1 Corinthians, 9
Support for the Lord’s servants
1: Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord? 2: If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord. 3: Mine answer to them that do examine me is this, 4: Have we not power to eat and to drink? 5: Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas? 6: Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working? 7: Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? 8: Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? 9: For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? 10: Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. 11: If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? 12: If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. 13: Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the alter are partakers with the alter? 14: Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel. 15: But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void. 16: 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! 17: For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. 18: What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel. 19: For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. 20: And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; 21: To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. 22: To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23: And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you. 24: Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 25: And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26: I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 27: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
In this passage Paul speaks about his own ministry. He asks four rhetorical questions to which the answers are all yes. Am l an apostle? Yes of course you are Paul the Corinthians believers might answer. Am l not free? (Paul means here that he is not financially obliged to his hearers v19) Yes of course you are Paul. Have l not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Yes you did on the road to Damascus. Are you not my work in the Lord? Yes, we are your converts say the Corinthian believers. There were some that doubted or even denied his Apostolic credentials. Paul says if l am not an apostle to anyone I’m an without any doubt an apostle to you. You are the proof of my apostolic authority. What l would say to those who would examine me is. Do we apostles not have the authority to be feed and watered because of our ministry? Don’t we have authority to have a sister or a wife supported in our ministry as the other apostles have? Is it only me and Barnabas that can refrain from profitable employment? What soldier goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of the fruit for himself? Who looks after the sheep that does not drink the milk of the flock? Paul is saying that those who preach the word are able to be financially renumerated for their work. Paul says is this just me speaking? Or is it not the law which says that the ox that treads out the corn is allowed to eat of the corn. If God looks after the oxen then should he not look after me? The man who plows the field looks forward to having the benefit of the harvest. If we have sown spiritual things for you then should we not have the benefit of the things of the body? There are other people who benefit from you, why not us? However we have not used this privilege but we suffer all things so that the Gospel of Christ is not hindered. Paul says Don’t you know that priests who serve in the Temple have some of the meat served at the altar? God in the same way has ordained that those who preach the Gospel should be supported in their work. Paul reminds them that he has not used this privilege nor has he requested it. He says l would rather die than make my boasting empty. Paul says even though l preach the gospel l have nothing to glory in. Daily needs come to me constantly, but what a terrible thing it would be if l did not preach the Gospel. Paul says l have this arrangement of my own choice and if l am supported it is against my will. I have a stewardship of the Gospel committed unto me. So says Paul. What is my reward for preaching the gospel? My reward is simply that l make my gospel free to listen to the hearers. This makes me completely free from all obligations to men. Paul says even though l am not paid by anyone yet l have made myself a servant of every one so that l may gain more. To the Jews l remain a Jew, so that l might convert the Jews. To those who are under the Mosaic Law l remain a law abiding Jew so that l can win them for Christ. To those who are Gentiles l am as one who is without the Mosaic law. (This does not mean that l am lawless but that l am under the authority of Christ) So that l might win those who are outside the Mosaic law. To the weak l am weak so that l may gain the weak. Now this is the motto of Paul in evangelistic ministry - I am all things to all men. So that by all these means l might save some. Now Paul is not saying that he puts on a cloak to suit his hearers. Paul does not chop and change being a Jew to Jews and being a Gentile to Gentiles. What Paul is saying is that he has taken up a permanent position in which he is acceptable and accessible to both Jews and Gentiles. Lastly Paul speaks about him own personal race. He says we all run in a race but only one receives the prize. So as christians we are all to run so to obtain the prize. Every athlete strives to master himself and is moderate in everything so that he might obtain a laurel wreath but we do this to obtain a golden crown. And so l run with a clear objective. And l fight to win the fight. And to do this l keep my body in check in case after l have preached to others l myself might find that l am disqualified in my ministry. Paul says l live so that God will not find me useless in his service and cast me aside. (There are some people who think that Paul is saying that he might be cast away in the sense that his salvation can be lost. Paul in this chapter is talking about his ministry not his salvation. Paul is saying it is possible to do something that disqualifies him from public ministry and then he was will cast side as an unfit vessel for Gods service)