1 Corinthians 9:1

To induce the Corinthians to deny themselves the exercise of a liberty they had in things indifferent, St. Paul bad made the argument in the eighth chapter. Liberty was amenable to conscience, knowledge secondary to love, and love was the constructing or building up power of the new spiritual edifice. Not one of these could be spared, for they were all constituents of manhood in Christ; but they must be adjusted to one another under the supremacy of love. If one had a true reverence for his own conscience, he would reverence conscience in others. The conscience of another might be weak, and he might pity the weakness, and yet this pity, if genuine, would not allow scorn or contempt. The argument was a lesson in patience and forbearance, a lesson in self abnegation, and a lesson, furthermore, in responsibility for our example; So far as the immediate issue is concerned (meats offered to idols and participating in feasts held in heathen temples), the logic is direct and conclusive. At no moment does the apostle confine himself to individual rights on the part of such as had enlightened views as to the nothingness of idols. He looks also at community rights and discusses a special duty on the ground of general interests. Here, as in the former chapters, the community man, the community Christian, is before him; and he shows the great characteristic of a teacher in the fact that his business is to mould a body of men into unity. Of what value are minds of large endowments, in their social relations, if they stand for a narrow and cramped individualism? If a man has a finer eye than others, it is that he may see further into the needs of the race. If he has more ardent sympathies, it is for their wider outgoing. Genius is nature's protest, not against ordinary talents, but against the littleness and selfish absorption of individuality. And so far, genius is an instinctive yearning in the direction, of a world wide appreciation and love, and is one of those innumerable parables m which Christianity lies imbedded till the human mind can be prepared to receive it. Now, St. Paul was the foremost representative, in a certain sense, of this community idea, and, unquestionably, Corinth put its strength and compass to a very severe test. At his time of life, at that era in his ministry, and from just such a mixed people, this grand sentiment of universality was destined by Providence - so we may conjecture - to undergo a thorough discipline. Each truth has its own peculiar test. Some truths need a hotter furnace than others to separate the human dross and bring out the refined gold. If, then, St. Paul was experiencing a special mental and spiritual training in respect to this transcendent doctrine, we have an insight into his mode of argument, and even into the style of his illustrations and enforcement. Identified with his doctrine, he himself merging, as it were, his personality in its nature and operations, his own fortunes bound up inseparably with its fortunes, - how could he avoid citing his own example to confirm the views he so fervently advocated? One paragraph, at least, must be given to his individual portraiture as a community man, a race man, intent with his whole heart on bringing a world to the Lord Jesus. And he had sprung to this high level of his own experience and history when he said in the thirteenth verse of the previous chapter, "I will eat no flesh," etc. On that ground, remote as it was from that occupied by some of his Corinthian friends, he was perfectly at home; he knew his strength in God; he saw precisely what to say of grace and its workings in his soul, and how to say it with unanswerable force - straightforward, vivid, incisive. The movement of thought, even for him, is uncommonly rapid. Sentences are short; the words simple, intense, and closely linked. Interrogation abounds. He is an apostle; a tree apostle; an apostle who saw not Christ in his humiliation, and never knew him after the flesh, but has seen him in his glorification, and dates his conversion from the spectacle of his Divine exaltation; and, last of all, an apostle whose success among the Corinthians ("my work in the Lord;" "the seal of mine apostleship") has vindicated and verified his claims as Christ's chosen servant. Self assertion becomes under some circumstances a very important duty, and, if self be surrendered to God, there is no way more effective to exemplify humility. One who can ascend to a height so lofty, and stand among the sublimities of the universe apart from self and even dead to self, is a far greater man in the moral scale than one who, on the low plain of this world, merely foregoes his selfishness and acts disinterestedly to comply with an earthly contingency. Full of the infinite and eternal, St. Paul's thoughts are God's thoughts finding tone and accent in his utterance. There is no faltering, no nice qualifyings, no hesitating apprehension lest self should insinuate its pretensions. But the view given of himself is large, massive, and, for its purpose, strikingly complete. Men cannot speak of themselves in such a strain unless an utter self forgetfulness be precedent. A thinker's illustrations show what hold a thought has on him. In this instance St. Paul's illustrations are significant as well as diversified. Soldiers in the field, husbandmen in the vineyard, shepherds with their flocks, supply his imagination with analogies to establish the right claimed by himself "to eat and to drink," "to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles," and "to forbear working." On all grounds, natural and civil and religious, he maintains the right, and then advances to Old Testament authority. "Doth God take care for oxen?" Yea, not only for their sakes as animals, but for man's benefit, the providence over the lower creation being tributary to the providence that looks to man's welfare as the final earthly cause of all arrangements in the kingdom of nature. Yea, verily, we are in the song of the bird and the muscle of the horse and the fidelity of all domesticated creatures, as surely as in the grass and the cereals and the luscious fruits of the ground. Most true it is that

"More servants wait on man
Than he'll take notice of; in every path
He treads down that which doth befriend him
When sickness makes him pale and wan.
Oh, mighty love! Man is one world, and hath
Another to attend him." The prefigurations and the wondrous homologies are all from below, so that whatever may be found by industry, by science and art, in the amplitude and beneficence of material things and of animal existence, are but so many prophecies of man's natural position of headship. Yet what incompleteness were in all this, and what a mockery of man's exaltation, if it were all! - a vast pyramid enclosing a mummy - a magnificent temple, like the heathen temples, in which you walk through portico and corridor and hall to confront at last a worthless image in stone. To perfect this idea of man shadowed forth beneath him and ever advancing towards him, there must be a counterpart. The counterpart is the archetype above. It descends to man in Christ - Son of man because Son of God. "For our sakes, no doubt, this is written;" and all the writings, below and above, on the earth's strata, in the Holy Scriptures, are alike in this: "for our sakes." It is all a unity or it is all nothing. And this power of manhood St. Paul declares to belong to him, and vested to the full in his apostleship. If, now, St. Paul had exhorted the Corinthians so urgently to obey the dictates of conscience in a matter clearly harmless, and thus avoid a wrong to the weaker brethren and a wrong to their own souls; and if he had avowed his own inflexible resolution to "eat no flesh" (the meat of which he bad been speaking) "forever;" it was a fit occasion to testify to his own self denial for the sake of the gospel. The solace of domestic life, the special tenderness of close sympathy, the offices of watchful affection, ministerial support, "carnal things" that might have lightened the burden of poverty and made his toil much easier, - these were cheerfully resigned. Others allowed themselves these aids and comforts; he refused them, one and all. From the common order of apostolic life he would stand aside in his own isolated lot, and "my gospel" should have in his own career the most forcible demonstration of his glorious individuality. And then, recollecting the law of the temple service which provided for the support of the priests, he would strengthen the analogical argument already presented in favour of his rights. At every touch the individual portrait of the community and race man glows more vividly on the canvas. The contrast had cost him much. Poverty, loneliness, sorrow, had been intensified, but there it was - a contrast with the soldier, the husbandman, the shepherd, the priest, the apostles - self assumed and a perpetual obligation - "lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ." - L.

Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?
Why should Paul, departing from his usual custom, speak here of himself and his claims? Undoubtedly because these were questioned. Now wishing to incite the Corinthians to self-denial, Paul exemplified this virtue; but to make this effective it was necessary that he should assert and vindicate his position and rights. If he had no special commission from Christ, there was no virtue in renouncing privileges which never were his. The signs of his apostleship were —

I. THE VISION OF CHRIST. Not that every one who saw Jesus became an apostle; but that none became an apostle who had not seen and been commissioned by Him. No doubt he had been contrasted with the twelve to his disadvantage in these respects. But Paul would not submit to an imputation which must needs weaken his authority. He had seen the Lord on the way to Damascus, had heard His voice, and been entrusted with a special mission to the Gentiles. He had not been preaching the gospel at the instigation of his own inclinations, but in obedience to the authority of Christ.

II. SUCCESS IN APOSTOLIC LABOUR. The craftsman proves his ability by the work he does; the sailor by his navigation of the vessel; the soldier by his courage and skill. So the apostle acknowledges the justice of the practical test.

1. Paul appealed to his work. Labour is misspent when no results ensue. But his labour had not been in vain.

2. The workmanship of the apostle was also his seal, i.e., it bore the mark and witness of his character, ability and office. A competent judge, looking to the Churches Paul had founded, would admit them to be evidence of his apostleship.

3. The signs were manifest in the very community where his authority was questioned. There is irony and force in the appeal made to the Corinthians. Whoever raised a question they should not.

(Prof. J. R. Thomson.)

The greater minister of Christ —

I. THE MORE INDEPENDENT OF CEREMONIAL RESTRICTIONS. Paul was an apostle, and had "seen Christ," a qualification that distinguished him as a minister from all but eleven others. Besides this, his natural and acquired endowments placed him in the first rank of reasoners, scholars, and orators. He was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, &c. But see how he regarded the mere conventionalities of religious society. "Am I not an apostle? Am I not free?" — referring to the eating of meat offered to idols, &c. (1 Corinthians 8:13). The greater the man, always the more independent he is of forms, fashions, customs. Hezekiah called that which his countrymen worshipped "Nehushtan," a piece of brass. Cromwell called that glittering insignia of authority on the table of the House of Commons a "bauble," Thomas Carlyle called all the pageantry of office and the glitter of wealth "shams." Burns called the swaggering lordling a "coof." A famous French preacher began his funeral address over the coffin of his sovereign with "There is nothing great but God." What cared Elijah for kings? Nothing. Felix trembled before the moral majesty of Paul, even in chains.

II. THE HIGHER THE SERVICES HE RENDERS TO SOCIETY (vers. 1, 2). "He that converteth a sinner from the error of his ways, &c. What work approaches this in grandeur and importance? And the man who succeeds in accomplishing it demonstrates the divinity of his ministry (ver. 3).

III. THE MORE INDEPENDENT HE IS OF THE INNOCENT ENJOYMENTS OF LIFE (vers. 4, 5). Paul claims the privilege to eat and drink as he pleased, and to marry or not.


1. The general usage of mankind (ver. 7). He illustrates the equity of the principle from the cases of the soldier, the agriculturist, and the shepherd.

2. The principle of the Jewish law (vers. 8, 9). "Doth God take care for oxen?" Yes; but is not man greater than the ox? And shall he work and be deprived of temporal supplies?

3. The principles of common equity (ver. 11).

4. Other apostles and their wives were thus supported (vers. 6-12). Have we done less? Is our authority inferior?

5. The support of the Jewish priesthood (ver. 13).

6. The ordination of Christ (ver. 14; cf. Matthew 10:10). Looking at all that Paul says on that question here, the conviction cannot be avoided that no man has a stronger claim to a temporal recompense than a true gospel minister. Albeit no claims are so universally ignored. Call the money you pay to your butcher, baker, lawyer, doctor, "charity"; but in the name of all that is just, do not call that charity which you tender to the man who consecrates his entire being and time to impart to you the elements of eternal life.


(D. Thomas, D. D.)

We see in these verses —


1. Communion with Christ. "Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?"

2. Souls won for Christ. "Are not ye my work in the Lord?"


1. Courtesy demands it.

2. His message demands it.

3. His work requires it.

4. Their consciousness declares it.


1. For the sake of individual character.

2. For the sake of the Christian Church.

3. For the sake of mankind.

(A. F. Barfield.)


1. Upon his character as —

(1)A messenger of Christ.

(2)A man.

(3)A Christian.

2. Upon his work.


1. The common rights of man.

2. The particular right to a just compensation for his labour.


1. With moderation.

2. With a due regard for the interests of the gospel.

IV. OUGHT TO BE RELINQUISHED RATHER THAN OCCASION REPROACH: still the right remains, and will finally be established.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

In the preceding chapter Paul has disposed of the question as to meats offered in sacrifice to idols. He has inculcated the duty of accommodating ourselves to the consciences of others, and is prepared to abridge his own Christian liberty. But keeping pace, as he always does, with the thought of his readers, it at once occurs to him that his opponents will declare that his apostleship stands on so insecure a basis that he has no option in the matter, but must curry favour with all parties. The original apostles may reasonably claim exemption from manual labour, and demand maintenance both for themselves and their wives; but Paul has no such claim to maintenance, and is aware that his apostleship is doubtful. He therefore —


1. His apostleship (vers. 1-6). No one could be an apostle who had not seen Christ after His resurrection. Paul therefore, both in his speeches and in his letters, insists that on the way to Damascus he had seen the risen Lord. But an apostle was also one who was commissioned to bear witness to this fact; and that Paul had been thus commissioned he thinks the Corinthians may conclude from the results among themselves of his preaching. In presence of the finished structure that draws the world to gaze, it is too late to ask if he who built it is an architect.

2. The principle of remuneration everywhere observed in human affairs (ver. 7). However difficult it is to lay down an absolute law of wages, it may be affirmed as a natural principle that labour must be so paid

as to maintain the labourer in life and efficiency; as to enable him to bring up a family which shall be useful and not burdensome to society, and as to secure for him some reserve of leisure for his own enjoyment and advantage. Paul anticipates the objection that these secular principles have no application to sacred things (vers. 8, 9). But this law is two-edged. If a man produce what the community needs, he should himself profit by. the production; but, on the other hand, if a man will not work, neither should he eat.

3. Ordinary gratitude (ver. 11). And some of the Churches founded by Paul felt that the benefit they had derived from him could not be stated in terms of money; but prompted by irrepressible gratitude, they could not but seek to relieve him from manual labour and set him free for higher work. The method of gauging the amount of spiritual benefit absorbed, by its overflow in material aid given to the propagation of the gospel would, I daresay, scarcely be relished by that monstrous development the stingy Christian.

4. The Levitical usage (vers. 13, 14). That evils may result from the existence of a paid ministry no one will be disposed to deny. But if the work of the ministry is to be thoroughly done, men must give their whole time to it; and therefore must be paid for it; a circumstance which is not likely to lead to much evil while the great mass of ministers are paid as they are.

II. GIVES THE TRUE SEASON FOR FOREGOING HIS LAWFUL CLAIM. Paul felt the more free to urge them because his custom was to forego them (ver. 15). How apt are self-denying men to spoil their self-denial by dropping a sneer at the weaker souls that cannot follow their heroic example. Not so Paul. He first fights the battle of the weak for them, and then disclaims all participation in the spoils. Nor does he consider that his self-denial is at all meritorious. On the contrary, he makes it appear as if no choice were left to him. His fear was that if he took remuneration, he "should hinder the gospel of Christ." Some of the best incomes in Greece were made by clever lecturers; Paul was resolved he should never be mistaken for one of these. And no doubt his success was partly due to the fact that men recognised that his teaching was a labour of love, Every man finds an audience who speaks, not because he is paid for doing so, but because there is that in him which must find utterance. Paul felt that on him lay the gravest responsibilities. Had he complained of bad usage, and stipulated for higher terms, and withdrawn, who could have taken up the task he laid down? But while Paul could not but be conscious of his importance, he would arrogate to himself no credit. Whether he does his work willingly or unwillingly, still he must do it. If he does it willingly, he has a reward; if he does it unwillingly, still he is entrusted with a stewardship he dare not neglect. What, then, is the reward? The satisfaction of knowing that, having freely received, he had freely given (ver. 18).

III. REAFFIRMS THE PRINCIPLE ON WHICH HE HAS UNIFORMLY ACTED. It was from Paul (ver. 19) that Luther derived the keynote of his blast "on Christian Liberty" with which he stirred Europe into new life: "A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one." But Paul was no mere latitudinarian. While accommodating himself to the practice of those around him in all matters (vers. 20-23) in all matters of mere outward observance, he held very definite opinions on the chief articles of the Christian creed. No liberality can ever induce a thoughtful man to discourage the formation of opinion on all matters of importance. No doubt righteousness of life is better than soundness of creed. But is it not possible to have both? Again, Paul had an end in view which preserved his liberality from degenerating (ver. 22). In order to remove a man's difficulties, you must look at them from his point of view and feel the pressure he feels. In order to "gain" men, you must credit them with some desire to see the truth, and you must have sympathy enough to see with their eyes. Parents sometimes weaken their influence with their children by inability to look at things with the eyes of youth. Put yourself in the place of the inquiring, perplexed, embittered soul, find out the good that is in it, patiently accommodate yourself to its ways so far as you legitimately may, and you will be rewarded by "gaining some."

(M. Dods, D. D.)

Ver. 27 is commonly quoted in the Calvinistic Controversy, to prove the possibility of the believer's final fall. In reality, it has nothing whatever to do with it. The word "castaway," is literally "reprobate," that which, being tested, fails. "Reprobate silver shall men call them." St. Paul says, "Lest when I have preached to others, I myself, when tried by the same standard, should fail." In chap. 1 Corinthians 8. Paul had laid down the principle that it was good to respect the scruples of weaker brethren (ver. 1 Corinthians 8:13). But to this teaching an objection might be raised. Does the apostle practise what he preaches? Or it is merely a fine sentiment? Does he preach to others, himself being a castaway, i.e., one who being tested is found wanting? The whole of the chapter is an assertion of his consistency. Note: —

I. PAUL'S RIGHT TO CERTAIN PRIVILEGES, viz., domestic solaces and ministerial maintenance. This right he bases on four arguments:

1. By a principle universally recognised in human practice. A king warring on behalf of a people, wars at their charge — a planter of a vineyard expects to eat of the fruit — a shepherd is entitled to the milk of the flock. All who toil for the good of others derive an equivalent from them. Gratuitous devotion of life is nowhere considered obligatory.

2. By a principle implied in a Scriptural enactment (ver. 9). The ox was provided for, not because it was an ex, but because it was a labourer.

3. By a principle of fairness and reciprocity. Great services establish a claim. If they owed to the apostle their souls, his time had a claim on their gold.

4. By the law of the Temple Service. The whole institution of Levites and priests implied the principle that there are two kinds of labour — of hand and of brain: and that the toilers with the brain, though not producers, have a claim on the community. They are essential to its well-being, and are not mere drones.


1. His reasons.(1) He was forced to preach the gospel, and for the preaching of it, therefore, no thanks were due. But he turned his necessity to glorious gain. By forfeiting pay he got reward: and in doing freely what he must do, he became free. When "I must" is changed into "I will," you are free.(2) His object was to gain others (ver. 19) His whole life was one great illustration of this principle: free from all, he became the servant of all.

2. The general principles of our human life. You cannot run as you will; there are conditions (ver. 24). You cannot go on saying, I have a right to do this, therefore I will do it. You must think how it will appear, not for the sake of mere respectability, or to obtain a character for consistency, but for the sake of others. And its conditions are as those of a wrestling march — you must be temperate in all things — i.e., abstain from even lawful indulgences. Remember no man liveth to himself. The cry, "Am I my brother's keeper?" is met by St. Paul's clear, steadfast answer, "You are."

(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

If I be

1. Success.

2. Divine attestation.

II. His CLAIMS upon —

1. The respect.

2. Affection.

3. Help.

4. Support of his charge.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

I. CONSISTS IN ACTUAL SUCCESS — in the conviction and conversion of sinners.


1. Indicates the Divine call and blessing.

2. Is of more value than human authorisation.


(J. Lyth, D. D.)

Mine answer to those that do examine me is this.

II. THESE ATTEMPTS SHOULD BE RESISTED with Christian dignity and in a Christian spirit — Paul's answer — he excludes all interference with —

1. His manner of life.

2. His personal and domestic associations. His mode of working.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

Observe —


1. Not selfish (ver. 12).

2. Some disputed his apostleship and its rights (ver. 3).


1. To support for himself — for his wife if he thought proper to marry.

2. Sufficient to free him from the necessity of manual labour.

III. His DEFENCE OF HIS RIGHT — is sustained by an appeal to —

1. Human justice.

2. The law.

3. The sense of gratitude.

4. Divine ordination under the law, under the gospel.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

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