Wednesday, June 7th, 2023
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible Coke's Commentary
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tcc/ 1-corinthians-9.html. 1801-1803.
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
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1 Corinthians 9:1.— St. Paul had preached the Gospel at Corinth about two years, in all which time he had taken nothing of them, 2 Corinthians 11:7-9. This, by some of the opposite faction, and particularly, as we may suppose, by their leader, was made use of to call in question his apostleship. For why, if he were an Apostle, should he not use the power of an Apostle, to demand maintenance where he preached? In this chapter St. Paul vindicates his apostleship; and in answer to theseinquiries gives the reason why, though he had a right to maintenance, yet he preached gratis to the Corinthians. "My answer, says he, to these inquisitors, is, that though, as being an Apostle, I know that I have a right to maintenance, as well as Peter, or any other of the Apostles, who all have a right, as is evident from reason and from Scripture;—yet I neither have used, nor shall make use of my privilege among you, for fear lest, if it cost you any thing, that should hinder the effect of my preaching. I would neglect nothing that might promote the Gospel. I do not content myself with doing barely what is my duty, for by my extraordinary call and commission it is now incumbent on me to preach the Gospel; but I endeavour to excel in my ministry, and not to execute my commission in a manner just enough to serve the turn. For if those who are in the Agonistic games, aiming at victory to obtain only a corruptible crown, deny themselves in eating and drinking, and other pleasures; how much more does the eternal crown of glory deserve that we should do our utmost to obtain it? To be as careful in not indulging our bodies, in denying our pleasures, in doing every thing that we can in order to get it, as if there were but one that should have it? Wonder not therefore, if I, having this in view, neglect my body, and those outward conveniences which, as an Apostle sent to preach the Gospel, I might claim, and make use of: wonder not that I prefer the propagating of the Gospel, and making of converts, to all care and regard of myself." This seems the design of the Apostle, and will throw light on the following chapter. See Locke.
Am I not free?— "Am I not at liberty, as much as any other of the Apostles, to make use of the privileges due to that office?"—"Am I not an Apostle?" It was necessary, in order to St. Paul's being an Apostle, and a witness of the resurrection, that he should have seen Jesus Christ. See Acts 22:14-15; Acts 26:16. 1 Corinthians 15:8.
1 Corinthians 9:2. For the seal of mine apostleship are ye— "Your conversion to Christianity, is as it were a seal set to make good the truth of my apostleship."
1 Corinthians 9:5. To lead about a sister, a wife— It is very improbable that the Apostle would have carried about with him, in these sacred peregrinations, a woman to whom he was not married; so that the answer which the Papists generally make to the argument often brought from these words in favour of a married clergy, is absolutely inconclusive. The disjuncture between the Apostles and the brethren of the Lord, is a proof that James bishop of Jerusalem, and Jude, our Lord's brethren, were not of the number of the Apostles. The last clause of this verse, And Cephas, is important; both as it declares in effect that St. Peter continued to live with his wife after he became an Apostle, and also that St. Peter had no rights as an Apostle, which were not common to St. Paul.—A remark utterly subversive of popery, if traced to its obvious consequences. See Locke, Doddridge, and Wall.
1 Corinthians 9:6. Or I only, and Barnabas— From this expression one would think that the Judaizing Christians, who were the main cause of St. Paul's uneasiness in this respect, had a peculiar spleen against these two Apostles of the uncircumcision; who were so instrumental in procuring and publishing theJerusalem decree, which determined the controversy so directly in favour of the believing Gentiles. It seems probable, from 1 Corinthians 9:12, that Barnabas supported himself by the labour of his hands when at Corinth, as well as St. Paul. See Wall, Whitby, and Calmet.
1 Corinthians 9:9. Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox— See on Deu 25:4 and Raphelius on the place.
1 Corinthians 9:10. Altogether— On the whole. It cannot be thought that God had no regard at all to the brute creatures, in such precepts as these; and therefore it is better to render παντως, by on the whole, than entirely, or altogether; though that sense is more frequent. See Mintert, and Vigerus.
1 Corinthians 9:12. Partakers of this power— It may be proper just to observe, that Matthew 10:1. Joh 17:2 and many other places prove, that εξουσιας υμων may properly be rendered a power over you. The Corinthians, considering the low rate at which Socrates taught, might have been induced to think that St. Paul was not wholly disinterested in his mission, if hehad claimed a maintenance for his instruction; and this very suspicion might have been prejudicial to the Gospel in those parts. From the conduct of the Apostle here, and the other Apostles in other places, particularly among the Macedonian churches, we may conclude, that he might see some circumstances which determined him to decline accepting any subsistence from the Corinthians while he resided among them. See Locke, Doddridge, and Pyle.
1 Corinthians 9:14. Should live of the Gospel— That man might be said to live on the Gospel, who was maintained for preaching it; as he might be said to live on the temple, who was supported out of its income for ministering there. See Mede's Diatrib. on the place.
1 Corinthians 9:17-18. But if against my will, &c.— But if I do it merely because I am obliged to it, I only discharge an office which is committed to me: 1 Corinthians 9:18. For what then shall I be rewarded?—It is for this, that preaching the Gospel of Christ, I preach it gratis; and do not insist upon [or use] a claim, which the Gospel itself gives me. See Heylin, Wall, chap. 1Co 2:12 and 1 Corinthians 7:31. Some read the last clause,—That I use not the power I have in the Gospel.
1 Corinthians 9:19. Servant unto all— This is very emphatical, and intimates that he acted with as self-denying a regard to their interests, and as much caution not to offend them, as if he were absolutely in their power,—as a slave is in that of his master. See Doddridge.
1 Corinthians 9:20. Unto the Jews I became as a Jew, &c.— For an illustration of this, see Acts 16:3; Acts 21:21; Act 21:40 which instances were undoubtedly a specimen of many more of the like kind. As under the law, in the next clause, can only signify that he voluntarily complied with it as an indifferent thing; but it cannot by any means imply, that he declared such observances necessary, or refused to converse with any who would not conform to them: for this was the very dissimulation which, with so generous a freedom, he condemned in St. Peter, Galatians 2:14; Galatians 2:21. See Doddridge, Calmet, and Whitby. Some commentators, following many manuscripts, versions, and fathers, read,—To those under the law, (not being myself under the law) that I might gain them that are under the law. Wetstein and Bengelius.
1 Corinthians 9:21. That I might gain them that are without law— This refers to the Gentiles not yet converted to Christianity.
1 Corinthians 9:22. I am made all things— I am become, &c.
1 Corinthians 9:23. That I might be partaker, &c.— That I may share in its benefits. Heylin. There is nothing for with you in the original. The words seem to refer to the satisfaction which St. Paul found, in imparting the invaluable and inexhaustible blessings of the Gospel toall around him;—a sentiment most suitable to his character and office.
1 Corinthians 9:24. They which run in a race, &c.— The Apostle here refers to the Isthmian games, so called from their being celebrated on the Corinthian Isthmus, or the neck of land which joins Peloponnesus to the continent. They are supposed to have been instituted in honour of Palaemon, or Melicertes, and Neptune. They were observed every third year, or rather every fifth, and held sacred and inviolable. When Corinth was sacked and totally destroyed by Mummius the Roman general, they were not discontinued; but the care of them was committed to Sicyonians, till the rebuilding of the city, and then it was restored to the inhabitants. The sports which composed those games, were running, wrestling, boxing, and other athletic exercises. The Apostle alludes here to the stadium, or foot-race, in which there was but one prize for the victor; though in some of the games there were several prizes. Nothing can be more forcible and emphatical than the argument which the Apostle draws from this comparison; whoever would see the full force of which, will do well to read Mr. West's excellent Dissertation on the Olympic games, particularly ch. 6 and 7 and the conclusion. We here subjoin his translation and brief paraphrase of the passage before us: "Know ye not that they who run in the stadium, or foot-race, run all, and yet but one receiveth the prize?—So run therefore, that ye may obtain. Moreover, every one that contendeth in the games, is temperate in all things. They, indeed, that they may obtain a corruptible crown; but we, an incorruptible. Wherefore I for my part so run, as not to pass undistinguished; so fight, not as beating the air (that is to say, practising in a feigned combat, without an adversary); but I mortify my body, and bring it under subjection; lest, &c."
1 Corinthians 9:25. A corruptible crown— The Apostle alludes to the crowns at the Olympic games, which were formed of garlands of leaves, which soon withered and perished, and which were the only rewards of the contenders in those games. In the Olympic games, sacred to Jupiter, the crown was of wild olive; in the Pythian, sacred to Apollo, it was of laurel; in the Isthmian or Corinthian, it was of pine-tree; and in the Nemaean, of parsley: but concerning these particulars, as well as the remarkable temperance alluded to above, we refer to Mr. West, and to Elsner on the place
1 Corinthians 9:26. I—run, not as uncertainly— The stadia, or courses of the Greeks, were like the courses of our horse-races, marked with posts and other signs, that shewed the racer which way he was to run, and of which he could not be ignorant; and the word rendered uncertainly, is often used for ignorantly. It may also refer to the certainty of obtaining the prize, on condition of observing the laws of the course; and our translation may be very well understood in that sense. The word may have another sense, which will refer to the spectators, who would not pass by the victorious runner without distinction and notice. "I run, not as one who is to pass undistinguished; but, knowing what eyes are upon me, and solicitous to gain the approbation of my judge, and attending with diligence to the boundaries which are marked out, I exert myself to the utmost." In order to acquire a greater agility and dexterity, it was usual for those who intended to box in the games, to exercise themselves with the gauntlet, and to fling their arms about, as if they were engaging with a real combatant. This was called beating the air. Hence it came to be a proverbial expression for a man's missing his blow, when he aimed at his enemy; which seems to be the meaning of the Apostle, who does not confine himself absolutely to a single branch of contest in these games. See Hammond, Doddridge, Elsner, West, and on 1 Corinthians 9:24.
1 Corinthians 9:27. But I keep under my body— 'Υπωπιαζω, rendered I keep under, signifies properly to strike on the face, as the boxers did; and particularly on that part under the eyes which they especially aimed at. Hence it often signifies a livid tumour on that part, and sometimes is proverbially used for a face terribly bruised, and disfigured, like that of a boxer just come from the combat. The Apostle hereby intimates, that he made use of the greatest rigour and severity to subject his appetites to the dominion of grace. The word Δουλαγωγω, rendered bring into subjection, is borrowed fromanother kind of competitors in the Isthmian games,—the wrestlers; and alludes to the practice of giving their adversary a fall, so as to secure the victory. Hence the Apostle shews himself to be so far from using his Christian liberty to its full extent, that he, through grace, subdued himself, and abstained from many things which he might have lawfully enjoyed; and endured many hardships from which he might have been exempted, in order to acquire the crown, or reward, which can never fall to the lot of the indolent. The word Κηρυξας, rendered preached, expresses the office of a herald at the Isthmian games; who from a scaffold, or some eminence, proclaimed the conditions of the games, displayed the prizes, exhorted the combatants, awakened the emulation and resolution of those who were to contend, declared the terms of the contest, and pronounced the names of the victors. The Apostle, however, intimates, that there was this peculiar circumstance attending the Christian contest, that the person who proclaimed its laws and rewards to others, was also to engage himself; and that there would be a peculiar infamy and misery in miscarrying in such circumstances. Αδοκιμος rendered cast away, or rejected, signifies one who is disapproved of by the judge of the games, as not having fairly deserved the prize. Hence the word signifies to miscarry, and lose what is contended for. See Romans 1:28. Hammond, Bos, Elsner, Faber's Agonist. lib. 3 : 100: 14 and R. Bentley, apud Wetstein.
Inferences.—To quicken us in the pursuit of our heavenly reward, it may be proper, first, to enforce the Apostle's argument, which represents the excellence of it; and, secondly, to remember the methods which he both prescribed and practised for obtaining it.
The motives taken from his words before us may be two,—the value of the crown,—and the possibility of obtaining it; and a little reflection upon each might suffice for the answering of his purpose, did but men bring along with them a disposition to let any arguments in this cause have their full force upon them.
The comparison here brought lies between one crown and another; (1 Corinthians 9:25.) both looked upon as an ample recompence for the pains taken to obtain them; but with this difference, that in reality the value of the one is imaginary, and depends upon common estimation only; that of the other is intrinsic, and substantial, and commonly rated as much lower, as the former is higher than it deserves to be; and that, as upon other accounts, so particularly because admitting (in compliance with the mistaken notions of the world) that each is a good one; yet, when taken at the very best, it is evident the one can be but short and perishing,—whereas the other is fixed and everlasting;—the one a corruptible crown, the other an incorruptible.
Of the former, the corruptible sort,—are plainly all those advantages of the present world, for which mankind so eagerly contend: they are fickle and fugitive; not only allayed by numberless abatements, which check our delights, and disturb our enjoyment, while we continue in possession of them; not only exposed to infinite accidents, perpetually conspiring to deprive us of them; but like the garlands here alluded to by St. Paul, which wither of themselves; in their own nature transient and fading, and such as it is not possible for the utmost art and care to preserve.—To spend time in proving this by descending to particulars, is needless: experience and common sense have done it amply to our hands, and we may appeal to any man alive whether this be not the case of all the most envied temporal privileges and conveniences of human nature.
Yet these are the prizes for which we see so much bustling and struggle in the world around us; these are the things upon which men think all the expence and hardships of long instruction and severe education in youth,—all the toil and danger of ripe and vigorous age,—laborious days and restless nights,—compassings of sea and land,—the caprice of courts,—the fatigues of camps, the trial of every element and climate;—in a word, ease, safety, health,—peace of body, and life, and too often conscience and the immortal soul, wisely laid out and employed.—Things they are, indeed, which have their comforts, when sought and used in due place and proportion; but when pursued and loved inordinately, they destroy the very purposes that they should serve; they are therefore most improper to be made the chief aim and end of living, and utterly unworthy even of a small part of that, which the generality of people are content to do and suffer for them.
But there is another discouragement behind, which, added to the former, one would imagine must damp the vehemence of these pursuits;—It is not the difficulty only, but the great uncertainty of compassing the prize they aim at. The numberless disappointments of men's expectations sufficiently demonstrate the fact, and might be a suitable check to their avidity, if any could avail;—nay, and thus our own reason will tell us it must be, where the advantage aimed at has so many seekers; where there is not enough in the things sought to satisfy all; where, of those pretenders, the gain of one must, generally speaking, be the diminution of that of another; and consequently, where every candidate finds it necessary for his private interest to outstrip, or to hinder others from making good their point, in order to secure and carry his own.
Such is the condition even of the best of those things, to which we can suppose the corruptible crown here mentioned is capable of being applied:—the riches,—the honours,—the pleasures of this life. The happiness and rewards of another, manifestly intended by the crown incorruptible, are great beyond expression, and their inconceivable excellence renders it impossible to give them a full or worthy representation. It may well suffice to observe, that the Apostle sets these in direct opposition to, and that they are in every particular just the reverse of the other:—A crown indeed;—as that denotes the highest honour, the greatest affluence, the firmest security; the only crown, whose splendour does not deceive with false ideas, as having no weight of cares to make it burdensome, no dangers to allay its glory, but all bright, stable, and permanent.
This crown, besides its own value, is the more worth our striving for, because it is not like all others, peculiar to some one, exclusive of the rest who contend for and aspire after it; but capable of being attained by every one who seeks it: sufficient to answer, nay, infinitely to exceed, the largest wishes and expectations of them all; and so far from lessening the fruition to ourselves, by having partners in the bliss; that as no single person's endeavours shall meet disappointment, who seeks it regularly and faithfully, so the more zealously each labours to promote the happiness of his brethren, the more effectually does he establish and aggrandize his own. And this is a happiness not only exquisite in degree, and in its nature pure, satisfactory, and truly excellent; but for its duration, everlasting, always growing, always fresh; liable to no interruption, no abatement, no decay; a joy which, no man can, a joy which God, who gives it, never will take from his glorified saints.
It is not perhaps easy to think of a more powerful incitement to quicken our pursuits after heavenly things, than the putting us in mind how we usually behave ourselves when we have earthly advantages in view. For, alas! what excuse can be found for a folly, which overlooks and slights a treasure certainly attainable, real, perfect, and ever-during, and lays out the whole of our time and pains upon shadows and bubbles;—things in comparison empty and imaginary, often sought in vain, deceitful when found, not worth our keeping when possessed, and not possible to be kept long, were we never so desirous to retain them?
The Apostle, by comparing the Christian's duty to a race, doubtless intended to insinuate what vigour, what regularity, and what perseverance is expected from us: and in regard that the prize is given by the Master of the race, this shews us the equity of submitting to his terms, the necessity of running in the way that he has drawn out for us, and not making to ourselves paths of our own desiring. This resemblance also teaches us the obligations that we are under to hold on our course with resolution, since nothing less than coming up to the goal can crown our endeavours.
How happy would it be for us, if the importance of the metaphor before us were considered as it ought to be! Men would not then, as Isaiah expresses it, spend their money for that which is not bread, and their labour for that which satisfieth not. They would not make religion a thing by the bye, and allow it so few even of their leisure hours;—so many fewer than they give even to the diversions and impertinencies of the world. They would not suffer the pains and expence which they are content to be at upon the occasions and vanities of this life, so greatly to exceed those scanty droppings so hardly extorted from an over-grown treasure, to works of piety and charity. In a word, they would not appear so extremely solicitous about trifles; such prudent managers in affairs of little consequence, and so wretchedly cold and careless, languid and unthinking in their main, their eternal, their only concern.
Did they reflect at all, their own example would reproach them into better sense; their very pleasures would awaken a remembrance of their duty; and every temporal race would expose the absurdity of exerting all their powers to win a poor despicable prize, and of sitting still with their hands folded, when engaged in a course, whose end and prize is an immortal crown of glory.
From the figure used by the Apostle, we also learn, that it is the master's and judge's part to prescribe, and the runner's to submit and comply with the rules of the race. For want of this reflection, how is the face of the Christian world deformed with pernicious errors, wild enthusiasms, frivolous superstitions, and the religion of many compounded of monstrous absurdities, suited to each person's complexion or passion, humour or interest! How is the scripture racked and distorted to make it speak the sense of private opinions, or differing parties; and the belief and practice of many, no longer the gospel of Jesus Christ, but the dictates of daring men, presumptuous enough to pervert it; not building up the temple of the Lord, but erecting new schemes, and setting them upon sandy foundations of their own!
Well were it for mankind, if a remembrance of our life being a race would encourage the steadfastness, watchfulness, and perseverance even of those who have in a good measure escaped the pollutions of the world; who have detected the cunning craftiness of them who lie in wait to deceive, and have begun to run well. For if St. Paul,—if he who was caught up into the third heaven,—favoured with extraordinary visions and revelations, above the power of human tongue to utter,—entrusted with the conversion of so many nations, and indefatigably laborious in that ministry;—If he, notwithstanding all these advantages, found it necessary to keep under his body, and bring it into subjection; (1 Corinthians 9:27.) If he saw reason to fear, that otherwise, after having preached to others, he should himself be a cast-away; what care can be too great for us, whose attachments and zeal are so much less! How can we answer it to God, or to our own souls, if we so far forget our own sinfulness and frailty, as not readily to submit to every method of forwarding us in the race that is set before us, and if we make not a diligent thankful use of every advantage and defence in this spiritual contest!
REFLECTIONS.—1st, It seems probable that the false teachers had raised some objection against St. Paul's authority as an apostle, because he had not asserted that right to a maintenance which was due to his office; and, waving his privilege, had refused to be burdensome to his Corinthian brethren.
1. He vindicates his authority: if he had not insisted on a maintenance, it was for their sakes that he had waved this right. Am I not an apostle, because I have acted thus disinterestedly? am I not free to claim a subsistence, if I choose it? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? and received my commission immediately from him? Are not ye my work in the Lord? the converts of my ministry, and the fruit of my labours in the gospel? If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you, who owe to me chiefly, as the instrument, all that you know and are: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord; the Lord attesting the truth of my mission, by the success with which he blessed my ministry to your souls. Note; (1.) The best of men and ministers may expect to meet with malignant revilers. (2.) They who have been blest under our ministry, have in themselves the strongest proof that we are sent of God.
2. He asserts his right to all the privileges of an apostle. In answer to those who presumed to sit in judgment on his character, he replies, Have we not power to eat and to drink? have not Barnabas and I a claim upon you for a maintenance, though we have not exerted it? Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, and to expect a provision for our families as we are travelling from place to place, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas? Or I only and Barnabas, who were particularly sent to the Gentiles, have not we power to forbear working? or are we alone obliged to earn with our hands that maintenance which the other apostles are entitled to for their work's sake? How absurd and unreasonable is such a supposition! Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? the soldier has his stipend and provisions. Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? the vine-dresser is fed with the produce of his toil: or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? If these are justly entitled to eat the labour of their hands, much more have the ministers of the gospel, who sustain all these characters, a right to a competent provision. Say I these things as a man? merely on the footing of equity? or saith not the law the same also? let even my judaizing opposers and maligners judge. For it is written in the law of Moses, thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn; but while he works, he shall be permitted to eat. Doth God take care for oxen? was this precept given merely with a reference to them? or saith he it altogether for our sakes, who labour in the gospel? for our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he that plougheth, breaketh up the fallow ground of the sinner's heart, should plough in hope of a reasonable return; and that he that thresheth in hope, separating the chaff of corruption from the good seed of grace in the heart, should be partaker of his hope. And as the ploughman and thresher eat the fruit of their toils, so much more should the laborious minister in God's spiritual husbandry have a just recompence of reward. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing, or unreasonable for us to expect, or for you to give, that we should reap your carnal things, and have a maintenance, when the value between the spiritual blessings which we communicate, and the pittance that we should receive, is so disproportionate? If others be partakers of this power over you, and are supported at your expence, to whom you never were or can be so indebted as unto us; are not we rather entitled to a provision, if we chose to claim it? Nevertheless, we have not used this power, nor insisted on what we had a right to demand; but suffer all things, choosing to undergo any wants and hardships, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ, and raise a prejudice in your minds, that our views were mercenary. But 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, and receive their maintenance from their share in the sacrifices and oblations? Even so hath the Lord ordained, that they which preach the gospel, should live of the gospel. So that it appears, (1.) In the very reason of the thing; (2.) From the law of Moses; (3.) From Christ's express institution, (Luke 10:7.) that the ministers of Christ have a right to be supported becomingly by those among whom they labour.
2nd. The Apostle mentions his own disinterested conduct; for nothing is more opposite to the character of a Christian minister, than the very shadow of mercenary views. I have used none of these things, nor ever claimed my right among you; neither have I written these things that it should be so done unto me on any future occasion: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void: I had rather wear out my body with labour to minister to my own wants, than not preach the gospel to you freely, and thereby cut off occasion from those, who, if I received any recompence, would thence take a handle to prejudice you against me. For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of, for necessity is laid upon me, and I cannot but obey the Master's orders: yea, wo is unto me, if I preach not the gospel; I must be exposed to the bitterest accusations of unfaithfulness, and justly sink under the heavier vengeance. For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward; the consciousness of disinterested zeal is a satisfaction to my own soul, and the Lord will remember and reward my labours of love: but if against my will I labour, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me, and I am bound to be faithful. What is my reward then? verily, that when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, shewing the disinterested fidelity with which I act, and approving myself to God, and to my own conscience, that I abuse not my power in the gospel, nor exact even what I have authority to demand, demonstrating to the people, that I seek not theirs, but them. Note; For the sake of Christ it is prudent often to forego our rights and privileges, and to wave the claims to that reward to which our office and labours may entitle us.
3rdly. In other instances of Christian liberty, as well as the foregoing, the Apostle sets us a noble example of self-denial. For though I be free from all men, and under no obligations to be subservient to their will or humour; yet have I made myself servant unto all, willing in all indifferent matters to conform to them, and deny myself, that thus engaging their affections and attention, I might gain the more, and win them over to embrace the doctrines and ways of the gospel. And for this purpose, unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; not refusing to observe those ceremonials in their worship, to which, though indifferent in themselves, they were still attached. To them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; submitting to many of its ordinances, to engage the affection of my Jewish brethren, who still maintain their veneration for the divinely instituted service of the sanctuary. To them that are without law, as without law; not urging on them circumcision, or any of the ceremonial institutions, as at all necessary to salvation; but insisting on the necessity of faith in Christ alone, (being not without law to God, as if the moral law was abrogated, as well as the ceremonial; but under the law to Christ, walking in faith and holiness, according to the obligations which the gospel lays upon me) that I might gain them that are without law, and lay no needless obstacles in the way of the Gentiles, but, preaching the simple gospel, might engage their hearts to Jesus and his blessed service. To the weak became I as weak, condescending to their infirmities, and abstaining even from things innocent and lawful, where their conscience was scrupulous, that I might gain the weak, and lead them on to farther attainments of knowledge and grace. In short, I am made all things to all men, studying to please every man for his good to edification, that I might by all means save some, and, through the blessing of the Redeemer, be made the instrument of their conversion. And this I do for the gospel's sake, if possible to remove all prejudice and objections, that I might be partaker thereof with you, and come to share with you in all its blessings and benefits. Note; It is highly our duty to avoid every unnecessary occasion of offence, and in all indifferent things to forego our own will and pleasure for the profit of our neighbour.
4thly. To quicken them to imitate his own example, and give all diligence to make their calling and election sure, he proposes to them the case of those who in the Isthmian games contended for victory. Know ye not that they which run in a race, run all, but one receiveth the prize? the prize itself was in value trivial, though such pains were used to obtain it; and only one could there possess the honour. Here the prize is no less than eternal life, and all who run perseveringly, are sure to win: so run then with faith, patience, and perseverance, that ye may obtain the inestimable reward. And again, every man that striveth for the mastery, and would overcome, as wrestlers or boxers in the games, is temperate in all things, that by observing the most exact regimen, and bringing their bodies into the best order, they may be the better prepared for the conflict. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown, of withering leaves and flowers; but we have an incorruptible crown of glory in view, compared with which theirs is poor and trivial; and therefore how much more are we bound to deny our appetites; with how much greater earnestness ought we to contend for victory, where we are sure, if we fight manfully, to conquer, and the reward will be so unutterably and eternally glorious. I therefore, in this view, so run with unwearied diligence my christian course, not as uncertainly, observing the prescribed path of duty. So fight I against the world, the flesh, and the devil, not as one that beateth the air, not merely exercising my arms as the boxers, that they might be ready for the combat; but I keep under my body, (υποπιαζω, ) mortify its corrupt appetites, as the boxers, who beat their antagonists black and blue; and bring it into subjection, (δουλαγωγω, ) as the wrestlers, when their adversary was thrown under them; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others the necessity of such mortification, diligence, and self-denial, I myself, through negligence or unfaithfulness, should be overcome by my corrupted nature and spiritual foes, and be a cast-away at last, (αδοκιμος ), rejected by the great Judge, and counted unfit for the promised reward. And this holy jealousy which I feel for myself, I inculcate upon you, that in the use of all appointed means you may secure the glorious prize, and be approved of the Lord in the great day of his appearing. Note; (1.) In our Christian race and warfare, what diligence, constancy, and courage do we not need? blessed be God, there is help laid on one mighty to save; and looking to him, and perseveringly cleaving to him, we are sure to gain the prize. (2.) Our bodies are our great snare; and the mortification of sensual appetite is absolutely necessary in order to the salvation of the immortal soul. (3.) Holy jealousy over ourselves is the great preservative against apostacy. (4.) Many have appeared with zeal in the cause of Christ, and have been the means of saving others, who have perished themselves. Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.