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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament
1 Corinthians 9



Other Authors
Verse 1

Am I not free? (Ουκ ειμι ελευτεροσOuk eimi eleutheros̱). 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 ειμι αποστολοσouk eimi apostolos̱). 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? (ουχι Ιησουν τον Κυριον ημων εορακαouchi Iēsoun ton Kurion hēmōn heoraka̱). 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 ουχιouchi here. All these questions expect an affirmative answer. The perfect active εορακαheoraka from οραωhoraō to see, does not here have double reduplication as in John 1:18.

Are not ye? (ου υμεις εστεou humeis este̱). They were themselves proof of his apostleship.

Verse 2

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

Verse 3

My defence (η εμη απολογιαhē emē apologia). Original sense, not idea of apologizing as we say. See note on Acts 22:1; note on 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 ανακρινουσινtois eme anakrinousin). See note on 1 Corinthians 2:15; note on 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 εχουσιανMē ouk echomen exousiaṉ). Literary plural here though singular in 1 Corinthians 9:1. The μηmē in this double negative expects the answer “No” while ουκouk goes with the verb εχομενechomen “Do we fail to have the right?” Cf. Romans 10:18. (Robertson, Grammar, p. 1173).

Verse 5

Have we no right? (Μη ουκ εχομεν εχουσιανMē ouk echomen exousiaṉ). Same idiom.

To lead about a wife that is a believer? (αδελπην γυναικα περιαγεινadelphēn gunaika periageiṉ). Old verb περιαγωperiagō 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 (και Κηπαςkai Kēphās). 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 εχουσιαν μη εργαζεσταιouk echomen exousian mē ergazesthai̱). 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 (Acts 13; 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 (Philemon 4:15). Here both negatives have their full force. Literally, Do we not have (ουκ εχομενouk echomen expecting the affirmative reply) the right not (μηmē negative of the infinitive εργαζεσταιergazesthai) to do manual labour (usual meaning of εργαζομαιergazomai 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 στρατευεται ποτεtis strateuetai pote̱). “Who ever serves as a soldier?” serves in an army (στρατοςstratos). Present middle of old verb στρατευωstrateuō

At his own charges (ιδιοις οπσωνιοιςidiois opsōniois). This late word οπσωνιονopsōnion (from οπσονopson cooked meat or relish with bread, and ωνεομαιōneomai 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 οπσωνιονlabōn opsōnion (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 (1 Corinthians 9:7), the husbandman (1 Corinthians 9:7), the shepherd (1 Corinthians 9:7), the ox treading out the grain (1 Corinthians 9:8), the ploughman (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 πυτευει αμπελωναtis phuteuei ampelōna̱). ΑμπελωνAmpelōn no earlier than Diodorus, but in lxx and in papyri. Place of vines (αμπελοςampelos), meaning of ending ων̇ōn

Who feedeth a flock? (τις ποιμαινει ποιμνηνtis poimainei poimnēṉ). 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 αντρωπον ταυτα λαλωMē kata anthrōpon tauta lalō̱). Negative answer expected. Paul uses κατα αντρωπονkata anthrōpon 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 (και ο νομοςkai ho nomos). 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 πιμωσεις βουν αλοωνταou phimōseis boun aloōnta). Quotation from Deuteronomy 25:4. Prohibition by ουou and the volitive future indicative. ΠιμοωPhimoō to muzzle (from πιμοςphimos 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. ΑλοωνταAloōnta is present active participle of the old verb αλοαωaloaō occurs in the N.T. only here (and 1 Corinthians 9:10) and 1 Timothy 5:18 where it is also quoted. It is probably derived from αλοςhalos or αλονhalon 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 μελειmē melei expects the negative answer, impersonal verb with dative and genitive cases (τεοιtheoi God, βοωνboōn oxen).

Altogether (παντωςpantōs). 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 1 Corinthians 9:10, the American Standard the first in 1 Corinthians 9:9, the second in 1 Corinthians 9:10.

Verse 10

He that plougheth (ο αροτριωνho arotriōn). Late verb αροτριαωarotriaō to plough, for the old αροωaroō from αροτρονarotron (plough), in lxx and rare in papyri.

In hope of partaking (επ ελπιδι του μετεχεινep' elpidi tou metechein). The infinitive αλοαινaloāin is not repeated nor is οπειλειopheilei 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? (μεγαmega̱). The copula εστινestin has to be supplied. Note two conditions of first class with ειei both assumed to be true. On πνευματικαpneumatika and σαρκικαsarkika see note on 1 Corinthians 2:14 note on 1 Corinthians 3:3. This point comes out sharply also in Galatians 6:6.

Verse 12

Over you (υμωνhumōn). Objective genitive after εχουσιανexousian

Do not we yet more? (ου μαλλον ημεισou mallon hēmeis̱). Because of Paul‘s peculiar relation to that church as founder and apostle.

But we bear all things (αλλα παντα στεγομενalla panta stegomen). Old verb to cover (στεγηstegē 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 χραομαιchraomai) his right to pay in Corinth.

That we may cause no hindrance (ινα μη τινα ενκοπην δωμενhina mē tina enkopēn dōmen). Late word ενκοπηenkopē a cutting in (cf. radio or telephone) or hindrance from ενκοπτωenkoptō to cut in, rare word (like εκκοπηekkopē) here only in N.T. and once in Vettius Valens. How considerate Paul is to avoid “a hindrance to the gospel of Christ” (τωι ευαγγελιωι του Χριστουtōi euaggeliōi tou Christou 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 ιεραta hiera).

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

They which wait upon the altar (οι τωι τυσιαστηριωι παρεδρευοντεςhoi tōi thusiastēriōi paredreuontes). Old word παρεδρευωparedreuō to sit beside, from παρεδροςpaṙ̇edros like Latin assidere, and so constant attendance. Only here in the N.T. Locative case τυσιαστηριωιthusiastēriōi late word found so far only in lxx, Philo, Josephus, N.T., and ecclesiastical writers. See Matthew 5:23.

Verse 14

Even so did the Lord ordain (ουτως και ο Κυριος διεταχενhoutōs kai ho Kurios dietaxen). 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 ζηινek tou euaggeliou zēin). 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 μοι μαλλον αποτανειν η το καυχημα μου ουδεις κενωσειkalon gar moi mallon apothanein ē to kauchēma mou oudeis kenōsei). 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 (κεχρημαιkechrēmai). By the epistolary aorist (εγραπσαegrapsa) he explains that he is not now hinting for a change on their part towards him in the matter, “in my case” (εν εμοιen emoi). Then he gives his reason in vigorous language without a copula (ηνēn were): “For good for me to die rather than,” but here he changes the construction by a violent anacoluthon. Instead of another infinitive (κενωσαιkenōsai) after η (than) he changes to the future indicative without οτιhoti or ιναhina “No one shall make my glorying void,” viz., his independence of help from them. ΚενοωKenoō is an old verb, from κενοςkenos empty, only in Paul in N.T. See note on 1 Corinthians 1:17.

Verse 16

For if I preach (εαν γαρ ευαγγελιζωμαιean gar euaggelizōmai). Third class condition, supposable case. Same construction in 1 Corinthians 9:16 (εαν μηean mē).

For necessity is laid upon me (αναγκη γαρ μοι επικειταιanagkē gar moi epikeitai). Old verb, lies upon me (dative case μοιmoi). 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 (ουαι γαρ μοιouai gar moi). Explaining the αναγκηanagkē (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 (εκωνhekōn) - not of mine own will (ακωνakōn). Both common adjectives, but only here in N.T. save εκωνhekōn 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 Matthew 6:1 for μιστοςmisthos); but the only reward that he had for his willing work (Marcus Dods) was to make the gospel free of expense (αδαπανονadapanon 1 Corinthians 9:18, rare word, here only in N.T., once in inscription at Priene). This was his μιστοςmisthos It was glorying (καυχημαkauchēma to be able to say so as in Acts 20:33.).

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

Verse 18

So as not to use to the full (εις το μη καταχρησασταιeis to mē katachrēsasthai). Εις τοEis to for purpose with articular infinitive and perfective use of καταkata (as in 1 Corinthians 7:31) with χρησασταιchrēsasthai (first aorist middle infinitive).

Verse 19

I brought myself under bondage (εμαυτον εδουλωσαemauton edoulōsa). Voluntary bondage, I enslaved myself to all, though free. Causative verb in οω̇oō (δουλοωdouloō from δουλοςdoulos). The more (τους πλειοναςtous pleionas). Than he could have done otherwise. Every preacher faces this problem of his personal attitude and conduct. Note κερδησωkerdēsō (as in 1 Corinthians 9:20, 1 Corinthians 9:21, 1 Corinthians 9:22, but once ινα κερδανωhina kerdanō in 1 Corinthians 9:21, regular liquid future of κερδαινωkerdainō) with ιναhina is probably future active indicative (James 4:13), though Ionic aorist active subjunctive from κερδαωkerdaō 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 Ιουδαιοςhōs Ioudaios). 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 νομονmē ōn autos hupo nomon). 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 ανομοιςtois anomois). 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 τεου αλλ εννομος Χριστουmē ōn anomos theouτεουall' ennomos Christou). The genitive case of Χριστουtheou and ανομοςChristou (specifying case) comes out better thus, for it seems unusual with εννομοςanomos and ennomos both old and regular adjectives.

Verse 22

I became weak (εγενομην αστενηςegenomēn asthenēs). 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 8:1-13). He thus brings home his conduct about renouncing pay for preaching as an illustration of love (1 Corinthians 8:13).

All things (πανταpanta) to all men (τοις πασινtois pasin the whole number) by all means (παντωςpantōs). Pointed play on the word all, that I may save some (ινα τινας σωσωhina tinas sōsō). 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 γενωμαιhina sunKoinéōnos autou genōmai). Literally, That I may become Corinthians-partner with others in the gospel. The point is that he may be able to share the gospel with others, his evangelistic passion. ΣυνκοινωνοςSunKoinéōnos is a compound word (συνsun together with, κοινωνοςKoinéōnos partner or sharer). We have two genitives with it in Philemon 1:7, though ενen 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 σταδιωιen stadiōi). Old word from ιστημιhistēmi to place. A stated or fixed distance, 606 3/4 feet, both masculine σταδιοιstadioi (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 βραβειονto brabeion). Late word, in inscriptions and papyri. Latin brabeum. In N. T. only here and Philemon 3:14. The victor‘s prize which only one could receive.

That ye may attain (ινα καταλαβητεhina katalabēte). Final use of ιναhina and perfective use of καταkatȧ with λαβητεlabēte (effective aorist active subjunctive, grasp and hold). Old verb καταλαμβανωkatalambanō and used in Philemon 3:12.

Verse 25

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

Is temperate in all things (παντα εγκρατευεταιpanta egkrateuetai). Rare verb, once in Aristotle and in a late Christian inscription, and 1 Corinthians 7:9 and here, from εγκρατηςegkratēs 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 (πταρτον στεπανονphtharton stephanon). ΣτεπανοςStephanos (crown) is from στεπωstephō 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 note on Matthew 27:29; Mark 15:17; John 19:2; and John 19:5. ΔιαδημαDiadēma (diadem) was for kings (Revelation 12:3). Favourite metaphor in the 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 (Philemon 4:1). Note contrast between πταρτονphtharton (verbal adjective from πτειρωphtheirō to corrupt) like the garland of pine leaves, wild olive, or laurel, and απταρτονaphtharton (same form with αa privative) like the crown of victory offered the Christian, the amaranthine (unfading rose) crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4).

Verse 26

So (ουτωςhoutōs). Both with τρεχωtrechō (run) and πυκτευωpukteuō (fight).

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

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

As not beating the air (hōs ouk aera derōn). A boxer did this when practising without an adversary (cf. doing “the daily dozen”) and this was called “shadow-fighting” (skiamachia). He smote something more solid than air. Probably ως ουκ αερα δερωνou negatives σκιαμαχιαaera though it still occurs with the participle as a strong and positive negative.

Verse 27

But I buffet my body (αλλα υπωπιαζω μου το σωμαalla hupōpiazō mou to sōma). In Aristophanes, Aristotle, Plutarch, from υπωπιονhupōpion and that from υποhupo and οπςops (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 σαρχsarx or his σωμαsōma 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 (χεστυςcestus 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 (και δουλαγωγωkai doulagōgō). Late compound verb from δουλαγωγοςdoulagōgos 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 πωςmē pōs). Common conjunction for negative purpose with subjunctive as here (γενωμαιgenōmai second aorist middle).

After that I have preached to others (αλλοις κηρχαςallois kērūxas). First aorist active participle of κηρυσσωkērussō (see note on 1 Corinthians 1:23), common verb to preach, from word κηρυχkērux (herald) and that is probably the idea here. A κηρυχkērux 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 γενωμαιautos adokimos genōmai). Literally, “I myself should become rejected.” ΑδοκιμοςAdokimos 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 (δοκιμοςdokimos from δοκιμαζωdokimazō). 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 (μιστοςmisthos) of which he spoke in 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 (Philemon 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.


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

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