Reading through the Bible together
After dealing with a whole lot of issues from sexuality to food, now the Apostle Paul reminds the believers in Corinth about the motivations for behavior. Behind their actions should be a pattern of self-denial. This is important, because for those who simply assert their “rights” have it wrong (vs. 4). Instead asserting their individual rights, they should “endure all things lest they hinder the gospel of Christ” (vs. 12).
At the very heart of the matter is the gospel: “For I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (vs. 16). Such service must be done willingly. As a Christian leader, he reminds them, that he has a sacred responsibility not to abuse his authority (vs. 18).
From verses 19 to 23 the Apostle Paul reminds them that a true leader is focused upon service. Such a servant exhibits a flexible spirit because serving isn’t about the leader, but about Jesus! “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (vs. 22).
The spirit of sacrifice and service described by the Apostle Paul is the same spirit exhibited by General Conference president William A. Spicer. What many Adventists probably do not realize is that one of the most unusual General Conference sessions in denominational history occurred in 1922. The church was trying to decide whether to reelect A. G. Daniells as General Conference president or elect W. A. Spicer, who while attending the General Conference session promised his wife that he would retire. One of the more fascinating documents in Adventist history is the letter he wrote to his wife explaining how it came to be that he was elected General Conference president! He closed the letter with the words: “In Christ’s kingdom there are no positions of honor, but [only] positions of service.” These are the words we should live by as we seek to remember the true sacrificial spirit of Christianity.
In conclusion, the Apostle Paul reminds us to “exercise control in all things” (vs. 25). When we have our priorities in the right order, we are willing to discipline ourselves to serve (vs. 27). We thus achieve balance that begins with our motives and transforms every aspect of our lives for Christ.
Michael W. Campbell, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Historical/Theological Studies
Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies