1 Corinthians 9:1-18

Paul’s Rights as an Apostle

1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord?
2 Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
3 This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me.
4 Don’t we have the right to food and drink?
5 Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas[a] ?
6 Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?
7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk?
8 Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing?
9 For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”[b] Is it about oxen that God is concerned?
10 Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.
11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?
12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.
13 Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar?
14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.
15 But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast.
16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!
17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me.
18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.

1 Corinthians 9:1-18 Meaning and Commentary

INTRODUCTION TO 1 CORINTHIANS 9

The principal things in this chapter are the proof of the apostle's office and authority; arguments for his own maintenance, and the maintenance of Gospel ministers; reasons why he did not make use of his right and privilege in this respect: and the whole is concluded with an exhortation to diligence and perseverance in the Christian course of life, of which he himself was an example. He begins with his office, as an apostle, and proves it; partly by his independency on men, not having his call and mission from them; and partly by his corporeal sight of Christ, and the authority which he in person received from him; and also by the success of his ministry among the Corinthians, 1Co 9:1, wherefore, whatever might be objected to him by other persons, they had no reason to object to his apostleship, seeing they, being converted under his ministry, were so many seals of it, 1Co 9:2, and since his call to the ministry was firm and valid, he had a right, as other ministers, to a maintenance of himself and family, should he have any, from the churches, without labouring with his own hands, 1Co 9:3-6, which he proves from the law of nature and nations, exemplified in the cases of soldiers, planters of vineyards, and keepers of flocks, who by virtue of their calling and service have a right to a livelihood, between whom, and ministers of the Gospel, there is some resemblance, 1Co 9:7, and also from the law of Moses, particularly the law respecting the ox, which was not to be muzzled when it tread out the corn; and which he observes is to be understood, not only and barely in the letter of oxen, but of ministers of the word, who are as husbandmen that plough and thresh in hope, and therefore should be partakers of their hope, 1Co 9:8-10. Moreover, the apostle argues the right of the maintenance of the ministers of the Gospel, from the justice and equity of the thing, that seeing they minister spiritual things, it is but reasonable that they should receive temporal ones, 1Co 9:11, and which the apostle argues for himself, and Barnabas, as from the instances of other apostles, 1Co 9:5,6, so from the examples of those that succeeded him in Corinth, who were maintained by that church; though he did not think fit, when among them, to claim his right, and make use of his power, lest any check should be put to the progress of the Gospel, 1Co 9:12. And he goes on to make this point clear and manifest from the case of, the priests and Levites under the former dispensation, who ministering in holy things, had a provision made for them, 1Co 9:13. And lastly, from the constitution and appointment of Christ himself, who has ordained it as a law of his, that the preachers of the Gospel should live of it, 1Co 9:14, though the apostle himself did not make use of this his privilege; nor would he ever make use of it, especially at Corinth, for which he gives his reasons; and his principal one was, that his glorying might not be made void, 1Co 9:15 which did not lie in preaching the Gospel, for that he was obliged to do, 1Co 9:16, for if he had engaged in it of his own accord, he would have had his reward; but since it was through necessity, he could not claim any, 1Co 9:17, or if any, it could be no other than to preach the Gospel "gratis", and without charge, which was the thing he gloried in, 1Co 9:18, and thus, though he lived independent of men, both with respect to his office and his maintenance, yet in order to gain souls to Christ, and be the instrument of their salvation, he became a servant to all, 1Co 9:19, who are distributed into three sorts, the Jews that were under the law, 1Co 9:20, the Gentiles that were without the law, 1Co 9:21, and weak Christians, 1Co 9:22, all which he did, not with any lucrative view to himself, but for the sake of the Gospel, that he might partake of that, and of the glory he was called unto by it, 1Co 9:23 which, and not temporal things, he was looking unto, and pressing after; and which he illustrates by a metaphor taken from the Grecian games, well known to the Corinthians, particularly that of running races, in which all ran, but one only had the prize: wherefore he exhorts the Corinthians to run in like manner, that they may obtain the prize which he mentions, and describes as an incorruptible crown, in opposition to a corruptible one, which others strove for, 1Co 9:24,25, and to this he animates by his own example and conduct, which he expresses in terms borrowed from racers and wrestlers, expressive of his humility, sobriety, and temperance; which things he exercised, that whilst he was a preacher to others, he might not be worthy of reproof and disapprobation himself, 1Co 9:26,27.

1 Corinthians 9:1-18 In-Context

1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord?
2 Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
3 This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me.
4 Don’t we have the right to food and drink?
5 Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas ?
6 Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?
7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk?
8 Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing?
9 For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned?
10 Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.
11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?
12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.
13 Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar?
14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.
15 But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast.
16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!
17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me.
18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.
19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.
20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.
21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.
22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.

Cross References 28

  • 1. ver 19
  • 2. S 1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 12:12
  • 3. S 1 Corinthians 15:8
  • 4. 1 Corinthians 3:6; 1 Corinthians 4:15
  • 5. 2 Corinthians 3:2,3
  • 6. ver 14; S Acts 18:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:6
  • 7. 1 Corinthians 7:7,8
  • 8. S Matthew 12:46
  • 9. S 1 Corinthians 1:12
  • 10. S Acts 4:36
  • 11. 2 Timothy 2:3,4
  • 12. Deuteronomy 20:6; Proverbs 27:18; 1 Corinthians 3:6,8
  • 13. Deuteronomy 25:4; 1 Timothy 5:18
  • 14. Deuteronomy 22:1-4; Proverbs 12:10
  • 15. S Romans 4:23,24
  • 16. Proverbs 11:25; 2 Timothy 2:6
  • 17. ver 14; Romans 15:27; Galatians 6:6
  • 18. ver 15,18; S Acts 18:3
  • 19. 2 Corinthians 6:3; 2 Corinthians 11:7-12
  • 20. Leviticus 6:16,26; Deuteronomy 18:1
  • 21. Matthew 10:10; S 1 Timothy 5:18
  • 22. ver 12,18; S Acts 18:3
  • 23. 2 Corinthians 11:9,10
  • 24. Romans 1:14; Acts 9:15; Acts 26:16-18
  • 25. 1 Corinthians 3:8,14
  • 26. 1 Corinthians 4:1; Galatians 2:7; Colossians 1:25
  • 27. 2 Corinthians 11:7; 2 Corinthians 12:13
  • 28. ver 12,15

Footnotes 2