Paul says, "Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel." But on the other hand, "the care of the churches" was also on him constantly.
Considering what Paul says in I Corinthians 9:16 and II Corinthians 11:27-28, and comparing how much time he must have spent preaching the gospel in relation to how much that he spent on feeding of the flock in his daily care of the churches, it appears that the great preponderance of his time and energy were spent in "feeding the flock," not in preaching the gospel to the world.
A pastor has a unique point of view on this because he knows how demanding the pastoring of a congregation is in terms of time, energy, and effort. In comparing what a normal pastor does with what the apostle Paul had to do with a Mediterranean-wide area to cover on foot or by boat, he had to spend most of his time on his congregations, not on the world.
In the long run, what kind of picture does the overt emphasis on preaching to the world give a person of God and His purpose? Is God so limited in creativity that He can only think of one thing for His children to do? Are lives and relationships always so stable that nothing ever arises that creates a necessity for something different to be done?
Is there only one thing that we have to be trained for, so we just keep doing the same thing over and over again? Is there nothing else in God's mind for us that requires analysis, strategy, concern, and the effort of sacrifice and living by faith to produce growth, create solutions, and to overcome? Is our Father in heaven so one-dimensional that all He thinks about in regard to His children and His purpose is that we preach the gospel to the world? Of course not.
John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part One)
Notice the attitude with which Paul presents his message here: He says that he had a need to preach the gospel, that "necessity is laid upon me." He is saying, "I've got to preach this. And if I don't, I'd better hide under a rock somewhere." His approach to preaching the gospel was that lightning could strike at any time if he stopped preaching it. Remember how Jesus started this apostle's ministry—by blinding him out in the middle of the road to Damascus! What Jesus did made quite an impression on him. Paul probably thought about that often—and about what would happen if he stopped doing the charge that had been laid upon him.
So, a true minister feels a compulsion to preach the gospel. On the flipside, he feels a certaindoom if he does not. He feels as though, if he tried anything else, he would be a fish out of water. In him would be an emptiness that was not being filled because the ministry of Jesus Christ is a calling. To a true minister of God, it is not just a job done for a paycheck, but a vocation that he feels compelled to do because the truth must be preached. The information cannot remain in his mind. Uncommunicated knowledge and understanding of God's way is absolutely useless to anybody else; it cannot help anybody take even one step along the road to the Kingdom of God. This is why God gives ministers mouths to speak.
Paul calls it "the foolishness of preaching" (I Corinthians 1:21, KJV), but God accomplishes a great deal through it. The serious, devoted servant of Jesus Christ must do it. He just must! It is almost like a man who has just walked out of the desert and has not had anything to eat or drink. He feels compelled, obviously, to find something to satisfy his need—particularly to drink. A true minister of God feels this way if he has not preached the truth in a long while. A "pressure" builds up after a time, and if it is not released, it explodes. The truth must be passed on because a compulsion from God Himself drives a true minister to speak the truth.
This may be dramatizing it a bit, but there is a feeling in a true minister's gut to let other people know the truth that he has been given to preach. In a true minister of God, the truth will out, to borrow a line from Shakespeare.
On the other hand, what does the minister get out of it? What does Paul say that he got from it? In verse 18, he says that, when he preached the truth, other people were helped. He was able to preach the gospel in love, without charge. He did not need anything for it personally because he was driven from the inside—not the outside. Thus, it made him feel good—it relieved that God-sent pressure and gave him the satisfaction that he had done his job.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing 1 Corinthians 9:16:
1 Corinthians 9:16
2 Corinthians 11:27-28