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9
Paul’s Apostolic Freedom
1Am I not completely free and unrestrained? Absolutely! Am I not an apostle? Of course! Haven’t I had a personal encounter with our Jesus face-to-face—and continue to see him? Emphatically yes! Aren’t you all the proof of my ministry in the Lord? Certainly! 2If others do not recognize me as their apostle, at least you are bound to do so, for now your lives are joined to the Lord. You are the living proof, the certificate of my apostleship.
3So to those who want to continually criticize my apostolic ministry, here’s my statement of defense. 4Don’t we apostles have the right to be supported financially? 5Don’t we have the right to travel accompanied by our believing wives and be supported as a couple, as do the other apostles, such as Peter the Rock and the Lord’s brothers? 6Of course we do! Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to stop working for a living?
Responsibility to Financially Support God’s Servants
7Who serves in the military at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not enjoy the grapes for himself? Who would nurture and shepherd a flock and never get to drink its fresh milk? 8Am I merely giving you my own opinions, or does the Torah teach the same things? 9For it is written in the law of Moses:
You should never put a muzzle over the mouth of an ox
while he is treading out the grain.
Tell me, is God only talking about oxen here? 10Doesn’t he also give us this principle so that we won’t withhold support from his workers? It was written so that we would understand that the one spiritually “plowing” and spiritually “treading out the grain” also labors with the expectation of enjoying the harvest. 11So, if we’ve sowed many spiritual gifts among you, is it too much to expect to reap material gifts from you? 12And if you have supported others, don’t we rightfully deserve this privilege even more?
But as you know, we haven’t used that right. Instead, we have continued to support ourselves so that we would never be a hindrance to the spread of the gospel of Christ. 13Don’t you know that the priests employed in sacred duty in the temple are provided for by temple resources? And the priests who serve at the altar receive a portion of the offerings? 14In the same way, the Lord has directed those who proclaim the gospel to receive their living by the gospel. As for me, I’ve preferred to never use any of these rights for myself. 15And keep in mind that I’m not writing all this because I’m hinting that you should support me.
Paul Renounces His Rights for the Sake of the Gospel
Actually, I’d rather die than to have anyone rob me of this joyous reason for boasting! 16For you see, even though I proclaim the good news, I can’t take the credit for my labors, for I am compelled to fulfill my duty by completing this work. It would be agony to me if I did not constantly preach the gospel! 17If it were my own idea to preach as a way to make a living, I would expect to be paid. Since it’s not my idea but God’s, who commissioned me, I am entrusted with the stewardship of the gospel whether or not I’m paid. 18So then, where is my reward? It is found in continually depositing the good news into people’s hearts, without obligation, free of charge, and not insisting on my rights to be financially supported.
Paul, a Servant to All
19Now, even though I am free from obligations to others, I joyfully make myself a servant to all in order to win as many converts as possible. 20I became Jewish to the Jewish people in order to win them to the Messiah. I became like one under the law to gain the people who were stuck under the law, even though I myself am not under the law. 21And to those who are without the Jewish laws, I became like them, as one without the Jewish laws, in order to win them, although I’m not outside the law of God but under the law of Christ. 22I became “weak” to the weak to win the weak. I have adapted to the culture of every place I’ve gone so that I could more easily win people to Christ. 23I’ve done all this so that I would become God’s partner for the sake of the gospel.
Paul’s Disciplined Lifestyle
24Isn’t it obvious that all runners on the racetrack keep on running to win, but only one receives the victor’s prize? Yet each one of you must run the race to be victorious. 25A true athlete will be disciplined in every respect, practicing constant self-control in order to win a laurel wreath that quickly withers. But we run our race to win a victor’s crown that will last forever. 26For that reason, I don’t run just for exercise or box like one throwing aimless punches, 27but I train like a champion athlete. I subdue my body and get it under my control, so that after preaching the good news to others I myself won’t be disqualified.
9
Rights That Paul Has Not Used
1I am a free man. I am an apostle. I have seen Jesus our Lord. You people are an example of my work in the Lord. 2Others may not accept me as an apostle, but surely you do. You are proof that I am an apostle in the Lord.
3Some people want to judge me. So this is the answer I give them: 4We have the right to eat and drink, don’t we? 5We have the right to bring a believing wife with us when we travel, don’t we? The other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Peter all do this. 6And are Barnabas and I the only ones who must work to earn our living? 7No soldier ever serves in the army and pays his own salary. No one ever plants a vineyard without eating some of the grapes himself. No one takes care of a flock of sheep without drinking some of the milk himself.
8These aren’t just my own thoughts. God’s law says the same thing. 9Yes, it is written in the Law of Moses: “When a work animal is being used to separate grain, don’t keep it from eating the grain.”#Quote from Deut. 25:4. When God said this, was he thinking only about work animals? No. 10He was really talking about us. Yes, that was written for us. The one who plows and the one who separates the grain should both expect to get some of the grain for their work. 11We planted spiritual seed among you, so we should be able to harvest from you some things for this life. Surely that is not asking too much. 12Others have this right to get things from you. So surely we have this right too. But we don’t use this right. No, we endure everything ourselves so that we will not stop anyone from obeying the Good News of Christ. 13Surely you know that those who work at the Temple get their food from the Temple. And those who serve at the altar get part of what is offered at the altar. 14It is the same with those who have the work of telling the Good News. The Lord has commanded that those who tell the Good News should get their living from this work.
15But I have not used any of these rights, and I am not trying to get anything from you. That is not my purpose for writing this. I would rather die than to have someone take away what for me is a great source of pride. 16It’s not my work of telling the Good News that gives me any reason to boast. That is my duty—something I must do. If I don’t tell people the Good News, I am in real trouble. 17If I did it because it was my own choice, I would deserve to be paid. But I have no choice. I must tell the Good News. So I am only doing the duty that was given to me. 18So what do I get for doing it? My reward is that when I tell people the Good News I can offer it to them for free and not use the rights that come with doing this work.
19I am free. I belong to no other person, but I make myself a slave to everyone. I do this to help save as many people as I can. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew so that I could help save Jews. I myself am not ruled by the law, but to those who are ruled by the law I became like someone who is ruled by the law. I did this to help save those who are ruled by the law. 21To those who are without the law I became like someone who is without the law. I did this to help save those who are without the law. (But really, I am not without God’s law—I am ruled by the law of Christ.) 22To those who are weak, I became weak so that I could help save them. I have become all things to all people. I did this so that I could save people in any way possible. 23I do all this to make the Good News known. I do it so that I can share in the blessings of the Good News.
24You know that in a race all the runners run, but only one runner gets the prize. So run like that. Run to win! 25All who compete in the games use strict training. They do this so that they can win a prize—one that doesn’t last. But our prize is one that will last forever. 26So I run like someone who has a goal. I fight like a boxer who is hitting something, not just the air. 27It is my own body I fight to make it do what I want. I do this so that I won’t miss getting the prize myself after telling others about it.