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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 9

The Bible Study New TestamentBible Study NT

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Verse 1


Am I not a free man? The false teacher at Corinth was a Christian (see note on 1 Corinthians 3:5), but his motives were not right. He thought the gospel was a way to get rich (1 Timothy 6:5), although it would not be right to say that he was totally wicked. But because of his attitude toward money, he was amazed to find that Paul had not taken one cent from the Corinthians when he preached there. See note on 2 Corinthians 11:8. Because he did intend to take money from them, he believed he had to destroy Paul’s authority as an apostle. “If Paul is an apostle, why didn’t he use the rights of an apostle? Why is he living a celibate life when the other apostles, especially Peter, are married?” The Corinthians must have asked about these things when they wrote to Paul. Paul says he is a free man – free to demand they pay him a salary, and free not to take a cent from them if he chooses. Am I not an apostle: God himself called Paul to be an apostle. See note on 1 Corinthians 1:1. Haven’t I seen Jesus our Lord? Paul saw Jesus in person, and this made him a witness to the resurrection (see Galatians 1:10-17). And aren’t you the result? The church (messianic community) at Corinth proved that he was their apostle.

Verse 2


Surely you do! He had worked among them with power and the Holy Spirit. Compare 2 Corinthians 12:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:5. You yourselves. The Corinthian Christians were living proof of Paul’s preaching and power.

Verse 3


This is how I defend myself. By pointing to the Corinthian Christians as living proof!

Verse 4


Don’t I have the right? Even though he did not use this right, he had it. Compare 2 Thessalonians 3:9 and note.

Verse 5


And take a Christian wife with me? The other apostles did this, and asked the church to pay their bills wherever they went. The Lord’s brothers, who would be of special interest to the false teacher, also did this, And Peter. [Cephas is the Aramaic version of Peter.] Peter was a married man and continued to live with his wife as an apostle, taking her along with him on his tours of mission. Compare note on 1 Corinthians 7:3.

Verse 6


Or are Barnabas and I? Both Barnabas and Paul refused to take money from the people they were teaching the gospel (but see note on 2 Corinthians 11:8). As an apostle, Paul had the right to: (1) receive a salary from the church; (2) have a wife; (3) not have to work at other things for his living. [This mention of Barnabas shows they were still close friends in spite of their difference of opinion over John Mark (Acts 15:39).]

Verse 7


What soldier? He uses three examples to show his right to receive a salary from them: (1) soldiers were paid to go on a campaign; (2) farmers ate their own produce; (3) shepherds used milk from their own sheep.

Verse 8


Because the Law says the same thing. The Law was terminated as a means of salvation (Romans 3:19-21); but it remains a revelation of truth and right (Romans 7:12-14), and Paul uses it to teach a lesson to us.

Verse 9


We read. Deuteronomy 25:4. The people of the East threshed their grain by making cattle walk on the heads of grain to free the individual grains from the stalk. See note on Matthew 3:12. Now, is God? “Does God speak here only about humane treatment of oxen?”

Verse 10


Of course this was written for us. To teach us that we ought to support those who work to help us. Material gain is not in itself a bad motive! Both the man who plows and the man who reaps expect to get a share of the crop. Not money, but the love of money is a source of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). The difference between the hired man and the shepherd (John 10:11-13) is not receiving a profit (both receive a profit from the sheep), but in attitude. The hired man has no love for the sheep; the shepherd does!

Verse 11


We have sown. They brought the Good News to them, made them disciples of Christ, and made them strong in the faith. If we reap material benefits? “Some food and drink – a salary, in other words.”

Verse 12


If others have the right? The false teacher and his associates demanded financial support from the Corinthian church. If they thought these had the right to these things, didn’t they understand Paul had an even greater claim on their resources??? But we haven’t made use. Paul felt that taking a salary from the people he was preaching to, might be misunderstood by the pagans, who might accuse him of preaching such things only to make himself rich. For this reason, he often supported himself by working at some other kind of work (Acts 18:3), or drew a salary from another church (2 Corinthians 11:8). In some situations a “tent-making” preacher has the best chance of success.

Verse 13


Surely you know. The Temple teaches the same lesson. Part of the sacrifice was burnt on the altar, and part went to the Priests and Levites.

Verse 14


In the same way. It is the Lord himself who has ordered that those who preach should be supported by the group (church). Compare Matthew 10:10; Luke 10:7; Galatians 6:6.

Verse 15


But I haven’t made use. “Even though I have shown you that both the Law and the gospel authorize these rights for me, I have purposely not used them!” From here on Paul finishes this chapter writing in the first person singular, telling us his thoughts, motives, and reasons for his actions. Nor am I writing this now. Compare what he says in 2 Corinthians 11:7-10. Paul would rather starve to death, than to allow the Corinthian church to pay his way! My rightful boast. He never will be dependent on Corinthian pay, because this would destroy his rightful boast. The key to this is found in 2 Corinthians 11:12. Those who opposed Paul demanded the church support them in luxury! But because they will be compared to Paul, they must discredit him. Paul undermines their claims by refusing support from the Corinthian church. If he accepted its money, he would be doing his enemies a favor and help prove their claims.

Verse 16


Just because I preach the gospel. Being a teacher gives Paul no right to boast about it. The false teacher boasted very much about himself, so Paul makes a strong statement that he is Christ’s slave (1 Corinthians 9:17; see note on 1 Corinthians 4:1; 1 Corinthians 4:6). And how terrible It would be! As an apostle, Paul is a “soldier under orders,” and if he did not fulfill his mission, he would expect to be punished. [Some see in Philippians 3:12 Paul saying that he is an enemy taken captive, who must serve his captor. (1) Paul was trying his best to serve God when he met Jesus; (2) We are all enemies who have been taken captive and changed into friends of God.]

Verse 17


As a matter of free choice. Here again we see Paul contrasting himself with the false teacher who was a “self-appointed apostle.” Paul emphasizes that he is a slave of Christ, only doing his duty. Therefore he had no reason to boast about it (compare Luke 17:7-10). [Don’t read too much into what Paul says. The special circumstances at Corinth called for special action. Paul did receive money for his work (2 Corinthians 11:8), but he would not accept one cent from the Corinthian church. See note on 1 Corinthians 9:15.]

Verse 18


What pay do I get then? Only the satisfaction felt by the generous mind who does volunteer service (compare Acts 20:33-35). Paul “boasts” that while the Corinthians spend nothing on him, he spends himself on them! Compare 2 Corinthians 12:14-15.

Verse 19


I am a free man. See 1 Corinthians 9:1 and note. In order to win. There is a special beauty in this verse. Slaves worked for their masters without pay, and jumped to obey their every wish! Paul, in preaching the Good News, makes himself a slave by refusing to take pay from those he works to turn to Christ, also he limits his own freedom by following their prejudices and weaknesses (where he can do this without violating the Law of Christ). He does this to win as many to Christ as possible!

Verse 20


While working with the Jews. Paul shows us how he identified with those he worked among. When he worked with Jews, he was as Jewish as anyone could be. He followed their dietary laws, attended their feasts (Acts 21:26), and had Timothy circumcised (Acts 16:3). But in doing this, he did not compromise one truth of the gospel! [Compare Galatians 2:3-5; Galatians 2:14.]

Verse 21


When with Gentiles. Only the Jews had The Law, so everyone else was a Gentile. Neither Paul nor any Christian preacher, was an enforcer of the Law (compare Acts 15:19-21). When Paul was in Athens (Acts 17:0), he spoke to the people there as a Gentile! He “forgot” his Jewishness, yet he never forgot Christ’s law!

Verse 22


Among the weak In faith. Who still believe some things are sins which are perfectly lawful. An example of this is the vegetarian (Romans 14:1-3). Paul advised the strong to adapt themselves to the weak (1 Corinthians 8:0). So I become all things to all men. Paul speaks of no unchristian compromise with human wisdom, but in things which were harmless and pure, he became like them. Anyone who expects to turn people to Christ, must share their culture and customs, but not their sins.

Verse 23


All this I do for the gospel’s sake. When Paul made himself everybody’s slave, it was for one purpose: to promote the gospel! Compare Philippians 3:7-14. Every Christian ought to have this as their highest priority of life: to promote the gospel!

Verse 24


Surely you know. Paul uses symbolism that they understand. In a race, only the winner gets the prize. The Isthmian Games (see introduction) were held at Corinth. “If you run in the race, you run to win the prize!” [But in the Christian Race, the success of one does not disqualify the others.]

Verse 25


Submits to strict discipline. “If you expect to have a chance to win in the games, you must go into training to develop and strengthen your body.” That will last forever. The wreath of flowers or pine leaves would soon wither and dry up. We expect to win a crown that is eternal (1 Peter 5:4).

Verse 26


That is why. Paul has a definite goal! He runs straight for the finish line, and ignores all else! As a boxer, he wastes no time shadow boxing! In the games, the judges watched each contestant closely.

Verse 27


And bring it under complete control. Paul accepts as necessary the strict discipline of his own body, if he is to win the race. Compare 2 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Peter 4:1-2. To keep from being rejected. I cannot believe that Paul had any great fear of this, even though it was a possibility. After having called others. At the beginning of the games, a herald called out the names of the contestants, who were then examined to be certain they were qualified to compete. After the contest, each of the competitors was again examined and judged on the basis of how well they had competed. If the judges felt they had not done their best, they were disqualified and lost the prize. Even though the victory is already won in Christ on the cross, we personally can be disqualified. We must try hard to make God’s choice of us a permanent experience (2 Peter 1:10).

Bibliographical Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ice/1-corinthians-9.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.
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