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Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures
1 Corinthians 9

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-27

A Positive Example: Paul's Carefulness Not to Offend - In 1 Corinthians 9:1-27 Paul uses himself as an example of the love walk through self-denial. In this passage he illustrates in his own life as an apostle the warning he has just stated in 1 Corinthians 8:9, which says, "But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak." In other words, he was careful not to allow his liberties in the Gospel to cause the weak to stumble. Paul would not ask the Corinthians to do something that he was not willing to do himself. In this passage of Scripture he discusses four rights, or privileges that belonged to him as an apostle to the Gentiles. These rights were shown to him by revelation and the knowledge of God's Word. Yet, he was careful in how he used them.

He explains how he has the right as an apostle of Jesus Christ to eat and drink whatever he wanted, to receive financial gifts, to marry and to cease from secular employment ( 1 Corinthians 9:1-14). Yet, he chose to deny himself these basic privileges in order to present the Gospel to them without costing them financially ( 1 Corinthians 9:15-23). He explains how he has made himself a servant to others in order that he may receive the eternal rewards from his labours and not be disqualified because of some foolish, selfish act ( 1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

Outline - Here is a proposed outline:

1. Paul's Liberties — 1 Corinthians 9:1-14

2. Paul's Self-Discipline — 1 Corinthians 9:15-27

Paul's Privileges as an Apostle Discussed - In 1 Corinthians 9:1-27 gives himself as an example of how not to offend the weaker brother, but rather, to walk in love. In this passage he discusses four privileges that he had the rights as an apostle to enjoy, yet he abstained from these rights.

1. Enjoyment of All Foods ( 1 Corinthians 9:4) - He had the privilege to eat and drink. Instead, he practiced "much fastings." Note:

2 Corinthians 6:5, "In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings;"

2 Corinthians 11:27, "In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness."

2. Material Prosperity ( 1 Corinthians 9:4) - He had the privilege to reap material things as offerings, yet he laboured with his own hands in employment. Note:

1 Corinthians 9:14-15, "Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel. 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."

3. Marriage ( 1 Corinthians 9:5) - He had the privilege to marry. Instead, he practiced celibacy. Note:

1 Corinthians 7:7, "For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that."

4. Forbearance to Work ( 1 Corinthians 9:6) - He had the privilege to forbear working, yet he laboured day and night.

2 Thessalonians 3:8, "Neither did we eat any man"s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:"

Why did Paul not use these privileges; so that the Gospel of Jesus Christ would not be hindered from being received by others?

1 Corinthians 9:12, "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."

1 Corinthians 9:18, "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."

Note that this description of Paul's rights, and how he does not use them so as not to hinder the Gospel, is his example of the point he is driving home in chapter 8, that Isaiah , "take heed lest your liberty becomes a stumbling block to others." The key verse to understanding Paul's main point in this passage of Scripture is in 1 Corinthians 9:19, in which he tells them to become servant to all!

1 Corinthians 9:19, "For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more."

Also:

1 Corinthians 9:22, "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."

1 Corinthians 10:23, "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not."

1 Corinthians 9:1-14 — Paul Explains His Apostleship Over the Corinthians - In 1 Corinthians 9:1-14 Paul explains his apostolic authority over the believers a Corinth. He will follow this point by explaining how he is careful not abuse this authority ( 1 Corinthians 9:15-27).

1 Corinthians 9:1 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?

1 Corinthians 9:1"am I not free" - Scripture Reference- Note:

1 Corinthians 9:19, "For though I be free from all men, yet have made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more."

1 Corinthians 9:2 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.

1 Corinthians 9:2 — "If I be not an apostle to others" - Comments- Paul called himself an apostle of the Gentiles ( Romans 11:13).

Romans 11:13, "For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:"

1 Corinthians 9:2 — "the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord" - Word Study on "seal" - BDAG says the Greek word "seal" ( σφραγίς) (G 4973) means, "That which confirms, attests, or authenticates."

Comments- Note also a similar statement in 2 Corinthians 3:2, "Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:"

1 Corinthians 9:4Scripture Reference- Note:

Luke 10:8, "And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you:"

2 Thessalonians 3:8-9, "Neither did we eat any man"s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us."

1 Corinthians 9:5 — "Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife" - Comments- This is a sister in Christ, a sister of the church.

1 Corinthians 9:5"as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas" - Comments- Peter was married as seen in:

Matthew 8:14, "And when Jesus was come into Peter"s house, he saw his wife"s mother laid, and sick of a fever."

1 Corinthians 9:6Scripture Reference- Note:

2 Thessalonians 3:8, "Neither did we eat any man"s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:"

1 Corinthians 9:9Old Testament Quotes in the New Testament - 1 Corinthians 9:9 is quoted from Deuteronomy 25:4.

Deuteronomy 25:4, "Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn."

Paul quotes this Old Testament verse again in 1 Timothy 5:18.

1 Timothy 5:18, "For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward."

1 Corinthians 9:11Scripture References- Note:

Romans 15:27, "It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things."

Galatians 6:6, "Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things."

1 Corinthians 9:12 — "power" - Or, "authority".

1 Corinthians 9:12"we have not used this power" - Note:

Acts 20:34-35, "Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive."

2 Corinthians 11:9, "And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself."

1 Corinthians 9:13Comments- Portions of the sacrifice were given to the priest ( Leviticus 6:16, Numbers 18:6-19; Numbers 18:31)

Leviticus 6:16, "And the remainder thereof shall Aaron and his sons eat: with unleavened bread shall it be eaten in the holy place; in the court of the tabernacle of the congregation they shall eat it."

Numbers 18:31, "And ye shall eat it in every place, ye and your households: for it is your reward for your service in the tabernacle of the congregation."

1 Corinthians 9:14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.

1 Corinthians 9:14Scripture Reference- Note:

Matthew 10:9-10, "Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat."

Luke 10:4, "Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way."

Luke 10:7, "And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house."

Galatians 6:6, "Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things."

1 Timothy 5:17, "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine."


Verses 15-27

Paul's Carefulness in Using His Privileges - In 1 Corinthians 9:15-27 Paul uses himself as an example for the Corinthians to follow by illustrating his lifestyle as one of moral constraint and not of indulgence. While the Greek culture, particularly in Corinth, was one of wealth, indulgence, fornication and other fleshly indulgences, the Christian lifestyle was one of discipline and sacrifice.

1 Corinthians 9:15 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.

1 Corinthians 9:15"than that any man should make my glorying void" - Comments- Paul kept himself from becoming a burden to the Corinthians ( 2 Corinthians 11:9-10; 2 Corinthians 11:30).

2 Corinthians 11:9-10, "And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself. As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia."

2 Corinthians 11:30, "If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities."

1 Corinthians 9:16 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!

1 Corinthians 9:17 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.

1 Corinthians 9:17Comments- A dispensation refers to Paul's divine commission.

Illustration (1) - Each day as a manger of a television station, I make choices about daily issues. However, there are also major issues upon which I must consult the directors for direction. Sometimes I like the decision of the directors and gladly, or willingly, follow their instructions. But sometimes I do not necessarily like their decisions. It is then that I follow their instructions out of duty and not out of eagerness.

In the same way, Paul knew the difference between following instructions from the Lord with a willing heart, and following His leadership when he did not necessarily want to. He learned to crucify his flesh and become obedient under all situations. Sometimes he followed the Lord willingly, and with this he would receive a reward from the Father; but other times, he did it out of an obligation to his calling and ministry, and this verse implies that he had no real reward as when he served willingly.

Illustration (2) - Bob Nichols says that in his early years as a pastor, he was working hard to remodel his church. He worked long hours himself on the building and often by himself. One day he was working, but with a complaining attitude. The Lord quickened to him Isaiah 1:19, "If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land." The Lord then spoke to him, "There is a reward for those who are willing and obedient." 128] This is why Paul the apostle said, "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." ( 1 Corinthians 9:17) God rewards those who serve Him.

128] Robert B. Nichols, "Sermon," Calvary Cathedral International, Fort Worth, Texas.

We show our fear and reverence for God when we are obedient. But we reveal our love for Him when we do it willingly. Thus, how much more is God moved when we serve Him out of love.

1 Corinthians 9:18 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.

1 Corinthians 9:19 For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.

1 Corinthians 9:19 — "For though I be free from all men" - Scripture Reference- Note:

1 Corinthians 9:1, "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?"

1 Corinthians 9:20 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;

1 Corinthians 9:20"to them that are under the law, as under the law" - Illustration (1) - In Galatians 2:3, Paul did not allow Titus to be circumcised, because true circumcision was of the heart ( Romans 2:29). However, in Acts 16:3, he had Timothy circumcised. Titus was a Greek, but Timothy was half Jew and half Greek.

Galatians 2:3, "But neither Titus , who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:"

Romans 2:29, "But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God."

Acts 16:3, "Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek."

Illustration (2) - In Acts 21:22-27, Paul observed the Law for the sake of the Jews. At this time he joined other Jews in their purification ceremonies and offering sacrifices in the Temple.

1 Corinthians 9:21 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.

1 Corinthians 9:22 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.

1 Corinthians 9:22 — "To the weak became I as weak" - Illustrations:

Romans 14:2, "For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs."

1 Corinthians 8:13, "Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend."

Scripture References- Note:

2 Corinthians 11:29, "Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?"

1 Corinthians 9:23 And this I do for the gospel"s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.

1 Corinthians 9:24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.

1 Corinthians 9:24 — "So run, that ye may obtain" - Comments- We are to run the Christian race, or course, as if only one man will win. We are to strive for that one prize. We are to do our best, as if we are striving to win first place.

The servant's race:

Philippians 3:14, "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

2Timothy chapter 2

2 Timothy 4:7, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:"

Hebrews 12:1, "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,"

1 Corinthians 9:24Comments - I have heard someone say regarding winning metals in the Olympics, "You do not win the silver, rather, you lose the gold." Song of Solomon , even today, as in Paul"s time, we see only one real winner in a contest, even though we give metals to second and third place.

1 Corinthians 9:25 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.

1 Corinthians 9:25"And every man that striveth for the mastery" - Comments - There are two basic ways to translate this phrase:

(1) It can emphasize one's efforts of self-discipline: "But everyone striving controls himself in all things" (LITV), "and every one who is striving" (YLT).

(2) It can refer to an athletic competition: "And every man that striveth in the games" (ASV)." "Everyone who enters an athletic contest" (God'sWord)

1 Corinthians 9:25 — "is temperate" - Comments - To be temperate means to exercise self-control.

1 Corinthians 9:25"in all things" - Comments - Not only does an athlete work hard those few hours in the afternoon, but he controls himself the rest of the day. He controls the bed rest that he needs at night. He controls his daily diet. A disciplined athlete does not let his tired or hungry body control him.

Illustration- Wrestlers, during wrestling season, lose much weight so that they can compete in a lower weight class. Long distance runners must lose all excess fat to run better. An athlete who is going after the "crown" must become disciplined in every area of his life.

1 Corinthians 9:25"Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown" - Illustration - A number of times while I was working driving a garbage truck, I have found old trophies in the trash cans. People eventually found them useless, and decided to throw them away.

1 Corinthians 9:25 — "but we an incorruptible" - Comments - This is referring to a crown of righteousness.

1 Corinthians 9:26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:

1 Corinthians 9:26Comments - Paul is not "aimless," or "without a goal to run towards." He knows his course and target, which is a heavenly reward, a crown of righteousness.

2 Timothy 4:7-8, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judges , shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing."

1 Corinthians 9:27 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.

1 Corinthians 9:27Comments- In 1 Corinthians 9:27 Paul tells us that he kept his body under the control of his spirit lest, after preaching to others, he himself would be laid aside and disqualified as a minister of the Gospel. Paul would become disqualified in the event if he did not bring his body into subjection to the will of God for his life. That Isaiah , if Paul had catered to his fleshly desires he would no longer be usable for the work of the Kingdom of God. We can find many examples of being ministers being laid aside by God because they did not maintain rule over their flesh. After walking in the anointing some ministers have failed to maintain close fellowship with God and lost their anointings and thus, became useless to God.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27Comments- Paul's Analogy of Greek Athletics to the Christian Life - In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Paul takes an analogy from the Corinthian life to explain how he has made himself a servant to others in order that he may receive the eternal rewards from his labours and not be disqualified because of some foolish, selfish act. In this passage he compares the Christian life to a contest in which only the winner receives the prize.

Although surpassed in culture by Athens, Corinth also served as cultural center. It was famed for its athletics and temple worship. A small town named Isthmia, located seven miles east of Corinth, hosted the Isthmian Games every two or three years (Geography 8622). 129] Scholars believe that Paul is alluding to these particular athletic games in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 about running the race. Thus, Paul uses an event within their own culture in order to drawn an analogy of their need to struggle to live the Christian life.

129] Strabo writes, "Upon the Isthmus is the temple of the Isthmian Neptune, shaded above with a grove of pine trees, where the Corinthians celebrated the Isthmian games." (Geography 8622) See The Geography of Strabo, vol 2, trans. H. C. Hamilton and W. Falconer, in Bohn's Classical Library (London: George Bell and Sons, 1903), 63.

 


Copyright Statement
These files are copyrighted by the author, Gary Everett. Used by Permission.
No distribution beyond personal use without permission.

Bibliography Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9:4". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ghe/1-corinthians-9.html. 2013.

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