1 Corinthians 9
The Apostleship of Paul.
SUMMARY.--Answer to Various Insinuations of Judaizers.
The Corinthians Had Proof of His Apostleship.
He Had the Right 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.
1, 2. 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 He was free also, and an apostle who had seen
and hence, could witness to his resurrection.
2. 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.
3-6. Have we not power to eat and to drink? To live at the charges
of the churches we have founded?
5. Have we not power to lead about a sister, etc.? 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.
Luke 6:15; Gal. 1:19.
6. Or have Barnabas and I only, etc. 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.
7-10. Who goeth a warfare at his own charges? Soldiers were paid
while on a campaign; but he and Barnabas were Christian soldiers. The
husbandman ate of the vineyard; but they worked in the vineyard
of the Lord. The feeder of a flock drank of its milk, but they
were feeders of the flock of God.
8. Say I these things as a man? Human affairs teach our right to
be sustained, but the law of Moses teaches the same lesson.
9. Thou shalt not muzzle the ox, etc. See
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.
Doth God take care of the oxen? Was this enactment made solely
for the benefit of the oxen? Or was not it rather to teach those who
did a work had a right to live off of that work? The latter,
11-14. If we have sown to you in spiritual things. Preached the
gospel, converted them, built them up in Christ. This conserved their
Carnal things. An earthly support.
12. 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 power. 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
13. 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.
14. 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
Matt. 10:9, 10.
15-18. 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.
16. For though I preach * * * 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.
17. If I do this thing willingly. If he preached voluntarily, he
might then claim an earthly reward.
But if against my will. If I do this as a servant of Christ
upon whom the service is laid; then he has a stewardship. (See
Revision.) In that case he has the obligations of a steward. It is his
duty to feed the Master's servants.
18. What then is my reward? 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.
19-23. For though I be 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.
20. 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,
and circumcised Timothy.
He observed the law to reach those who kept law.
21. To them 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.
22. To the weak I became as weak. Adapted himself to their
weakness as he had directed the "strong"
at Corinth to do.
I am made all things, etc. While steadfastly keeping Christ's
law he adapted himself to all men in the hope of gaining them.
23. And I do all things. 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.
24-27. They which run in a race, run all, etc. 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. Only one, the
foremost, received a prize. Hence the lesson,
so run that you may obtain; outstrip all others if possible.
The Isthmian games, among the most famous of Greece, were celebrated at
25. 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
(1 Peter 5:4).
26. 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.
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.
27. But I keep my body under. I buffet my body (Revision). He
puts the body down by his blows, by self denial for Christ. It shall
not be his master, but his servant. He keeps it under lest, after
having preached to others, he should be rejected; 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."
Surely, he should "give all diligence to make our calling and election
In this worldly, self-seeking, luxurious age "we should give the more
earnest heed to the things which we have heard."