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Study Notes on 1 Corinthians 9

1 Corinthians 9

So at first this chapter seems disjointed from the previous, but chapter 8-10 all have a current of addressing the same issue about meat offered to idols and the Christian responsibility to put love, and edification, first.


We then see that those that preach the gospel have a right to be supported by those to whom they minister.


Albert Barnes writes, “To all this he replies in this chapter, and the main drift and design of his reply is, to show that he acted on the principle suggested in 1 Corinthians 8:13, that of denying himself; and consequently, that though he had a right to maintenance, yet that the fact that he did not urge that right was no proof that he was not sent from God, but was rather a proof of his being actuated by the high and truly principles which ought to influence those who were called to this office.”


1 Am I am not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?

Before Paul goes on to talk about HIS rights, his knowledge, his freedom, he first establishes his authority as an apostle. Evidently some in Corinth doubted his authority. But he had seen the risen Lord Christ!


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.

A qualification of being an apostle is having seen Jesus Christ and being sent by Him. There are no apostles today; people that allege apostleship are frauds. See 2 Cor. 12:12; 1 Cor 4:9; 1 Cor 15:7-9. Furthermore, the title of apostle was never given for evangelists or leaders of churches.


The conversion of the Corinthians by Paul is proof of his ministry, proof of his legitimate apostleship.


3 Mine answer to them that do examine me is this,

Paul’s answer (απολογία) to those that would judge him is what he stated in the previous two verses, as well as the next few verses.


4 Have we not power to eat and to drink?

Does he not have the power or the right to eat and drink at the expense of the church. Yes, of course.


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?

A somewhat difficult verse but the meaning seems to be that not only should a minister of the gospel be supported by what he does but so should his family.


This also tells us that most of the apostles were married. We know Peter was married.


6 Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?

“Both they and we are apostles and are free, and have seen Christ, and have exhibited the works of Apostles. Therefore we likewise have a right both to live without working and to be supported by our disciples.” – Chrysostom


Apparently most of the disciples were supported but Paul and Barnabas, of all people, largely supported themselves. At least Paul (and maybe Barnabas) was a tentmaker (Acts 18:3).


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?

“Not even do heathen governors, cruel and unjust as they are, require their soldiers to endure service and peril and live on their own means. How then could Christ ever have required this?” -- Chrysostom


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?

The law for the humane treatment of working animals. Deuteronomy 25:4 Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.


“In those days, grain was broken away from its husk by an ox walking on it repeatedly (usually in a circle). It was cruel to force the ox to walk over all that grain, yet to muzzle him so he couldn’t eat of it.” – David Guzik


A minister or preacher of the gospel has a right to be supported by the people he is overseeing. This is a big point in this chapter. Give generously to your local church. There is no more important job than preaching the gospel.


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.

Warren Wiersbe, “Since oxen cannot read, this verse was not written for them.”


The law was given as part of a principle that would continue that says they which labor should reap from their labor. The ox should take part in what he does, so should the minister of the gospel.


11 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?

Carnal things are nothing compared to receiving the gospel and eternal life.


Albert Barnes, “Are not the affairs of the soul and of eternity as important to a man's family as those of time and the welfare of the body? So the music-master and the dancing master are paid, and paid cheerfully and liberally; and yet can there be any comparison between the value of their services and those of the minister of the gospel?”


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.

If the church was supporting other disciples why not first and foremost supporting Paul and Barnabas? Doesn’t make sense!


However, they have not used that power of taking collections for their work! This is not the only church where Paul gave freely at his own expense so that nobody could point a finger at him alleging he was motivated by greed. See 1 Thessalonians 2:9-10. Also 2 Corinthians 11:7-9.


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 altar are partakers with the altar?

The priests and Levites were supported by their temple service (Numbers 18:24 among other places).


14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.

Just as those in service to the Lord in the OT were provided for, so should bearers of the gospel be supported here in the NT (also see Galatians 6:6; Matthew 10:10). Ordained means it’s a requirement, a command.


They should “live” of the gospel. Not get rich, but their livelihood should be supported.


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.

His boasting or “joying” was in preaching the gospel at his own expense and his own hunger and struggles.


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!

I kinda feel like we should all be able to say this. We shouldn’t pat ourselves on the back for preaching the gospel, we should want to do it, we should be compelled to do it. Paul is going to preach the gospel whether he is compensated for it or not.


Galatians 1:10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.


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.

This and the next verse have been variously understood and they certainly have some difficulty.


Paul does preach willingly and out of love for the gospel and saving people, but he has also been entrusted with his office and his mission. So his glorying, or joying (verse 15) is not in doing what he should do but in doing it at his own expense even though he deserves compensation. The reward he looks more forward to is the reward I heaven.


From a friend: “So I think in verse 17 he’s elaborating from verse 16 that if it was from his will he preached, he would be more inclined to take funds from them or seek earthly rewards. However, it is a charge from God that he preaches.”


William Burkitt: “The strength of the apostle's argument lies here: ‘No man can reasonably boast of, glory in, or expect an extraordinary reward for, the doing of that under a command from his superior to do, and that under a penalty too.’


Now this was his case: necessity was laid upon him to preach the gospel, but no necessity but what he laid upon himself to preach it freely; therefore for him to do it without demanding any reward from them for doing it, this made it matter of glorying to him, which he declares he had rather die than any should take from him.


But was it the apostle's own glory that he was thus fond of, and concerned for, that he had rather lose his life, than lose?


No, it was the glory of God, the honour of the gospel, that was so inexpressibly dear unto him…”


This is all an expansion on his point in 1 Cor. 8:13 and giving himself as an example to the Corinthians that have the “right” to something doesn’t always mean it should be used.


For these babes in Christ at Corinth, Paul didn’t take support from them so they would better see his sincerity and authority as an apostle.


Rather than, “a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me” we could read, “I am entrusted with stewardship.”



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.

Paul had a right to a support. This power he might urge. But to urge it in his circumstances with this church and others would be a hinderance of 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.

“Paul is free from all human claims because he preached the gospel without getting any praise for it and never wanted anything from anyone, except their salvation.” -- Ambrosiaster


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;

Great verse to show Christians we are not under the law.


If Paul was already under the law, he wouldn’t have to become as those that are under the law in order to convert them.


Becoming as a jew means here that he would comply with their rites, and customs, things like that. He didn’t go out of his way to offend. Like “when in Rome”.


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.

To gentiles he didn’t try and push ceremonies from the Mosaic Law on them (see Romans 2:14-15). He followed whatever customs they had. He’s not saying he went without any laws at or without right and wrong, but that he followed Christ in what he did as led by the Holy Spirit.


Galatians 6:2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.


Romans 13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the 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.

Whatever it takes, as long as it is not sinful, and abstaining from whatever freedoms he might have in order to save souls. This is tremendous love.


If Jesus washed the feet of sinners, what can there be that we think we are too lofty to endure?


1 Corinthians 10:33, “Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.”


24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.

Paul gives his own example that he is running for an incorruptible crown as the next verse says. He is running for treasure in heaven, and he’s running in a way to get 1st place. We shouldn’t participate in Christianity for a pat on the back. There are no prizes for doing the minimum. We should strive and do our best, prioritize following Christ.


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.

These verses are all taken from Olympic games or Greek games of various kinds. So just like any serious athlete will be temperate in all carnal things (diet, sleep, working out, cardio, etc.), and they discipline themselves for perishable worldly prizes, we are after something incorruptible and eternal! How much more should we be striving for rewards in heaven?!


26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:

Paul is running this race and advises the Corinthians to do the same. None of this is for salvation of course. That’s not anywhere in view here. He’s not beating the air, he’s not shadowboxing, he’s in the fight for real.


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.

We are at war with our flesh, but our body and our work for the Lord must be subject to the Holy Spirit. It takes effort to run this race, and we don’t want to be a castaway from the “competition”. This isn’t about hell, but we can blow it and lose rewards (see 1 Cor 3) or lose our testimony. It’s kind of incredible that even Paul was even concerned about this for him!

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