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9
Paul does not exercise his right to be paid
1And in relation to all these questions let that be your first thought. Do not think only of the freedom that your faith and knowledge give you. Remember that knowledge may make a man self-sufficient and self-important. It is love that builds. I for instance am free — I am an apostle. I have seen the Lord Jesus myself. 2-5At Corinth, at any rate, my apostleship is unquestioned, because I have there a very certain witness to, and evidence of, the authenticity of my credentials; you yourselves are my credentials. I am the founder of your faith, your church. I repeat then that I have all the rights of this position. 6I have the right to live on the gospel, yes, and to support a wife, if I so choose, on the gospel, to take her with me, as do the other apostles, and our Lord's brethren in the flesh, and Cephas also. 7-8The vinedresser, the shepherd, the soldier earn their living by what they do. We have the same right ourselves. 9“Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn.” (Deut xxv. 4) These ideas are not my own — they are laid down in scripture. 10Moses' words have a spiritual meaning, they refer to us and our faith. Do you think that anything in that law merely refers to cattle, and has not some moral or spiritual significance? This text means the law of supply whereby the worker lives through his work and is glad and hopeful thereby, partakes in the blessing he bestows. 11And such rights have I, they are mine according to the scriptures — I have a right to be paid by you, and to exercise authority over you. 12Others already do this, but I have more right than anyone, since it is I who am the founder of your spiritual good fortunes, and that includes also material well-being. But I have never exercised this right, my own idea has been that the gospel of Christ should not bind any burden upon men, however small, that is to say, so far as I was concerned. 13And yet you know that the priests who serve the altars and sacrifices make a living out of it, 14and similarly the Lord expressly declared that those who teach the gospel should live by it. 15But you know that I do not exercise the right and never have.
The reason for his unwillingness to receive pay
And why not? Well, that is my affair! At any rate, I am not writing this now preparatory to claiming any compensation in the future. Far from it — I would rather anything than that my special reason for satisfaction and self-congratulation should be taken away. What is that? you ask. 16The gospel? Oh no, that does not affect me in a personal sense — I have to preach the gospel, woe unto me, if I preach it not. 17If I enjoy it, and do it willingly, I am well paid. If it is distressful to me, still I have my stewardship to fulfil, and must be faithful to it. 18But what is my special reward, what is the peculiar compensation which accrues to me out of the pains I take in spreading this teaching? Why, just the doing it for nothing, — preaching the gospel at no man's charges — that is my special privilege. In other words, the privilege and the right which I most relish and cling to most earnestly, is just this — to make no use of my rights and privileges!
What it means to be all things to all men
19And I declare I carry that principle through all that I do. I absolutely neglect my own point of view. 20Other people's opinions, other people's beliefs and creeds and traditions, other people's weaknesses — these all become my own. The freer I am myself, the more I seem to become the slave of others! And though this is past a joke, yet I do it willingly, because thereby I win people. At one time the Jewish tradition and the law are everything to me — that is because I am with Jews. 21And now they are nothing to me — because I am with Gentiles. Oh yes, the law is something to me, the divine law, Christ's laws I mean, but not the law of the Jews. 22But with the weak I become weak myself — all things to all men in fact, if only I can win a few. 23And why do I do all this? Why do I take everybody else's point of view except my own? For the sake of the Gospel, because I wish to have a share in it myself — on just the same principle as the athlete trains for a contest. 24He sacrifices everything to the one end, if he can only carry off those much coveted laurels. 25And so a man must sacrifice himself, his own prejudices and predilections, and self-esteem, if he is to gain that immortal chaplet. 26That is the secret of my life. I do not hit out at random, but I go to work in a scientific manner, like one who trains for a boxing match. My blows are well and cunningly directed. 27They are aimed at myself, my physical being, my physical ego; otherwise what guarantee is there that I shall be saved myself, even though I have preached to others.
9
CHAPTER 9#This chapter is an emotionally charged expansion of Paul’s appeal to his own example in 1 Cor 8:13; its purpose is to reinforce the exhortation of 1 Cor 8:9. The two opening questions introduce the themes of Paul’s freedom and his apostleship (1 Cor 9:1), themes that the chapter will develop in reverse order, 1 Cor 9:1–18 treating the question of his apostleship and the rights that flow from it, and 1 Cor 9:19–27 exploring dialectically the nature of Paul’s freedom. The language is highly rhetorical, abounding in questions, wordplays, paradoxes, images, and appeals to authority and experience. The argument is unified by repetitions; its articulations are highlighted by inclusions and transitional verses.
Paul’s Rights as an Apostle.
1Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?#a. [9:1] 1 Cor 9:19 / 2 Cor 12:12 / 15:8–9 / Acts 9:17; 26:16. 2Although I may not be an apostle for others, certainly I am for you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
3My defense against those who would pass judgment on me#My defense against those who would pass judgment on me: the reference to a defense (apologia) is surprising, and suggests that Paul is incorporating some material here that he has previously used in another context. The defense will touch on two points: the fact of Paul’s rights as an apostle (1 Cor 9:4–12a and 1 Cor 9:13–14) and his nonuse of those rights (1 Cor 9:12b and 1 Cor 9:15–18). is this. 4#Apparently some believe that Paul is not equal to the other apostles and therefore does not enjoy equal privileges. His defense on this point (here and in 1 Cor 9:13–14) reinforces the assertion of his apostolic character in 1 Cor 9:2. It consists of a series of analogies from natural equity (7) and religious custom (1 Cor 9:13) designed to establish his equal right to support from the churches (1 Cor 9:4–6, 11–12a); these analogies are confirmed by the authority of the law (1 Cor 9:8–10) and of Jesus himself (1 Cor 9:14). Do we not have the right to eat and drink? 5Do we not have the right to take along a Christian wife, as do the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? 6Or is it only myself and Barnabas who do not have the right not to work?#b. [9:6] Acts 4:36–37; 13:1–2; Gal 2:1, 9, 13; Col 4:10. 7Who ever serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating its produce? Or who shepherds a flock without using some of the milk from the flock?#c. [9:7] 2 Tm 2:3–4. 8Am I saying this on human authority, or does not the law also speak of these things? 9It is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”#d. [9:9] Dt 25:4; 1 Tm 5:18. Is God concerned about oxen, 10or is he not really speaking for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope, and the thresher in hope of receiving a share.#e. [9:10] 2 Tm 2:6. 11If we have sown spiritual seed for you, is it a great thing that we reap a material harvest from you?#f. [9:11] Rom 15:27. 12If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we still more?#g. [9:12] 2 Cor 11:7–12; 12:13–18; 2 Thes 3:6–12.
Reason for Not Using His Rights.
Yet we have not used this right.#It appears, too, that suspicion or misunderstanding has been created by Paul’s practice of not living from his preaching. The first reason he asserts in defense of this practice is an entirely apostolic one; it anticipates the developments to follow in 1 Cor 9:19–22. He will give a second reason in 1 Cor 9:15–18. On the contrary, we endure everything so as not to place an obstacle to the gospel of Christ. 13#The position of these verses produces an interlocking of the two points of Paul’s defense. These arguments by analogy (1 Cor 9:13) and from authority (1 Cor 9:14) belong with those of 1 Cor 9:7–10 and ground the first point. But Paul defers them until he has had a chance to mention “the gospel of Christ” (1 Cor 9:12b), after which it is more appropriate to mention Jesus’ injunction to his preachers and to argue by analogy from the sacred temple service to his own liturgical service, the preaching of the gospel (cf. Rom 1:9; 15:16). Do you not know that those who perform the temple services eat [what] belongs to the temple, and those who minister at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings?#h. [9:13] Nm 18:8, 31; Dt 18:1–5. 14In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the gospel should live by the gospel.#i. [9:14] Mt 10:10; Lk 10:7–8.
15#Paul now assigns a more personal motive to his nonuse of his right to support. His preaching is not a service spontaneously undertaken on his part but a stewardship imposed by a sort of divine compulsion. Yet to merit any reward he must bring some spontaneous quality to his service, and this he does by freely renouncing his right to support. The material here is quite similar to that contained in Paul’s “defense” at 2 Cor 11:5–12; 12:11–18. I have not used any of these rights, however, nor do I write this that it be done so in my case. I would rather die. Certainly no one is going to nullify my boast.#j. [9:15] 2 Cor 11:9–10. 16If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it!#k. [9:16] Acts 26:14–18. 17If I do so willingly, I have a recompense, but if unwillingly, then I have been entrusted with a stewardship.#l. [9:17] 4:1; Gal 2:7. 18What then is my recompense? That, when I preach, I offer the gospel free of charge so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.#m. [9:18] 2 Cor 11:7–12.
All Things to All.
19#In a rhetorically balanced series of statements Paul expands and generalizes the picture of his behavior and explores the paradox of apostolic freedom. It is not essentially freedom from restraint but freedom for service—a possibility of constructive activity. Although I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all so as to win over as many as possible.#n. [9:19] Mt 20:26–27. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew to win over Jews; to those under the law I became like one under the law—though I myself am not under the law—to win over those under the law. 21To those outside the law I became like one outside the law—though I am not outside God’s law but within the law of Christ—to win over those outside the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak. I have become all things to all, to save at least some.#o. [9:22] 10:33; Rom 15:1; 2 Cor 11:29. 23All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it.
24#A series of miniparables from sports, appealing to readers familiar with Greek gymnasia and the nearby Isthmian games. Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win.#p. [9:24] Heb 12:1. 25Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.#q. [9:25] 2 Tm 2:5 / 2 Tm 4:7–8; Jas 1:12; 1 Pt 5:4. 26Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. 27No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.#For fear that…I myself should be disqualified: a final paradoxical turn to the argument: what appears at first a free, spontaneous renunciation of rights (1 Cor 9:12–18) seems subsequently to be required for fulfillment of Paul’s stewardship (to preach effectively he must reach his hearers wherever they are, 1 Cor 9:19–22), and finally is seen to be necessary for his own salvation (1 Cor 9:23–27). Mention of the possibility of disqualification provides a transition to 1 Cor 10.