9:15 But I have used none of these things. And I am not writing these things so that it will be done so in my case; for it would be better for me to die than have any man make my boast an empty one. 16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. 17 For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. 18 What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.
19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. 23 I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.
Paul is by no means a boring individual. His life story is an amazing one. He was Jew of the Jews and made it his life mission as a young man to squash this Jesus uprising that threatened the Jewish faith. He actively imprisoned His followers and had some put to death. Then he met Jesus himself and everything changed. Ever after it was his mission to know Jesus and to make Him known. By the comments he makes his motivation to serve Jesus with his whole being was twofold. Not only did he genuinely love Him but was also driven by guilt for the things he had done to hurt His followers.
Here in 1 Corinthians 9 he declares it is his right as a minister of the gospel to receive wages but he refuses to take payment. Unfortunately this refusal was actually causing problems because some saw his passion and sacrifice and wondered why other ministers were "less committed". However for Paul that was never his intent. It was proper that they be paid for their work as it was proper for him to be paid as well but he wouldn't allow it. He wanted the gospel to be free. He dedicated his life to pioneer work. He entered places where there was no Christian presence and paid the foundation for churches to be born and the good news to spread.
They say up to 15% of the population has a pioneering spirit. Certainly Paul did and he wanted the foundation laid on a bed of self-sacrifice so no one could say he entered their city to make a profit or for any benefit to himself. It was all about Jesus.
How did he do it? How did he enter cities that worshipped idols and start churches dedicated to the One True God? He became all things to all people. It is a concept we struggle with. To some it seems compromising. To others it seems deceptive but done correctly it is neither. All Paul did was learn to relate to every kind of person, to see the world through their eyes and speak their "language". For some it was through helping them see through their own Jewish Scriptures that Jesus was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. For those under the law and trying to appease God by their good deeds he showed how Jesus is the perfect One, the spotless Lamb, our substitute. For those without law who feared restriction he showed that Jesus came to set the captives free but that abuse of our freedom in Christ actually leads to the worst kind of slavery and the law of sin and death.
Paul studied every mind. He met them as they were. He learned to preach the Good News in language they could understand. He did it all for free so that no new believer and no enemy of the cross could accuse him of doing any of it for personal gain even though receiving a wage would have been completely correct.
Meeting Jesus on a heart level changes a person. Paul was a free man but chose to be a slave of the Good News. :)