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The First Letter Of Paul To The Corinthians: Chapter 9

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Text view alone

1Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? 2If I am not an apostle to others, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

3This is my defense to those who would examine me. 4Do we not have the right to our food and drink? 5Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a believing wife, c Gk a sister as wife as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? 7Who at any time pays the expenses for doing military service? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not get any of its milk?

8Do I say this on human authority? Does not the law also say the same? 9For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10Or does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was indeed written for our sake, for whoever plows should plow in hope and whoever threshes should thresh in hope of a share in the crop. 11If we have sown spiritual good among you, is it too much if we reap your material benefits? 12If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we still more?

Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 13Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is sacrificed on the altar? 14In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

15But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing this so that they may be applied in my case. Indeed, I would rather die than that—no one will deprive me of my ground for boasting! 16If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel! 17For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. 18What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.

19For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. 20To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. 21To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law) so that I might win those outside the law. 22To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. 23I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

24Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. 25Athletes exercise self‐control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. 26So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; 27but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.


c Gk a sister as wife

Text Commentary view alone

9.1–27 : Paul's rights and his freedom not to exercise them.

Paul illustrates the principle in 8.13 from his nonuse of his apostolic freedom in his mission, in an emotionally charged selfdefense of his apostolic conduct.

1 :

An apostle … seen Jesus our Lord, see 15.8; Gal 1.1,11–16 .

3 :

See 4.3–4 .

4–12a :

Paul first establishes his right or liberty as an apostle, purposely using the Corinthian term for enlightened individ ual “liberty” (see 8.9n. ).

4–7 :

Paul has the same right to economic support from the communities of the movement as do Cephas (Peter) and other apostles but, since his mission with Barnabas based in Antioch (see Acts 13–14 ), has not used it.

8–10 :

The divine authority of the law of Moses (Deut 25.4 ) confirms his apostolic right to economic support.

12b–27 :

Paul comes to the main point of his autobiographical illustration of the principle in 8.13 and his selfdefense to the Corinthians who were examining him: He has not used his apostolic right.

14 :

The Lord commanded, see 7.10n.

15 :

Paul had followed the same practice in Thessalonica (1 Thess 2.7–9 ).

16–17 :

An obligation is laid on me … do this of my own will, the terms in Greek are “necessity,” the constraints of ordinary human affairs, which the enlightened Corinthians believe they have transcended in their “liberty,” and “free will” to act without the constraints of necessity, which only the wise person possesses. Paul asserts that he was entrusted with a commission, like the biblical prophets.

18 :

A paradoxical statement: His reward is to make the gospel free of charge, perhaps to make his gospel free of what would otherwise seem like patronage, which was increasingly common in the dominant society.

19–22 :

He argues that the purpose of his nonuse of his apostolic right,i.e., to win or save some, is the opposite of the potential result of the enlightened Corinthians' use of their individual “liberty.”

19 :

His metaphor of selfenslavement is specific to this argument against the enlight ened Corinthians' “liberty,” not a general understanding of Christian life or discipleship.

20–21 :

To the Jews…‐. To those under the law…‐. To those outside the law …, involves a more complex distinction than simply Jews and non‐Jews (Greeks); perhaps Jews, others who observe the (Jewish) law, and (other) Gentiles/Greeks.

24–27 :

The extended athletic metaphor alludes to the Isthmian and Imperial Games at Corinth.

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