1 Corinthians 9
1. Am I not as free as anyone else? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord with my own eyes? Is it not because of my work that you belong to the Lord?
An apostle is someone who had seen the resurrected Christ and had been with Him at the beginning of His ministry (Acts 1:21 – 26). Apostles were men who left their jobs and worked in the ministry with no pay. They had power from God to do things that other men could not do (Matthew 10:8, 2 Corinthians 12:12).
2 – 3
Even if others think I am not an apostle, I certainly am to you. You yourselves are proof that I am the Lord’s apostle. This is my answer to those who question my authority.
The word apostle means someone who is sent. People who call themselves apostles today are saying that they have been sent, but they are not apostles in the same spirit as the twelve that Jesus chose. Paul is saying, “I am an apostle to you because Jesus sent me to you and because of the change in your lives.” Acts 9:15
4. Do we not have the right to live in your homes and share your meals?
A growing Christian knows that we are all in the ministry together. Strong Christians are happy when God asks them to help other Christians do the work of the ministry.
For the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry. Ephesians 4:12
5 – 7
Do we not have the right to bring a wife with us as the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers do, and as Peter does? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have to work to support ourselves?
What soldier has to pay his own expenses? What farmer plants a vineyard and does not have the right to eat some of its fruit? What shepherd cares for a flock of sheep and is not allowed to drink some of the milk?
Some churches use money as a way of controlling the pastor. Some churches see themselves as a business which is buying and selling services. They have leaders who have other leaders under them and they use this power to control people. It is only natural that they cannot understand why they should help a missionary who is doing nothing to build up their business but is only telling some people far away about Jesus.
8 – 9
Is this only my opinion, or does the Law say the same thing? For the Law of Moses says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” Was God thinking only about oxen when He said this?
Some people would take better care of their cows than their pastor. Is God more interested in cows than in men? Deuteronomy 25:4
10. Wasn’t he actually speaking to us? Yes, it was written for us, so that the one who plows and the one who threshes the grain might both expect a share of the harvest.
Some teachers say that Malachi 3:10 is telling us that the bigger gift we give to God the more He will bless us. They say that if you want God to give you a lot of things then give Him a bigger offering. Malachi was talking about the Old Testament law of giving ten percent. He was not saying that you will be blessed because you gave more than that. This kind of teaching makes people think that they can control God.
11. Since we have planted spiritual seed among you, are we not allowed to something to eat and drink?
When you are giving to the ministry you need to remember that you are not giving to a man or a church, but to God Himself. Think of the money as being passed on to someone who needs to hear the Gospel. Get a picture of this person in your mind and pray for them specifically, someone planted the seed and you are watering it.
12. If you support others who preach to you, should we not have an even greater right to be supported? But we have never used this right. We would rather put up with anything than stop anyone from coming to the Gospel.
Paul has shown that Christians work together to support each other in the ministry. There are false teachers who take this too far and say that God wants His spiritual leaders to be rich in houses and cars and houses and money. These teachers also say that the reason the rest of us are poor is because we do not have enough faith.
God has warned us not to laugh at the poor. Those who mock the poor speak against their Maker; those who laugh when the poor have problems will be punished. Proverbs 17:5
13 – 14
And Do you not know that those who work in the temple get their meals from the offerings brought to the temple? And those who serve at the altar get a share of the sacrificial offerings.
In the same way, Jesus said that those who bring the Gospel should be supported by those who are helped by it.
Jesus told His disciples to do the work of the ministry and not worry about getting the things that they need. They were not told to ask for money, but to trust God about it. People would be led by the Spirit to help them or led by the devil to send them away.
He told them to take nothing for their journey except a walking stick —no food, no bag, no money. Mark 6:8
As you enter the house, give it your greeting. If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. Whoever does not receive you, or listen to your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. Matthew 10:12 – 14
A workman should be paid for his work. Luke 10:7
15. Yet I have never used any of these rights. And I am not writing this to suggest that I want to start now. In fact, I would rather die than lose my right to boast about preaching without charge.
Paul is not writing these things so that people will give him money. “God's work done in God's way will always have God's supply. He is too wise a God to destroy His purposes because there is not any money.” Hudson Taylor, Missionary
16. Yet preaching the Gospel is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I did not preach the Gospel!
But if I say I’ll never mention the LORD or speak in His name, His Word burns in my heart like a fire. It’s like a fire in my bones! I am worn out trying to hold it in! I cannot do it! Jeremiah 20:9
17. If I were doing this on my own, I would deserve payment. But I have no choice, for God has given me this sacred trust.
Jesus sent Paul to the people that Paul hated –just like Jonah. Acts 9:15
18. What then is my pay? It is that I can preach the Gospel without charging anyone. That’s why I never demand my rights when I preach the Gospel.
Paul did not want anyone to say that he lived like a king while he worked in the ministry. He wanted it to cost him something so that he could offer his work to the Lord.
I will not offer to the Lord that which cost me nothing. 2 Samuel 24:24
19 – 23
Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ.
When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law.
When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ.
When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Gospel and share in its blessings.
Paul is showing us how to build bridges with people. When he was talking to Jews, he could talk about his life as a Jew. When he was talking to a Gentile, he would find out something about him and show that he was interested in that man’s life.
If people see that you are only interested in preaching to them they will think that you do not care about them. If we are in a hurry to see someone pray to become a Christian, then we are thinking that they are doing this because of our words.
We need to build bridges to people, plant a small seed and then get out of the way and allow God’s Holy Spirit to speak to them. We are midwives, not heart surgeons.
24 – 25
Do you not know that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.
Paul says, “I even give up good things, like an athlete who is training for the Olympics.”
It is better to have self–control than to conquer a city. Proverbs 16:32
26. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just beating the air.
Paul is saying, “I am not just practicing for the race. I am using this self–control when I listen to the Holy Spirit as He shows me how to build bridges to bring people to the Lord.
27. I control my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be rejected.
Without Christ, our lives work through our body, mind, and spirit. When we are born again, our life is lived through our spirit, mind and body. Those who do not know Christ are controlled mostly by their body and are thinking of what it wants. 1 Thessalonians 5:23
Those who are born again are touched first by their spirit which controls their mind and body. The body does not like this because it used to be in control. We need to be awake to these things and ask ourselves, “Is this something my body or my mind wants to do, is it something that my spirit is telling me is good for me?”
So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. Romans 8:6
The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. Galatians 5:17