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Monday, July 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 9

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

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Verse 1

Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?

Am I not an apostle? am I not free? So Delta G f g. But 'Aleph (') A B, Vulgate, read the order, 'Am I not free? am I not an apostle?' He alludes to 1 Corinthians 8:9, "this liberty of yours:" if you claim it, I appeal to yourselves, have not I also it? For, "am I not a apostle." I can claim not only Christian, but also apostolic liberty.

Have I not seen Jesus? - corporeally, not in mere vision: cf. 1 Corinthians 15:8, where he proves the resurrection by actual bodily appearances to Peter, the other apostles, and himself. Compare Acts 9:7; Acts 9:17, the contrast between "the men with him seeing no man," and "Jesus that appeared unto thee in the way" to Damascus. His vision of Christ in the temple (Acts 22:17) was "in a trance." To be a witness of Christ's resurrection was a function of an apostle (Acts 1:22). A B omit 'Christ.'

Ye my work in the Lord - your conversion is His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10) through my instrumentality (1 Corinthians 9:2).

Verse 2

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.

Yet doubtless - yet at least I am such to you.

Seal of mine apostleship - your conversion by my preaching (2 Corinthians 12:12), and your gifts conferred by me (1 Corinthians 1:7), vouch for my apostleship, as a seal to a document attests its genuineness (John 3:33).

Verse 3

Mine answer to them that do examine me is this,

To them that do examine me - who call in question mine apostleship.

Is this - namely, that you are the seal of mine apostleship.

Verse 4

Have we not power to eat and to drink?

Have we not power [ exousian (G1849)] - 'right,' lawful power; the same Greek as "liberty" (1 Corinthians 8:9). If you claim it, so may I. The "we" includes his colleagues. The Greek interrogative [ mee (G3361) ouk (G3756)] expresses, 'You surely wont say (will you?) that we have not the power or right,' etc.

Eat and to drink? - without manual labouring (1 Corinthians 9:11; 1 Corinthians 9:13-14). Paul's not exercising this right was made a plea for insinuating that he was conscious he was no true apostle (2 Corinthians 12:13-16).

Verse 5

Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?

Lead about a sister, a wife - `a sister as a wife;' "a sister" by faith, which makes all believers brethren and sisters in God: "a wife" by marriage. Paul implies he did not exercise his right to marry and "lead about" a believer, for Christian expediency, as well to save the Church the cost of maintaining her in his wide circuits, as also to give himself more undistractedly to building up the Church of Christ (1 Corinthians 7:26; 1 Corinthians 7:32; 1 Corinthians 7:35). Contrast the Corinthians' self-pleasing in the exercise of their "liberty" at the cost of destroying, instead of edifying, the Church (1 Corinthians 8:9-10, margin, 1 Corinthians 8:11-13).

As other (Greek, 'the other') apostles - implying that some had used the power which they all had of marrying. We know from Matthew 8:14 that Cephas or Peter was married. A confutation of Peter's self-called followers, who exclude the clergy from marriage. Clemens Alexandrinus, 'Stromata,' 7: 63, reports that he encouraged his wife, when being led to death, by saying, 'Remember, my dear one, the Lord' (cf. Eusebius, 'E. H.' 3:30).

Brethren of the Lord - held in especial esteem on account of their relationship to Jesus (Matthew 13:55; John 7:5; Acts 1:14; Galatians 1:19) - James, Joses, Simon, and Judas. Probably (according to the Jewish meaning of "brethren") cousins of Jesus, sons of Cleopas and Maria, Mary's sister.

Cephas - singled out as a name carrying weight with one partisan section at Corinth. 'If your favourite leader does so, surely so may I' (1 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 3:22).

Verse 6

Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?

Barnabas - long the associate of Paul. He, too, forbore to claim the minister's right of maintenance. Paul supported himself by tent-making (Acts 18:3; Acts 20:34; 2 Thessalonians 3:8).

Verse 7

Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?

The minister is spiritually a soldier (2 Timothy 2:3), a vine-dresser (1 Corinthians 3:6-8; Song of Solomon 1:6), and a shepherd (1 Peter 5:2; 1 Peter 5:4).

Of the fruit. So C. But 'Aleph (') A B C Delta G omit "of."

Verse 8

Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?

As a man - I speak thus with the sanction of not merely human judgment, but the divine law also.

Verse 9

For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?

Ox that treadeth out the corn (Deuteronomy 25:4). In the East they do not, after reaping, carry the sheaves home to barns as we do, but take them to an area in the open air to be threshed by oxen treading them, or else drawing a threshing instrument over them (cf. Micah 4:13).

Doth God ... care for oxen? [ mee (G3361).] 'Is it for the oxen that God careth? Surely not. God does care for the lower animal (Psalms 36:6; Matthew 10:29), but it is with the ultimate aim of the welfare of man, the head of creation. If humane consideration is shown for the lower animal, still more ought it to be for man; the human (spiritual as well as temporal) labourer is worthy of his hire.

Verse 10

Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.

Altogether - join with "saith." It would be untrue that God saith it altogether (in the sense of solely) for our sakes. But it is true that He by all means saith it for our sakes as the ultimate object in the lower world. Else translate 'mainly' or 'especially.'

That - teaching us that [ hoti (G3754)].

Should plow - ought to plow in hope. The people ought not to let their minister labour without remuneration.

He that thrasheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. So G f g, except "in hope." 'Aleph (') A B, Vulgate, Syriac, Origen, read 'he that thrasheth (ought to thrash) in the hope of partaking' (namely, of the fruit of his thrashing). "He that ploweth" is the first planter of a church (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:6; 1 Corinthians 3:9); "he that thrasheth," the minister who tends a church already planted.

Verse 11

If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?

We ... we - emphatic in the Greek.

Your carnal things. We, who have sown the infinitely more precious treasures of the spirit, may at least claim in return the only thing you have to give-namely, the goods that nourish the flesh.

Verse 12

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

Others - whether true (1 Corinthians 9:5) or false apostles (2 Corinthians 11:13) Others - whether true (1 Corinthians 9:5) or false apostles (2 Corinthians 11:13).

We rather - considering our greater labours for you (2 Corinthians 11:23).

Suffer all things - without complaining. We conceal ([ stegomen (G4722)], forbear divulging; hold as a watertight vessel) any distress we suffer from straitened circumstances: the same Greek, 1 Corinthians 13:7.

Lest we ... hinder ... gospel - not to cause hindrance to its progress by giving a handle for the imputation of self-seeking, if we received support. The less of encumbrance caused to the Church, and the more of work done, the better for the Gospel cause (2 Timothy 2:4).

Verse 13

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

Minister about holy things - the Jewish priests [ hoi (G3588) ta (G3588) hiera (G2413) ergazomenoi (G2038)] who offer sacrifices.

Partakers with the altar - a part of the victims going to the service of the altar, and the rest being shared by the priests, (Numbers 18:8, etc.)

Verse 14

Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.

Even so. The only inference from this passage is, not that the Christian ministry is sacrificial, as the Jewish priesthood, but simply, that as the latter was supported by the people's contributions, so should the former. The stipends of the clergy were at first from offerings at the Lord's supper. At the love feast preceding it every believer, according to his ability, offered a gift; and when the expense of the table had been defrayed, the bishop laid aside a portion for himself, the presbyters, and deacons; and with the rest relieved widows, orphans, confessors, and the poor, (Tertullian, 'Apology,' 1 Corinthians 3:9.) The stipend was in proportion to the dignity and merits of the bishops, presbyters, and deacons (Cyprian, 100: 4: Ephesians 6:1-24).

Preach the Gospel - the duty of the Christian minister, in contrast to the ministering about sacrifices (Greek) and waiting at the altar of the Jewish priesthood (1 Corinthians 9:13). If the Lord's supper were a sacrifice (as the Mass is supposed to be), this 14th verse would certainly have been worded so, to answer to 1 Corinthians 9:13. The same Lord Christ 'ordains' the ordinances in the Old and in the New Testaments (Matthew 10:10).

Verse 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's celibacy, and his ability to maintain himself without interrupting his ministry, made that expedient to him which is ordinarily inexpedient-a ministry not supported by the people. What to him was a duty would be the opposite to one to whom God committed a family, without other resources. Under other circumstances he accepted help (Philippians 4:15-16).

I have used none of these things - none of these 'powers' which I might have used (1 Corinthians 9:4-6; 1 Corinthians 9:12).

Neither - rather, 'yet I have not written.

So done unto me - literally, in my case; as in the case of a soldier, a planter, a shepherd, a plowman, and a sacrificing priest (1 Corinthians 9:7; 1 Corinthians 9:10; 1 Corinthians 9:13).

Make my glorying void - deprive me of my privilege of preaching without remuneration (2 Corinthians 11:7-10). Rather than hinder the Gospel by giving pretext for a charge of interested motives (2 Corinthians 12:17-18), Paul would "die" of hunger (cf. Abraham's disinterestedness, Genesis 14:22-23; Genesis 14:22-23).

Verse 16

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

Though I (if I simply) preach ... I have nothing to glory of - for the "necessity" laid on me by Christ's commission (Acts 26:16-18) to preach (cf. Jeremiah 20:9, and Jonah) does away with "glorying." It is only when I preach without charge (1 Corinthians 9:18) that I have cause for "glorying," since there is no necessity laid on me as to this: it is my voluntary act for the Gospel's sake.

Verse 17

For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. Translate, 'If [as is the case: ei (G1487) prassoo (G4238), indicative] I be doing this spontaneously (without remuneration), I have a reward (1 Corinthians 9:18); but if not spontaneously (not without remuneration), I have a stewardship intrusted to me,' and so have no special claim to glorying or reward for that which 'necessity is laid on me' to do (Luke 17:10).

Verse 18

What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.

What is my reward? (Greek, the reward I speak of) - for preaching, as I do, spontaneously? It is that, by preaching without charge, I do not make my right of charging a hindrance to the Gospel progress.

Of Christ. So G. Omitted in 'Aleph (') A B C Delta f, Vulgate.

Abuse - `that I use not to the hindrance of the Gospel my power.' The "reward" ultimately aimed at is the gaining of the more (1 Corinthians 9:19). It was for this, not to have matter for glorying, or 'supererogatory merit,' that he preached without charge.

Verse 19

For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.

Free from all men - i:e., independent of all men.

Gain the more - i:e., the greater number of them ("all men"). "Gain is appropriate in relation to a "reward;" he therefore repeats it (1 Corinthians 9:20-22).

Verse 20

And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;

I became as a Jew - in things not defined by the law, but by Jewish usage. Not Judaizing in essentials, but in matters where there was no compromise of principle (cf. Acts 16:3; Acts 21:20-26) - an undesigned coincidence between the history and the letter: a proof of genuineness. To them that are under the law, as under the law - in things defined by the law; ceremonies not then repugnant to Christianity. The reason for distinguishing this class from the former is-Paul himself belonged nationally to "the Jews," but did not in creed belong to "them that are under the law." This is confirmed by the reading inserted here by 'Aleph (') A B C Delta G f g, Vulgate, 'not being (i:e., "not that I am") myself under the law.'

Verse 21

To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.

To them ... without law - i:e., without revealed law: the pagan (cf. Romans 2:12; Romans 2:15).

As without law - not urging on them the ceremonies and "works of the law," but "the hearing of faith" (Galatians 3:2); discoursing in their own manner, as at Athens, with arguments from Greek poets (Acts 17:28).

Not without law to God - `while conforming to others in matters indifferent, being not without law toward God, but responsible to the law (literally, IN LAW) toward Christ.' The Christian's true position in relation to the world, to himself, and to God. Everything develops itself according to its proper law. So the Christian, though no longer a slave to the letter constraining him from without, is subject to the higher law, the spirit of faith in Christ acting from within as the germ of a new life. Christ was responsible to the law for us, so that we are no longer responsible to it (Galatians 3:13; Galatians 3:24), but to Him, as the members to the Head (1 Corinthians 7:22; Romans 8:1-4; 1 Peter 2:16). In proportion as Christians serve Christ in newness of spirit, they fulfill the righteousness of the law, and are no longer under the law as an outward letter. Our old man still needs the law as a rule to convict of sin (Romans 7:4; Romans 7:6). To Christ, as man's Head, the Father delegated His authority (John 5:22; John 5:27); whence he substitutes "Christ" for "God" - "not without law to God, but under the law to Christ." The law of Christ is the law of love, which is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:8; Galatians 6:2: cf. Galatians 5:13-14).

Verse 22

To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

Gain the weak - i:e., establish, instead of being a stumblingblock to them (1 Corinthians 8:7; Romans 14:1). Alford thinks the "weak" are not Christians at all, for these have been already 'won.' But when "weak" Christians are by the love of stronger brethren kept from falling, they are rightly said to be 'gained.'

All things to all men - literally, 'the all things to the all men;' all that is required to all the various classes. Origen reads as the English version; but 'Aleph (') A B C Delta G omit 'the' before "all things." By all means ... some. The gain of even "some" is worth the expenditure of "all means." He conformed to the feelings of the several classes, that out of them all he might gain some.

Verse 23

And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.

This. 'Aleph (') A B C Delta G f g read "all things."

Partaker thereof (Greek, 'fellow-partaker') - of the Gospel blessings promised.

With (you) - rather 'with them;' namely, with those 'gained' by me to the Gospel.

Verse 24

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

Know ye not. The Isthmian games, in which the foot- race was a leading one, were a subject of patriotic pride to the Corinthians in the neighbourhood. These periodical games were to the Greeks rather a passion than an amusement: a suitable image of Christian earnestness. Paul uses the same image, Acts 20:24 - an undesigned coincidence between the history and the letter: a proof of genuineness.

In a race [ stadioo (G4712)] - 'in a race-course.'

All ... one. Although we knew that one only could be saved, it would be well worth our while to run. Not "all" who enter on the Christian race win (1 Corinthians 10:1-5).

So run, that ye may obtain - parenthetically: the words in which the instructors in the exercise schools (gymnasia) and the spectators on the race-course exhorted runners to put forth all exertions. The gymnasium was a prominent feature in every Greek city. Every candidate had to swear that he had been ten months in training, and that he would not violate the regulations (2 Timothy 2:5: cf. 1 Timothy 4:7-8). He lived on a strict diet, refraining from wine and pleasant foods, and enduring cold and heat and laborious discipline. The "prize" awarded by the judge was a chaplet of green leaves; at the Isthmus, of the indigenous pine, for which parsley leaves were temporarily substituted (1 Corinthians 9:25). The Greek [ katalabeete (G2638)] is fully obtain, Here is the true scope for 'ambition' (2 Corinthians 5:9). It is vain to begin unless we persevere to the end (Matthew 10:22; Matthew 24:13; Revelation 2:10). "So" expresses, Run with such perseverance in the heavenly course as "all" exhibit in the earthly "race." Run so as not only to receive salvation, but a full reward (1 Corinthians 3:14-15; 2 John 1:8).

Verse 25

And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

Striveth - in wrestling: a more severe contest than the foot-race.

Is temperate. So Paul denied himself, in not claiming sustenance, in view of the "reward" - namely, to "gain the more" (1 Corinthians 9:18-19).

Corruptible - soon withering, being of fir leaves, from the groves which surrounded the Isthmian race-course.

Incorruptible (1 Peter 1:4; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 2:10). "Crown" here is not that of a king (a different Greek word, namely, 'diadem'), but a wreath or garland.

Verse 26

I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:

I - return to his main subject, his own self-denial, and his motive.

Run not as uncertainly - not without definite object as a runner uncertain of the goal. Ye gain no end in entering idol temples or eating idol meats. But I, for my part, in all acts, whether in becoming "all things to all men" or in receiving no sustenance from converts, have a definite aim to "gain the more." He who knows what to aim at, and how to aim, looks straight forward to the goal alone, casts away every encumbrance (Hebrews 12:1-2), is indifferent to what the bystanders say, and is only roused the more by even a fall.

Not as one that beateth the air - instead of beating the adversary. In the Sciamachia, or sparring in sham-fight (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:9), they struck out into the air as if at an adversary. The real adversary is Satan acting through the flesh.

Verse 27

But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. Keep under, [ hupoopiazoo (G5299)] - bruise under the eyes, so as to render the antagonist powerless: to chastise in the most sensitive part (cf. "mortify the deeds of the body," Romans 8:13; 1 Peter 2:11). It is not fasts or macerations of the body which are recommended, but keeping under of natural self seeking; so as, like Paul, to lay ourselves out entirely for the great work.

My body - the old man. "My body," so far as the flesh opposes the spirit (Galatians 5:17). Men may be severe to their bodies, yet indulge their lust. Ascetic 'neglect of the body' may be all the while a more subtile "satisfying of the flesh" (Colossians 2:23). Unless the soul keep under the body, the body gets above the soul. The body may be a good servant, but is a bad master.

Bring it into subjection, [ doulagoogoo (G1396)] - as a slave led captive.

Preached - literally, heralded. Heralds summoned the candidates for the foot-race into the race-course, and placed the crowns on the conquerors, announcing their names. They proclaimed the laws of the combat, answering to the preaching of the apostles. The Christian herald is distinguished from the race heralds in being also a combatant.

A cast-away - losing the prize myself, after having called others to the contest: qualis vita, finis ita. Rejected by the Judge of the Christian race, notwithstanding having, by my preaching, led others to be accepted (cf. margin, refuse silver, Jeremiah 6:30; 2 Corinthians 13:6, "reprobates"). Paul implies, if such self-denying watchfulness be needed still, with all his labours for others, to make his calling sure, much more is the same needed by the Corinthians, instead of going, as they do, to the extreme limit of Christian liberty. Rather, 'rejected' as to the special 'reward' of those who "turn many to righteousness" (note, 1 Corinthians 9:24; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; Daniel 12:3). The context (1 Corinthians 9:18-23) favours this.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/1-corinthians-9.html. 1871-8.
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