1 Corinthians 9

1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Haven’t I seen Jesus Christ, our Lord? Aren’t you my work in the Lord? 2 If to others I am not an apostle, yet at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. 3 My defense to those who examine me is this. 4 Have we no right to eat and to drink? 5 Have we no right to take along a wife who is a believer, even as the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? 6 Or have only Barnabas and I no right to not work? 7 What soldier ever serves at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard, and doesn’t eat of its fruit? Or who feeds a flock, and doesn’t drink from the flock’s milk? 8 Do I speak these things according to the ways of men? Or doesn’t the law also say the same thing? 9 For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Is it for the oxen that God cares, 10 or does he say it assuredly for our sake? Yes, it was written for our sake, because he who plows ought to plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should partake of his hope. 11 If we sowed to you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we reap your fleshly things? 12 If others partake of this right over you, don’t we yet more? Nevertheless we did not use this right, but we bear all things, that we may cause no hindrance to the Good News of Christ. 13 Don’t you know that those who serve around sacred things eat from the things of the temple, and those who wait on the altar have their portion with the altar? 14 Even so the Lord ordained that those who proclaim the Good News should live from the Good News. 15 But I have used none of these things, and I don’t write these things that it may be done so in my case; for I would rather die, than that anyone should make my boasting void. 16 For if I preach the Good News, I have nothing to boast about; for necessity is laid on me; but woe is to me, if I don’t preach the Good News. 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward. But if not of my own will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. 18 What then is my reward? That, when I preach the Good News, I may present the Good News of Christ without charge, so as not to abuse my authority in the Good News. 19 For though I was free from all, I brought myself under bondage to all, that I might gain the more. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law towards God, but under law towards Christ), that I might win those who are without law. 22 To the weak I became as weak, that I might gain the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some. 23 Now I do this for the sake of the Good News, that I may be a joint partaker of it. 24 Don’t you know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run like that, that you may win. 25 Every man who strives in the games exercises self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. 26 I therefore run like that, not aimlessly. I fight like that, not beating the air, 27 but I beat my body and bring it into submission, lest by any means, after I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected.

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Questions about today’s reading? See if Matthew Henry can help.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, 1706

Verses 1–14

It is not new for a minister to meet with unkind returns for good-will to a people, and diligent and successful services among them. To the cavils of some, the apostle answers, so as to set forth himself as an example of self-denial, for the good of others. He had a right to marry as well as other apostles, and to claim what was needful for his wife, and his children if he had any, from the churches, without labouring with his own hands to get it. Those who seek to do our souls good, should have food provided for them. But he renounced his right, rather than hinder his success by claiming it. It is the people’s duty to maintain their minister. He may wave his right, as Paul did; but those transgress a precept of Christ, who deny or withhold due support.

Verses 15–23

It is the glory of a minister to deny himself, that he may serve Christ and save souls. But when a minister gives up his right for the sake of the gospel, he does more than his charge and office demands. By preaching the gospel, freely, the apostle showed that he acted from principles of zeal and love, and thus enjoyed much comfort and hope in his soul. And though he looked on the ceremonial law as a yoke taken off by Christ, yet he submitted to it, that he might work upon the Jews, do away their prejudices, prevail with them to hear the gospel, and win them over to Christ. Though he would transgress no laws of Christ, to please any man, yet he would accommodate himself to all men, where he might do it lawfully, to gain some. Doing good was the study and business of his life; and, that he might reach this end, he did not stand on privileges. We must carefully watch against extremes, and against relying on any thing but trust in Christ alone. We must not allow errors or faults, so as to hurt others, or disgrace the gospel.

Verses 24–27

The apostle compares himself to the racers and combatants in the Isthmian games, well known by the Corinthians. But in the Christian race all may run so as to obtain. There is the greatest encouragement, therefore, to persevere with all our strength, in this course. Those who ran in these games were kept to a spare diet. They used themselves to hardships. They practised the exercises. And those who pursue the interests of their souls, must combat hard with fleshly lusts. The body must not be suffered to rule. The apostle presses this advice on the Corinthians. He sets before himself and them the danger of yielding to fleshly desires, pampering the body, and its lusts and appetites. Holy fear of himself was needed to keep an apostle faithful: how much more is it needful for our preservation! Let us learn from hence humility and caution, and to watch against dangers which surround us while in the body.

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