1 Corinthians 9
Paul’s view of a paid ministry
Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my works in the Lord? 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.
3 My defence to them that examine me is this: 4 Have we no right to eat and to drink? 5 Have we no right to lead a wife that is a believer, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or are Barnabas and I the only ones who have a right not to have to work for a living? 7 What soldier ever serves at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who feeds a flock and does not drink the milk of the flock? 8 Do I speak these things after the manner of men? Or did not the law say the same? 9 For it is written in the law of Moses: You shall not muzzle the ox when he treads out the corn. Is it for the oxen that God cares, 10 or did He say it entirely for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written. Because he that ploughs ought to plough in hope, and he that threshes, hopes to partake in the harvest. 11 If we sowed to you spiritual things, is it a great matter if we shall reap your material things?
12 If others have this rightful claim over you, do we not have more? Nevertheless we did not use this right, but we bear all things, that we may cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that they that labour in the temple get their food from the temple, and they that serve at the altar have their portion from that which is sacrificed on the altar? 14 Even so the Lord ordained that they that proclaim the gospel should live from the gospel. 15 But I have used none of these things, and I do not write these things that it may be so done in my case. For it is better for me to die, than that anyone should make my boasting void. 16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast about. For necessity is laid upon me. For woe to me, if I do not preach the gospel. 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if against my own will, then I have clearly had a stewardship entrusted to me. 18 What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel without charge, so as not to use to the full my right in the gospel.
All things to all people
19 For though I was free from all, I brought myself under bondage to all, that I might gain the more. 20 And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews. To them that are under the law, I became as one under the law (though I am not under the law), that I might gain those that are under the law. 21 To them that are without law, as without law, not being without law to God, but under law to Christ, that I might gain them that are without law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some. 23 And I do all things for the gospel's sake, that I may be a joint partaker of it. 24 Do you not know that they that run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run like this, so that you may attain the prize. 25 And every man that strives in the games exercises self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26 I therefore run, but not with uncertainty. So fight I, but not as a shadow boxer. 27 But like an athlete I discipline my body and make it my slave; lest by any means, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.
9:5 A wife that is a believer- Again Paul stresses that marriage should only be to a believer (7:39).
9:12 Here we have an example of how we can chose to live spiritual life on different levels. It wouldn't have been wrong for Paul to take a salary for his work, and he explains there is even Old Testament precedent for this- and even an unrecorded saying of Jesus which teaches it (v. 14). But he chose to take a higher level- and not take a salary. If we love God truly, we will want to try to serve Him on the highest possible level. We will not be minimalists, thinking what we can 'get away with'.
9:17 Paul is saying that a sign that he has been truly called to preach the Gospel is because this isn't something which came naturally to him; his silent years in Arabia after his conversion were perhaps due to him struggling against the command to preach (Gal. 1:17). If we feel it's so hard and 'not me' to share the good news of Christ with others- then we are in good company.
9:18 A paradox- by not taking a wage or reward from men for our service [be it money or the reward of praise], then we will receive a reward from God.
9:20 Without being hypocritical, we too must engage with people on their terms - rather than baldly presenting the Gospel to them in our terms with no real interest in their response.
9:27 The mere fact of telling others the Gospel won't justify us; we can still be rejected by God if we fail to practice personal self-control.