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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 9

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New TestamentRobertson's Word Pictures

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Verse 1

Am I not free? (Ουκ ειμ ελευθεροσ;). Free as a Christian from Mosaic ceremonialism (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:19) as much as any Christian and yet he adapts his moral independence to the principle of considerate love in 1 Corinthians 8:13.

Am I not an apostle? (ουκ ειμ αποστολοσ;). He has the exceptional privileges as an apostle to support from the churches and yet he foregoes these.

Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? (ουχ Ιησουν τον Κυριον ημων εορακα;). Proof (1 Corinthians 15:8; Acts 9:17; Acts 9:27; Acts 18:9; Acts 22:14; Acts 22:17; 2 Corinthians 12:1) that he has the qualification of an apostle (Acts 1:22) though not one of the twelve. Note strong form of the negative ουχ here. All these questions expect an affirmative answer. The perfect active εορακα from οραω, to see, does not here have double reduplication as in John 1:18.

Are not ye? (ου υμεις εστε;). They were themselves proof of his apostleship.

Verse 2

Yet at least I am to you (αλλα γε υμιν ειμ). An argumentum ad hominem and a pointed appeal for their support. Note use of αλλα γε in the apodosis (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:6).

Verse 3

My defence (η εμη απολογια). Original sense, not idea of apologizing as we say. See on Acts 22:1; Acts 25:16. Refers to what precedes and to what follows as illustration of 1 Corinthians 8:13.

To them that examine me (τοις εμε ανακρινουσιν). See on 1 Corinthians 2:15; 1 Corinthians 4:3. The critics in Corinth were "investigating" Paul with sharp eyes to find faults. How often the pastor is under the critic's spy-glass.

Verse 4

Have we no right? (Μη ουκ εχομεν εξουσιαν;). Literary plural here though singular in 1 Corinthians 9:1-3. The μη in this double negative expects the answer "No" while ουκ goes with the verb εχομεν. "Do we fail to have the right?" Cf. Romans 10:18 (Robertson, Grammar, p. 1173).

Verse 5

Have we no right? (Μη ουκ εχομεν εξουσιαν;). Same idiom.

To lead about a wife that is a believer? (αδελφην γυναικα περιαγειν;). Old verb περιαγω, intransitive in Acts 13:11. Two substantives in apposition, a sister a wife, a common Greek idiom. This is a plea for the support of the preacher's wife and children. Plainly Paul has no wife at this time.

And Cephas (κα Κηφας). Why is he singled out by name? Perhaps because of his prominence and because of the use of his name in the divisions in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:12). It was well known that Peter was married (Matthew 8:14). Paul mentions James by name in Galatians 1:19 as one of the Lord's brothers. All the other apostles were either married or had the right to be.

Verse 6

Have we not a right to forbear working? (ουκ εχομεν εξουσιαν μη εργαζεσθαι;). By η (or) Paul puts the other side about Barnabas (the only allusion since the dispute in Acts 15:39, but in good spirit) and himself. Perhaps (Hofmann) Paul has in mind the fact that in the first great mission tour (1 Corinthians 9:13; 1 Corinthians 9:14), Barnabas and Paul received no help from the church in Antioch, but were left to work their way along at their own charges. It was not till the Philippian Church took hold that Paul had financial aid (Philippians 4:15). Here both negatives have their full force. Literally, Do we not have (ουκ εχομεν, expecting the affirmative reply) the right not (μη, negative of the infinitive εργαζεσθα) to do manual labour (usual meaning of εργαζομα as in 1 Corinthians 4:12)?" There was no more compulsion on Paul and Barnabas to support themselves than upon the other workers for Christ. They renounced no rights in being voluntarily independent.

Verse 7

What soldier ever serveth? (τις στρατευετα ποτε;). "Who ever serves as a soldier?" serves in an army (στρατος). Present middle of old verb στρατευω.

At his own charges (ιδιοις οψωνιοις). This late word οψωνιον (from οψον, cooked meat or relish with bread, and ωνεομα, to buy) found in Menander, Polybius, and very common in papyri and inscriptions in the sense of rations or food, then for the soldiers' wages (often provisions) or the pay of any workman. So of the wages of sin (Romans 6:23). Paul uses λαβων οψωνιον (receiving wages, the regular idiom) in 2 Corinthians 11:8. See Moulton and Milligan, Vocabulary; Deissmann, Bible Studies, pp. 148,266; Light from the Ancient East, p. 168. To give proof of his right to receive pay for preaching Paul uses the illustrations of the soldier (verse 1 Corinthians 9:7), the husbandman (verse 1 Corinthians 9:7), the shepherd (verse 1 Corinthians 9:7), the ox treading out the grain (1 Corinthians 9:8), the ploughman (verse 1 Corinthians 9:10), the priests in the temple (1 Corinthians 9:13), proof enough in all conscience, and yet not enough for some churches who even today starve their pastors in the name of piety.

Who planteth a vineyard? (τις φυτευε αμπελωνα;). Αμπελων no earlier than Diodorus, but in LXX and in papyri. Place of vines (αμπελος), meaning of ending -ων.

Who feedeth a flock? (τις ποιμαινε ποιμνην;). Cognate accusative, both old words. Paul likens the pastor to a soldier, vinedresser, shepherd. He contends with the world, he plants churches, he exercises a shepherd's care over them (Vincent).

Verse 8

Do I speak these things after the manner of men? (Μη κατα ανθρωπον ταυτα λαλω;). Negative answer expected. Paul uses κατα ανθρωπον six times (1 Corinthians 3:3; 1 Corinthians 9:8; 1 Corinthians 15:32; Galatians 1:11; Galatians 3:15; Romans 3:5). The illustrations from human life are pertinent, but he has some of a higher order, from Scripture.

The law also (κα ο νομος). Perhaps objection was made that the Scripture does not support the practice of paying preachers. That objection is still made by the stingy.

Verse 9

Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn (ου φιμωσεις βουν αλοωντα). Quotation from Deuteronomy 25:4. Prohibition by ου and the volitive future indicative. Φιμοω, to muzzle (from φιμος, a muzzle for dogs and oxen), appears first in Aristophanes (Clouds, 592) and not again till LXX and N.T., though in the papyri also. Evidently a vernacular word, perhaps a slang word. See metaphorical use in Matthew 22:12; Matthew 22:34. Αλοωντα is present active participle of the old verb αλοαω, occurs in the N.T. only here (and verse 1 Corinthians 9:10) and 1 Timothy 5:18 where it is also quoted. It is probably derived from αλος or αλον, a threshing-floor, or the disc of a shield or of the sun and moon. The Egyptians according to the monuments, used oxen to thresh out the grain, sometimes donkeys, by pulling a drag over the grain. The same process may be found today in Andalusia, Italy, Palestine. A hieroglyphic inscription at Eileithyas reads:

"Thresh ye yourselves, O oxen, Measures of grain for yourselves, Measures of grain for your masters."

Note μη μελε expects the negative answer, impersonal verb with dative and genitive cases (θεο, God, βοων, oxen).

Altogether (παντως). But here probably with the notion of doubtless or assuredly. The editors differ in the verse divisions here. The Canterbury Version puts both these questions in verse 1 Corinthians 9:10, the American Standard the first in verse 1 Corinthians 9:9, the second in verse 1 Corinthians 9:10.

Verse 10

He that plougheth (ο αροτριων). Late verb αροτριαω, to plough, for the old αροω from αροτρον (plough), in LXX and rare in papyri.

In hope of partaking (επ' ελπιδ του μετεχειν). The infinitive αλοαιν is not repeated nor is οφειλε though it is understood, "He that thresheth ought to thresh in hope of partaking." He that ploughs hardly refers to the ox at the plough as he that threshes does. The point is that all the workers (beast or man) share in the fruit of the toil.

Verse 11

Is it a great matter? (μεγα;). The copula εστιν has to be supplied. Note two conditions of first class with ε, both assumed to be true. On πνευματικα and σαρκικα see on 1 Corinthians 2:14; 1 Corinthians 3:3. This point comes out sharply also in Galatians 6:6.

Verse 12

Over you (υμων). Objective genitive after εξουσιαν.

Do not we yet more? (ου μαλλον ημεισ;). Because of Paul's peculiar relation to that church as founder and apostle.

But we bear all things (αλλα παντα στεγομεν). Old verb to cover (στεγη, roof) and so to cover up, to conceal, to endure (1 Corinthians 13:7 of love). Paul deliberately declined to use (usual instrumental case with χραομα) his right to pay in Corinth.

That we may cause no hindrance (ινα μη τινα ενκοπην δωμεν). Late word ενκοπη, a cutting in (cf. radio or telephone) or hindrance from ενκοπτω, to cut in, rare word (like εκκοπη) here only in N.T. and once in Vettius Valens. How considerate Paul is to avoid "a hindrance to the gospel of Christ" (τω ευαγγελιω του Χριστου, dative case and genitive) rather than insist on his personal rights and liberties, an eloquent example for all modern men.

Verse 13

Sacred things (τα ιερα).

Of the temple (του ιερου). Play on the same word ιερου (sacred). See Numbers 18:8-20 for the details. This is a very pertinent illustration.

They which wait upon the altar (ο τω θυσιαστηριω παρεδρευοντες). Old word παρεδρευω, to sit beside, from παρ--εδρος, like Latin assidere, and so constant attendance. Only here in the N.T. Locative case θυσιαστηριω, late word found so far only in LXX, Philo, Josephus, N.T., and ecclesiastical writers. See on Matthew 5:23.

Verse 14

Even so did the Lord ordain (ουτως κα ο Κυριος διεταξεν). Just as God gave orders about the priests in the temple, so did the Lord Jesus give orders for those who preach the gospel to live out of the gospel (εκ του ευαγγελιου ζηιν). Evidently Paul was familiar with the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:10; Luke 10:7 either in oral or written form. He has made his argument for the minister's salary complete for all time.

Verse 15

For it were good for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void (καλον γαρ μο μαλλον αποθανειν η το καυχημα μου ουδεις κενωσε). The tangled syntax of this sentence reflects the intensity of Paul's feeling on the subject. He repeats his refusal to use his privileges and rights to a salary by use of the present perfect middle indicative (κεχρημα). By the epistolary aorist (εγραψα) he explains that he is not now hinting for a change on their part towards him in the matter, "in my case" (εν εμο). Then he gives his reason in vigorous language without a copula (ην, were): "For good for me to die rather than," but here he changes the construction by a violent anacoluthon. Instead of another infinitive (κενωσα) after η (than) he changes to the future indicative without οτ or ινα, "No one shall make my glorying void," viz., his independence of help from them. Κενοω is an old verb, from κενος, empty, only in Paul in N.T. See on 1 Corinthians 1:17.

Verse 16

For if I preach (εαν γαρ ευαγγελιζωμα). Third class condition, supposable case. Same construction in verse 1 Corinthians 9:16 (εαν μη).

For necessity is laid upon me (αναγκη γαρ μο επικειτα). Old verb, lies upon me (dative case μο). Jesus had called him (Acts 9:6; Acts 9:15; Galatians 1:15; Romans 1:14). He could do no other and deserves no credit for doing it.

Woe is me (ουα γαρ μο). Explaining the αναγκη (necessity). Paul had to heed the call of Christ that he had heard. He had a real call to the ministry. Would that this were the case with every modern preacher.

Verse 17

Of mine own will (εκων)

--not of mine own will (ακων). Both common adjectives, but only here in N.T. save εκων, also in Romans 8:20. The argument is not wholly clear. Paul's call was so clear that he certainly did his work

willingly and so had a reward (see on Matthew 6:1 for μισθος); but the only

reward that he had for his willing work (Marcus Dods) was to make the gospel

free of expense (αδαπανον, verse 1 Corinthians 9:18, rare word, here only in N.T., once in inscription at Priene). This was his μισθος. It was glorying (καυχημα, to be able to say so as in Acts 20:33).

I have a stewardship intrusted to me (οικονομιαν πεπιστευμα). Perfect passive indicative with the accusative retained. I have been intrusted with a stewardship and so would go on with my task like any οικονομος (steward) even if ακων (unwilling).

Verse 18

So as not to use to the full (εις το μη καταχρησασθα). Εις το for purpose with articular infinitive and perfective use of κατα (as in 1 Corinthians 7:31) with χρησασθα (first aorist middle infinitive).

Verse 19

I brought myself under bondage (εμαυτον εδουλωσα). Voluntary bondage, I enslaved myself to all, though free. Causative verb in -οω (δουλοω, from δουλος). The more (τους πλειονας). Than he could have done otherwise. Every preacher faces this problem of his personal attitude and conduct. Note κερδησω (as in verses 1 Corinthians 9:20; 1 Corinthians 9:21; 1 Corinthians 9:22, but once ινα κερδανω in 1 Corinthians 9:21, regular liquid future of κερδαινω) with ινα is probably future active indicative (James 4:13), though Ionic aorist active subjunctive from κερδαω is possible (Matthew 18:15). "He refuses payment in money that he may make the greater gain in souls" (Edwards).

Verse 20

As a Jew (ως Ιουδαιος). He was a Jew and was not ashamed of it (Acts 18:18; Acts 21:26).

Not being myself under the law (μη ων αυτος υπο νομον). He was emancipated from the law as a means of salvation, yet he knew how to speak to them because of his former beliefs and life with them (Galatians 4:21). He knew how to put the gospel to them without compromise and without offence.

Verse 21

To them that are without law (τοις ανομοις). The heathen, those outside the Mosaic law (Romans 2:14), not lawless (Luke 22:37; Acts 2:23; 1 Timothy 1:9). See how Paul bore himself with the pagans (Acts 14:15; Acts 17:23; Acts 24:25), and how he quoted heathen poets. "Not being an outlaw of God, but an inlaw of Christ" (Evans, Estius has it exlex, inlex, μη ων ανομος θεου, αλλ' εννομος Χριστου). The genitive case of θεου and Χριστου (specifying case) comes out better thus, for it seems unusual with ανομος and εννομος, both old and regular adjectives.

Verse 22

I became weak (εγενομην ασθενης). This is the chief point, the climax in his plea for the principle of love on the part of the enlightened for the benefit of the unenlightened (chapter 1 Corinthians 9:1). He thus brings home his conduct about renouncing pay for preaching as an illustration of love (1 Corinthians 8:13).

All things (παντα)

to all men (τοις πασιν, the whole number)

by all means (παντως). Pointed play on the word all,

that I may save some (ινα τινας σωσω). This his goal and worth all the cost of adaptation. In matters of principle Paul was adamant as about Titus the Greek (Galatians 2:5). In matters of expediency as about Timothy (Acts 16:3) he would go half way to win and to hold. This principle was called for in dealing with the problem of eating meat offered to idols (Romans 14:1; Romans 15:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:14).

Verse 23

That I may be a joint partaker thereof (ινα συνκοινωνος αυτου γενωμα). Literally, That I may become co-partner with others in the gospel. The point is that he may be able to share the gospel with others, his evangelistic passion. Συνκοινωνος is a compound word (συν, together with, κοινωνος, partner or sharer). We have two genitives with it in Philippians 1:7, though εν and the locative is used in Revelation 1:9. It is found only in the N.T. and a late papyrus. Paul does not wish to enjoy the gospel just by himself.

Verse 24

In a race (εν σταδιω). Old word from ιστημ, to place. A stated or fixed distance, 606 3/4 feet, both masculine σταδιο (Matthew 14:24; Luke 24:13) and neuter as here. Most of the Greek cities had race-courses for runners like that at Olympia.

The prize (το βραβειον). Late word, in inscriptions and papyri. Latin brabeum. In N. T. only here and Philippians 3:14. The victor's prize which only one could receive.

That ye may attain (ινα καταλαβητε). Final use of ινα and perfective use of κατα- with λαβητε (effective aorist active subjunctive, grasp and hold). Old verb καταλαμβανω and used in Philippians 3:12.

Verse 25

That striveth in the games (ο αγωνιζομενος). Common verb for contest in the athletic games (αγων), sometimes with the cognate accusative, αγωνα αγωνιζομα as in 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7. Probably Paul often saw these athletic games.

Is temperate in all things (παντα εγκρατευετα). Rare verb, once in Aristotle and in a late Christian inscription, and 1 Corinthians 7:9 and here, from εγκρατης, common adjective for one who controls himself. The athlete then and now has to control himself (direct middle) in all things (accusative of general reference). This is stated by Paul as an athletic axiom. Training for ten months was required under the direction of trained judges. Abstinence from wine was required and a rigid diet and regimen of habits.

A corruptible crown (φθαρτον στεφανον). Στεφανος (crown) is from στεφω, to put around the head, like the Latin corona, wreath or garland, badge of victory in the games. In the Isthmian games it was of pine leaves, earlier of parsley, in the Olympian games of the wild olive. "Yet these were the most coveted honours in the whole Greek world" (Findlay). For the crown of thorns on Christ's head see Matthew 27:29; Mark 15:17; John 19:2; John 19:5. Διαδημα (diadem) was for kings (Revelation 12:3). Favourite metaphor in N.T., the crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8), the crown of life (James 1:12), the crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4), the crown of rejoicing (1 Thessalonians 2:9), description of the Philippians (Philippians 4:1). Note contrast between φθαρτον (verbal adjective from φθειρω, to corrupt) like the garland of pine leaves, wild olive, or laurel, and αφθαρτον (same form with α privative) like the crown of victory offered the Christian, the amaranthine (unfading rose) crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4).

Verse 26

So (ουτως). Both with τρεχω (run) and πυκτευω (fight).

As not uncertainly (ως ουκ αδηλως). Instead of exhorting them further Paul describes his own conduct as a runner in the race. He explains ουτως. Αδηλως old adverb, only here in N.T. His objective is clear, with Christ as the goal (Philippians 3:14). He kept his eye on Christ as Christ watched him.

Fight (πυκτευω). Paul changes the metaphor from the runner to the boxer. Old verb (only here in N.T.) from πυκτης (pugilist) and that from πυγμη (fist). See on Mark 7:3).

As not beating the air (ως ουκ αερα δερων). A boxer did this when practising without an adversary (cf. doing "the daily dozen") and this was called "shadow-fighting" (σκιαμαχια). He smote something more solid than air. Probably ου negatives αερα, though it still occurs with the participle as a strong and positive negative.

Verse 27

But I buffet my body (αλλα υπωπιαζω μου το σωμα). In Aristophanes, Aristotle, Plutarch, from υπωπιον, and that from υπο and οπς (in papyri), the part of the face under the eyes, a blow in the face, to beat black and blue. In N.T. only here and Luke 18:5 which see. Paul does not, like the Gnostics, consider his σαρξ or his σωμα sinful and evil. But "it is like the horses in a chariot race, which must be kept well in hand by whip and rein if the prize is to be secured" (Robertson and Plummer). The boxers often used boxing gloves (χεστυς, of ox-hide bands) which gave telling blows. Paul was not willing for his body to be his master. He found good as the outcome of this self-discipline (2 Corinthians 12:7; Romans 8:13; Colossians 2:23; Colossians 3:5).

And bring it into bondage (κα δουλαγωγω). Late compound verb from δουλαγωγος, in Diodorus Siculus, Epictetus and substantive in papyri. It is the metaphor of the victor leading the vanquished as captive and slave.

Lest by any means (μη πως). Common conjunction for negative purpose with subjunctive as here (γενωμα, second aorist middle).

After that I have preached to others (αλλοις κηρυξας). First aorist active participle of κηρυσσω (see on 1 Corinthians 1:23), common verb to preach, from word κηρυξ (herald) and that is probably the idea here. A κηρυξ at the games announced the rules of the game and called out the competitors. So Paul is not merely a herald, but a competitor also.

I myself should be rejected (αυτος αδοκιμος γενωμα). Literally, "I myself should become rejected." Αδοκιμος is an old adjective used of metals, coin, soil (Hebrews 6:8) and in a moral sense only by Paul in N.T. (1 Corinthians 9:27; 2 Corinthians 13:5-7; Romans 1:28; Titus 1:16; 2 Timothy 3:8). It means not standing the test (δοκιμος from δοκιμαζω). Paul means rejected for the

prize , not for the entrance to the race. He will fail to win if he breaks the rules of the game (Matthew 7:22). What is the prize before Paul? Is it that

reward (μισθος) of which he spoke in verse 1 Corinthians 9:18, his glorying of preaching a free gospel? So Edwards argues. Most writers take Paul to refer to the possibility of his rejection in his personal salvation at the end of the race. He does not claim absolute perfection (Philippians 3:12) and so he presses on. At the end he has serene confidence (2 Timothy 4:7) with the race run and won. It is a humbling thought for us all to see this wholesome fear instead of smug complacency in this greatest of all heralds of Christ.

Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/1-corinthians-9.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.
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