Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
TEACHING AS TO
STUMBLING-BLOCK IN A
RIGHTS AS AN
APOSTLE, SO AS TO
1. Am I not an apostle? am I not free?--The oldest manuscripts read
the order thus, "Am I not free? am I not an apostle?" He alludes to
"this liberty of yours": If you claim it, I appeal to yourselves as the
witnesses, have not I also it? "Am I not free?" If you be so, much more
I. For "am I not an apostle?" so that I can claim not only Christian,
but also apostolic, liberty.
have I not seen Jesus--corporeally, not in a mere vision:
where the fact of the resurrection, which he wishes to
prove, could only be established by an actual bodily appearance, such as
was vouchsafed to Peter and the other apostles. In
Ac 9:7, 17
the contrast between "the men with him seeing no man," and
"Jesus that appeared unto thee in the way," shows that Jesus actually
appeared to him in going to Damascus. His vision of Christ in the
was "in a trance." To be a witness of Christ's resurrection was a
leading function of an apostle
The best manuscripts omit "Christ."
ye my work in the Lord--Your conversion is His workmanship
through my instrumentality: the "seal of mine apostleship"
2. yet doubtless--yet at least I am such to you.
seal of mine apostleship--Your conversion by my preaching, accompanied
with miracles ("the signs of an apostle,"
Ro 15:18, 19;
and your gifts conferred by me
vouch for the reality of my apostleship, just as a seal set to a
document attests its genuineness
3. to them that . . . examine me--that is, who call in question mine
is this--namely, that you are the seal of mine apostleship.
4. Have we not power--Greek, "right," or lawful power, equivalent
to "liberty" claimed by the Corinthians
The "we" includes with himself his colleagues in the apostleship. The
Greek interrogative expresses, "You surely won't say
(will you?) that we have not the power or right," &c.
eat and drink--without laboring with our hands
(1Co 9:11, 13, 14).
Paul's not exercising this right was made a plea by his opponents for
insinuating that he was himself conscious he was no true apostle
5. lead about a sister, a wife--that is, "a sister as a wife";
"a sister" by faith, which makes all believers brethren and sisters in
the one family of God: "a wife" by marriage covenant. Paul implies he
did not exercise his undoubted right to marry and "lead about" a
believer, for the sake of Christian expediency, as well to save the
Church the expense of maintaining her in his wide circuits, as also that
he might give himself more undistractedly to building up the Church of
(1Co 7:26, 32, 35).
Contrast the Corinthians' want of self-sacrifice in the exercise of
their "liberty" at the cost of destroying, instead of edifying, the
as other apostles--implying that some of them had availed themselves
of the power which they all had, of marrying. We know from
that Cephas (Peter) was a married man. A confutation of Peter's
self-styled followers, the Romanists, who exclude the clergy from
marriage. CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA [Miscellanies, 7.63] records a
tradition that he encouraged his wife when being led to death by
saying, "Remember, my dear one, the Lord." Compare EUSEBIUS [Eccleiastical History, 3.30].
brethren of the Lord--held in especial esteem on account of their
relationship to Jesus
James, Joses, Simon, and Judas. Probably cousins of Jesus: as
cousins were termed by the Jews "brethren." ALFORD
makes them literally brothers of Jesus by Joseph and Mary.
Cephas--probably singled out as being a name carrying weight with
one partisan section at Corinth. "If your favorite leader does so,
surely so may I"
(1Co 1:12; 3:22).
6. Barnabas--long the associate of Paul, and, like him, in the habit
of self-denyingly forbearing to claim the maintenance which is a
minister's right. So Paul supported himself by tent-making
(Ac 18:3; 20:34;
7. The minister is spiritually a soldier
and a shepherd
(1Pe 5:2, 4).
of the fruit--The oldest manuscripts omit "of."
8. as a man--I speak thus not merely according to human
judgment, but with the sanction of the divine law also.
9. ox . . . treadeth . . . corn--
In the East to the present day they do not after reaping carry the
sheaves home to barns as we do, but take them to an area under the open
air to be threshed by the oxen treading them with their feet, or else
drawing a threshing instrument over them (compare
Doth God . . . care for oxen?--rather, "Is it for the oxen that God
careth?" Is the animal the ultimate object for whose sake this law was
given? No. God does care for the lower animal
but it is with the ultimate aim of the welfare of man, the head
of animal creation. In the humane consideration shown for the lower
animal, we are to learn that still more ought it to be exercised in the
case of man, the ultimate object of the law; and that the human
(spiritual as well as temporal) laborer is worthy of his hire.
10. altogether--Join this with "saith." "Does he (the divine lawgiver)
by all means say it for our sakes?" It would be untrue, that God saith
it altogether (in the sense of solely) for our sakes. But it is
true, that He by all means saith it for our sakes as the ultimate
object in the lower world. GROTIUS, however, translates, "mainly" or
"especially," instead of altogether.
that--"meaning that" [ALFORD]; literally, "because."
should plough--ought to plough in hope. The obligation rests with
the people not to let their minister labor without remuneration.
he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope--The oldest
manuscript versions and Fathers read, "He that thresheth (should or
ought to thresh) in the hope of partaking"
(namely, of the fruit of his threshing). "He that plougheth," spiritually,
is the first planter of a church in a place (compare
1Co 3:6, 9);
"he that thresheth," the minister who tends a church already planted.
11. we . . . we--emphatical in the Greek.
WE, the same persons who
have sown to you the infinitely more precious treasures of the
Spirit, may at least claim in return what is the only thing you
have to give, namely, the goods that nourish the flesh
("your carnal things").
12. others--whether true apostles
or false ones
we rather--considering our greater labors for you
suffer all things--without complaining of it. We desire to conceal
(literally, "hold as a water-tight vessel") any distress we suffer from
straitened circumstances. The same Greek is in
lest we . . . hinder . . . gospel--not to cause a hindrance to its
progress by giving a handle for the imputation of self-seeking, if we
received support from our flock. The less of incumbrance and expense
caused to the Church, and the more of work done, the better for the
cause of the Gospel
13. minister about holy things--the Jewish priests and Levites. The
Greek especially applies to the former, the priests
partakers with the altar--a part of the victims going to the service
of the altar, and the rest being shared by the priests
&c.; De 18:1,
14. Even so--The only inference to be drawn from this passage is, not
that the Christian ministry is of a sacrificial character as the Jewish
priesthood, but simply, that as the latter was supported by the
contributions of the people, so should the former. The stipends of the
clergy were at first from voluntary offerings at the Lord's Supper. At
the love-feast preceding it every believer, according to his ability,
offered a gift; and when the expense of the table had been defrayed, the
bishop laid aside a portion for himself, the presbyters, and deacons;
and with the rest relieved widows, orphans, confessors, and the poor
generally [TERTULLIAN, Apology, 39]. The stipend was in proportion
to the dignity and merits of the several bishops, presbyters, and
deacons [CYPRIAN, c. 4, ep. 6].
preach . . . gospel--plainly marked as the duty of the
Christian minister, in contrast to the ministering about
sacrifices (Greek) and waiting at the altar of the
Jewish priesthood and Levites
If the Lord's Supper were a sacrifice (as the Mass is supposed
to be), this fourteenth verse would certainly have been worded so, to
Note the same Lord Christ "ordains" the ordinances in the Old and in
the New Testaments
15. Paul's special gift of continency, which enabled him to abstain
from marriage, and his ability to maintain himself without interrupting
seriously his ministry, made that expedient to him which is ordinarily
inexpedient; namely, that the ministry should not be supported by the
people. What to him was a duty, would be the opposite to one, for
instance, to whom God had committed a family, without other means of
I have used none of these things--none of these "powers" or rights
which I might have used
(1Co 9:4-6, 12).
neither--rather, "Yet I have not written."
so done unto me--literally, "in my case": as is done in the case of
a soldier, a planter, a shepherd, a ploughman, and a sacrificing priest
(1Co 9:7, 10, 13).
make my glorying void--deprive me of my privilege of preaching the
Gospel without remuneration
Rather than hinder the progress of the Gospel by giving any pretext for
a charge of interested motives
(2Co 12:17, 18),
Paul would "die" of hunger. Compare Abraham's similar disinterestedness
(Ge 14:22, 23).
16. though I preach . . . I have nothing to glory
of--that is, If I preach the Gospel, and do so not gratuitously, I
have no matter for "glorying." For the "necessity" that is laid on me
to preach (compare
and the case of Jonah) does away with ground for "glorying." The sole
ground for the latter that I have, is my preaching without
since there is no necessity laid on me as to the latter, it is my
voluntary act for the Gospel's sake.
17. Translate, "If I be doing this (that is, preaching) of my own
accord (which I am not, for the 'necessity' is laid on me which binds a
servant to obey his master), I have a reward; but if
(as is the case)
(Ac 9:15; 22:15; 26:16);
not of my own natural will, but by the constraining grace of God;
I have had a dispensation (of the Gospel) entrusted to me" (and so can
claim no "reward," seeing that I only "have done that which was my duty
but incur the "woe,"
if I fail in it).
18. What is my reward?--The answer is in
namely, that by making the Gospel without charge, where I might have
rightfully claimed maintenance, I might "win the more."
of Christ--The oldest manuscripts and versions omit these words.
abuse--rather "that I use not to the full my
power." This is his matter for "glorying"; the "reward"
ultimately aimed at is the gaining of the more
The former, as involving the latter, is verbally made the answer to the
question, "What is my reward?" But really the "reward" is that which is
the ultimate aim of his preaching without charge, namely, that he may
gain the more; it was for this end, not to have matter of glorying,
that he did so.
19. free from all men--that is, from the power of all men.
gain the more--that is, as many of them ("all men")
as possible. "Gain" is an appropriate expression in relation to a
(1Th 2:19, 20);
he therefore repeats it frequently
20. I became as a Jew--in things not defined by the law, but by
Jewish usage. Not Judaizing in essentials, but in matters where there
was no compromise of principle (compare
Ac 16:3; 21:20-26);
an undesigned coincidence between the history and the Epistle, and so a
sure proof of genuineness.
to them that are under the law, as under the law--in things defined by
the law; such as ceremonies not then repugnant to Christianity. Perhaps
the reason for distinguishing this class from the former is that Paul
himself belonged nationally to "the Jews," but did not in creed
belong to the class of "them that are under the law." This view is
confirmed by the reading inserted here by the oldest manuscripts,
versions, and Fathers, "not being (that is, parenthetically, 'not that I
am') myself under the law."
21. To them . . . without law--that is, without revealed law: the
with 1Co 9:15).
as without law--not urging on them the ceremonies and "works of the
law," but "the hearing of faith"
Also discoursing in their own manner, as at Athens, with arguments from
their own poets
being not without law to God--"While thus conforming to others in
matters indifferent, taking care not to be without law in relation
to God, but responsible to law (literally, "IN LAW")
in relation to
Christ." This is the Christian's true position in relation to the world,
to himself, and to God. Everything develops itself according to its
proper law. So the Christian, though no longer subject to the literal
law as constraining him from without, is subject to an inward principle
or law, the spirit of faith in Christ acting from within as the germ of
a new life. He does not in the Greek (as in English Version)
say "under the law (as he does in
to Christ"; but uses the milder term, "in . . . law,"
responsible to law. Christ was responsible to the law for us, so
that we are no longer responsible to it
(Ga 3:13, 24),
but to Him, as the members to the Head
Christians serve Christ in newness of spirit, no longer in oldness of
the letter (that is, the old external law as such),
To Christ, as man's Head, the Father has properly delegated His
(Joh 5:22, 27);
whence here he substitutes "Christ" for "God" in the second clause,
"not without law to God, but under the law to Christ."
The law of Christ is the law of love
22. gain the weak--that is, establish, instead of being a
stumbling-block to inexperienced Christians
"Weak in the faith." ALFORD
thinks the "weak" are not Christians at all,
for these have been already "won"; but those outside the Church, who are
yet "without strength" to believe
But when "weak" Christians are by the condescending love of
stronger brethren kept from falling from faith, they are well said to
be "gained" or won.
by all means . . . some--The gain of even "some" is worth the
expenditure of "all means." He conformed himself to the feelings of each
in the several classes, that out of them all he might gain some.
23. partaker thereof--Greek, "fellow partaker": of the Gospel
blessings promised at Christ's coming: "with" (not as English Version, "you":
but) them, namely, with those thus
"gained" by me to the Gospel.
24. Know ye not--The Isthmian games, in which the foot race was a
leading one, were of course well known, and a subject of patriotic pride
to the Corinthians, who lived in the immediate neighborhood. These
periodical games were to the Greeks rather a passion than a mere
amusement: hence their suitableness as an image of Christian
in a race--Greek, "in a race course."
all . . . one--Although we knew that one alone could be saved, still
it Would be well worth our while to run [BENGEL]. Even in the Christian
race not "all" who enter on the race win
So run, that ye may obtain--said parenthetically. These are the words
in which the instructors of the young in the exercise schools
(gymnasia) and the spectators on the race course exhorted their
pupils to stimulate them to put forth all exertions. The gymnasium
was a prominent feature in every Greek city. Every candidate had to
take an oath that he had been ten months in training, and that he would
violate none of the regulations
1Ti 4:7, 8).
He lived on a strict self-denying diet, refraining from wine and
pleasant foods, and enduring cold and heat and most laborious
discipline. The "prize" awarded by the judge or umpire was a chaplet of
green leaves; at the Isthmus, those of the indigenous pine, for which
parsley leaves were temporarily substituted
The Greek for "obtain" is fully obtain. It is in vain to
begin, unless we persevere to the end
(Mt 10:22; 24:13;
The "so" expresses, Run with such perseverance in the heavenly
course, as "all" the runners exhibit in the earthly "race" just spoken
of: to the end that ye may attain the prize.
25. striveth--in wrestling: a still more severe contest than the foot
is temperate--So Paul exercised self-denial, abstaining from claiming
sustenance for the sake of the "reward," namely, to "gain the more"
(1Co 9:18, 19).
corruptible--soon withering, as being only of fir leaves taken from
the fir groves which surrounded the Isthmian race course or stadium.
(1Pe 1:4; 5:4;
"Crown" here is not that of a king (which is expressed by a different
Greek word, namely, "diadem"), but a wreath or
26. I--Paul returns to his main subject, his own self-denial, and
his motive in it.
run, not as uncertainly--not as a runner uncertain of the goal. Ye
Corinthians gain no end in your entering idol temples or eating idol
meats. But I, for my part, in all my acts, whether in my becoming
"all things to all men," or in receiving no sustenance from my converts,
have a definite end in view, namely, to "gain the more." I know what 1
aim at, and how to aim at it. He who runs with a clear aim, looks
straightforward to the goal, makes it his sole aim, casts away every
(Heb 12:1, 2),
is indifferent to what the by-standers say, and sometimes even a fall
only serves to rouse him the more [BENGEL].
not as one that beateth the air--instead of beating the adversary.
Alluding to the sciamachia or sparring in the school in sham-fight
wherein they struck out into the air as if at an imaginary adversary.
The real adversary is Satan acting on us through the flesh.
27. keep under--literally, "bruise the face under the eyes," so as to
render it black and blue; so, to chastise in the most sensitive
part. Compare "mortify the deeds of the body,"
It is not ascetic fasts or macerations of the body which are here
recommended, but the keeping under of our natural self-seeking,
so as, like Paul, to lay ourselves out entirely for the great work.
my body--the old man and the remainders of lust in my flesh. "My
body," so far as by the flesh it opposes the spirit
Men may be severe to their bodies and yet indulge their lust. Ascetic
"neglect of the body" may be all the while a more subtile "satisfying
of the flesh"
Unless the soul keep the body under, the body will get above the soul.
The body may be made a good servant, but is a bad master.
bring it into subjection--or bondage, as a slave or servant
led away captive; so the Greek.
preached--literally, "heralded." He keeps up the image from the races.
The heralds summoned the candidates for the foot race into the race
course [PLATO, Laws, 8.833],
and placed the crowns on the brows of
the conquerors, announcing their names [BENGEL]. They probably
proclaimed also the laws of the combat; answering to the preaching of the apostles
[ALFORD]. The The Christian herald is also a
combatant, in which respect he is distinguished from the herald at
a castaway--failing shamefully of the prize myself, after I have
called others to the contest. Rejected by God, the Judge of the
Christian race, notwithstanding my having, by my preaching, led others
to be accepted. Compare the equivalent term, "reprobate,"
Paul implies, if such earnest, self-denying watchfulness over himself
be needed still, with all his labors for others, to make his own
calling sure, much more is the same needed by the Corinthians, instead
of their going, as they do, to the extreme limit of Christian