In preaching through 1 Corinthians recently I listened to a lot of sermons on chapters 9 and 10. Two themes in particular were hammered home by preachers.
In chapter 9 there's the olympic training regimes (v24-27). In chapter 10 there's 'glorifying God' in all circumstances (v31). But so often the context of these verses is ignored.
So in chapter 9 we read this:
24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
That'll preach won't it? Go into strict training people! There's a medal held out. Be an Olympian Christian.
And what did all these sermons mean by being an Olympian Christian? Personal holiness. Devotional disciplines. You know the drill.
But what is the context? Verses 19-23 - becoming all things to all men so that by all possible means we may save some. It's a missionary context. Beating our bodies and going into strict training is a description of how we order our lives with evangelistic priorities. This Olympian spirituality is an outwardly focussed determination to move out into the world for the salvation of others. That's quite a different sermon.
In chapter 10 we have that famous verse:
31So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
What does this mean? How would it look like lived out? Well if you listen to these sermons it's mainly about personal holiness. Devotional disciplines. You know the drill.
But again, what is the context? It's eating and drinking in the context of food sacrificed to idols. The context is a world full of unChristian and anti-Christian cultures and practices which, nonetheless, the Christian is compelled to engage. And so verse 33 says:
I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.
It's about adapting all things, even eating and drinking, to the end that Jews, Greeks and the church of God is built up (v32). Effectively verse 33 explains verse 31. Doing all for the glory of God means doing all for the good of many, so that they may be saved. This makes sense of the 'glory of God' which is not a static quality but an outgoing salvific movement.
To have your life ordered by God's glory is not simply to do your daily devotions - it's to live in outgoing invitation for the salvation of others. Verse 31 is not some abstract call to look pious at all times. We know what 10:31 looks like - it looks like Paul's ministry. It looks like 9:19-23. It looks like the missionary determination to become all things to all men that some may be saved.
So please, keep the context in mind. And remember, the context is mission.