1Corinthians Chapter Nine


When Paul wants to illustrate a truth concerning the shared life with Jesus, he does not just use theoretical or hypothetical examples. He uses illustrations of his own experience, and in the case of the issues raised in this chapter he uses his actual present tense experience with the very people he is writing to. He focuses on the rights and privileges he could have if he pressed for them – Things such as being able to take a wife with him (if he had one). But most significantly he addresses the issue of receiving financial support from them as a community of faith. He shows from Scripture that this is what God had ordained in the Old Testament, and that the saying ‘Don’t muzzle the ox as it treads out the corn’ is used as a secondary illustration. He brings this into New Testament theology and says it is ordained for those who are called to preach the Gospel in a full time capacity.

However the driving force of his argument is that he refuses to accept support from them as a church so as not to draw any criticism from them whatsoever regarding the integrity of his mission to preach the Gospel as a mandate given to him by God, and therefore something that God will provide for in one way or another. In other words he is saying that he trusts God for everything concerning his life and mission and does not have to coerce or obligate people in any way.

The extra force behind his real life example is highlighted in this gesture of his when one considers that he has just previously admonished them for being mean minded with their finances in their squabbling over material things and taking one another to the courts of the land for judgment instead of rather being defrauded by one another voluntarily (and thus proving how much they trusted in God to supply their needs).

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1. Am I not commissioned by God to proclaim the message of Jesus? Don't I have the authority to make this claim, having personally seen Jesus himself in a vision? And aren't you the evidence of this as being my legitimate vocation?

2. Even if I am not recognized as a commissioned messenger to others there is no doubt that I am to be recognized by you, because your lives are the proof of my commissioning.

3. My answer to those who question me about this is as follows;

4. Don't we have the authority and the right to eat and drink?

5. Don't we have the authority and the right to take a wife with us when we travel just as the other apostles do, namely the brothers of Jesus and also Peter?

6. Or are Barnabas and I denied these rights along with the right to being in full-time ministry?

7. But what soldier is ever asked to go to war and to pay for his own expenses?  What farmer plants a vineyard and doesn't eat any of the fruit from the crop?  What farmer feeds his cattle and is not allowed to drink any of the milk?

8. Do I say these things just as a man with my own opinion or doesn't the law also establish this?

9. It is written in the Law of Moses that we should not muzzle the ox as it treads out the corn. Is God really concerned for the oxen in this case?

10. Or isn’t God really saying this for our sakes? There is no doubt that this is written to establish the fact that the person who plows a field should plow with some hope of a return for his work. It is the same for a person who threshes wheat – He should expect to be able to eat some of the grain himself.

11. So if we have sown spiritual things into your lives, is it too much to expect that we should reap material things from your lives?

12. If others exercise this privilege with you, shouldn’t we even more so? Nevertheless we have not exercised this privilege at all. We have deliberately gone without all of these privileges so that we would not in any way encumber you with anything that prevents us from effectively bringing the message of God’s plan to you.

13. Weren’t you aware that the priests who ministered in the Temple and looked after the holy things and the sacrifices that were brought to the altar were partakers of those same sacrifices?

14. Even so, it is God’s arrangement that those who are called to preach the Gospel should expect that this will be their means of provision.

15. But I have not used any of these privileges for myself, and I haven’t written this so that I can claim these privileges from you. It would be better for me to be dead than for anyone to cheapen this commission which is so glorious to me.

16. For even though it is me that preaches this Gospel it is not me that is glorious. This is what runs my life. I don’t have a life if I’m not preaching the Gospel.

17. Doing this voluntarily has its own reward. But if I were forced to do it I would still be obliged under God to do it.

18. So what is my reward then? It is that I can do this without putting a price on it, so that I don’t abuse any privilege that might weaken my authority to preach the Gospel.

19. So having made myself free from obligation to anybody, I can become a better servant of everybody. And therefore I have a greater and wider influence.

20. So to the Jews I become like a Jew so that I can have more influence on the Jews. To those who are under the Law I act like someone who is under the Law, so that I can have more influence on them.

21. To those who are not under the Law I behave like I am not under the Law. (I don’t have a lawless attitude to God, because the law of my life is doing whatever Jesus wants me to do.)

22. I identified with those who were not coping with life and looked at life the way they did so that I could have credibility with them. I became anything I could to anyone I could so that I possibly could influence even some of them.

23. I do all this for the sake of the message of the shared life with Jesus so that I can share the reality of this message with you.

24. You know that a lot of people might run in a race but there is only one winner. You should run the faith race of your life to be a winner.

25. And every athlete that competes to win will discipline himself in whatever he has to, and they do it to win an impressive looking medal that will one day lose its value. But we do it to win a victory medal of eternal honor.

26. That is the way I run the determined race of my life, and that is how I fight the critical battle of life, not just hitting a punching bag, but soundly thrashing the enemy of darkness.

27. I am tough on myself with self discipline, so that I don’t become a failure in the very things that I challenge to others.

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