a thing, teach it.
4. The woe of having none that can look to you and say, "I owe myself to thee."
5. Aye! but that is not all. There is a future to be taken into account. Though we know, and therefore dare say, little about that future, take this to heart, that he who there can stand before God, and say, "Behold! I and the children whom God hath given me" will wear a crown brighter than the starless ones of those who saved themselves and have brought none with them.
III. THE GLAD OBEDIENCE WHICH TRANSCENDS THE LIMITS OF OBLIGATION. "If I do this thing willingly I have a reward." Paul desired to bring a little more than was required, in token of his love to his Master and of his thankful acceptance of the obligation. The artist who loves his work will put more work into his picture than is absolutely needed, and will linger over it, lavishing diligence and care upon it, because he is in love with his task. The servant that seeks to do as little as he can scrape through with without rebuke is actuated by no high motives. The trader that barely puts as much into the scale as will balance the weight in the other is grudging in his dealings; but he who, with liberal hand, gives "shaken down, pressed together, and running over" measure, gives because he delights in the giving. And so it is in the Christian life. There are many of us whose question seems to be, "How little can I get off with?" And what does that mean? It means that we are slaves. It means that if we durst we would give nothing and do nothing. And what does that mean? It means that we do not care for the Lord, and have no joy in oar work. And what does that mean? It means that our work deserves no praise, and will get no reward. If we love Christ we shall be anxious, if it were possible, to do more than He commands us. Of course He has the right to all our work; but yet there are heights of Christian consecration and self-sacrifice which a man will not be blamed if he has not climbed, and will be praised if he has. What we want is extravagances of service. Judas may say, "To what purpose is this waste?" but Jesus will say, "He hath wrought a good work on Me." And the fragrance of the ointment will smell sweet through the centuries.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.