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1Corinthians 9 (web)

Giving Up Personal Rights and 
Freedoms to Serve God

9:1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle?
Haven't I seen Jesus Christ, our Lord? Aren't you my work in the Lord?
9:2 If to others I am not an apostle, yet at least I am to you;
for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
9:3 My defense to those who examine me is this.

9:4 Have we no right to eat and to drink?
9:5 Have we no right to take along a wife who is a believer,
even as the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?
9:6 Or have only Barnabas and I no right to not work?
9:7 What soldier ever serves at his own expense?
Who plants a vineyard, and doesn't eat of its fruit?
Or who feeds a flock, and doesn't drink from the flock's milk?

9:8 Do I speak these things according to the ways of men?
Or doesn't the law also say the same thing?

9:9 For it is written in the law of Moses,
"You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain." (Deut 25:4)
Is it for the oxen that God cares,

9:10 or does he say it assuredly for our sake?
Yes, it was written for our sake, because he who plows ought to plow in hope,
and he who threshes in hope should partake of his hope.

9:11 If we sowed to you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we reap your fleshly things?
9:12 If others partake of this right over you, don't we yet more?
Nevertheless we did not use this right, but we bear all things,
that we may cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ.

9:13 Don't you know that those who serve around sacred things eat from the things of the temple,
and those who wait on the altar have their portion with the altar?

9:14 Even so the Lord ordained that those who proclaim the gospel should live from the gospel.

9:15 But I have used none of these things,
and I don't write these things that it may be done so in my case;

for I would rather die, than that anyone should make my boasting void.

I am obligated to preach the gospel

9:16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast about;
for necessity is laid on me; but woe is to me, if I don't preach the gospel.

9:17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward.
But if not of my own will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me.

9:18 What then is my reward?
That, when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge,
so as not to abuse my authority in the gospel.

But I make myself a slave

9:19 For though I was free from all, I brought myself under bondage to all,
that I might gain the more.

9:20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews;
to those who are under the law, as under the law,
that I might gain those who are under the law;

9:21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God,
but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law.

9:22 To the weak I became as weak, that I might gain the weak.
I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.

9:23 Now I do this for the gospel's sake, that I may be a joint partaker of it.

To win the prize

9:24 Don't you know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize?
Run like that, that you may win.

9:25 Every man who strives in the games exercises self-control in all things.
Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible.

9:26 I therefore run like that, as not uncertainly. I fight like that, as not beating the air,
9:27 but I beat my body and bring it into submission,
lest by any means, after I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected.

Discussion Questions

What rights does Paul have that he gave up?
Why might Paul's exercising of his rights hinder the gospel?
In vs 9 Paul quotes the Law (Deut 25:4) and applies it to Christians. Yet Christians are not under the Law.
So in view of Paul's application, how should the Laws of Moses be applied to the Christian life?
What is the crown that Paul is trying to obtain by his performance?
Are there personal rights and freedoms that you have given up to serve Christ?
What motivates you to serve the body of Christ by giving up such personal rights and freedoms?


#1Co 9:1,2   Paul vindicateth his apostolical character,
#1Co 9:3-14  and right to a maintenance from the churches,
#1Co 9:15-18 though he relinquished that right for the
furtherance of the gospel, not content with
doing only his indispensable duty,
#1Co 9:19-23 but voluntarily subjecting himself in many
points, where he was otherwise free, in order
thereby to win over more converts to Christ.
#1Co 9:24,25 Those who contend for a corruptible crown use
much labour and abstinence.
#1Co 9:26,27 So doth the apostle strive for one that is

A Calling Affirmed

1Cor 9:1-3 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me.

In this chapter Paul affirms and reliquishes his rights and entitlements as a minster of the gospel. Here he affirms his calling, as he says in all of his letters: "Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God" 1Cor 1:1  As an apostle he was free from accountability to other men. He had seen the Lord on the road to Damascus as also was affirmed by Ananias saying, "Brother Saul, the Lord— Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here— has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit."  Acts 9:17 And the Lord said to Paul "Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me." Acts 26:16-18  Paul not only had the endorsement and commission of Jesus Christ, but in saying "what I will show you", the Lord indicated that he would be giving Paul personal revelation. the basis of which we accept Paul's word as scripture. Thus he also acknowledges in saying to the Thessalonians, "when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe." 1Th 2:13 And the apostle Peter  in 2Peter 3:16 likewise says that Paul's writings are scripture.

While the above is unique to the apostles, his final defense is something which all ministers of the gospel may use to affirm their calling. Namely, what impact has your ministry had on others? Jesus said, "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them."Mt 7:15,16 The Corinthians along with his other churches are themselves evidence of his calling. Jesus said, "This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." John 15:8

Don't We Have the Right?

1Cor 9:4-7  Don’t we have the right to food and drink?  Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk?

Of course ministers of the gospel have such rights. But those who are unmarried or work for a living are often looked down upon. In fact in much of the institutionalized Christian community today it's practically reckoned a requirement for ministers to be married and not work for a living in order to be reckoned qualified to minister. Seems Paul, Timothy and Barnabus (perhaps even Jesus Christ himself) would be reckoned disqualified based on such prejudicial things. A right or an entitlement is not the same as a qualification. Giving up personal rights and entitlements certainly should not disqualify a person from ministering.

Don't Muzzle the Ox

1Cor 9:8-10 Do I say this merely from a human point of view? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.

It's important to realize that while Gentile Christians are not under the regulaations of the Law, we are to live in accordance with the Spirit of the Law. The regulations associated with the Law of Moses, such as this one which Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 25:4, have application in that they point to general principles - the Spirit of the Law - upon which we may derive our own applications - our own regulations. Paul provides us an example of doing so here.

From Deut 25:4 we derive the principle that a person should benefit from his work. One application is that ministers of the gospel are entitled to get paid for ministering. But there are other applications as well. Like if I'm an employer, I should develop regulations allowing employees some benefits from the resources they utilize in their work. If you muzzle the ox, you're too stingy. To do so one may feel they are not being wasteful, but in fact they are being greedy. Notice the Law also says, "When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.’" Lev 23:22 These are the kind of ways in which the Law regulated greed.

Greed often leads Christians to neglect their duties to ministering Christians and their responsibilities to the poor. How do you regulate greed from becoming dominant in your life?

Relinquish Personal Rights to Serve Better

1Cor 9:11-15  If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. Don’t you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me. I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of this boast.

Paul and Barnabus opted out of exercising their entitlement to financial compensation for their ministering. In fact this is what he recommended to the Ephesian elders, "I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’" Acts 20:33-35 A friend of mine, a Christian minister, upon leaving his church read to his congregation from Paul's speech in Acts 20. But he had to stop at verse 32 as, unlike Paul, he opted to get paid for his ministering.

Better to follow Paul's example. Along with the issue of being an example of generosity, one of the problems with ministers opting to exercise their entitlement to financial compensation is that it hinders the gospel. It hinders the gospel in calling into question ones motivation - whether there is an element of greed involved. Paul noted, "Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God." 2Cor 2:17 If there were "so many" then, are there any less now? And there's also the issue of subconsciously being influenced to tickle the ears of their constituents upon whom they are financially dependent. Never underestimate the power of fleshly passions to deceive oneself.

Furthermore, for a minister to relinquish one's rights and entitlements to financial compensation and opting rather to BOTH work AND minister is itself an act of generosity, as it not only provides one the resources to practice generosity, but also it frees up the financial resources of others who can then utilize them to practice generosity towards the poor. But granted that not all are in circumstances in which this option is conveniently available.

Voluntary Service

1Cor 9:16-18 Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it.

As the Lord had commissioned Paul to preach, the Lord would hold him accountable to do so. Likewise there are responsibilities the Lord has entrusted to all of us amd we will be held accountable to carry them out. Paul could not preach voluntarily. In fact he did not voluteer for this service but was drafted into it. However what Paul could do voluntarily was to give up his personal rights to a wife and to getting paid, in order to serve God better.

"If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles." Mt 5:41 The Lord forced him to go the first mile preaching the gospel. But Paul voluntarily went the second mile by giving up his personal rights. How far are you willing to go with the Lord voluntarily? How far as a slave and how far as a son? What personal rights and freedoms might you relinquish to serve God better?

Winning a Hearing

1Cor 9:19-23  Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

Paul voluntarily went beyond his duty to win as many as possible by relinquishing his freedom to become a slave to all. One practical way he did this was to avoid cultural barriers by conforming to the customs of the people, dressing as they do, speaking their language, eating their food, and working as they do.

It is interesting that Paul considered that to win as many as possible was not just a function of his preaching, but of his lifestyle. He was not of the viewpoint that people were totally depraved as to have no free will, but that their election was conditioned upon their free will response to the gospel. He was not of the viewpoint that there was a set number of "elect" who would inevitably come to faith, but rather that the number who would come to faith was partly dependent upon his own willingness to relinquish his personal rights and freedoms. Thus he viewed salvation as not only contingent upon the free will of the hearers, but also upon the free will of the preacher. He believed in people's free will, that God did not control people in a puppetlike manner, and viewed the atonement as unlimited, to be offered to all and that grace was resistable.

Now there are those preachers who have a more fatalistic perspective, denying free will. Such a viewpoint would be convenient for those who wouldn't want to relinquish their entitlements, seeing as they would view doing so would have no impact or influence upon others. (In fact such dogma became entrenched in Christian thinking for over a thousand years, which hindered missions movements until the last hundred or so years when some Christians  decided to examine the Bible themselves.) Consider what freedoms you may relinquish, what barriers to overcome, in the process of winning others to Christ.

A Goal-Oriented Life

1Cor 9:24-27 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Similarly the Lord says to the church in Smyrna, "Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life." Rev 2:10 And at the end of Paul's life he says, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day— and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." 1Tim 4:7,8

To obtain the prize one must first know the rules. For "if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules." 2Tim 2:5 One must also go into strict training. In Greek the word is "temperate" or "to exercise self-control" (1Cor 7:9) Athletes, in preparing themselves for the games, abstained from unwholesome food, wine, and sexual indulgence  Paul went even further, abstaining from marriage and from receiving a salary for his ministering. And one must persevere to the end with determination and with the goal in mind. At the end of his life Jesus prayed, "I have accomplished the work which you have given me to do." John 17:4 Are you living with purpose, with a measurable goal in mind, a task which the Lord will hold you accountable? Or are you living aimlessly?

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources

Aug 15,2020