1 Corinthians 9 Bible Commentary

The Geneva Study Bible

(Read all of 1 Corinthians 9)
9:1 Am 1 I not an apostle? am I not free? 2 have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye a my work in the Lord?

(1) Before he proceeds any further in his purposed matter of things offered to idols, he would show the cause of all this evil, and also take it away. That is, that the Corinthians thought that they did not have to depart from the least amount of their liberty for any man's pleasure. Therefore he propounds himself for an example, and that in a matter almost necessary. And yet he speaks of both, but first of his own person. If (he says) you allege for yourselves that you are free, and therefore will use your liberty, am I not also free, seeing I am an apostle? (2) He proves his apostleship by the effects, in that he was appointed by Christ himself, and the authority of his function was sufficiently confirmed to him among them by their conversion. And all these things he sets before their eyes, to make them ashamed because they would not in the least way that might be, debase themselves for the sake of the weak, whereas the apostle himself did all the he could to win them to God, when they were utterly reprobate and without God.
(a) By the Lord.

9:2 If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the b seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.

(b) As a seal by which it sufficiently appears that God is the author of my apostleship.

9:3 3 Mine answer to them that do c examine me is this,

(3) He adds this by the way, as if he should say, "So far it is off, that you may doubt of my apostleship, that I use it to refute those who call it into controversy, by opposing those things which the Lord has done by me among you."
(c) Which like judges examine me and my doings.

9:4 4 Have we not power to d eat and to drink?

(4) "Now concerning the matter itself", he says, "seeing that I am free, and truly an apostle, why may not I (I say not, eat of all things offered to idols) be maintained by my labours, indeed and keep my wife also, as the rest of the apostles lawfully do, as by name, John and James, the Lord's cousins, and Peter himself?"
(d) Upon the expense of the Church?

9:5 Have we not power to lead about a e sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and [as] the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?

(e) One that is a Christian and a true believer.

9:6 Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to f forbear working?

(f) Not live by the works of our hands.

9:7 5 Who g goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?

(5) That he may not seem to burden the apostles, he shows that it is just that they do, by an argument of comparison, seeing that soldiers live by their wages, and husbandmen by the fruits of their labours, and shepherds by that which comes of their flocks.
(g) Goes to warfare?

9:8 6 Say I these things h as a man? or saith not the law the same also?

(6) Secondly, he brings forth the authority of God's institution by an argument of comparison.
(h) Have I not better ground than the common custom of men?

9:9 For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for i oxen?

(i) Was it God's proper intention to provide for oxen, when he made this law? For there is not the smallest thing in the world, but that God has a concern for.

9:11 7 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, [is it] a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?

(7) An assumption of the arguments with an amplification, for neither in so doing do we require a reward appropriate for our work.

9:12 8 If others be partakers of [this] k power over you, [are] not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.

(8) Another argument of great force: others are nourished among you, therefore it was lawful for me, indeed rather for me than any other. And yet I refused it, and had rather still suffer any inconvenience, than the Gospel of Christ should be hindered.
(k) The word signifies right and interest, by which he shows us that the ministers of the word must by right and duty be supported by the Church.

9:13 9 Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live [of the l things] of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are m partakers with the altar?

(9) Last of all he brings forth the express law concerning the nourishing of the Levites, which privilege nonetheless he will not use.
(l) This is spoken by the figure of speech metonymy, for those things that are offered in the temple.
(m) Are partakers with the altar in dividing the sacrifice.

9:14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live n of the gospel.

(n) Because they preach the Gospel. It follows by this place, that Paul received no living, neither would have any other man receive, by a commodity of masses, or any other such superstitious nonsense.

9:15 But I have used none of these things: 10 neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for [it were] better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.

(10) He takes away occasion of suspicion by the way, that it might not be thought that he wrote this as though he was demanding his wages that were not payed him. On the contrary, he says, I had rather die, than not to continue in this purpose to preach the Gospel freely. For I am bound to preach the Gospel, seeing that the Lord has given and commanded me this office: but unless I do it willingly and for the love of God, nothing that I do is to be considered worthwhile. If I had rather that the Gospel should be evil spoken of, than that I should not require my wages, then would it appear that I took these pains not so much for the Gospel's sake, as for my gains and advantages. But I say, this would not be to use, but rather to abuse my right and liberty: therefore not only in this thing, but also in all others (as much as I could) I am made all things to all men, that I might win them to Christ, and might together with them be won to Christ.

9:18 What is my reward then? [Verily] that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ o without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.

(o) By taking nothing from those to whom I preach it.

9:20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the p law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;

(p) The word "law" in this place must be limited to the ceremonial Law.

9:22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to q all [men], that I might by all means save some.

(q) In matters that are indifferent, which may be done or not done with a good conscience. It is as if he said, "I accommodated all customs and manners, that by all means I might save some."

9:23 And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with r [you].

(r) That both I and those to whom I preach the Gospel, may receive fruit by the Gospel.

9:24 11 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.

(11) He brings in another reason for this wrong, that is, that they were given to gluttony, for there were solemn banquets of sacrifices, and the loose living of the priests was always too much celebrated and kept. Therefore it was hard for those who were accustomed to loose living, especially when they pretended the liberty of the Gospel, to be restrained in these banquets. But on the other hand, the apostle calls them by a pleasant similitude, and also by his own example, to sobriety and mortification of the flesh, showing that they cannot be fit to run or wrestle (as then the games of Isthmies were) who pamper up their bodies. And therefore affirming that they can have no reward unless they take another course and manner of life.

9:25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is s temperate in all things. Now they [do it] to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

(s) Uses a most excellent and moderate diet.

9:27 But I keep under my t body, and bring [it] into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be u a castaway.

(t) The old man which strives against the Spirit.
(u) Or, "reproved". And this word "reproved" is not contrasted with the word "elect", but with the word "approved", when we see someone who is experienced not to be such a one as he ought to be.