1 Corinthians 9 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of 1 Corinthians 9)

Verse 1

[1] Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?

Am I not free? am I not an apostle? — That is, Have not I the liberty of a common Christian? yea, that of an apostle? He vindicates his apostleship, 1 Corinthians 9:1-3: his apostolical liberty, 1 Corinthians 9:4-19.

Have I not seen Jesus Christ? — Without this he could not have been one of those first grand witnesses.

Are not ye my work in the Lord — A full evidence that God hath sent me? And yet some, it seems, objected to his being an apostle, because he had not asserted his privilege in demanding and receiving such maintenance from the churches as was due to that office.

Verse 2

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

Ye are the seal of my apostleship — Who have received not only faith by my mouth, but all the gifts of the Spirit by my hands.

Verse 3

[3] Mine answer to them that do examine me is this,

My answer to them who examine me — Concerning my apostleship.

Is this — Which I have now given.

Verse 4

[4] Have we not power to eat and to drink?

Have we not power — I and my fellowlabourers.

To eat and to drink — At the expense of those among whom we labour.

Verse 5

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

Have we not power to lead about with us a sister, a wife — And to demand sustenance for her also? As well as the other apostles - Who therefore, it is plain, did this.

And Peter — Hence we learn, 1. That St. Peter continued to live with his wife after he became an apostle: 2. That he had no rights as an apostle which were not common to St. Paul.

Verse 6

[6] Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?

To forbear working — With our hands.

Verse 8

[8] Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?

Do I speak as a man — Barely on the authority of human reason? Does not God also say, in effect, the same thing? The ox that treadeth out the corn - This was the custom in Judea, and many eastern nations. In several of them it is retained still. And at this day, horses tread out the corn in some parts of Germany.

Verse 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 oxen?

Doth God — In this direction.

Take care for oxen — Only? Hath he not a farther meaning? And so undoubtedly he hath in all the other Mosaic laws of this kind.

Verse 10

[10] Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.

He who ploweth ought to plow in hope — Of reaping. This seems to be a proverbial expression.

And he that thresheth in hope — Ought not to be disappointed, ought to eat the fruit of his labours. And ought they who labour in God's husbandry. Deuteronomy 25:4

Verse 11

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

Is it a great matter if we shall reap as much of your carnal things — As is needful for our sustenance? Do you give us things of greater value than those you receive from us?

Verse 12

[12] If others be partakers of this 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.

If others — Whether true or false apostles.

Partake of this power — Have a right to be maintained.

Do not we rather — On account of our having laboured so much more? Lest we should give any hinderance to the gospel - By giving an occasion of cavil or reproach.

Verse 14

[14] Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.

Matthew 10:10

Verse 15

[15] But I have used none of these things: 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.

It were better for me to die than — To give occasion to them that seek occasion against me, 2 Corinthians 11:12.

Verse 17

[17] For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.

Willingly — He seems to mean, without receiving anything. St. Paul here speaks in a manner peculiar to himself. Another might have preached willingly, and yet have received a maintenance from the Corinthians. But if he had received anything from them, he would have termed it preaching unwillingly. And so, in the next verse, another might have used that power without abusing it. But his own using it at all, he would have termed abusing it.

A dispensation is intrusted to me — Therefore I dare not refrain.

Verse 18

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

What then is my reward — That circumstance in my conduct for which I expect a peculiar reward from my great Master? That I abuse not - Make not an unseasonable use of my power which I have in preaching the gospel.

Verse 19

[19] For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.

I made myself the servant of all — I acted with as self-denying a regard to their interest, and as much caution not to offend them, as if I had been literally their servant or slave. Where is the preacher of the gospel who treads in the same steps?

Verse 20

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

To the Jews I became as a Jew — Conforming myself in all things to their manner of thinking and living, so far as; I could with innocence.

To them that are under the law — Who apprehend themselves to be still bound by the Mosaic law.

As under the law — Observing it myself, while I am among them. Not that he declared this to be necessary, or refused to converse with those who did not observe it. This was the very thing which he condemned in St. Peter, Galatians 2:14.

Verse 21

[21] To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.

To them that are without the law — The heathens.

As without the law — Neglecting its ceremonies.

Being not without the law to God — But as much as ever under its moral precepts.

Under the law to Christ — And in this sense all Christians will be under the law for ever.

Verse 22

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

I became as weak — As if I had been scrupulous too.

I became all things to all men — Accommodating myself to all, so far as I could consistent with truth and sincerity.

Verse 24

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

Know ye not that — In those famous games which are kept at the isthmus, near your city. They who run in the foot race all run, though but one receiveth the prize - How much greater encouragement have you to run; since ye may all receive the prize of your high calling!

Verse 25

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

And every one that there contendeth is temperate in all things - To an almost incredible degree; using the most rigorous self denial in food, sleep, and every other sensual indulgence.

A corruptible crown — A garland of leaves, which must soon wither. The moderns only have discovered that it is "legal" to do all this and more for an eternal crown than they did for a corruptible!

Verse 26

[26] I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:

I so run, not as uncertainly — I look straight to the goal; I run straight toward it. I cast away every weight, regard not any that stand by.

I fight not as one that beateth the air — This is a proverbial expression for a man's missing his blow, and spending his strength, not on his enemy, but on empty air.

Verse 27

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

But I keep under my body — By all kinds of self denial.

And bring it into subjection — To my spirit and to God. The words are strongly figurative, and signify the mortification of the body of sin, "by an allusion to the natural bodies of those who were bruised or subdued in combat.

Lest by any means after having preached — The Greek word means, after having discharged the office of an herald, (still carrying on the allusion,) whose office it was to proclaim the conditions, and to display the prizes.

I myself should become a reprobate — Disapproved by the Judge, and so falling short of the prize. This single text may give us a just notion of the scriptural doctrine of election and reprobation; and clearly shows us, that particular persons are not in holy writ represented as elected absolutely and unconditionally to eternal life, or predestinated absolutely and unconditionally to eternal death; but that believers in general are elected to enjoy the Christian privileges on earth; which if they abuse, those very elect persons will become reprobate. St. Paul was certainly an elect person, if ever there was one; and yet he declares it was possible he himself might become a reprobate. Nay, he actually would have become such, if he had not thus kept his body under, even though he had been so long an elect person, a Christian, and an apostle.