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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.
A Pattern of Self-Denial
1Am #Acts 9:15; 2 Cor. 12:12I not an apostle? Am I not free? #Acts 9:3, 17; 18:9; 22:14, 18; 23:11; 1 Cor. 15:8Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? #1 Cor. 3:6; 4:15Are you not my work in the Lord? 2If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you. For you are #2 Cor. 12:12the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
3My defense to those who examine me is this: 4#1 Cor. 9:14; (1 Thess. 2:6, 9); 2 Thess. 3:8Do we have no right to eat and drink? 5Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, #Matt. 13:55the brothers of the Lord, and #Matt. 8:14; John 1:42Cephas? 6Or is it only Barnabas and I #Acts 4:36; (2 Thess. 3:8)who have no right to refrain from working? 7Who ever #2 Cor. 10:4; 1 Tim. 1:18; 2 Tim. 2:3goes to war at his own expense? Who #Deut. 20:6; Prov. 27:18; 1 Cor. 3:6, 8plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who #John 21:15tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?
8Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also? 9For it is written in the law of Moses, #Deut. 25:4; 1 Tim. 5:18“You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Is it oxen God is concerned about? 10Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that #2 Tim. 2:6he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. 11#Rom. 15:27; 1 Cor. 9:14If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? 12If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more?
#(Acts 18:3; 20:33); 1 Cor. 9:15, 18Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things #2 Cor. 11:12lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. 13#Lev. 6:16, 26; 7:6, 31Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the #Num. 18:8–31; Deut. 18:1temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? 14Even so #Matt. 10:10; Luke 10:7, 8; 1 Tim. 5:18the Lord has commanded #Rom. 10:15that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.
15But #Acts 18:3; 20:33; 1 Cor. 9:12, 18I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things that it should be done so to me; for #2 Cor. 11:10it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my boasting void. 16For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for #Acts 9:15; (Rom. 1:14)necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! 17For if I do this willingly, #John 4:36; 1 Cor. 3:8, 14; 9:18I have a reward; but if against my will, #1 Cor. 4:1; Gal. 2:7; Eph. 3:2; Col. 1:25I have been entrusted with a stewardship. 18What is my reward then? That #1 Cor. 10:33when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I #1 Cor. 7:31; 9:12may not abuse my authority in the gospel.
Serving All Men
19For though I am #1 Cor. 9:1free from all men, #2 Cor. 4:5; Gal. 5:13I have made myself a servant to all, #Matt. 18:15; 1 Pet. 3:1that I might win the more; 20and #Acts 16:3; 21:23–26; Rom. 11:14to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21#(Gal. 2:3; 3:2)to #(Rom. 2:12, 14)those who are without law, as without law #(1 Cor. 7:22; Gal. 6:2)(not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22#Rom. 14:1; 15:1; 2 Cor. 11:29to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. #1 Cor. 10:33I have become all things to all men, #Rom. 11:14that I might by all means save some. 23Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.
Striving for a Crown
24Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? #Gal. 2:2; 2 Tim. 4:7; Heb. 12:1Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for #2 Tim. 4:8; James 1:12; (1 Pet. 5:4; Rev. 2:10; 3:11)an imperishable crown. 26Therefore I run thus: #2 Tim. 2:5not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27#(Rom. 8:13)But I discipline my body and #(Rom. 6:18)bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become #Jer. 6:30; 2 Cor. 13:5disqualified.