Wednesday, March 22nd, 2023
the Fourth Week of Lent
the Fourth Week of Lent
There are 18 days til Easter!
Contending for the Faith Contending for the Faith
Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ ctf/ 1-corinthians-9.html. 1993-2022.
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/
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Paul’s Defense of His Apostleship
Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?
In chapter eight, Paul deals with the problem of Christian liberties that should never be forced upon others. Beginning here and continuing through chapter ten, verse 13, he uses liberties associated with his apostleship as an example of how all Christians should act about liberties. As an example, he explains that he refused to exercise his liberty in regard to being supported by the church. As an apostle it was Paul’s right to be supported financially by the church; however, he refused the support to accommodate those who opposed him, even though doing so forced him into many hardships. Paul says, "Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me" (Acts 20:34). To the church in Thessalonica, he says, "For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God" (1 Thessalonians 2:9).
Paul wants the Corinthians to know that even though he refused the support it was his right (his liberty) to be so supported; he refused it for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead of admiring him for refusing support, however, the Corinthians used the situation as proof that Paul did not consider himself an apostle. Paul writes about this matter in his second Corinthian letter:
I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing. Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong. Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved. But be it so, I did not burden you: nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile. Did I make a gain of you by any of them whom I sent unto you? I desired Titus, and with him I sent a brother. Did Titus make a gain of you? walked we not in the same spirit? walked we not in the same steps? Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? we speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying (2 Corinthians 12:11-19).
Paul poses four rhetorical questions. The best Greek texts and most translations (example: RV, RSV, NASV, NIV and many others) as well as the context of this passage show that the order of these questions in the King James Version is different from the original Greek version. Instead of "Am I not an apostle?" as the first question, it is "Am I not free?" referring to Paul’s freedom to take advantage of his liberties. The question "Am I not an apostle?" goes with the third question: "Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?" Seeing Jesus was a requirement for a person to be a true apostle.
am I not free: The word "free" (eleutheros) means "unrestrained" (Strong #1658) or "not bound by an obligation" (Thayer 204-1-1658). Paul does not have reference to freedom from sin but, instead, freedom from external laws (for example: freedom from the law of Moses) as mentioned in Galatians 4:22-31. In writing to the church in Galatia, Paul concludes: "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage" (Galatians 5:1). A person under the law of Christ is "free" from any other spiritual law--he is not under obligation to obey other laws.
Am I not an apostle: Throughout Paul’s association with the Corinthians, he was having to prove and reprove his apostleship. He says, "Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds" (2 Corinthians 12:12). These signs were evidence of his apostleship (see notes on 1:1 about Paul’s apostleship).
have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord: There are three qualifications necessary to be an apostle of Jesus Christ. The first qualification is that the person must be called of God. Paul met this qualification. In the introduction of this letter, he refers to himself as one who was "called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God..." (1:1).
The second qualification necessary to be an apostle is that the person had to see Jesus and be a witness of His resurrection. Peter says, "Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection" (Acts 1:22). Paul’s enemies claimed he did not see Jesus after his resurrection; therefore, his enemies argued that the other apostles had advantages over him because they had actually seen Jesus. Paul negates this idea by referring to at least three different occasions when he saw Jesus. The first time he personally saw Jesus was as he was traveling to Damascus.
And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost (Acts 9:3; Acts 9:17).
The second time he saw Jesus was in Jerusalem:
And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; And saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me (Acts 22:17).
This same occasion is referred to in Acts 9 :
And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem (9:26-28).
The third time Paul saw Jesus was while he was in Corinth.
And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized. Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city (Acts 18:8-10).
There were probably many other visions; however, these are the ones recorded. He speaks of seeing Jesus once again in 1 Corinthians 15:8: "And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time."
are not ye my work in the Lord: The third qualification necessary to be an apostle is the person’s fruits, that is, his successful work. Paul’s work was proved in Corinth and in many other places. By "are not ye my work," Paul means that he had converted the Corinthians from heathenistic practices to Christianity. The Corinthians, therefore, were the proof of Paul’s apostleship. Paul says, "For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel" (4:15). "In the Classical writers also, those who are any one’s pupils are said to be their work" (Bloomfield, Vol. II 448).
By the words "in the Lord" being attached to "are not ye my work," Paul indicates that he does not claim the Corinthians as his personal success. They were merely proof of his working for Christ. The Corinthians being Paul’s work "in the Lord" signify "in respect of the Lord and his religion" (Bloomfield, Vol. II 448). They became Christians because Paul taught them about Christ.
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.
If I be not an apostle unto others: By Paul’s words "If I be not an apostle unto others," he means, "If I be not an apostle ’in the eyes of others’" (The Expositor’s Greek Testament, Vol. II 846). Even if others do not think of Paul as an apostle, he should have been considered one by the Corinthians. The "others" are the Christians whom Paul had not had the opportunity to visit. They had not been around Paul since his conversion; and, therefore, they questioned his apostleship. It appears that Paul, in some ways, understood the feelings of these other people; but he did not understand how the Corinthians could believe that he was not an apostle.
yet doubtless I am to you: The words "yet doubtless" (ge) are "a primary particle of emphasis" (Strong #1065), indicating Paul’s astonishment of the Corinthians’ hesitation in believing that he is an apostle of Christ. The Corinthians are now Christians and have been blessed with many spiritual gifts because Paul came to them teaching the gospel of the crucified Christ. In chapter one, Paul expresses his thankfulness to God for these gifts bestowed upon the Corinthians when he says,
That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1:5-7).
Because of their many spiritual gifts, the Christians in Corinth were the ones Paul would draw attention to as proof of his apostleship when others had doubt. The Corinthians could not deny Paul’s apostolic work among them because to do so would also require them to deny their own gifts and their own salvation.
for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord: The term "seal" (sphragis) means "that by which anything is confirmed, proved, (or) authenticated" (Thayer 609-2-4973). For example, Paul speaks of circumcision being a "seal" of righteousness when he says,
And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also (Romans 4:11).
By referring to the Corinthians as "the seal of (his) apostleship," Paul is saying that their being "in the Lord" is his proof, guarantee, and authenticity that he holds "the office and dignity of the apostle of Christ" (Thayer 68-1-651). As an apostle, Paul was sent to Corinth to establish a church upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. The church of Christ in Corinth verifies that Paul is an apostle of Jesus Christ.
Mine answer to them that do examine me is this,
The words "answer" and "examine" in the Greek, are actually legal expressions, indicating that Paul considers himself to be on trial over his apostleship. The word "answer" (apologia) refers to Paul’s "verbal defence" (Thayer 65-2-627); it is "a legal plea" (Strong #627) to those who "examine" (anakrino) or "hold(s) an investigation (to) interrogate" (Thayer 39-1-350) him about his apostleship.
Because of the punctuation of the King James Version, some writers (Lightfoot, Barnes, Lenski, Grosheide) take this statement to refer to what follows. However, it should be applied to Paul’s words in verse 2, as is believed by many scholars (Vine, The Expositor’s Greek Testament, Cambridge Greek Testament, Hodge, McGarvey, Lange, Meyer, and Alford). Paul’s apostleship is what is being called into question and not the "power" mentioned in verses 4-14. Because of Paul’s apostolic work, there is a large faithful congregation with members who are enriched "in all utterance and in all knowledge" in the city of Corinth.
"This" is Paul’s positive proof of being an apostle because it would have been impossible for such a work to be successful without the help of God. The proof of Paul’s apostleship is not the fact that he converted people to Christ, for many preachers have done the same, even though they are not apostles. The proof is in the conversion and the gifts of "utterance" and "knowledge" as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:5.
A Preacher’s Right to Be Supported Financially by the Church
Have we not power to eat and to drink? 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? Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?
Paul continues to ask rhetorical questions as he did in verse 1. In verses 4-6, Paul asks the fifth, sixth, and seventh questions of this chapter (the first 4 are found in verse 1). The word "power" (exousia) is the same word translated "liberty" in 1 Corinthians 8:9, and it means "power of choice, (or the) liberty of doing as one pleases" (Thayer 225-1-1849).
Have we not power to eat and to drink: The fifth question refers to the liberty of being supported by the church when one works for the church. Today’s English Version translates verse 4: "Don’t I have the right to be given food and drink for my work?"
Paul refers, not only to himself, but to the "we." It is difficult to know for sure whether Paul has reference to "we," the apostles or "we," referring only to himself and Barnabas as mentioned in verse 6. While it is true that all apostles have this same liberty, it seems obvious from the context that Paul was speaking of himself and Barnabas. He is asking, "Have we (Barnabas and I) not the liberty to eat and to drink at the expense of the churches?"
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: The sixth question refers to the liberty of having a family relationship or being married. The word "sister" and the word "wife" refer to the same person. Paul is saying, "To take about with us a sister as a wife, that is, a Christian wife" (Cambridge Greek Testament 137). The New International Version wonderfully translates: "Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us...?" The Revised Standard Version translates the passage: "Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a wife...?"
Notice that the wife must be a "sister" in Christ. "The word sister, like the words brother, brethren, is equivalent to ’member of the Christian Church’ (as is indicated) in Romans 16:1" (The Cambridge Bible 87), where Paul says, "I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea." By this sixth question, Paul is clearly stating that it is scripturally acceptable for the church to support a preacher (such as Barnabas) and his Christian wife while they are doing the Lord’s work.
Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working: The seventh question refers to the liberty of being released from manual labor while actively working for the Lord in converting lost souls. Paul certainly was not against working. He worked instead of being supported by the Corinthians: "And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it" (4:12). Paul wanted the Corinthians to know, however, that he, as an apostle, had just as much right to be supported financially as any other apostle.
It appears from the word "only" that Paul was the only apostle of Jesus not supported by the church. The mentioning of Barnabas as his traveling companion has reference to the period of time recorded in Acts chapters thirteen through fifteen. When Paul wrote this letter, Barnabas was not traveling with him; however, before contention arose between them, as recorded in Acts 15:39, they worked for their necessities when they were together; and the practice continued while in Corinth. From all indications Barnabas continued this practice after he and Mark left Paul. Paul and Barnabas, however, did have the scriptural right to be supported financially. Jesus says, "...for the labourer is worthy of his hire" (Luke 10:7).
In reference to the three liberties mentioned in verses 4-6, Paul claims the right to them but says that he has not taken advantage of any of them because he knew they could hinder his work. In chapter eight, Paul instructs the Corinthians to give up their liberties if they hinder the gospel; and now he gives up his liberties for the same reason. Since financial support from the church was a liberty, he has the right to accept or to refuse the support. He chose the latter as he indicates by saying,
Nevertheless we have not used this power (liberty); but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ....But I have used none of these things (liberties): 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 (12b, 15).
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?
Beginning with this verse and continuing through verse 14, Paul gives six arguments to prove the practice of financially supporting those who work for the Lord by preaching the gospel. The first argument concerns being paid for work rendered. Paul refers to war, vineyard, and flocks to prove that the apostles have the right to be supported for their work. These same examples are used by Jesus to prove other points of Christianity. He speaks of occasions of war in Luke 11:21-23 and Luke 14:31. The Lord speaks of vineyards in Matthew 20:1-16 and Matthew 21:28-31. He refers to flocks in Luke 12:32 and John 26:15-17. Paul uses "all three examples to show that in any profession there are certain rights and privileges no one denies" (Bratcher 82). As the soldier, farmer, and shepherd expect maintenance as the result of their work, likewise the man who preaches the gospel has a right to expect to be maintained by the gospel he preaches (see verse 14).
Paul’s three examples illustrate not only people who are supported from the proceeds of their jobs, but they also illustrate the work of a preacher.
Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges: The term "goeth a warfare" (strateuomai) means "to make a military expedition, to lead soldiers to war or to battle" (Thayer 590-1-4757). The reference is to a man who serves as a soldier. Strateuomai is translated "soldiers" in Luke 3:14. Many translations (NIV, NAS, RSV) render this phrase as "Who serves as a soldier at his own expense?"
The words "at his own charges (expense)" (opsonion) refer to his "pay" or to his "’rations’ served out in lieu of pay" (Expositor’s Greek Testament, Vol. II 847). Paul refers to the "wages" given to him by other churches so that he could work in Corinth when he says, "I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service" (2 Corinthians 11:8). The term "wages" is translated from the same word as "charges."
The Christian life is often compared to a warfare, and ministers are often referred to as soldiers. Paul says, "This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare" (1 Timothy 1:18). In his second letter to Timothy, Paul says, "Endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (2 Timothy 2:3). In the same way that a soldier is not expected to pay his own expenses when he is doing the work of a soldier, neither is a preacher of the gospel expected to support himself financially while waging war against evil.
who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof: This second illustration refers to a farmer who plants fruit. The farmer is allowed to eat and live of the fruit that he plants. This same teaching is mentioned by Moses when he says, "And what man is he that hath planted a vineyard, and hath not yet eaten of it? let him also go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man eat of it" (Deuteronomy 20:6). Also David says, "Whoso keepeth the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof: so he that waiteth on his master shall be honoured" (Proverb 27:18).
Paul’s comparison is clear. Both the farmer and the preacher plant--The farmer plants a vineyard and lives of the vineyard; likewise, the preacher plants (3:5-9) a church by preaching the gospel; and, therefore, he has the right to live of the gospel. Paul says, "Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel" (9:14).
or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock: This third illustration is of a shepherd. The word "feedeth" (poimaino) denotes more than providing food for the flock. It is defined as "to feed, to tend a flock, keep sheep" (Thayer 527-2-4165). The shepherd feeds, tends to, and sees to the welfare of the flock; and, therefore, he is expected to live off the milk that he receives from the flock. Likewise, a preacher of the gospel sees to the spiritual welfare of those under his charge by feeding them the "milk" (3:2) of God’s word; he continues to watch over and care for them as a father would care for his children (4:15); and therefore it is only right for him to be financially supported by them.
Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?
The second argument in support of paying gospel preachers is the idea that the principle is taught in the Old Testament. The three illustrations presented in verse 7 are logical and reasonable; but, beginning with this verse, Paul further proves the validity of his point by showing that the principle comes from the Old Testament. The logic he has presented does not come from man but from God.
Say I these things as a man: About this expression, Vincent says that the "question introduces another kind of evidence--that from Scripture" (III 230). The words "as a man" would be better translated to mean, "in accordance with man’s opinion" (Vine 120). The New International Version translates the passage, "Do I say this merely from a human point of view?" The New American Standard teaches the same idea by saying, "I am not speaking these things according to human judgment, am I?" The Revised Standard Version says, "Do I say this on human authority?"
or saith not the law the same also: Paul emphasizes that he is not dependent upon man’s reasoning but scriptural logic and illustrations for his proof that preachers of the gospel can be financially supported by the church. "The law" (nomos) refers to the "Mosaic law" (Thayer 427-2-3551) as is obvious from the first phrase in the next verse. Paul is asking, "Am I saying these things simply as any man would?" or "Am I referring to the teachings of the law of Moses?"
The Corinthians were acquainted with Moses’ law; and even though now the "law" had been abolished (Romans 7:12-25), it still contains many practical truths (Romans 7:12-25). Another example of the "law" teaching practical truths is found in chapter fourteen: "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law" (14:34). Many topics mentioned in the "law" (Old Testament) were brought over into the New Testament and even enhanced by Jesus. Jesus’ sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:17-48) gives many examples of Old Testament principles enhanced and strengthened by Jesus for Christians today. Jesus says:
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:17-20).
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? 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.
For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn: This Old Testament quote is taken from Deuteronomy 25:4: "Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn." "Treading out the corn" was the process of separating the grain from the husk by an oxen trampling them with his feet. The law of Moses prohibited tying the oxen’s mouth in order to keep it from eating some of the stalks while doing its work. The same principle is applied to preachers and other occupations (see 9:7).
Doth God take care for oxen?: Paul asks, "Doth God take care for oxen? Lenski says that Paul is asking, "You certainly do not think that it is only for the oxen that God cares" (359). Paul was looking for an emphatic "NO!" The pronoun "our" does not refer only to the apostles but to every man who works.
Paul’s illustration indicates that Old Testament statements about natural and physical things are sometimes spoken to convey spiritual truths. Certainly God cares for all of His creation, even the oxen; however, the principles applied to the oxen are also to be applied to men--they are to be fed or supported from the work they do. Paul may have used these particular illustrations because Jesus uses them when He says:
And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours (John 4:36-38).
Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: The word "altogether" (pantos) means "doubtless, surely, certainly" (Thayer 476-2-3843). The translation "altogether" is easily misunderstood and would probably be better understood by using the word "assuredly." The same Greek word pantos is translated "surely" in Luke 4:23. Paul is not teaching that God’s only purpose for giving this Old Testament law is to teach that preachers of the gospel are entitled to financial support. The Lord’s statement about the oxen does apply to the oxen; however, Paul is asking this question to cause the Corinthians to think and apply the same principles of the oxen having the right to eat as a result of their labors to himself as an apostle.
that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope: Paul emphasizes his previous teaching by saying, "he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope." There are three readings of this phrase:
1. The Western or Greco-Latin says, "to partake of his hope."
2. The Alexandrine says, "with the hope of partaking."
3. The Byzantine says, "with the hope of partaking of his hope" (Godet 443-444).
Paul’s message is that the person who plows, plows in hope of eating from the fruit produced by his work. Likewise, he who threshes the corn in hope, threshes in hope of eating from his work. In the same manner, God expects those who work in preaching the gospel to live from the work done by them. Paul teaches this same concept to Timothy when he says, "For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward" (1 Timothy 5:18).
If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?
If we have sown unto you spiritual things: Paul’s third argument in support of paying gospel preachers deals with natural gratitude--receiving material things from the Corinthians for greater spiritual things that he has given to them. Paul uses the same logic in writing to the church at Rome when he says,
It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things (Romans 15:27).
Paul applies what he has said to his being rightfully supported by the church. The same principle applies to all preachers of the gospel; however, Paul is now specifically speaking of those who have labored in Corinth. Notice he says, "If we have sown unto you (the Corinthians)." No doubt, Paul has reference to those spoken of in his second letter to the Corinthian church: "For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timothy..." (2 Corinthians 1:19).
is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things: Two key words in this verse are "we" and "you" or "your." "We" sow great spiritual things to "you"; therefore, is it unreasonable for us to reap "your" lesser "carnal things," referring to necessities of life. Paul’s desire is for the Corinthians to realize that carnal things (such as food, clothing, and money) are insignificant when compared to the spiritual things he has given them in spreading the gospel to them. Paul’s illustration about "sowing" and "reaping" spiritual things is often found in the scriptures (John 4:37; Matthew 13:3-8).
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 others be partakers of this power over you: Paul’s fourth argument in favor of his right to be supported by the Corinthians is in the fact that they have willfully supported "others" of lesser quality than he--men who were not true apostles, many only claiming to be apostles (2 Corinthians 11:13). The term "power" is the same Greek word as is found in verse 4 and has reference to "liberties." Furthermore, these "other" men were teachers, but these teachers were not the ones who had "begotten them through the gospel" (4:15).
are not we rather: By the words "are not we rather" (mallon), Paul means, "Do we not have even a greater right, that is, do we not have ’more’ (Thayer 388-1-3123) right to this same liberty since we originally brought the gospel to you?"
Nevertheless we have not used this power: Throughout this chapter, Paul has taught the Corinthians the truth about his apostleship and his right to be supported by the church. He once again reminds them that even though he has the right to be supported by them, he has refused this liberty. Paul speaks of this situation again in his second letter to the Corinthians when he says,
Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely? I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service. And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself (2 Corinthians 11:7-9).
but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ: By refusing this liberty of financial support, Paul has been forced to endure many hardships ("hunger," "thirst," "cold," "nakedness," 2 Corinthians 11:27), but still he refuses their financial support, for fear that it may "hinder the gospel of Christ" or "hinder the progress of the gospel" (Thayer 145-2-1325).
It is difficult to know for certain how Paul’s receiving support from the Corinthians would have hindered the progress of the gospel unless it was that Paul’s enemies may have questioned his motives and claimed that he was preaching this gospel only for the money.
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?
Paul’s fifth argument to uphold his right of financial support from the Corinthians is in the well-known fact that the priests were always maintained by keeping a portion of the sacrifices that they offered (see comments on 8:1). Moses wrote of this in Deuteronomy:
The priests the Levites, and all the tribe of Levi, shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel: they shall eat the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and his inheritance. Therefore shall they have no inheritance among their brethren: the LORD is their inheritance, as he hath said unto them. And this shall be the priest’s due from the people, from them that offer a sacrifice, whether it be ox or sheep; and they shall give unto the priest the shoulder, and the two cheeks, and the maw. The firstfruits also of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the first of the fleece of thy sheep, shalt thou give him (Deuteronomy 18:1-4). (Also see Leviticus 6:16; Leviticus 6:26.)
Paul distinguishes between the Levites "minister(ing) about holy things" and the priests "wait(ing) at the altar." Both were done within the Temple; however, he distinguishes between them because neither did the work of the other, but both were freely allowed to eat from the altar.
The word "minister" (ergazomai) means "to work or perform" (Vincent, Vol. III 232). The Levites who "worked" in the temple would "live" (esthio) or would be allowed to "eat" (Thayer 252-2-2068) from things brought into the temple (for example from the tithes, first-fruits, show-bread, etc.). Likewise, the priests who "wait(ed)" (prosedreuo) or "attend(ed)" (Thayer 544-2-4332) at the altar would be allowed to "partake" (summerizomai) or "share jointly" (Strong #4829) at the altar. Lenski translates this verse by saying:
Do you not know that they who are engaged in working with the Temple things eat of the things from the Temple; they who are engaged in waiting on the altar of sacrifice have their portion with the altar of sacrifice? (366).
Paul’s message is the simple truth that people who work with others are entitled to be supported by them. The same idea is true with those who spend their time preaching the gospel of Christ. They are to be supported by those to whom they preach.
Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
Paul’s sixth, final, and most convincing argument to prove that he and all preachers of the gospel are entitled to financial support is that the Lord arranged it that way. The words "even so" point back to the truth presented in verse 13, that is, in the same way that workers in the Temple are supported by those in the Temple, those who preach the gospel should live of the gospel. Paul says that the Lord has "ordained" (diatasso) or has "arranged," "appointed," or "given order" (Thayer 142-2-1299) for those who preach the gospel to live of the gospel. The word translated "ordained" is used by Paul again in 1 Corinthians 11:34 about things that are "set in order." Paul’s strongest argument is that the order, given by the Lord, is for preachers to be supported by those to whom they preach. This is not man’s plan but the Lord’s plan. The apostles were forced to depend upon others for their livelihood, for Jesus instructs:
Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat (Matthew 10:9-10).
Luke records this same teaching of Jesus when He says, "And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house" (Luke 10:7). The same principle applies to all preachers of the gospel. They are not expected to have to provide for themselves.
I think it well to explain, because of the abuse of so-called preachers of the gospel, better known in today’s society as "tele-evangelists," that even though preachers have the right to be supported from the gospel, this right is not authorization to grow rich from the gospel. Paul’s teaching in this chapter is that the preachers should be "taken care of." They should be supported enough to live a well-maintained life. Barnes words it well by saying,
It is not that they should grow rich, or lay up treasures, or speculate in it, or become merchants, farmers, teachers, or bookmakers for a living; but it is that they should have such a maintenance as to constitute a livelihood. They should be made comfortable; not rich. They should receive so much as to keep their minds from being harassed with cares, and their families from want; not so much as to lead them to forget their dependence on God, or on the people. Probably the true rule is, that they should be able to live as the mass of the people among whom they labour live; that they should be able to receive and entertain the poor, and be willing to do it; and so that the rich also may not despise them, or turn away from their dwelling (161).
Paul has proved that it is his right to be supported by the church; however, beginning with the next verse, he elaborates on why he has chosen to support himself rather than taking advantage of this liberty.
Paul’s Personal Reason for Refusing Financial Support
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.
But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: Paul desires the Corinthians to understand two facts: First, he says, "I have ’used’ (chraomai) none of these things," he has "made use" (Thayer 670-2-5530) of none of these things. The words "these things" do not directly refer to the financial support from the Corinthians. If this were in Paul’s mind, he would have used the singular "this thing" instead of the plural "these things." Most likely, Paul is referring to the six arguments previously mentioned proving that he was entitled to be financially supported by the Corinthians.
And now, Paul is saying that even though he has given six arguments to prove that it was only right for him to be supported by the church, he has rejected this liberty and is not now accepting support. This truth is stated in verse 12 about himself, Timothy, and Silvanus; however, he now repeats it as a way to make his teaching more personal. He was talking about a plural "we," but now he speaks of a singular "I"--"I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me."
From this point to the end of the chapter, the apostle writes in the first person singular, revealing his inner thoughts respecting the conduct of his own ministry.
Secondly, Paul desires for the Corinthians to understand that he has not written these things as a way to encourage them to start supporting him financially in the future.
for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void: There is some disagreement as to where to place the words "for it were better for me to die." This disagreement comes from the fact that after Paul says, "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...," he suddenly breaks the sentence and starts a new one by saying, "that any man should make my glorying void." The Expositor’s Greek New Testament agrees closely with the Today’s English Version rendering: "But I haven’t made use of any of these rights, nor am I writing this now in order to claim such rights for myself. I would rather die first! Nobody is going to turn my rightful boast into empty words!" These authorities apply the words to the preceding statement, saying that Paul would rather die than to ask the Corinthians to pay for his work as an apostle or to "be dependent on the Corinthians’ pay" (The Expositor’s Greek New Testament, Vol. II 851).
This view is wrong. Paul stops in the middle of his statement, which might appear to be unkind or because he was hurrying to get to the part concerning his "glorying," to start again and explain why he, personally, has refused this liberty of being supported by the Corinthians. He says that it would have been better to die than for him not to be able to state, to his enemies, that he has not received support from them. The New International Version translates the passage as follows: "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. I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of this boast."
The "glorying" alluded to by Paul refers to his statements about never having received financial support from them. He knows that if he starts receiving support from them now some may use this as proof that his previous statements were "void" (kenoo) or "empty, hollow, (or) false" (Thayer 344-1-2758). In other words, in the past Paul had rejected the support from them because he feared some would claim he was preaching only for the money, and he realizes that such actions would "hinder the gospel of Christ" (verse 12). He also realizes that if he now starts receiving support from them his enemies would claim that all his teaching, even on this subject, is for the purpose of receiving money; therefore, he refuses their support and would choose death over accepting it or doing anything that would hinder the gospel.
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!
For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: The "glory" in this verse is not the same as "glorying" in verse 15. Verse 15 deals with "glorying" in the fact of not receiving financial support from the Corinthians, even though he was preaching the gospel. This verse, however, is speaking of "glorying" because he is preaching.
for necessity is laid upon me: Paul now states that he cannot "glory" in the fact that he is preaching the gospel because preaching is something he does out of "necessity laid upon" him. The Lord called the original twelve apostle just as He "called" Paul. They had the choice of accepting or rejecting their call to preach, but Paul was a "chosen vessel" for the Lord even before his conversion. In this sense, he had no choice. He had the choice to obey Christ or not, but he did not have a choice about preaching the gospel. If he chose to obey Christ, he had to be a preacher and worker for the gospel just as he was originally a worker against the gospel of Christ. Concerning Paul’s call to the Lord, Ananias says, "But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel" (Acts 9:15). When Paul relates this occasion to King Agrippa, he says that Jesus told him,
Rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me (Acts 26:16-18).
This truth is also confirmed in Acts 13:2 and repeated in Acts 22:21. Paul considers his calling to preach the gospel to be of such a necessity that he became a willing slave for Christ (Romans 1:1; Galatians 1:10).
yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel: Paul realizes that "woe" (ouai), a "divine penalty threatens" (Thayer 461-2-3759) him if he refuses to preach the gospel; therefore, there is no room for glorying. Paul did not decide to preach the gospel by his own free will; instead, he was chosen for this purpose by the Lord. Because of this calling, Paul tells Agrippa in Acts 26:19, "...I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision."
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.
Paul speaks of preaching "willingly" and preaching unwillingly. There is a lot of confusion about the correct understanding of this verse and verse 18. The word "do" (prasso) means to "exercise, practice, be busy with, (or to) carry on" (Thayer 535-1-4238) and is used in the sense of performing the duties of a certain office. Paul acknowledges that if he were preaching the gospel voluntarily, as the other apostles were, he has a reward just as they do. This "reward" refers to his ability to "glory" in the fact that he was a preacher of the gospel. In verse 16, however, Paul says that he cannot "glory" in this fact because his preaching is done because of the necessity laid on him by God’s call.
Paul looks upon his work as a preacher of the gospel just as common slaves look upon the work they are instructed to do by their master. A common slave has no choice about the work he must do and does not necessarily expect immediate pay for his work, and neither does Paul.
We should understand that Paul was a preacher of the gospel, "against (his) will" only in the sense that he did not choose the work himself. Being a preacher of the gospel "against (his) will" does not mean that Paul was never willing to be a preacher, but instead he says he was a preacher of the gospel against his will because "a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto (him)." The word "dispensation" (oikonomia) means "the management of a household or of household affairs, specifically, the management, oversight, administration, of other’s property; the office of a manager or overseer, stewardship" (Thayer 440-2-3622).
Since Paul did not become a preacher of his own choosing, he became one out of a responsibility "committed" (pisteuo) or "intrusted to him by God" (Thayer 440-2-3622). The New International Version translates this passage well by saying, "If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me."
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.
Since Paul does not "glory" in preaching the gospel but preaches out of the "necessity" (verse 16) of God’s calling and since he preached "against (his) will" (verse 17), the question arises of "WHY?" Why does he preach--what reward does he gain from doing so? In verse 18, he says that his "reward" (misthos), or his "joy," is in the fact that he is able to carry out this work, entrusted to him, "without charge" (adapanos), meaning "without expense, requiring no outlay" (Thayer 10-2-77) from the Corinthians. Paul finds "joy" in not "abuse(ing)" (katachraomai) or in not fully using his liberty of being financially supported by the Corinthians.
Paul is not saying that he did not have the right to financial support--for he did. He simply voluntarily "made (himself) a servant" (verse 19) to the point of not accepting this support. He was a faithful steward for Christ. He says, "Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful" (4:1-2).
Paul Sacrifices that Others Might Be Saved
For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.
For though I be free from all men: Paul now returns to the main theme referred to in the first question (second question in the KJV) found in verse 1: "Am I not free?" He uses the word "free" in this verse in the same sense as in verse 1, meaning to be "unrestrained," "not bound by an obligation" (Thayer 204-1-1658). Regarding financial support, Paul was not obligated to any congregation; however, he voluntarily made himself a servant to everyone.
yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more: By "servant" (douloo) he means that he has reduced himself "to bondage" (Thayer 158-1-1402) that he might be their servant free of charge. Paul intentionally kept himself free from the Corinthian church that he might be everyone’s servant. He was free, but yet he put himself under bondage "that (he) might gain the more" or "very many" (Thayer 516-1-4123). The word "gain" (kerdaino) is used in the same way that Christ uses it when He says, "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother" (Matthew 18:15). The word translated "gain" in this verse is translated "won" in 1 Peter 3:1: "Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives."
Paul is teaching that he has become a servant that he might be able to teach and convert more people to Christ. He is not concerned with gaining "more" converts than another apostle or another preacher. He is speaking of "more" in the sense that he has kept himself free from everyone whom he might "gain."
We must not lose sight of the main subject found in this chapter: Paul had to undergo many difficulties by not being financially supported by the Corinthians; however, he was willing to give up this liberty and face these difficulties that he might lead more people to Christ than he could have if he had taken advantage of his liberty. He became a voluntary bondslave that others might be saved.
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;
In verses 20-22, Paul gives five examples of how he made himself a bondslave; and then, in verse 23, he explains that the purpose of becoming a voluntary bondslave was for "the gospel’s sake."
And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews: First, Paul became a bondslave to the Jews by becoming "as a Jew." Religiously, Paul was a Christian, not a Jew; however, for the purpose of winning the Jews to Christ, Paul became "as a Jew." While in their presence, he would not do things the Jews disliked, and he would practice the things they practiced. For example, Paul circumcised Timothy, not because he believed it was necessary to do so, but because he was to be associated with the Jews: "Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek" (Acts 16:3).
to them that are under the law, as under the law that I might gain them that are under the law: Secondly, Paul became a bondslave to those "under the law" by becoming as one "under the law." At first glance it may seem that Paul is merely repeating himself because the Jews were the ones "under the law"; however, he is not. In speaking of the "Jews," he is speaking of a nation; however, in speaking of "them that are under the law," he is speaking of their religion. Paul would not violate God’s law for Christians; however, while in the presence of a Jew, he would obey the Jewish laws, providing that they did not violate God’s law, to "gain them that are under the law." The word "gain" is used here as in the previous verse to mean winning the person to Christ.
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.
Thirdly, Paul became a bondslave to those "that are without law" by becoming one "without law" (anomos). "Without law" does not mean a transgressor of the law, but one who is "not subject to the law" (Thayer 48-2-459), referring to the Gentiles. Paul is saying that when he was with a Gentile, he acted as a Gentile by refusing to do the things they disliked as well as by doing the things that a Gentile would do. He would act as much like a Gentile as possible without violating God’s instructions that he "might gain" the Gentiles to Christ.
The expression found in parenthesis in the King James Version ("being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ") is not speaking of "them that are without law" but is still speaking of the apostle himself. He is not saying that he is not without obligation to a law but that he is under the law of Christ.
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.
To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: Fourthly, Paul became a bondslave "to the weak" by becoming "as weak." The "weak" are those Christians spoken of in 1 Corinthians 8:7-13, who, because they were unlearned, thought things were sinful when actually they were not. While associating with them, Paul abstained from doing those things, even though he knew he had the liberty to do so without sinning. He abstained from these things in order to have a better chance of winning them over to a correct understanding of God’s word.
I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some: In the previous three verses, Paul has dealt with Jews, Gentiles, bondslaves, and weak Christians. He now refers to a fifth category in which he puts all others under one name: he became as much like the people he was around (as long as it did not violate God’s law) with the hope that he might be able to save some of them. He gave up every liberty that he needed to in order to save the souls of others.
And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.
And this I do for the gospel’s sake: The words "this I do" are translated "I do all things" in the New International Version, New American Standard, and others. Paul says that everything he does and every liberty he gives up are to help influence others to obey the gospel.
that I might be partaker thereof with you: The last phrase in this verse is very confusing because of the addition of the pronoun "you," which is not in the original manuscript. Paul is not saying that he gives up his liberties for the gospel’s sake that he might be partaker with the Corinthians. Instead, he is saying that he gives up his liberties for the gospel’s sake that he might be partaker with the people he preaches to and gain the "incorruptible" crown mentioned in verse 25. The New American Standard Version translates: "And I do all things for the sake of the gospel, that I may become a fellow-partaker of it." The New International Version says: "I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings."
Practicing Self-Denial to Obtain an Incorruptible Crown
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize: Beginning with this verse, Paul illustrates what he means about giving up personal liberties for the "gospel’s sake" by making reference to the Isthmian games held once every three years near Corinth. These games were conducted in ways similar to the Olympic Games of today. The word "race" (stadion), translated "furlong" in other passages, actually means a "race-course" (Thayer 585-2-4712) and has reference to a specific distance or to "a standard of length." Vincent says that the race-course or a furlong equals "606 34 English feet" (Vol. III 234). In his commentary, Vine says,
These occasions were more than mere contests, they were great national and religious festivals. Only freemen could enter for them, and these only after they had satisfied the officials that they had undergone the appointed preliminary training. Upon the occasion a herald announced the name and country of each competitor. The victor received a crown consisting of a garland of either ivy or pine leaves. His family was honoured, and when he returned to his own town, a breach was made in the walls through which he was to enter, this being a token that a place so honoured needed no defending walls. The most famous contemporary Greek poet would immortalize his name in verse (127).
So run, that ye may obtain: After making reference to these games, Paul says, "So run, that ye may obtain." He is encouraging Christians in Corinth to run in a figurative game: Christianity. He says to work hard all the time at being a faithful Christian so that they may all receive their "prize" (brabeion), their spiritual award. Throughout this chapter, Paul has explained how he personally gave up liberties to win an "incorruptible" crown. In writing to the Hebrews, Paul says,
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2).
In both the literal game or in the figurative game (Christianity), the participants must be willing to sacrifice many things in order to stay prepared. These games can be compared to the Christian life only in the sense of constant preparation and participation in the games. However, there were differences. For example, in the games only "one receiveth the prize"; but in the Christian life, everyone who finishes the race receives the crown.
Paul often speaks of these games and compares them to living a Christian life because of the constant work needed to stay prepared for the games. Likewise, Paul is encouraging his readers to work hard to stay prepared to meet God. Notice the occasions of Paul’s metaphors: racers (9:24); boxers (9:26-27); gladiators fighting with beasts (15:32); chariot races (Philippians 3:14); rules governing the contest (2 Timothy 2:5); the training for the contest (1 Timothy 4:7-8); the goal and the prize offered (9:24); the judge awarding the prize (2 Timothy 4:8).
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.
And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things: The word "striveth" (agonizomai) means "to struggle" or "to compete" (Strong #75) and has reference "to enter a contest (or to) contend in the gymnastic games" (Thayer 10-1-75). Vincent says that the Revised Version is a better translation by preserving the metaphor, "striveth in the games" (236). Paul says that a person who truly struggles to excel in the games is "temperate (egkrateuomai) in all things." As an athlete he "exercises self restraint" (Strong #1467) or "contains" himself (7:9) in every thing. The same principle applies to those in the figurative game of Christianity. The difference is in the fact that those in the literal games must be "temperate" for approximately ten months during their training while Christians must be "temperate" for a lifetime.
Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible: The major difference in this comparison is the final award. Those in the "games" receive a "corruptible crown" of leaves while Christians will receive an "incorruptible" crown in heaven. Peter refers to receiving "a crown of glory that fadeth not away" (1 Peter 5:4). James refers to it as "the crown of life" (James 1:12); Paul mentions "a crown of righteousness" (2 Timothy 4:8). Since athletes are willing to sacrifice so many liberties and pleasures for a crown that will soon decay, certainly Christians should be willing to sacrifice their liberties for a crown that will never fade away.
I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
I therefore so run, not as uncertainly: Paul concludes this comparison by referring to himself and his fight in preaching the gospel. The race run by Paul has a specific purpose, and he is determined to win.
so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: By "so fight I," Paul is not referring to a soldier but to the boxing matches that take place in the games of his analogy. Paul speaks negatively: ("run, not as uncertainly" and "fight I, not as one that beateth the air") as a way to lead to his next statement found in verse 27 where he explains what he does to his body to prepare for the fight. Actually Paul is teaching here the same as in Philippians 3:14: "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." He is running well and fighting well.
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.
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: The words "keep under" (hupopizao) refer to the rough treatment the body receives from a fighter. These words are defined as "to beat black and blue, to smite so as to cause bruises and livid spots." Thayer continues to comment that Paul is saying that "like a boxer I buffet my body, handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships" (Thayer 646-1-5299). It appears that more than the outward body is under consideration and that Paul probably is referring to refraining from the passions and lusts of the body as well. Paul is referring to the hardships that he is forced to face by not accepting financial support from the Corinthians.
lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway: Even though Paul would be entitled to financial support, he refuses it for fear that he would "by any means," or in some way, be a "castaway" (adokimos) by accepting it. The word "castaway" would be better rendered as "rejected" (Strong #96) or "disqualified" (NIV, RSV, ASV). There are several views about the proper meaning of "castaway." Some (Robertson says "most writers"--Vol. IV 150) say that Paul is referring to his personal salvation; and even though he preached the gospel, he would have been rejected in the final judgment by insisting upon financial support. He knew that some would reject his teaching because of it. Others, such as Edwards, say that Paul is referring to the "reward" mentioned in verse 18; and, therefore, if he received their financial support, he would not be able to state that he does not receive money from them. These views, however, do not seem to be in keeping with the context of this chapter. Paul is simply saying that if he did not give up this liberty of receiving financial support, some in Corinth would claim that he was preaching for money and, therefore, reject his preaching (see comments under verses 12 and 15).
Furthermore, Paul says that he "brings it (his body) into subjection," by being their servant or slave without receiving pay (see verse 19).