1 Cor 9:16-18 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! 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. 18 What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. ESV (cf Acts 20:22; 2Cor 5:14)
Paul did not choose his life course, it was chosen for him. The Lord chose this course of life and ministry for him and as a result, Paul was compelled by the Lord to preach the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. He does not do this out of his own will, but rather he is constrained to do this, faithfully as the Lord’s servant, as a steward of the Lord Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit of God.
Acts 20:22-24 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. ESV
We see in Acts 20:22, that when Paul was headed for Jerusalem, those who loved him and understood what awaited him there, sought to dissuade him from this course of action. However, Paul’s response was again to declare that he wasn’t going simply as act of his will, his volition. No. Rather he was being constrained or compelled by the Spirit of God to go, not knowing for certain what exactly is going to take place there. Yet, there were the prophetic voices that continued to declare to him and others a clear picture of the imprisonments and hardships that lay just ahead of him. This course of action again, wasn’t the product of Paul’s will, his volition. Rather, this course of action was the product of the constraining and compelling influence and power of the Holy Spirit of God within and upon him, leading him down the Lord’s chosen path for him, as a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Cor 5:14-15 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. ESV
We also see in 2 Cor 5:14-15, that Paul was doing that which seemed unreasonable or simply beyond reason to others observing his walk. However, once again, Paul declares that this is not a product of his will, but rather it is the product of the controlling power of God’s love, Christ in him (Col 1:27). It is this love of God that now dominates his life with the truth of the fullness of the work of Christ upon the cross of Calvary: that one has died for all and therefore all have died, so that we might not live for ourselves but for Him, who for our sakes died and was raised. Paul was compelled, by this love for He who died for him, and indeed died for us all, to declare to all this gospel, this wonderfully good news of salvation, in and through the Lord Jesus Christ, alone.
So, what exactly is this constraining, compelling force at work in the life of Paul? It is the truth of the gospel of the grace of God. It is the grace of God made manifest in and through the life of Paul, a servant, a steward of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is this grace of God revealed in and through the living and viable reality of Christ in him, the hope of glory (Col 1:27), being manifested in and through him, a humble servant of the Most High God.
Col 1:27-28, To them (the saints) God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. ESV
Phil 2:13, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. ESV
From beginning to end, He is by his Grace, Spirit and Holy Word, our hope, strength and enabling presence, even as we are his servants, chosen by him in Grace and empowered in him in Spirit and Word, that we might serve him at his pleasure and for his glory, honor and praise, first, last and always. For, in Spirit and Truth, we are no longer our own. No! We are HIS, Forevermore! Thank you Lord Jesus, Thank you! Blessed be the name of the Lord Jesus Christ!