15 “But I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things that it should be done so to me; for it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my boasting void. 16For if 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! 17For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship. 18What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel.”
But I have used none of these things,
Paul had a right to use his rights. He had the right to receive financial support from the Corinthian church, but he gave up that right.
2 Corinthians 11:8-9, 8I robbed other churches, taking wages from them to minister to you. 9And when I was present with you, and in need, I was a burden to no one, for what I lacked the brethren who came from Macedonia supplied. And in everything, I kept myself from being burdensome to you, and so I will keep myself.
nor have I written these things that it should be done so to me;
Paul did not write this passage in 1 Corinthians so that he might receive financial support from the Corinthians. He was not dunning the Corinthians for money.
for it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my boasting void.
It would be better that Paul dies than for anyone to get the idea that he preached for money, for he did not want them to get the idea that he dunned them for financial support. Balaam sold his ministry for money (Numbers 22). “Boasting” has to do with glorying in the gospel message; it is not a pride issue but a joy issue.
For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of,
There is no pride or achievement due to the faithful preaching of the gospel. He did not create the gospel message; he simply preached it.
for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!
Paul had no choice but to share this faith; the gospel message put a sense of compulsion on him. The blessing of the gospel message was too great a message not to preach.
For if I do this willingly, I have a reward;
God would reward Paul if he preached the gospel voluntarily.
but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship.
Whether Paul liked preaching the gospel or not is irrelevant because God gave him a “stewardship” to preach it. It was given him “against his will,” that is, he had no part in the call to do it, for it was a call of God. He had no special claim to special recompense, but he discharged his stewardship because of the nature of the gospel. The gospel is a sacred trust.
What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge,
By preaching the gospel freely, Paul stood independent from all human pressure.
that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel.
Paul’s purpose in not receiving financial support from the Corinthian church was that he “might gain the more,” that is, win more people to Christ. The word “abuse” means use to the full. Paul had the right to receive a full salary from the Corinthian church, but he did not use that privilege to the full. Paul did not receive compensation because of the principle of expediency; it would have abused his authority to receive a salary in certain contexts. Money must not get in the way of preaching the gospel.
The reward of God’s approval far exceeds the material reward.
There is a non-material reward for preaching the gospel for free. People who share their faith with a sense of compulsion have an unmistakable conviction from God. There is nothing mercenary in this. Career ministers should not serve with their palms itching, for it is a great privilege to represent our Lord in time on earth.