1 Corinthians 9

The Apostleship of Paul SUMMARY OF I CORINTHIANS 9: Answer to Various Insinuations of Judaizers. The Corinthians Had Proof of His Apostleship. He Had the Rights to Have a Wife As Well as Peter. It Was His Right to Be Sustained by the Church. He Sustained Himself to Have One Ground for Self-Congratulation. Adapted Himself to All Classes to Save Them. The Christian Race.

Am I not an apostle? Two objects are held in view in this chapter; to answer those, the Judaizers, who disparaged his authority by contrasts between him and the other apostles, and to enforce upon the church, by his example, self-denial for the benefit of others.

Am I not free? He had spoken of Christian liberty (1Co 8:9). He was free also, and an apostle who "had seen the Lord" (Ac 9:27), and hence, could witness to his resurrection (Ac 1:21,22).
For the seal of mine apostleship ye are. The existence of the church at Corinth, founded by his labors, proved that he was their apostle, at least. Have we no power to eat and to drink? To live at the charges of the churches we have founded? Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife? Peter (Cephas) was a married man. Other apostles had wives. Had Paul no right to have a wife? The answer is that he had this liberty as well as others if he had chosen to use it.

Brethren of the Lord. See Mt 13:55 Mr 6:3 Lu 6:15 Ga 1:19.
Or I only and Barnabas, have we not power to forbear working? He and Barnabas worked with their own hands to sustain themselves while preaching. Others were sustained. Had not they the same right? He next shows that they had the right by various illustrations. Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? Soldiers were paid while on a campaign; but he and Barnabas were Christian soldiers.

Who planeth a vineyard, and eateth not the fruit thereof? The husbandman ate of the vineyard; but they worked in the vineyard of the Lord.

Who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? The feeder of the flock drank of its milk, but they were feeders of the flock of God.
Say I these things as a man? Human affairs teach our right to be sustained.

Saith not the law the same also? But the law of Moses teaches the same lesson.
For it is written in the law of Moses. See De 25:4.

Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. In the East still the grain is trodden out on the threshing floor by the cattle, nor do the people muzzle the cattle to this day.
Or saith he [it] altogether for our sakes? Was this enactment made solely for the benefit of the oxen (1Co 9:9)? Or was it rather to teach those who did a work had a right to live off of that work? The latter, doubtless. If we have sown to you spiritual things. Preached the gospel, converted them, built them up in Christ. This conserved their eternal interests.

Carnal things. An earthly support.
If others [be] partakers of [this] power. Enjoy this privilege of earthly support. But his right was greater than that of these.

Have not used this right. He had supported himself lest he should hinder the gospel. The heathen might say that he was influenced by mercenary motives. As to his course, see Ac 18:3.
They which minister about holy things. He now shows that the temple teaches the same lesson. The priests and Levites are sustained by the temple offerings.

Partakers with the altar. A part of the sacrifice was consumed on the altar and a part was awarded to the priests.
Even so hath the Lord ordained, etc. It was the Lord's ordinance, even if Paul did not exercise the power, that those who preach the gospel should be sustained by the church. See Mt 10:9,10. But I have used none of these things. They had neither sustained him, nor did he now write to them to have them do so. Nay, he was fully resolved not to change his course. It were even "better for him to die" than to do so. For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of. He preached because he was Christ's servant. He was therefore under necessity, as a servant. Nay, "woe was upon him" if he obeyed not. In this, then, he had no right to boast. But if he refused a support from the churches when he had liberty to receive it, that might make a ground of boasting. If I do this thing willingly. If he preached voluntarily, he might then claim an earthly reward.

But if against my will. If Paul does this as a servant of Christ upon whom the service is laid; then he has a dispensation [of the gospel] committed to him. "A stewardship", as in the Revised Version. In that case he has the obligations of a steward. It is his duty to feed the Master's servants.
What is my reward then? He had no earthly wages. What then? That he should have the satisfaction of knowing that, for the sake of the gospel, he gave up his right, and preached freely. If he was accused of mercenary motives it might interpose a hindrance. For though I am free, etc. He shows why he used this self denial. In order that he might "gain souls", he was willing to become the servant of all, and to deny himself all things. Unto the Jews I became as a Jew. With Jews he lived as a Jew in order to reach them. He observed their distinctions of meats, kept feasts (Ac 18:21), and circumcised Timothy (Ac 16:3). He observed the law to reach those who kept law. To them that ate without law, as without law. To such, though in the sight of God keeping His law, he came not as an enforcer of the law of Moses. He spoke to Gentiles from a Gentile standpoint, as at Athens (Acts 17:22-31). To the weak became I as weak. Adapted himself to their weakness as he had directed the "strong" (1Co 4:10) at Corinth to do.

I am made all things to all [men], etc. While steadfastly keeping Christ's law he adapted himself to all men in the hope of gaining them.
And this I do for the gospel's sake. All this self denial had in view a single object--the promotion of the gospel. Would that all Christians, from the same motive, would adapt themselves to all classes, in order to reach them. Know ye not that they who run in a race all run. He had spoken of self denial in order to secure gospel success. He now enforces the need of sparing no effort, self denial or exertion, to win the crown. The Corinthians were familiar with the races in the stadium. The Isthmian games, among the most famous of Greece, were celebrated at Corinth.

But one receiveth the prize. Only one, the foremost, received a prize. Hence the lesson, so run, that you may obtain. Outstrip all others if possible.
Every man that striveth, etc. Everyone who proposed to strive in the games for the prize pursued a course of self-control, and exercised himself very systematically. All this effort was made for a corruptible crown. The prize of the victor in the foot race was a crown, woven of the pine leaves which grew then, and still grow, on the isthmus of Corinth.

But we an incorruptible. We run for a crown that never fades (1Pe 5:4).
I therefore so run, not as uncertainly. Not as one who had no definite goal before him. His eye was fixed upon the heavenly prize.

So fight I, not as one that beateth the air. The first figure is of a runner with a definite object; the second is taken from the boxer who strikes the air instead of his competitor. So fights not Paul. He puts a skillful aim into his blows.
But I keep under my body. "I buffet my body" (Revised Version). He puts the body down by his blows, by self denial for Christ.

And bring [it] into subjection. "Into bondage" (Revised Version). It shall not be his master, but his servant.

Lest . . . I myself should be a castaway. He keeps it under lest, after having preached to others, he "should be rejected" (Revised Version); that is, refused the prize of the crown. What an exhortation to us is this example of the apostle! Continually vigilant lest he should be finally rejected! Even he worked out his salvation "with fear and trembling" (Php 2:12). Surely, he should "give all diligence to make our calling and election sure" (2Pe 1:10). In this worldly, self-seeking, luxurious age "we should give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard" (Heb 2:1).
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