1 Corinthians 9 Study Notes


9:1-2 Paul offers a rhetorical reply to those who questioned (“examine,” v. 3) his apostolic ministry.

9:3-6 Paul’s “rights” as an apostle, which were exercised by other apostles, included (1) the right to be compensated for his apostolic service; (2) the right to take a believing wife; and (3) the right to refrain from outside work, devoting himself entirely to ministry. Paul did not always choose to exercise these rights (e.g., Ac 18:1-3; 20:33-35; Php 4:14-17).

9:7 Paul’s point that apostles have a right to material provisions is illustrated from ordinary life.

9:8-11 Paul uses a greater-to-lesser argument to justify his right to an allowance. If he has supplied spiritual things (the greater) to the Corinthians, surely he ought to receive material benefits (the lesser) from them in return.

9:12 Now Paul uses a lesser-to-greater argument to support his right to a living wage. If those who presently labored among the Corinthians received wages, how much more should the one who had founded the church? In response to those who said that Paul was illegitimate because the church did not support him (cp. 2Co 10; 12), he declared that he had yielded this right to a wage so he would not hinder the gospel of Christ.

9:13 Paul makes his point here from the Mosaic law.

9:14 The Lord has commanded may refer to Lk 10:4-8, where among other things Jesus says, “The [gospel] worker is worthy of his wages.”

9:15 Paul’s ultimate point is made here. Although he had those rights, he gave them up for the gospel.

9:16-17 I am compelled to preach alludes to Paul’s commission at Damascus as a “chosen instrument” (Ac 9:15) who had been given a stewardship to discharge the message of the gospel to the nations (1Co 4:1). Paul had not chosen missions work as a profession. Rather, God chose it for him.

9:18 Though Paul felt bound as Christ’s servant to fulfill his commission (Rm 1:1), his obligation to preach the gospel was rewarding to him. He took such pleasure in it that he could willingly forego his right to compensation.

9:19 Paul as free from all (cp. v. 1) put forward his motive for making himself a slave (lit “I enslaved myself”). He did it in order to win more people.

9:20-22 Paul’s “self-imposed slavery” gave him the freedom to accommodate Jews and Gentiles alike and therefore speak the gospel in a forthright manner, unhindered by cultural hang-ups. He exemplified this freedom among Jews when he circumcised Timothy (whose mother was Jewish) to maximize the gospel witness in Jewish areas (Ac 16:3). Among Gentiles who were without the law, he yielded his rights in order to maximize the gospel’s advance. For example, he would not take a wage if taking a wage would cause those “without the law” to stumble. The phrase not without God’s law but under the law of Christ refers to Paul as one who had the right under God’s law to receive a wage (cp. 9:8-10), yet among Gentiles he yielded that right.

9:23 “In the final analysis it is the gospel that determines conduct” (Mark Taylor).

9:24-27 Like hard-driven runners and boxers, Paul had a single-minded focus. His exercise of self-control was aimed at keeping him from being disqualified. “Disqualified” does not mean loss of salvation, which Paul elsewhere said is impossible (Rm 8:38-39; cp. Jn 10:28-30), but rather failure to fulfill his God-given commission to evangelize the nations (Ac 9:15; 13:2; Rm 1:1).

9:24-26a If athletes compete by the rules and master self-control in everything, all for the purpose of winning a perishable crown, how much more should Christians discipline themselves for an imperishable crown?

9:26b-27 Paul viewed his boxing opponent as his own body. When it resisted giving up rights and liberties, he brought it under strict control (lit “I enslave it”). Paul had already stated that he endured everything (v. 12), made himself a slave to all (v. 19), and exercised self-control (v. 25) to allow a hearing for the gospel (by not taking a wage).