Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?
If I am not an apostle to others, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
My defense to those who examine me is this:
Don't we have the right to eat and drink?
Don't we have the right to be accompanied by a Christian wife, like the other apostles, the Lord's brothers, and Cephas?
Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working?
Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its fruit? Or who shepherds a flock and does not drink the milk from the flock?
Am I saying this from a human perspective? Doesn't the law also say the same thing?
For it is written in the law of Moses, Do not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain. Is God really concerned with oxen?
Or isn't He really saying it for us? Yes, this is written for us, because he who plows ought to plow in hope, and he who threshes should do so in hope of sharing the crop.
If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?
If others share this authority over you, don't we even more? However, we have not used this authority; instead we endure everything so that we will not hinder the gospel of Christ.
Do you not know that those who perform the temple services eat the food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the offerings of the altar?
In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should earn their living by the gospel.
But I have used none of these rights, and I have not written this to make it happen that way for me. For it would be better for me to die than for anyone to deprive me of my boast!
For if I preach the gospel, I have no reason to boast, because an obligation is placed on me. And woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!
For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if unwillingly, I am entrusted with a stewardship.
What then is my reward? To preach the gospel and offer it free of charge, and not make full use of my authority in the gospel.
For although I am free from all people, I have made myself a slave to all, in order to win more people.
To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win Jews; to those under the law, like one under the law-though I myself am not under the law-to win those under the law.
To those who are outside the law, like one outside the law-not being outside God's law, but under the law of Christ-to win those outside the law.
To the weak I became weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by all means save some.
Now I do all this because of the gospel, that I may become a partner in its benefits.
Do you not know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.
Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.
Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly, or box like one who beats the air.
Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.