1 Corinthians 9:19-22

Paul’s Use of His Freedom

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.

1 Corinthians 9:19 in Other Translations

KJV
19 For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.
ESV
19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.
NLT
19 Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ.
MSG
19 Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people:
CSB
19 For although I am free from all people, I have made myself a slave to all, in order to win more people.

1 Corinthians 9:19-22 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 9:19-22 In-Context

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.
23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

Cross References 10

  • 1. ver 1
  • 2. 2 Corinthians 4:5; Galatians 5:13
  • 3. Matthew 18:15; 1 Peter 3:1
  • 4. Acts 16:3; Acts 21:20-26; Romans 11:14
  • 5. S Romans 2:12
  • 6. Romans 2:12,14
  • 7. Galatians 6:2
  • 8. S Romans 14:1; S 1 Corinthians 2:3
  • 9. 1 Corinthians 10:33
  • 10. S Romans 11:14
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