“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” (1 Cor 9.16)
Why do you share the gospel?
Evangelism does not have to be a “have-to” chore that you do not want to do.
Evangelism does not have to be an “I ought to” because your church is dying.
Instead, let’s aim for the internal “want-to” that makes evangelism a joy and delight.
Take this little heart check between WANT to and OUGHT to.
Compelled – Parallel Verses:
1 Corinthians 9:16, NIV: “For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”
1 Corinthians 9:16, ESV: “For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”
1 Corinthians 9:16, KJV: “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!”
1 Corinthians 9:16, NASB: “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.”
1 Corinthians 9:16, NLT: “Yet preaching the Good News is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I didn’t preach the Good News!”
1 Corinthians 9:16, CSB: “For if I preach the gospel, I have no reason to boast, because I am compelled to preach–and woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”
Paul uses the terminology of the Old Testament prophets to describe what would happen to him if he stopped preaching the gospel: “Woe to me!”
In the Old Testament, this phrase suggests serious real-world consequences from the Lord if one refused to carry out a divine calling. Doing something else is not an option.
Compelled to share the gospel: Do I have to?
I’ve seen people write about this verse as if being a witness is a necessity as if it’s an obligation.
- Since we are Christians, we are obligated to share.
- God requires it of us.
- We are forced to do it.
The connotation, however, is often negative.
- A dictator compels people to agree with him. It doesn’t matter what you think, you must obey.
- A parent compels a child to clean his/her room. The child doesn’t want to, but eventually, the child grudgingly complies.
Are we involved in personal evangelism because God REQUIRES it of us?
Even if personal evangelism is a Christian duty and obligation, should we fulfill our obligation because we HAVE TO or because we WANT TO?
Compelled to share the gospel: I want to.
I think there is a different sense in the word “compel.”
I’ve noticed throughout my Christian life:
the more vibrant my relationship with Jesus, the more vibrant and vocal my evangelism is.
Out of the overflow of my heart my mouth speaks.
Sharing good news — simply spills out of me.
It’s not something I do. It’s part of who I am.
I am a witness.
I’m excited about what God is doing in my life, and I’m excited to share.
I am compelled to share because I’m deeply grateful for what God has done for me.
I can’t help but to talk about God’s activity in my life.
It becomes easy to invite others to “Come and See.”
It becomes easy to point out the activity of God. It becomes easy to talk about my faith in respectful conversations with my friends who do not follow Jesus.
Greek Speak: a divine necessity
The Greek word translated “compel” has a wide range of meaning found in the NT, including the sense of coercion.
But in this verse, it’s a divinely ordered necessity in the purposes of God.
It is an action of our free will that we can’t help but to do.
By the calling laid on Paul, he can’t help but to preach the gospel. The desire of his heart is so strong that out of its overflow, he freely speaks.
Propelled by An Inner Fire
Jeremiah felt compelled to speak out because the Lord’s message “becomes a fire burning in my heart, shut up in my bones. I become tired of holding it in” (Jeremiah 20:9).
His heart is so deeply tied to the Lord’s heart that Jeremiah cannot deviate from his created purpose.
Let me ask you this?
What do you feel when you read Paul’s line in 1 Cor 9.16?
How vibrant is your relationship with Christ?
What about the gospel of Jesus burns deeply in you?