“I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting” (1 Corinthians 9:15).
What is the ground for Paul’s boasting? It is the “gospel of Christ” (verse 12).
The gospel of Christ is centered on Jesus Himself—His perfect humanity, His full deity, the salvation that He perfectly fashioned on the cross. When Paul glories in the gospel, he is glorying in the good news of Jesus Christ, not just of “salvation” as though separate from Christ. Glorying in the gospel is glorying in Jesus; sharing the gospel is sharing the good news that is centered on Jesus.
“Good news” means more than just enjoying Jesus ourselves, doesn’t it? It clearly refers to the public proclamation concerning Jesus as the Christ. So Paul is concerned about more than just having a joyful appreciation for Christ Himself, but also about removing hindrances to the gospel so that others might see the beauty of Jesus Christ.
So, our goal, Paul says, is to remove every obstacle to the good news (verse 12). He would rather suffer anything than hinder the gospel of Christ. And then in verse 15, Paul adds that it is better to die than to bring down the gospel, to hinder others from seeing it as glorious.
Wow! Paul is really ratcheting up the language here, isn’t he? But how different Christianity would be today if this mindset were prevalent throughout Christian churches. Consider the following examples:
“I’d rather die than bring shame on the gospel.”
“I’d rather swallow this offense than bring shame on the gospel by insisting on my personal rights.”
“It would be better for me starve to death than for people to think that I was just using the gospel to fatten my wallet.”
“It is better to go to the grave with this piece of gossip than to by sharing it hinder gospel labors.”
In every situation, in every decision we make—as individuals or as a church corporately—our goal is to reflect the beauty of Christ by adorning the gospel with our blameless behavior. This does not make every decision easy or simple, but it does let us know what the chief priority in our decision-making must be: how can I best glorify the gospel of Christ in this situation?
Paul says, “I will give up every personal right, or privilege, or freedom in order to remove every obstacle to the gospel of Christ.” What are you and I willing to sacrifice for the sake of family members, or co-workers, or strangers to experience the superior joy of seeing them come to enjoy Jesus with us? In what ways could your personal comfort zones, or preferences be being stretched right now to better relate to someone in your life? In what ways could you become someone’s servant, to open the door to share the gospel with them?
There is something so beautiful, so glorious, so wonderful about the good news of the Christ that Paul wanted to remove every obstacle for others to embrace it. Even if it meant giving up his very life.