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Series Theme: FRAMEWORKS: Paul's FIRST letter to the Corinthians

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FRAMEWORKS: 1 Corinthians 9

In this ‘Framework' we use our usual text PLUS comment style to enable you, as simply as possible, to catch the sense of his writing.


FRAMEWORKS: 1 Corinthians 9: Responses to Criticisms


v.1-8 Paul's Response to Criticisms
v.9-14 The Law on providing for ministries
v.15-18 Paul's Reward
v.19-23 Paul's Use of His Freedom
v.24-27 The Need for Self-Discipline


[Chapter Synopsis: Following on from the talk about freedom in the previous chapter, Paul now speaks of the freedom that he has. First it comes in the context of the criticisms made of him by some of the grumblers in the church [see 4:18-21] and so he makes a case why workers should be paid, why servants of God should receive support, although he himself is free from feeling that and seeks no such backing. His reward is simply to be able to preach the gospel. In that context he is willing to put aside his freedom in order to draw alongside others so he can more fully share the gospel with them. To keep himself on target, like an athlete aiming to win the race, so he trains and disciplines himself to prevent himself falling.]



v.1-8 Paul's Response to Criticisms


v.1 (Paul lays out his apostolic credentials) 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?

v.2  (suggesting they are the proof of his apostleship) 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.

v.3  (that is how he defends himself against his detractors) This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me.

v.4  (doesn't he have the same claim as anyone else) Don't we have the right to food and drink?

v.5  (can't we be like the other apostles) 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 [That is, Peter] ?

v.6 (or are they to be separated as special for hardship) Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?

v.7  (don't others get the rewards of their activity?) Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk?

v.8  (Doesn't God say this in the Law?) Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn't the Law say the same thing?


[Passage Synopsis: There has clearly been criticism of Paul back in the church (see 4:18-21) and he feels he has to address that if he is to also correct them. He does it first by showing that support is expected throughout working circumstances.]



v.9-14 The Law on providing for ministries


v.9  (the Law shows a worker is to be fed from his work) For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” [Deut. 25:4] Is it about oxen that God is concerned?

v.10  (so doesn't this apply equally to them?) Surely he says this for us, doesn't he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.

v.11  (aren't they workers sowing the seeds of the gospel?) If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?

v.12  (if other leaders are looked after by them, shouldn't they also) 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.

v.13  (similarly the priests got fed at the altar) Don't you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar?

v.14 (so likewise bringers of the gospel should be provided for) In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.


[Passage Synopsis: He justifies his reliance on their support. You see it in daily life and you see it in the Law.]



v.15-18 Paul's Reward


v.15 (I don't need to make any claim on you as I haven't done so far) 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, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast.

v.16 (I don't preach to earn a reward, I have it already in preaching) For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

v.17  (I do it voluntarily or simply discharging God's trust in me) If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me.

v.18 (my reward is that I can offer my preaching freely) What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.


[Passage Synopsis: He's not looking for rewards from them, for just being able to preach the gospel is his reward.]



v.19-23 Paul's Use of His Freedom


v.19 (Because I'm free I've given myself to anyone and everyone to win as many as I can) Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.

v.20 (I've come like a Jew to win Jews, even though I am no longer under the Law) 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.

v.21 (to Gentiles I come as one who is free, except so far as I am Christ's servant) 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.

v.22 (I do what I can to come alongside people) To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.

v.23  and I do it in order to convey the gospel to them) I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.


[Passage Synopsis: Having just spoken about freedom in respect of eating in chapter 8, he now speaks of the freedom he considers he has. He is completely free but in the same way that, in chapter 8, he spoke about giving up your freedom for a weaker brother or sister, he now says he often gives up the freedom he has in order to draw alongside others in order to present the gospel.]



v.24-27 The Need for Self-Discipline


v.24 (winners get the prize so run the race to win) 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.

v.25 (to win you have to train hard) 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.

v.26 (I run and fight purposefully) Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.

v.27 (I discipline myself to ensure I won't fall) No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.


[Passage Synopsis: Freedom is all very well, but if you are an athlete you discipline yourself and train hard. In a similar way Paul considers himself running a race and so disciplines himself to ensure he doesn't fall and disqualify himself.]