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1 Corinthians 9

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VI. The Use of Meats offered to Idols, and Participation in the Sacrificial Feasts. Chaps. 8-10.

The apostle passes to a new subject, which, like the preceding, seems to be suggested to him by the letter of the Corinthians, and belongs to the domain of Christian liberty. The believers of Corinth and the other Greek cities found themselves in a difficult position in regard to the heathen society around them. On the one hand, they could not absolutely give up their family and friendly relations; the interests of the gospel did not allow them to do so. On the other hand, these relations were full of temptations and might easily draw them into unfaithfulnesses, which would make them the scandal of the Church and the derision of the heathen. Among the most thorny points in this order of questions were invitations to take part in idolatrous banquets. The centre of ancient worships was the sacrifice; it was in this religious act that all the important events of domestic and social life culminated. As in Judaism (comp. Deuteronomy 27:7, the peace-offerings), these sacrifices were followed by a feast. All that remained of the victim's flesh, after the legs, enclosed in fat, and the entrails had been burned on the altar (see Edwards), and after the priest had received his portion, came back to the family which offered the sacrifice, and these consecrated meats were eaten either in the apartments or sacred wood belonging to the temple, or in the worshipper's house; sometimes, also, they were sold in the market. And as the sacrifice usually took place in connection with some joyful circumstance, relatives and friends were invited to the feast, among whom it might easily happen that there were Christians. So also, when those meats were sold in the market, a Christian might find himself exposed to the eating of them either at his own house or that of others.

Now various questions might be raised on this subject. And first of all, Is it allowable for a Christian to be present at a feast offered in the temple of an idol? Some, in the name of Christian liberty, answered: Yes! They boldly took advantage of the adage: All things are lawful for me (1 Corinthians 6:12, 1Co 10:23 ). Others said: No! for in such a region one subjects himself to the danger of malign and even diabolical influences. The scruples of the more timorous went further: Even in a private house, even in one's own house, is it not dangerous to eat of that meat which has figured on the idol's altar? Has it not contracted a defilement which may contaminate him who eats it? Not at all, answered others. For the gods of the heathen are only imaginary beings; meat offered on their altar is neither more nor less than ordinary meat.

The latter were certainly of the number of those who, at Corinth, called themselves Paul's disciples. Must we thence conclude, with Ewald and others, that the former were solely Christians of Jewish origin, who styled themselves Peter's disciples? There is nothing to prove this. It is even somewhat difficult to maintain, as we shall see, in view of certain passages of chap. 8, that these sticklers were mainly Christians of Jewish origin. Several commentators, last among them Holsten, rather regard those timid Christians, and rightly I think, as believers of Gentile origin, who could not free themselves all at once and completely from the idea in which they had lived from infancy, that of the reality and power of the divinities which they had worshipped. They might be confirmed in this view by the Jewish opinion, of which traces are found still later in the Church, that idols represented evil spirits. As to Jewish Christians, the passage Romans 14:0 shows that in any case we ought not to exclude them wholly. These were men whom the gospel had only as yet half freed from their national prejudices, particularly from that which held the heathen deities to be so many diabolical personalities.

The solution of these questions bristled with difficulties. The one party held strongly to their liberty, the other not less seriously to their scruples. The apostle must avoid favouring either superstition in the latter or libertinism in the former. He needed all his practical wisdom and all his love to trace a line of conduct on this subject which would be clear and fitted to unite hearts, instead of dividing them.

It has been asked why he did not here simply apply the decree of the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:0), which called on the Gentile believers of Syria and Cilicia to give up the use of meats offered to idols, out of regard to the repugnance of Jewish Christians. And some have even gone the length of alleging the apostle's silence as an argument against the historical reality of the decree. But (1) this decree, from its very nature, could only have a temporary value, and it soon came out at Antioch, in connection with Peter's sojourn (Galatians 2:0), what practical difficulties stood in the way of its application. (2) At the time and in the circumstances in which Paul had accepted it, this apostle did not yet hold his normal position in the Church. His apostolical authority had just been recognised with difficulty by the apostles. In Syria and Cilicia he was not yet on his own domain, for it was not he who had founded the Church there. But it was now entirely different in Greece; and it would have been to derogate from his apostolical position, as well as from his evangelical spirituality, to resolve a question of Christian life by means of an external decree like an article of law. It was from the spirit of the gospel that, in virtue of his apostolical authority and wisdom, he must derive the decision which the Church needed. (3) It was the more important for Paul to act thus because he had above all at heart to form the conscience of the Corinthians themselves, and to educe spontaneously from it the view of the course to be followed: “I speak unto you as unto wise men; judge yourselves what I say” ( 1Co 10:15 ). It is precisely because of this method followed by the apostle that the discussion contained in these three chapters may still be so useful to us, though referring to wholly different circumstances. Paul on this occasion ascends to the first principles of Christian conduct, and we have only to gather them up to apply them to our own circumstances. (4) Finally, this subject presented a host of complications which could not be resolved by the summary decree of Acts 15:0, and which demanded a detailed examination.

The following is the order adopted by the apostle: He first treats the question by putting himself at the viewpoint of love. A Christian ought not to ask: What suits me best? but: What will most surely contribute to the salvation of my brethren? ( 1Co 8:1 to 1Co 9:22 ). Then the apostle passes to a second consideration: that of the salvation of the man himself who is called to act. He must take care while using his liberty not only not to destroy others, but also not to destroy himself ( 1Co 9:23 to 1Co 10:22 ). Finally, he concludes by recapitulating the whole discussion, and laying down some practical rules in regard to the different particular cases which might present themselves ( 1Co 10:23-33 ).

Verse 1

Vv. 1. “Am I not free? am I not an apostle? have I not seen Jesus our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?”

These accumulated questions betray the emotion which seizes the apostle as he approaches this delicate subject. Before showing why he has renounced his rights, he must prove that those rights exist, and, to this end, that he is truly an apostle. If, with the T. R., we begin with the question: Am I not an apostle? it can only signify: “Am I not free to use the rights which this office confers on me?” But this question would come rather abruptly after the preceding verse, and the two. last questions of the verse connect themselves much more directly with the idea of apostleship than with that of liberty. We must therefore begin with the latter, according to the Alex.: “ Am I not free? ” This question is also more naturally connected with the last idea of the previous chapter. We shall find the apostle closing ( 1Co 9:19-22 ) with the same idea of Christian liberty with which he had begun. This liberty of Paul's is liberty to eat sacrificed meats, and in general to free himself wholly, when he thinks good, from Jewish usages ( 1Co 9:19-20 ).

From his liberty as a Christian, Paul passes, in the second question, to his apostolic dignity and to the rights which he possesses as an apostle. The verb οὐκ εἰμί , am I not, is placed before the predicate in the two questions, because it is on the idea of being that the emphasis lies: “Am I not really? ” An apostle is one sent immediately by the Lord, who alone can confer such a mandate. But the call to the apostleship implies a personal meeting with Christ, and hence the third question: Have I not seen...? When, at Jerusalem, it was wished to elect an apostle to take the place of Judas, the two candidates were chosen among those who had companied with Jesus, “from the baptism of John to the ascension, to be witnesses of His resurrection” ( Act 1:22 ). If Paul had merely heard the good news, like all other believers, from the lips of the Twelve, whatever might have been his gifts, he could never have claimed the title of an apostle. And hence the term: I have seen, in this context, cannot refer either to any instance in which Paul might have seen Jesus at Jerusalem during His earthly ministry, or to a simple vision which the Lord might have granted him. This term can only designate the positive historical fact of the appearing of Jesus on the way to Damascus. It was never believed in the primitive Church that an accidental meeting with Jesus, or a vision, such as that of the dying Stephen, could give a right to the title of apostle; comp. 1Co 15:8 and Acts 22:14.

The Alex. reject the word Christ to retain only the word Jesus, and rightly; for we have to do here with the historical personage who appeared to Paul, with Him who said to him: “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.” The title our Lord denotes this Jesus as Head of the Church, who alone is entitled to confer the apostleship; comp. Gal 1:1 and Acts 1:26.

But the Lord's appearing to Paul was known mainly, if not exclusively, from his own account; to deny it his adversaries had only therefore to cast doubt on his sound sense or good faith. Hence the apostle adds a new proof of his apostleship, borrowed from the experience of the Corinthians themselves, the founding of their Church by him, Paul; this is the subject of the fourth question. The force of this argument is less in the fact itself of the founding of the Church than in the Lord's co-operation powerfully manifested in the course of this work. The words ἐν κυρίῳ , in the Lord, bear on the whole question, and not only on the words ἔργον μου , my work; they are the true point of support for the conclusion to be drawn. We know from the passage 1Co 2:1-5 the weak, unarmed, trembling condition in which the apostle felt himself when he founded this Church. So this work could be attributed only to Christ's power acting through his weakness and itself touching hearts. It is to this experience of Christ's co-operation in the work of His servant that Paul appeals in the two following verses, which are specially connected with this last question, and state the conclusion of it.

Verses 1-22

I. The Question considered from the Viewpoint of our Neighbour's Salvation. 8:1-9:22.

The apostle proves that if there is a knowledge which all equally possess ( 1Co 8:1-6 ), there remains a difference of degree which imposes duties on one class relatively to others ( 1Co 8:7-13 ); then he shows by his own example how such obligations ought to be discharged ( 1Co 9:1-22 ).

Verses 1-27

Vers. 1-9.

Notwithstanding the intrinsic excellence of celibacy, marriage should be the rule in practice. Such is the general meaning of this first passage.

Verses 2-3

Vv. 2, 3. “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; this is my answer to them that do examine me.”

The datives unto others and to you are not only datives of appreciation (in the judgment of), but also datives of relation, as Rückert observes. Though Paul had not been related as an apostle to any other Church, yet as truly as the Church of Corinth was a Church founded by him, he possessed in his relation to it this title of apostle. It was the seal officially put by the Lord Himself on his apostolic mission, and it would have been somewhat strange if those who were themselves the living proof of his apostleship should put Paul in the position of proving it to them.

The asyndeton between 1Co 9:2-3 announces a reaffirmation under strong feeling of the idea of 1 Corinthians 9:2. The emotion is explained by the last words: them that examine. Paul's apostleship is the subject of an examination at Corinth! At Corinth a discussion is raised regarding the nature of the appearance whereby Christ conferred on him the apostleship! There is a tendency, perhaps, to represent him, even as in Galatia, as a disciple of the apostles who has revolted against his masters! It is allowable to suppose that these words do not apply to the members of the Church themselves, those of whom Paul has just said that they are his living defence, but to the foreign emissaries who have arrived at Corinth. Comp. Galatians 1:0, where Paul replies to similar accusations.

The pronoun αὕτη brings into bold relief this idea of defence: “As to this defence, it is yourselves, you, the work of the Lord by me.” After having thus established the reality of his apostleship, at least in relation to this Church, he draws the inference from it: his right is to be maintained by the Church of Corinth and the others which he has founded.

Verses 4-6

Vv. 4-6. “Have we not right to eat and to drink? 5. Have we not right to lead about a sister as wife, as well as the other apostles and the brethren of the Lord and Cephas? 6. Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?”

Paul uses the plural ( we have), because he is thinking also of Barnabas, who acted in this respect in the same way as himself ( 1Co 9:6 ); perhaps he means also to include Silas and Timothy, who had laboured with him in founding the Church of Corinth, joining him in his mode of living; comp. 1 Corinthians 9:11: “ If we have sown among you spiritual things....” The terms eat and drink receive from the context this special meaning: to eat and drink at the Church's expense. The eating of sacrificed meats is no longer in question. The interrogative μή assumes the negative answer: “It is not however ( μή ) possible that we have not ( οὐκ ) the right....?”

Verse 5

Vv. 5. The right of Paul and Barnabas, as apostles of the Lord, is demonstrated down to 1Co 9:14 by a series of arguments, the first of which, 1 Corinthians 9:5-6, is taken from the example of the other apostles and of the Lord's brothers. Not only were these personally maintained by the Churches they visited, but each of them had his wife with him, who shared in this advantage. The Greek text signifies: “a sister as wife.” The Vulgate translates: “a wife as sister;” it is obvious in what interest. “Clement of Alexandria, at the end of the second century, makes no difficulty about recognising the fact that all the apostles were married ( Strom. iii. p. 448); Ambrosiaster (probably the Roman deacon Hilary in the fourth century) declares ( 2Co 11:2 ) that all the apostles, except John and Paul, had wives” (see Heinrici, p. 240).

The term περιάγειν , to lead about, can apply only to habitual missionary journeys. This little word dissipates to some extent the obscurity in which the book of Acts leaves the career of most of the Twelve. It reveals to us also what an important part the brothers of Jesus played in the early propagation of Christianity. They must have occupied the first rank among the evangelists, who came immediately after the apostles ( Eph 4:11 ). These brothers of Jesus were, according to the Gospels, four in number: James, Joses, Simon, and Jude ( Mat 13:55 and parallels). An ancient tradition makes them elder brothers of Jesus, the issue of a first marriage of Joseph. Later it was sought to identify two or even three of them with the apostles of the same name; they were held to be cousins of Jesus, sons of a brother of Joseph, called Alphaeus. After his death, Joseph and Mary took them into their house to bring them up with Jesus; this is what led to their being called His brothers. The eldest, James, was the Apostle James, son of Alphaeus ( Mat 10:3 ); Simon, the last but one, was the Apostle Simon Zelotes (Matthew 10:4; Luk 6:15 ); and the youngest, Jude, was the Apostle Jude Lebbaeus, or Thaddaeus (Matthew 10:3; Luk 6:16 ). This ingenious combination falls to pieces before the two sayings, John 7:5, where, some months before the Passion, it is said of the brothers of Jesus, “that they did not believe in Him,” they were not therefore of the number of the Twelve, and Acts 1:13-14, where, even after the Ascension, they are still placed outside the circle of the apostles. Our passage, too, has been relied on to identify them with the Twelve. For, it is said, since Peter is mentioned along with the apostles, though he was one of them, it may well be so with the brothers of Jesus. But it is not necessary to give to the two καί , and, in our verse an identical meaning. We may explain it: “the other apostles, as well as (first καί ) the brothers of Jesus, and specially (second καί ) Cephas.” As to the brothers of Jesus, therefore, there are only two suppositions possible: either that they were, according to a tradition already quoted, brothers of Jesus by the father, or that they were his later-born brothers. It is well known what an ascendancy in the Church was given to the eldest of them, James, by the fact of his being the Lord's brother; comp. Galatians 1:19; Galatians 2:1-10; Acts 15:0.

The Gospels positively inform us that Peter was married ( Mat 8:14 ). Tradition calls his wife sometimes Concordia, sometimes Perpetua. Peter is expressly mentioned, because he occupied the first rank among the apostles and evangelists; his was the example par excellence.

Verse 6

Vv. 6. The conj. ἤ , or, has here the meaning which it so frequently has in Paul's writings: “ Or indeed in the opposite case would it happen that...?”

No doubt Barnabas had not been called to the apostleship by the Lord, in the same way as Paul ( 1Co 9:1 ); but, by his co-operation in the work of the apostle of the Gentiles, he was included, as it were, in his apostleship. Yet there remains an important difference between him and Paul, a difference which comes out in a characteristic way, by the application of the adjective μόνος , only, exclusively to Paul. It is exactly the same relation as is supposed by Galatians 2:0 (comparing especially 1Co 9:8-9 ).

The term working receives a determinate sense from the context: gaining one's livelihood by his work. Some Latin authorities omit the negative μή and translate: to do so, that is to say, to live at your cost. This meaning of the word ἐργάζεσθαι is impossible.

To this historical argument, taken from the example of the apostles, Paul adds a second, borrowed from common right.

Verse 7

Vv. 7. “Who goeth a warfare at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?”

The gospel is profoundly human; it welcomes all that is in conformity with nature in its normal state. Thus Paul appropriates without hesitation the principle contained in the three examples quoted, which he takes from common life. The principle is this: The man who consecrates his labour to a work, ought to be able to live by that work. The soldier leaves his trade for war; his support is due to him from the man in whose service he fights; ὀψώνια , pay, strictly the cooked meats taken along with bread; hence: pay in kind, then also in money.

The vine-dresser bestows all his life on the care of the vine of his employer ( Mat 20:1-7 ); he ought to partake of its fruit. The reading of T. R. of its fruit ( ἐκ τοῦ καρποῦ ), is more exact in point of sense; but it is probably a correction of the other better supported reading, τὸν καρπόν , its fruit, an expression which does not necessarily signify that the whole of the fruit comes to him, as if he were proprietor. The three examples, of the soldier, the vine-dresser, and the shepherd, present themselves all the more naturally to the apostle's mind, because the people of God are often described in the prophets as an army, a vine, a flock.

Next, Paul corroborates this argument taken from human right by a third, which he borrows from Divine right.

Verses 8-9

Vv. 8, 9. “Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? 9. For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?”

God had commanded the Jews, Deuteronomy 25:4, that when harvest came, the ox, while treading the corn which it had contributed to produce by the painful labour of ploughing, should not be muzzled, and thereby prevented from enjoying, conjointly with man, the fruit of its toil. Among the heathen no scruple was felt about acting differently, and hence God expressly forbids this practice to His people. God's object in acting thus was evidently to cultivate in the hearts of His people feelings of justice and equity. This moral object appears not only from the prohibition in itself, but also from all the other injunctions which accompany it in chaps. 24 and 25 of Deuteronomy: the command to restore to the poor man his garment, taken as a pledge, immediately after sunset ( Deu 24:10-13 ); to pay to the poor labourer his wages on the same evening ( Deu 24:14-15 ); not to put the child to death with the guilty father ( Deu 24:16-18 ); always to leave, when gathering the harvest, a gleaning for widows and strangers ( Deu 24:19-22 ); not to subject the criminal to more than forty stripes ( Deu 25:1-3 ), etc. Does not this whole context show clearly enough what was the object of the prohibition quoted here? It was not from solicitude for oxen that God made this prohibition; there were other ways of providing for the nourishment of these animals. By calling on the Israelites to exercise gentleness and gratitude, even toward a poor animal, it is clear that God desired to inculcate on them, with stronger reason, the same way of acting toward the human workmen whose help they engaged in their labour. It was the duties of moral beings to one another, that God wished to impress by this precept.

The expression: according to [as a] man, is opposed to the law, which possesses a Divine authority. Here the apostle employs the term λέγω , to declare, ordain, whereas in speaking of his own saying, he had simply used the word λαλῶ , to express.

Vv. 9. We ought probably to prefer the reading of the Vaticanus, κημώσεις , to that of the T. R., φιμώσεις . The meaning is the same, but the second reading is no doubt derived from the LXX. The verb κημοῦν signifies more specially to close the mouth by a muzzle, while φιμοῦν signifies to close the mouth in general, by any means whatever.

The mode of treading out corn in the East is this: over the ears spread out on the threshing-floor there are made to pass horses or oxen, or sometimes a small wain drawn by these animals, and on which the driver stands.

When Paul asks if God takes care for oxen, it is clear that he is not speaking of God as Creator, but of God as giving the law ( 1Co 9:8 ), in ferendâ lege, as Calvin says; for in the domain of creation and Providence “He does not neglect even the smallest sparrow” (Calvin). As we have seen, it was on the heart of the Israelite that He sought to impress this prohibition.

Verse 10

Vv. 10. “Or saith He it not altogether for our sakes? Yea, for our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that plougheth should plough in hope; and that he that thresheth should partake of the object hoped for.”

The meaning of the ἤ , or, is this: “Or, if it cannot be for the sake of oxen that God has spoken thus, is it not absolutely for us, that is to say, with a view to man's heart to train it to generous feelings?” The πάντως may signify entirely, absolutely (not at all on account of oxen); but it may also, as in Luke 4:13, have the meaning of certainly.

The sequel shows that the understood answer is strongly affirmative: “Yea, absolutely for us! for it is for us that it was written that...” The δἰ ἡμᾶς , for us, signifies that in thus legislating, it was man's moral good, and not the satisfying of oxen, that God had in view. The ἡμᾶς , us, has sometimes been taken as referring to the ministers of the gospel. There is nothing to justify this restricted application. In this case we should have required ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν , in our favour. The opposite of oxen is men, and not apostles. Paul does not, therefore, in the least suppress the historical and natural meaning of the precept, as is thought by de Wette, Rückert, Meyer, Reuss, Edwards, and so many others. He recognises it fully, and it is precisely by starting from this sense that he rises to a higher application. In the conduct which God prescribes to man toward this animal, which serves him as a faithful worker, Paul finds the proof of the conduct which man should with stronger reason observe toward his human servants, and with still stronger reason the Church toward its ministers. This entire gradation would crumble instantly were the lowest step of the scale suppressed, that which was directly present to the mind of Moses; a fact which was understood by the apostle as well as by those who criticize him. Far from arbitrarily allegorizing, he applies, by a well-founded a fortiori, to a higher relation what God had prescribed with reference to a lower relation.

The for [yea] bears, as it does so often, on the understood affirmative answer. And the reasoning is this: “The precept has not its full sense except when applied to a reasonable being. For it is not oxen that can be encouraged during the toil of ploughing by foreseeing the joy of harvest. The human workman, on the contrary, can calculate beforehand the share in the result of his labour which will be granted to him, and be sustained by this hope. This is what God would have His people understand by forbidding them to deprive the ox of enjoying the result of his labour on the happy day of harvest.”

It is possible, as many do, to explain the ὅτι in the sense of because: “It was written, because this is how it is just that the case should be in all relations;” or we may translate by the simple that, which makes the following clause the subject of ἐγράφη , it was written. In this sense Paul would regard the clause dependent on ὅτι as the simple paraphrase of the word: Thou shalt not muzzle..., in Deuteronomy; but this, 1 Corinthians 9:10, contains a wholly new idea. In any case, it would be very forced to give to this ὅτι the meaning of: “to demonstrate that...,” as Edwards proposes.

This apostolic paraphrase of the Mosaic command is generally ill understood, and that because the two acts of ploughing and treading out are regarded as two parallel examples; they are taken to mean two works, of which Paul declares that both should be done with the expectation of recompense. With such an idea it becomes impossible to understand the words and reasoning of the apostle. According to a view common in the Scriptures, the act of ploughing is a hard and painful labour, and consequently the man who gives himself to it needs encouragement. This encouragement is the hope that he shall one day participate in the produce of harvest. There is nothing painful, on the contrary, in the act of treading out; it belongs to the harvest day, and consequently to the hour of joy, to the festival by which the ploughman is recompensed for his toil. On this entire order of ideas, comp. Psalms 126:5-6: “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves.” And if this is true in regard to man, it ought to be so also in regard to the being of an inferior order who shares his labour and pain. But it cannot be so with the ox which has ploughed with him, except on condition that no muzzle is applied to deprive it of its portion at the time of the festival, hindering it from tasting the fruit which it has contributed to produce.

The two acts, then, of ploughing and treading out are so far from being related as two examples in juxtaposition, though they are constantly regarded in this light, that the former alone is considered as a labour; the latter is the recompense rightly expected by the workman who has done the former. The understanding of this suffices to make it plain that the reading preserved by the Greco-Latin Mjj. is the only one which corresponds to the apostle's thought: “He that plougheth should plough with hope (this is what sustains him in his painful toil), and (when the day of harvest has come) at the time when he treads out, he ought not to be cheated of the hoped-for boon (as would be the case if he were muzzled on that day).” Having been at the toil, he ought also to be at the recompense, enjoying the harvest. The Alexandrine copyists having, like the commentators in general, understood the two acts of ploughing and treading as two equally painful labours, which are both entitled to the expected recompense, thought that they should apply the notion of hope also to the act of treading, whereas it applied only to ploughing; hence their reading: “And he that treadeth out [should tread], with the hope of partaking. ” The Byzantines, after beginning like the Westerns, were led astray by the already corrupted Alexandrine text, and added, like them, to the end of the second proposition the words: ἐπ᾿ ἐλπίδι , in hope, which, as we have seen, have no meaning when applied to him who threshes. The application to the relation between the apostle and the Church which he founded is thus perfectly clear. The time comes when the apostle, after painfully ploughing and sowing, is entitled to partake of the harvest, by receiving from the community once formed what is needful for his maintenance. To refuse him this fruit of his painful labour at this time would be to act contrary to the spirit of the Mosaic precept, to convert the rightful expectation of the faithful workman into a deception.

This passage rightly understood is singularly instructive. It is difficult to suppress a smile when listening to the declamations of our moderns against the allegorizing mania of the Apostle Paul, or when we find even an Edwards imagining that he who ploughs is the labourer who founds a church, and he who threshes represents the subsequent labourers who build it up! Paul does not in the least allegorize either in the sense of Edwards or in any other. From the literal and natural meaning of the precept he disentangles a profound moral truth, a law of humanity and equity, and drawing from its temporary wrapping this permanent lesson, he applies it with admirable exactness to the case in hand.

Moreover, we have to gather from the study of this passage a very important lesson as to the preservation of the text. All our great modern critics, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles, Westcott and Hort, think the preference should be given as a rule to the readings of the ancient Alex. Mjj., and one is thought lagging behind the age if he does not follow them with docility in this path. Now here is a case where the corruption of the text in these documents is patent, and where it is easy to discover the false idea which produced the corruption. Is exegesis to be held bound, as Westcott and Hort would demand, to close its eyes to the light, and hold by a decidedly corrupt text, because it has on its side the Vaticanus and the Sinaïticus? The interpreter of the Holy Scriptures is not at liberty to subordinate his common sense to the arbitrariness, the ignorance, or the negligence of the ancient copyists.

The two following verses do not so much contain new arguments in favour of the apostolic right established by Paul, as subsidiary reflections, intended to show better how the precept founded on human analogies ( 1Co 9:7 ) and on biblical right ( 1Co 9:8-10 ) applies still more rigorously to the apostle and his fellow-labourers than would at first sight appear.

Verse 11

Vv. 11. “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we should reap your carnal things?” When the vine-dresser and the shepherd partake of the fruit of their labour, when the ox eats the corn while treading it out, the part thus allowed to the worker is taken from the very produce of his labour, and consequently his part is of the same nature as that produce. It is not so with the wages of the preacher. What he receives is greatly inferior in value to what he has given. It follows that his right to be supported is still more indisputable than would appear if we held to the preceding examples.

The plural: we have sown, can refer only to the three founders of the Church of Corinth, Paul, Silas, and Timothy ( 2Co 1:19 ).

The dative ὑμῖν , for you, is the dative of favour; they are the soil which has benefited by the seed scattered with so much labour. To this dative corresponds the genitive ὑμῶν , of you, on your part, which indicates the origin of the wages. It seems to us that we must read with the Alex. the subjunctive θερίσωμεν , rather than the indicative θερίσομεν . The Greco-Lats. have substituted the latter for the former because of the εἰ , if, which did not seem to be in keeping with the subjunctive mood. But it is precisely the opposite which is true, for the harvest in question exists only in thought, according to Paul, and he does not in the least ask that it should be realized.

To this first à fortiori the apostle adds a second.

Verse 12

Vv. 12. “If others be partakers of this right over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this right; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.”

As to this right of support the Corinthians granted it to others, after Paul left them; how would they deny it to him and to those ( us) who were the first to bring them salvation?

The apostle alludes to workers who came afterwards, and when the Church was already founded. They were either Corinthian teachers or Judaizing intruders. The passage 2Co 11:20 leaves no doubt as to the manner in which the latter turned their ministry in the Church to advantage: “If any man bring you into bondage, if he devour you, if he take of you,...ye bear it.” These strangers, then, fleeced the Corinthians at will, and Paul and his companions did not possess the right which they declined to exercise! Hofmann thus establishes the contrast, rather, it is true, according to the apostle's thought than his words: “We have the right, and we do not use it; they have not the right, and they use it.”

The expression τῆς ἐξουσίας ὑμῶν has been variously understood. Some have given the word the meaning of οὐσία , possessions, goods: “If others share your possessions. ” But the term has never this meaning in the New Testament, and it has a wholly different one in the second part of this same verse. Ewald and Holsten reach the same meaning, but by another way: they understand by ἐξουσία ὑμῶν the full liberty which the Corinthians have to dispose of their earthly goods. This meaning is equally inapplicable in the second part of the verse. We must simply, with de Wette and Meyer, make ὑμῶν the genitive of the object (as in Mat 10:1 ): “the right or power over you; ” that is to say, the right of having ourselves supported by you. Olearius had conjectured the reading ἡμῶν : “ our right over you.” Rückert was disposed to accept this correction. But it is not necessary, and 1Co 11:10 shows with what liberty Paul uses this term ἐξουσία .

The second part of the verse is strictly speaking an anticipation; for Paul has not yet closed his exposition of the reasons on which his apostolic right rests (see 1Co 9:13-14 ); and it is not till 1Co 9:15 that he develops the idea, enunciated here in advance, of his renunciation of his right. But the eagerness of his adversaries to secure payment of their ministry, would seem to lead him immediately to contrast with their love of comfort his own disinterestedness.

The apostle, in consequence of his renunciation of all payment, had to suffer, not only every kind of privations (nakedness, hunger, thirst), but also all kinds of labours and watchings; see the description 2 Corinthians 11:24-27, where he contrasts his kind of life with that of the Judaizing emissaries. The verb στέγω , strictly to cover, and that so as to receive the blows intended for another, consequently signifies also to bear. Holsten well: “I bear all the labours of life without having recourse to your help.” Heinrici gives to this word the meaning of self-restraining, patiently keeping silence; but this meaning seems to us less natural than the preceding.

Of the two readings ἐκκοπή (mutilation, cutting off) and ἐγκοπή (notch, hindrance), the second is preferable; the first term would be too strong. In speaking of a hindrance to be removed, Paul is thinking, no doubt, of the false judgments which might be called forth, especially in Greece, by a preaching of the gospel, which, like the teaching of itinerant philosophers and rhetoricians, should be recompensed with payment in any form whatever. He was concerned to exalt the dignity of his message by making it gratuitous. The term εὐαγγέλιον has here, as most frequently in the New Testament, the verbal sense: the act of preaching.

After this anticipation, called forth by the contrast he presented to his adversaries, he resumes the demonstration he had begun, and closes it with the two most decisive arguments.

Verse 13

Vv. 13. “Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?”

In heathen as well as in Jewish worship, it was customary for those who were employed in the sacred ceremonies, to live on the product of these rites. This was a matter so thoroughly received, that Rückert thinks he can apply the two terms used in 1 Corinthians 9:13 ( minister, wait upon) to those heathen and Jewish worships, and that Hilary (Ambrosiaster) has applied the first to heathen and the second to Jewish worship. But by the expression: Do ye not know? Paul seems to appeal to a Divine authority; he means probably, therefore, to speak only of Jewish worship. The term temple, also, can hardly refer to any other edifice than the only one which in Paul's eyes deserved the name, the temple of Jerusalem; see on 1 Corinthians 8:10. Finally, in this sense the expression: even so, 1 Corinthians 9:14, would become somewhat unsuitable; for the apostle could not put on the same level the authority of heathen customs and that of the Lord. It is therefore with reason that most commentators refer these two examples to Jewish worship, with this difference only, that according to Meyer and others, the two propositions refer to the priests, while according to others,

Chrysostom, for example, the first refers to the Levites, the second to the priests; or finally, according to a third class, the first denotes the Levitical order as a whole (Levites and priests together), and the second, the priests only. This last meaning seems to me the only admissible one. To minister about holy things, in the first proposition, is a very general expression comprehending all the acts and all the individuals devoted to the temple service; whereas serving at the altar applies to none but to priests, who alone offered the victims on the altar. It is well known that the Levites lived by their employment by means of the tithes and offerings paid by the people, and that in like manner the priests lived by the altar, first by means of the tithe which the Levites paid to them, and then specially by the portion of the victims which was reserved for them. It is this last custom which explains the term συμμερίζεσθαι , to partake with the altar. Finally, the apostle reaches the unanswerable argument: the positive order of the Lord Himself.

Verse 14

Vv. 14. “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.”

Rückert does not think that we have here a new argument; he regards it as only the application to the Christian Church of what was common among Jews and Gentiles ( 1Co 9:13 ). But the apostle could not possibly have presented the consequence of a Jewish or Gentile usage as a positive command of the Lord. We must therefore understand the οὕτω καί in the sense of: And so also. This is the last fact which completes the proof of the apostles' right. When Paul says: hath ordained, he is thinking of a saying of Jesus; it is that of Mat 10:10 and Luke 10:7. He knew it from apostolic tradition, as he did that which he has already quoted 1 Corinthians 7:10. It is somewhat remarkable that in 1Ti 5:18 this command of Jesus is connected, as in our passage, with that of Deuteronomy cited in 1 Corinthians 9:10.

By the dative τοῖς καταγγέλλουσιν , to them who preach, Paul does not mean that it is to the preachers the command is given; it is the dative of favour: for them. The expression: live of the gospel, may apply, according to time or place, to free gifts or to a regular salary. It is only the principle which is of importance.

According to St. Paul, the Lord has established in His Church a class of members occupying a particular position. While other believers realize the new life in the exercise of a secular profession which affords them a livelihood, they renounce every secular occupation to consecrate all their time and powers to the development of the spiritual life in others; and consequently the Church to which they thus consecrate their life is bound to provide for their material support, as Jesus provided for the maintenance of His disciples from the day when He commanded them to leave their nets, and said to them: “I will make you fishers of men.” Such is the foundation of the institution of the Christian ministry. The object of Jesus in establishing it was not to institute a new priesthood, a human mediatorship between God and the Church; but neither did He wish to abandon the development of His work to the spontaneous zeal of the faithful. He has avoided these two opposite rocks, and confined Himself to instituting a ministry to preach and have the cure of souls, the members of which live for the gospel, and consequently ought also to live of the gospel. But woe to the man who claims to live of the gospel without living at the same time for the gospel!

Paul has reminded his readers that he was really an apostle ( 1Co 9:1-3 ), and then demonstrated by five arguments of increasing force the right which therefore belongs to him and his fellow - labourers ( 1Co 9:4-14 ). He now reaches the idea which he had in view from the beginning: that of the voluntary sacrifice which he has made of this right ( 1Co 9:15-17 ). In 1Co 9:15 he expresses the fact of the sacrifice itself; in 1 Corinthians 9:16-18, the reason which impels him to act thus.

Verse 15

Vv. 15. “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.”

Paul contrasts the sacrifice which he has made of his right, and consequently of his well-being and ease, with the selfishness of those of the Corinthians who, without any self-restraint, used their liberty in regard to sacrificed meats.

The aorist ἐχρησάμην , in the T. R., would refer to the initial act of renunciation; the perfect κέχρημαι , in almost all the Mjj., denotes the permanent state of privation founded on the act. This reading is preferable.

The expression: these things, may refer to the manifold rights which are comprehended in that of being supported (comp. 1Co 9:4-5 ), or to all the numerous reasons alleged, from 1Co 9:4 onwards, to justify this right. “I have used none of them,” signifies in this second case: “I have not made them good.” After such an enumeration, the second meaning is more natural.

It is remarkable that Paul, after speaking in the first person plural, 1 Corinthians 9:4-6, here passes to the first person singular. This is because in what follows, the matter in question, as we shall see, is a fact absolutely personal, the consequences of which do not concern the others except as his fellow-labourers in the work of the apostleship among the Gentiles.

But Paul will not have it supposed that he has written all this long demonstration, that in the future a different treatment should be observed toward him than that which has hitherto prevailed. The word οὕτω , so, signifies in the context: “ As I might be entitled to require, and as in fact is done for others;” comp. the similar elliptical οὕτω , 1 Corinthians 7:26; 1 Corinthians 7:40. The ἐν ἐμοί here signifies, as often: in regard to me ( Mat 17:12 ). It is so far from being the desire of the apostle to induce the Church to make a change in this respect, that he would rather be deprived of his ministry by death, than discharge it on any other condition than its being gratuitous. The reading of the T. R. is simple, provided we allow a very common inversion in the words τὸ καύχημά μου , which belong to the proposition of ἵνα ; comp. 1 Corinthians 3:5, and 2 Corinthians 2:4. Thus the meaning is: “Than the fact that as to my cause of glorying, any one should deprive me of it.” This cause of glorying is certainly the fact of preaching the gospel gratuitously. “I should like rather to be taken from my work by death, than to do it without having this cause of glorying.” But there exist two readings different from this; and first that of the two ancient Alex. ( Vatic. and Sinaït.) and of the Cantabr.; see the critical note. Those who bind themselves to the readings of these MSS. are greatly embarrassed by such a text. Meyer, in his second edition, explained the ἤ in the sense of than, and held an aposiopesis: “Than this that as to my cause of glorying....No! no man shall make it void.” This construction is excessively forced. Edwards, without being disposed to justify it, accepts it from want of having anything better to propose. Meyer himself, since the date of his fourth edition, no longer gives to the ἤ the sense of than, but that of or, and he thus explains: “It is better for me to die (than to preach the gospel without having this ground of boasting); or, if I must still live, no one shall make void my ground of glorying (by preventing me from continuing to act as I have hitherto done).” Every one must feel how wire-drawn this meaning is in comparison with the simple sense expressed by the received reading; and in any case, after the comparative μᾶλλον , rather, it is unnatural to give to the conjunction ἤ any other meaning than that of than. The other divergent reading from that of the T. R. is that of the two Greco-Lats., F G: “Or, as to my ground of glorying, who shall be able to make it void?” But this question does not logically agree either with the preceding or the following sentence; then the order of the words would be far from natural in this sense; finally, the ἤ ought after μᾶλλον to signify than, rather than or. Lachmann puts a period after ἀποθανεῖν , as Ambrosiaster had already done:... magis mori. Nemo gloriam meam evacuabit. Then, himself perceiving the impossibility of this interpretation, he proposes to read νή , instead of ἤ , in the sense of a solemn affirmation: “By my ground of glorying, no one will make it void,” a sense more impossible still. Holsten, after proposing some conjectures ( κενῶσαι or ἐξουδενῶσαι ), despairs of restoring the authentic text. Rückert likewise concludes his excellent discussion by saying: “The result to which I come, therefore, is that we do not know what Paul himself wrote, but that of all proposed to us, the best is the received reading.” Klosterman ( Probleme im Aposteltexte, 1883) concludes for the meaning of the text F G, but by putting the following verse in the mouth of one who he supposes attempts to make void the apostle's ground of glorying by alleging that he preaches, not from moral motives, but from constraint. Such interpretations do not call for discussion. In my view, it was evidently the Greco-Latin documents which in 1Co 9:10 had preserved the true reading, and it is no less clear that here it is the Byzantines (supported in this case by Cod. Ephrem and by the Peschito) which we ought to follow. There is nothing impossible in admitting the required inversion. Only it is better to read the future κενώσει , shall make void, than the subjunctive κενώσῃ . The copyists finding that the indicative did not agree with the ἵνα , replaced this conjunction either by the interrogative pronoun τίς (F G) or by the pronoun οὐδείς (Alex.). Others (Byz.) transformed the indicative into the subjunctive. As to the ἵνα , in order that, it does not lose its signification of an end to be reached. This end is, making void the subject of Paul's glorying, an end which he ascribes to the man who should wish to induce him to accept a salary.

And why would the apostle prefer no longer to preach at all, and even to die, to exercising a paid ministry of the gospel? It is because the act of preaching in itself contains nothing which furnishes him with a ground of glorying. For to fill this office is with him a matter of necessity; it is an: I must!

Verse 16

Vv. 16. “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; for woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!”

Many have taken the first proposition as a general maxim. Paul would say, that in itself the act of preaching is not a cause of glorying to the preacher, whoever he may be. But why not, if he discharges this task with all his heart and in love to his Lord? For we shall immediately see what in Paul's sense is to be understood by a ground of glorying. Besides, in a passage of so personal a character as this, the first person singular can only designate Paul himself. If to him personally the act of preaching the gospel is not a ground of glorying, it is because this is a task which he is forced to discharge. In fact, if he does not do it, the threatening of a terrible condemnation hangs over his head. When dictating these words: “Woe to me if I do not...,” the apostle is no doubt thinking of the Lord's threatening: “It would be hard for thee (it would cost thee dear) to kick against the pricks” ( Act 9:5 ). What a difference between an apostleship thus conferred and that of the Twelve, who had become attached to Christ by an act of free faith! Their call, with such a preparation and ground, and the ministry which followed it, were a work of free will; while he, Paul, had been, as it were, seized with living force in the way of obstinate unbelief, and constrained by threatening to obey the call. Such an apostleship in itself offers nothing satisfying to the heart of him who is invested with it. By καύχημα , a cause of glorying, we are not here to understand a cause of boasting; such a thought would belie the apostle's entire evangelical conception. The word is well explained by Heinrici: “the joyous feeling of the moral worth of one's own action.” This is not the Pharisaical pride of merit connected with the work. It is the grateful heart which needs to feel that it is doing something freely to correspond to the love of which it has been the object. The reading χάρις , favour, in the Greco-Lat. and the Sinaït., would only have meaning if we understood it in the same sense as Luke 6:32-33: a title to Divine favour. But the close relation between this verse and the preceding speaks for the received reading and demands the term καύχημα .

Though the δέ after οὐαί (“ but woe...”) may be logically defended, the γάρ , for, being better supported and offering a simpler logical connection, should be preferred: No ground of glorying, for there is constraint; and there is constraint, for damnation awaits me if I withdraw from the task.

Verse 17

Vv. 17. “For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, it is a dispensation which is committed unto me.”

The γάρ , for, signifies that the second part of 1Co 9:16 really proves the affirmation enunciated in the first, to wit, that Paul has no cause of glorying in the act of preaching, if he does so by constraint.

The first of the two propositions contains a simple supposition, stated in passing to form a contrast with the second, which alone expresses the real fact. As Heinrici well says: “If I preach the gospel willingly which is not the case

I have a reward.” The second proposition signifies, on the contrary: “But if I do so by constraint as is really the case it is a dispensation committed...” In the first proposition the apostle could have used the optative πράσσοιμι ἄν : If I should do so of good-will...He has preferred the indicative πράσσω , if I do so, probably because he knows that this case, denied so far as he is concerned, is in fact realized in the case of others: “If, like those who freely became preachers (the Twelve, 1Co 9:5 ), I preach of my own good-will.” The words μισθὸν ἔχω signify: “I have right in this case to a recompense.” This term recompense, μισθός , is correlative to καύχημα , cause of glorying. The second denotes Paul's action, whereby he can give to his work a character of freedom; the other, the advantage which should accrue to him from it. We shall see in 1Co 9:18 what this advantage is.

The two terms ἑκών and ἄκων ( willing and unwilling) do not refer, as some have thought, to the subjective disposition with which the apostle usually filled this ministry: “If I preach with ardour...or if I preach against my will.” Thus understood, the two propositions of the verse would not fall into the context where the subject is preaching gratuitously. Paul is speaking of the manner in which he was charged with the apostleship. As the term ἑκών alludes to an apostleship freely accepted, the term ἄκων refers to the constraint which characterized the origin of his, the ἀνάγκη of 1 Corinthians 9:16.

The last words, οἰκονομίαν πεπίστευμαι , literally: it is a stewardship with which I am charged, signify: I must by all means fulfil it. The construction is the same as Romans 3:2. These words contrast the situation of a slave with that of the freeman. Among the ancients, stewards belonged to the class of slaves ( Luk 12:42-43 ). Now a slave, after completing his task, has no recompense to expect; he would simply have been punished had he not done it. The sense is therefore: “I do slave's work, nothing more.” Such was the position made for Paul by the mode of his calling to the apostleship; and it would remain what it is, servile, if he were content to preach the gospel like the other apostles. But this is precisely the position which he will not have, and to which he would prefer death itself. He would feel himself related to his Lord, not as a slave, but as a freeman, a friend; and hence it is that because this element of free-will had been lacking in the origin of his apostleship, he introduces it afterwards; how? This is what is explained in 1 Corinthians 9:18.

Verse 18

Vv. 18. “What is my reward then? [It is] that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel without charge, that I use not the right which belongs to me in my preaching.”

According to Meyer, the understood answer to the question: “What is my reward?” is negative: “I have none; I receive no reward.” And the sequel signifies, according to him: “And it is so willed of God that I may render the preaching of the gospel free of charge, which alone can procure me a true recompense.” Idea and construction, all is forced in this explanation. That of Hofmann is equally far-fetched. All of his explanation I can understand is, that he continues the question to the end of the verse: “What is the reward which could lead me to make the preaching of the gospel free of charge?” But the meaning which he gives to this question is beyond my comprehension. Paul's question after what precedes has a very simple meaning: “If the apostleship in itself gives me no ground of glorying because it is forced upon me, and if consequently it does not assure me of any reward, what shall I do after all to obtain that reward without the hope of which it would be impossible for me to labour?” The answer follows: “The way which presents itself to me, is to make the preaching of the gospel without charge. Thereby I do at least something which was not imposed on me; I introduce into my apostleship that element of freedom which was wanting at its origin, and I thus establish, as far as in me lies, a sort of equality between me and the apostles who attached themselves freely to Christ.” We have here a feeling of exquisite delicacy, and, if one may so speak, of transcendent modesty, which is far from having been always understood. Baur, especially, has thought that there is here the idea of the merit of works, which Paul had cherished during the time of his former Pharisaism. The apostle imagines, he thinks, that he can do more than is strictly obligatory, and thereby procure supererogatory merit before God. But Paul wishes simply to escape from the position “of the unprofitable servant who does only what he is obliged to do” ( Luk 17:10 ). He wishes at any price to pass from the servile state to that of a freeman acting from gratitude. The apostle does not for a moment suppose, when he thus speaks, that love goes beyond moral obligation rightly understood, but only that love is more than the legal and purely external fulfilment of duty. This latter secures against punishment; but it does not introduce the servant into his master's intimacy. It is strange to hear the apostle accused of going back to his old Pharisaic viewpoint in the very passage where he expresses most forcibly the insufficiency of the external work, and the imperious need of a spiritual relation to his God. The proposition beginning with the ἵνα , in order that, is the grammatical subject of the understood proposition containing the answer to the question: “What, then, is my reward?” “It is that I may make without charge...” This ἵνα , in order that, is not altogether equivalent to a simple ὅτι , that; it indicates the aim as ever requiring to be attained anew.

The word μισθός , reward, denotes, as is shown by the end of the verse, the advantage which Paul gains for the preaching of the gospel by the gratuitousness with which he follows it. This useful result for the kingdom of Christ is the reward which corresponds to the internal feeling of elevation ( καύχημα ) which is imparted to him by the position as a free servant, thus acquired.

The form εἰς τὸ μὴ καταχρήσασθαι , so as not to use..., is almost equivalent to a Latin gerund: in not using. We need not here, any more than in the passage 1 Corinthians 7:31, give to καταχρῆσθαι the sense of abuse. The κατά simply strengthens the notion of using: to use to the utmost. Paul means that there remains of his right a portion which he does not use, that this remnant, which he declines to use, may impress on his ministry the character of free-will which is wanting to it by nature (from the mode of its origin).

There is, perhaps, no passage in the apostle's letters where there are more admirably revealed at once the nobility, delicacy, profound humility, dignity, and legitimate pride of his Christian character. Serving Christ cannot give him matter of joy except in so far as he has the consciousness of doing so in a condition of freedom. And this condition he must gain by imposing on himself a mode of following the apostleship more laborious for himself, but more favourable to the propagation of the gospel, than that used by the other apostles, on whom the office of preacher was not imposed. But for this very reason we also understand how personal and exceptional this renunciation was which the apostle practised, and that it would be unjust to set it up as a model for the ordinary preachers of the gospel. Finally, let us call to mind that we have not here to do with an arbitrary renunciation imposed by Paul on himself with the view of inflicting meritorious and, in a sense, expiatory suffering. Paul had discerned how useful and even indispensable to the honour of the gospel this mode of acting was, especially in Greece. It was the one way of distinguishing the preaching of salvation from that venal eloquence and wisdom on which the rhetoricians lived.

With 1Co 9:18 Paul has closed the digression relative to apostolic payment. But his abnegation is not confined to that; it extends to his entire conduct in his ministry. In all respects he acts on this principle: to give up his liberty from regard to others, so far as it can contribute to save them.

Verse 19

Vv. 19. “For though I be free from all, I made myself servant to all, that I might gain the more.”

Paul formulates the general principle on which is founded the particular self-denial of which he has just spoken, and which guides all his conduct. Thus the for finds its natural explanation. By the term free, Paul returns to the question of the first verse, the theme of the whole passage.

Most commentators of our day take πάντων in the masculine sense: from all men. But the preposition ἐκ , out from, is not very suitable in this sense; it would rather require ἀπό . ᾿Εκ supposes a domain from which one goes forth. Paul has therefore in view all the legal prescriptions relating to meats, days, forbidden touchings, and in general everything in religion and morals which belongs only to the external form. As to himself, he felt that he was no longer subject to any restriction of the kind. Yet he consented to accommodate himself to the prejudices of any man, rich or poor, great or small, who held to any of these observances, and that for the very reason that in his eyes they were indifferent; he was infinitely less afraid of sacrificing his liberty than of using it so as to compromise the salvation of one of his brethren. We must therefore take πᾶσιν , to all, in the masculine sense as certainly as we take πάντων in the neuter sense (see on 1Co 9:22 ).

The pronoun ἐμαυτόν , myself, indicates the apostle's action on himself, necessary to effect this deliberate subjection. The words τοὺς πλείονας , the more, have been variously explained. Rückert: as many as possible; Neander, Edwards: more than I should have gained without that; de Wette, Meyer, Holsten: the greater number of those to whom I preach; Heinrici: more than those whom I had gained by acting otherwise; Hofmann, Alford: in greater number than those who have been converted by others. The most natural meaning seems to me to be: to gain them (these πάντες ) in greater number than I should have done by acting otherwise. Account is thus taken both of the article and of the comparative.

The word gain should not be taken in the sense which has become almost technical, in which we say: to gain one to the faith or to the gospel. The term is taken in its purely natural meaning. The apostle regards the salvation of a soul converted by him as a personal gain; for he identifies his possessions with those of Christ. What he gains for Christ is a part of his μισθός , his reward.

The following verses are the development of the word ἐδούλωσα , I made myself servant.

Verses 20-22

Vv. 20-22. “And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, though myself not under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; 21. To them that are without law, as without law, being not without law to God, but under the law through Christ, that I might gain them that are without law; 22. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all, that I might by all means save some.”

We might regard the Jews and those who are under the law as forming only one class of persons, under two different aspects: first in their national, and then in their religious relation. The first term would refer to their language, dress, etc.; the second, to their dependence on the law. But this distinction is somewhat far-fetched. Is it not better to understand by the first term those who were Jews by origin, and to include in the second, with those same Jews, all the proselytes of Gentile origin who accepted the yoke of the Mosaic law?

While, on the one hand, the apostle inflexibly refused every concession in favour of the law, to which an obligatory character could be attached ( Gal 2:3-5 ), he was, on the other hand, equally pliable and accommodating toward any one who might be scandalized by entire independence of legal observances. Thus are explained the circumcision of Timothy ( Act 16:3 ), the vow of Cenchrea ( Act 18:18 ), and the docility of the apostle in regard to the request of James relative to the Nazarite vow at Jerusalem ( Act 21:26 ). The absence of the article before ᾿Ιουδαίους arises from the fact that Paul wishes to designate not the individuals, but the category: Jews. The word νόμος , law, is without article, because what is expressed here, as Holsten says, is the notion of the genus or kind. The omission of the words: though not without law, in the Byz., arises probably from the mistake of a copyist whose eye passed on from the second ὑπὸ νόμον to the third. The proselytes to whom, as well as Jewish Christians, the second part of the verse relates, forms the transition to the Gentiles, ἄνομοι , without law ( 1Co 9:21 ).

Vv. 21. The term: them that are without law, is not taken in the sense: rebels to law, as in 2 Thessalonians 2:8. Its meaning is simply privative: those who are not subject to a law. Paul has made himself like them by taking the freedom secured by Christ from all legal observances which do not come under the permanent moral law. But, while affirming this, he declares himself subject, in his inmost life, to the true law, the Divine will which has become through Christ his personal will. The T. R. reads with K L the datives θεῷ and Χριστῷ , while the Alex. and Greco-Lats. read the genitives θεοῦ and Χριστοῦ . By the dative, Paul says that he is not without law relatively to God in virtue of the inner law, according to which he lives by the fact of his union with Christ. The genitive rather indicates a relation of possession, which in this case cannot well apply to anything except to the law itself. “Not without feeling myself bound by a law of God, seeing that, on the contrary, as Christ's possession, I carry the law in me.” It must be confessed that the meaning of the first reading is much simpler and more normal. But to explain the two readings one might conjecture an intermediate one: θεοῦ in the first clause, Χριστῷ in the second. In any case, Paul distinguishes three moral states: a life without law, that of the Gentile; a life under the law, that of the Jew (Romans 7:0); and a life in the law, that of the believer (Romans 8:0). In the first state the will is given up to its natural tendencies; in the second, it is subject to a rule which controls it from without, and which it obeys only by constraint; in the third, the human will is identified by the Spirit of Christ with the Divine law; comp. Jeremiah 31:33.

For the absence of the article (if we reject τούς with the T. R.), see on 1 Corinthians 9:20.

Vv. 22. I think with most commentators, that the weak in this verse denotes Christians who are yet slenderly confirmed, such as those mentioned in chap. 8. No doubt the term gain does not apply to them in the same sense as to the Jews and Gentiles of whom Paul has been speaking; but the consequence of their weakness, if one should scandalize them, by making them return to their Gentile or Jewish life, might yet be to destroy them, as is shown by passages of the Epistles to the Corinthians and to the Hebrews. Paul did not regard them as gained till they were secured against such relapses. Edwards rightly remarks, that we have here exactly the three categories of persons whom Paul mentions in concluding this part, 1 Corinthians 10:32: “Jews, Greeks, and the Church of God.”

The ὡς , as, before ἀσθενής , is probably an addition. The apostle may well say that he became weak when he adopted a line of conduct resting on scruples which he did not share.

The last words of the verse sum up the entire passage; they correspond to the first of 1 Corinthians 9:19. Not being able to cite all the particular subjects of accommodation, Paul comprehends them in a general expression: τὰ πάντα , all things. Here we have very certainly the neuter employed side by side with the masculine τοῖς πᾶσιν , to all, confirming our interpretation of the πάντων , 1 Corinthians 9:19. The words πάντως τινάς , absolutely some, signify: “in any case some at least of the mass,” that is to say, of the multitude of the unbelieving or indifferent whom he met in the capitals of the heathen world where he proclaimed the gospel. No observance appeared to him too irksome, no requirement too stupid, no prejudice too absurd, to prevent his dealing tenderly with it in the view of saving souls.

The word save, which he here substitutes for gain, clearly shows what he understood by this gain; the salvation of his brethren, this formed his riches!

Thus Paul's conduct was as far removed from the licence or insolent superiority of the liberals of Corinth as from the timorous servility of the weak Christians. Free in respect of everything, he made himself the slave of all from love. What firmness of principle, and at the same time delicacy of conduct, what a combination of strength and gentleness, elevation and humility! How had this fiery steed been tamed and trained by his skilful rider! While preserving his nobility and high spirit, he had acquired the most admirable adaptability. It seems to me difficult to believe that when thus describing his conduct, Paul had not in view the charge of versatility which his adversaries brought against him (2 Corinthians 1:0). As in the previous passage he had indirectly rectified the consequences which his adversaries drew from his refusal of payment, he wishes here to explain to the Church the alleged inconsistencies with which he was charged in his conduct as to Mosaic observances. It was no matter of inconstancy or guile ( 1Co 2:15 seq.), but of love.

Thus far the apostle has claimed of believers the renunciation of their rights from regard to the salvation of their neighbour. Now he presses the proud and intractable Corinthians more forcibly, by showing them that it is not their neighbour's salvation only that is at stake in this matter, but also their own. This new and more pressing consideration is developed on to 1 Corinthians 10:22.

Verse 23

Vv. 23. “Now then I do all things for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof also.”

The δέ , then, is progressive; it marks the transition from interest taken in the salvation of our brethren to care for our own. To understand this verse, we need not construe it in the way in which it is usually done, as if the verb I do had two regimens; the first, for the gospel, and the second, that I might..., the latter being regarded as explaining the former. The explanation would not square sufficiently with the term to be explained. There is, it seems to me, only one motive, that which is indicated by the that, the salvation of Paul himself. This will appear if we paraphrase as follows: “If I act thus for the gospel, it is that I myself might be partaker thereof.” Those sacrifices which he makes for the preaching of the gospel ( διὰ τὸ εὐαγγ .), he makes that he may himself share in the salvation which he preaches; comp. 1 Corinthians 9:27, which is the key of all that precedes. This life of self-denial, then, is the only condition on which Paul founds the hope that he may one day be welcomed by the Judge and receive the crown from His hand.

If we read τοῦτο , this, with T. R., the reference is to the general principle of conduct expounded above. If, with the Alex. and the Greco-Lats., we read πάντα , all things, the word refers to the various applications of the principle which have been enumerated. The last reading seems preferable. The Greek expression literally means: fellow-partaker of the gospel. The apostle means: partaking with all other believers in the blessings which it confers, and in those which it promises. Paul would not at any price be deprived of the salvation and glory made sure to other preachers by the freedom with which they perform their task. These words should open the eyes of the Corinthians, who will deny themselves nothing, to the danger to which they thus expose themselves. Edwards explains Paul's phrase in the sense: “to be a partaker of the spirit of the gospel.” Certainly Paul does not think that the reward promised to the faithful can be separated from the possession of the evangelical spirit. But 1Co 9:27 constrains us to think specially of salvation, and of the salvation, present or final, which the gospel promises. 1Co 9:19 expresses in a positive form the same idea as 1Co 9:27 does negatively.

To illustrate this terrible thought, the apostle borrows a figure from the most exciting spectacle which Greek life presented. Every two years there were celebrated near Corinth the Isthmian games, which, like the other public games of Greece, such as the Olympic and Nemaean games, included the five exercises of leaping, throwing the discus, racing, boxing, and wrestling. All Greece witnessed these competitions with the warmest interest, and the athlete who was proclaimed the victor received the admiration and homage of the whole nation; see the description given by Beet, p. 157 seq. It is quite probable, as the same author says, that, during the two years Paul had passed at Corinth, he had himself witnessed the Isthmian games, at least once.

Paul makes use here only of the two exercises of racing and boxing.

Verses 23-27

II. The Question considered from the Viewpoint of the Salvation of the Strong Themselves. 9:23-10:22.

As Paul concluded the preceding development by giving his own example, he introduces the following in the same way. In 1Co 9:23-27 he shows the danger which he himself ran, if he ventured to deviate from the austere path of voluntary renunciation. Then, in chap. 1 Corinthians 10:1-11, he presents a second example to the Corinthians, that of the people of Israel when they had come out of Egypt, whose numerous chastisements in the wilderness were called forth by their loose abandonment to their lusts. Finally, 1 Corinthians 9:12-22, he applies these examples to the present situation of the Corinthians.

Verse 24

Vv. 24. “Know ye not that they which run in a race, run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.”

In the application, the goal is no more identical with the prize, than in the actual case. The goal is perfect holiness; the prize is glory, the crown of holiness. Of course, in mentioning the fact that out of a number of runners only one reaches the goal first, and obtains the prize, the apostle does not mean, that of the multitude of Christians only one will be saved. What he desires to inculcate by the figure is, that to succeed in the Christian race, one must labour for his salvation with the same energy and the same resolution to reach the goal of holiness, as this one victor to reach the goal of the race. Like him, the Christian must learn to forget everything else, that he may see only the goal to be reached. They are not very many, Paul means, who, while calling themselves Christians, run after this manner! The word οὕτω , so, may be regarded as a particle of inference: “ so then run, that ye may obtain.” But it may also be made the antecedent of the conjunction ἵνα : “Run in such a way that...” There is more vivacity in this second meaning of οὕτω . This little word, rightly understood, seems intended to cheer and stimulate the runners. It is objected, that instead of the ἵνα , that, a ὥστε , so that, would have been needed. But the ἵνα brings out better the aspiration of the runner after victory.

When the apostle speaks of this one, does he allude to his own mode of acting? Possibly ( 1Co 9:26-27 ). In any case they ought to beware, those Corinthians fond of their ease and obstinately attached to their rights and liberties lest they be in the end like those slack runners who lose the prize. To win, it is not enough to run, it is needed to run well (Rückert). This idea is the transition to the following verse.

Verse 25

Vv. 25. “Now, whoever strives for the mastery abstains from everything: they to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.”

Edwards rightly says: “This verse reminds the Corinthians of two things: first, the difficulty of winning, and next, the infinite value of victory.” The participle every man striving relates, not to the time when the athlete is already in the lists, but to the time when he enrols himself among those who are to take part in the competition. During the ten months before the day of the games, the competitors lived in sustained exercises and with special self-denial, abstaining from everything that could exhaust or weight the body. For the Christian, whose conflict is a matter, not of a day, but of the whole life, abstinence, the condition of progress in sanctification, is consequently an exercise to be renewed daily.

The abstinence of the athletes did not relate only to criminal enjoyments, but also to gratifications in themselves lawful; so the Christian's self-denial should bear, not only on guilty pleasures, but on every habit, on every enjoyment which, without being vicious, may involve a loss of time or a diminution of moral force.

Should any complain of this condition of final triumph, Paul reminds them that the athletes make such sacrifices with a view to a passing honour, whereas they have in prospect eternal glory. The pine crown which the judge put on the victor's head in the Isthmian games, while it was the emblem of glory, was at the same time the emblem of the transitory character of that glory. For the spiritual victor there is reserved an unfading crown!

Verses 26-27

Vv. 26, 27. “I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 27. But I buffet my body, and lead it captive: lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected.”

The particle τοίνυν , conformably thereto, does not occur elsewhere in Paul's writings; it forcibly expresses a consequence inevitably resulting from what precedes: “In virtue, then, of this state of things in which there is nothing to be changed.”

The word run denotes the progress made in Christian sanctification; comp. Philippians 3:13-14.

As to the οὕτω , it is evidently here the antecedent of ὡς .

The adverb ἀδήλως has sometimes been taken in the passive sense: “Without being seen, remarked,” like a runner who is lost in the crowd of other athletes. The apostle would thus expressly designate himself here as the one who attracts the attention of the spectators, by outstripping the other runners. This meaning would be admissible if such an expression were not rather pretentious. It is better to give the adverb the active sense: “Without seeing the goal, and consequently the course, clearly, as when one walks in the dark; so: deviating to right and left.” This meaning is more in keeping, as we shall see, with that of the following figure: beating the air, which has an analogous signification, as is proved by the parallelism of the two propositions. Paul alludes to that sterile activity of the sages and orators of Corinth, who neglect the true end of Christian life, sanctification and final salvation, and are concerned only to charm their hearers, to enjoy themselves with them, and to lord it over them. As for him, he runs with his eye firmly fixed on the goal. Next, to bring home this obligation still more forcibly to his readers, he refers to a second and more formidable kind of contest, boxing. Here there is not only running, but striking and being struck. And the blows, to be effective, must not be lost on the air; they must fall on the adversary. The term beat the air has sometimes been taken as an allusion to the kind of gymnastics in which the athletes engaged to prepare themselves for the contest, and which was called sciomachy. But we are here in the heat of the contest itself. The allusion therefore, if there was one, could only in any case be very indirect.

Vv. 27. The apostle explains by his own example who the adversary is on whom these redoubled and redoubtable blows are to fall; it is his own body. He does not say his flesh, as if he wished here to lay stress on the characteristic of sin in the body; no, it is the organism, as such, that he curbs and bends by all sorts of exercises and austerities to make it a pliable instrument. There is room for hesitation between the two readings ὑπωπιάζω , I buffet (the verb strictly signifies: to strike under the eyes, so as to make blue wounds), and ὑποπιάζω or ὑποπιέζω , to grip so as to put under. This second reading would suit the following verb: to lead captive; but the first agrees better with the foregoing verb: to give blows with the fist. By this figure the apostle describes all the privations which he imposes on his body, all the labours to which he condemns it throughout the entire course of his life, and that especially in consequence of his refusing all payment and obliging himself to provide with his hands for his maintenance; comp. 2Co 6:4-5 ; 2 Corinthians 11:23-27; Acts 20:34-35.

The word δουλαγώγω , to lead captive, continues the figure. As the victor led the vanquished round the arena, amid the plaudits of the spectators, so Paul, after breaking the opposition of his body, leads it like a submissive servant before the face of the world in the labours of the apostleship.

And let not this be taken as a work of supererogation, fitted to confer on him some peculiar merit and a higher degree of glory! In his eyes, there is no luxury in the question, it is a simple necessary. Were he to act otherwise, he should be afraid, he who has stimulated others, of being himself finally rejected. One can hardly avoid seeing in the term κηρύσσειν , to fill the office of herald, to publish, an allusion to the function of the man whose duty it was to sound the trumpet and so summon the athletes to begin the contest. Such is the figure of what the apostle was doing for the Gentile peoples by the preaching of the gospel. Rückert, it is true, objects, that, in the public games, the herald himself did not enter the lists. Comparisons always halt somewhere; otherwise they would imply not comparison, but identity. The Christian ministry presents this exceptional character, that he who fills it has two tasks to perform simultaneously: that of calling others to salvation, and that of securing his own. Heinrici has thought that the point here was the approbation or disapprobation which the herald might deserve by the way in which he proclaimed the name and eulogy of the victors, after the combat. This is to press the figure beyond all measure.

The term ἀδόκιμος , non-acceptable, to be rejected, comes, grammarians say, from δέχομαι , to receive. This term also belonged to the language of the public games. Before admitting candidates to the honour of competing in the circus, they were subjected to a preparatory trial, called δοκιμασία , by means of which there were set aside all those who were not fit to enter the lists. Could Paul be alluding to this custom? It seems to me improbable. His concern is not about the trial for entrance into the contest, but about the exit trial. The terms δόκιμος and δοκιμή are so frequently used by the apostle, that it is unnecessary to explain the use of them here by an allusion which would be so far from appropriate. It is his salvation, the welcome to be received by himself from the Judge, which the apostle sees to be at stake, and with a view to which he thinks it his duty to use such severity toward his own body.

Such is the mode in which the apostle seeks to awake feelings of salutary fear and serious watchfulness in those self-infatuated Corinthians, who, on the ground of their superior knowledge and alleged emancipation, forgot the regard which they owed to the salvation of their brethren, without imagining that by this conduct they were compromising their own.

The better to inculcate the manner in which they should act, he seeks at that very moment to make himself a Greek to the Greeks, borrowing from their national life the figures most fitted to strike their imagination.

It has often and justly been remarked, how frequent these figures, borrowed from the contests of the stadium, are in the authors of the New Testament Epistles (Philippians 3:0; 2 Timothy 4:0; Hebrews 12:0, etc.), while they are wholly strange to the discourses of Jesus in the Gospels. Have we not here a proof of the fidelity with which the original form of the latter has been preserved to us? Why, if they had been composed later, and after the Gospel had penetrated into the Greek world, should not such figures so familiar to Greek thought appear in them?

Bibliographical Information
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gsc/1-corinthians-9.html.
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