1 Corinthians 9

The American Standard Version

9:1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not ye my work in the Lord?

9:2 If to others I am not an apostle, yet at least I am to you; for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.

9:3 My defence to them that examine me is this.

9:4 Have we no right to eat and to drink?

9:5 Have we no right to lead about a wife that is a believer, even as the rest of the apostles, and the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?

9:6 Or I only and Barnabas, have we not a right to forbear working?

9:7 What soldier ever serveth at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not the fruit thereof? Or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?

9:8 Do I speak these things after the manner of men? or saith not the law also the same?

9:9 For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn. Is it for the oxen that God careth,

9:10 or saith he it assuredly for our sake? Yea, for our sake it was written: because he that ploweth ought to plow in hope, and he that thresheth, to thresh in hope of partaking.

9:11 If we sowed unto you spiritual things, is it a great matter if we shall reap your carnal things?

9:12 If others partake of this right over you, do not 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 Know ye not that they that minister about sacred things eat of the things of the temple, and they that wait upon the altar have their portion with the altar?

9:14 Even so did the Lord ordain that they that proclaim the gospel should live of the gospel.

9:15 But I have used none of these things: and I write not these things that it may be so done in my case; for it were good for me rather to die, than that any man should make my glorifying void.

9:16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of; for necessity is laid upon me; for woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel.

9:17 For if I do this of mine own will, I have a reward: but if not of mine own will, I have a stewardship intrusted to me.

9:18 What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel without charge, so as not to use to the full my right in the gospel.

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

9:20 And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, not being myself under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;

9:21 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.

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

9:23 And I do all things for the gospel’s sake, that I may be a joint partaker thereof.

9:24 Know ye not that they that run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? Even so run; that ye may attain.

9:25 And every man that striveth in the games exerciseth self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

9:26 I therefore so run, as not uncertainly; so fight I, as not beating the air:

9:27 but I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage: lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected.

Pathways Notes

1 Corinthians 9 provides a deep dive into the Apostle Paul's views on apostolic rights, self-discipline, and the sacrifices necessary for the sake of the Gospel. In this chapter, Paul defends his apostleship and the right to receive support from the churches he ministers to, yet he chooses not to exercise these rights in order not to hinder the Gospel. A key theme is the flexibility and adaptability required to win as many people to Christ as possible, exemplified by Paul's statement, "I have become all things to all people." The chapter culminates in a powerful metaphor of an athlete who exercises self-discipline in all things to win a perishable wreath, while Christians do it for an imperishable one. This metaphor underscores the importance of self-control and purpose-driven living, making it particularly relevant for self-help and personal development within a Christian framework.

Study Instructions for Each Echelon

  • Echelon 3: Expert - Self-Discipline in the Christian Life

    • Read: Focus on 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, where Paul discusses the discipline of an athlete.

    • Explore: Consider the implications of Paul's athletic metaphor for your personal spiritual and emotional discipline. How does maintaining rigorous self-control help you in your spiritual 'race'?

    • Reflect: Assess your own life 'race' and 'fight.' Are you running with a clear purpose, or are you merely 'beating the air'? Identify specific areas where you need more discipline and set goals to improve, such as in prayer, study, or service.

  • Echelon 4: Emissary - Becoming All Things to All People

    • Read: Examine the broader context of the chapter, focusing on Paul's strategy for ministry as described in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.

    • Reflect: Think about how Paul's approach of becoming all things to all people can inform your own ministry and interactions with others. How can you adapt your approach to better meet the needs of those you serve?

    • Apply: Develop strategies or initiatives within your community or ministry to more effectively reach and serve diverse groups. Consider what personal preferences or comforts you might need to set aside for the greater good of spreading the Gospel.

  • Echelon 5: Master - Mastery Over Personal Rights for the Sake of the Gospel

    • Read: Delve into Paul's discussion on his rights as an apostle and his choice to forego these rights for the sake of the Gospel.

    • Reflect: Consider the discipline and self-control necessary for effective leadership. How does Paul’s willingness to sacrifice his rights for the benefit of others exemplify leadership qualities you should emulate?

    • Ponder: Evaluate how you can apply this principle in your leadership and teaching roles. Are there areas where you might need to relinquish personal freedoms or rights to better serve and lead others? Plan how to implement these changes in a way that models sacrificial leadership to those you mentor.

By engaging with 1 Corinthians 9 according to these instructions, participants at each echelon can gain a deeper understanding of the necessity for self-discipline, adaptability, and sacrificial living in their personal lives and ministry efforts. This chapter provides valuable insights for anyone seeking to enhance their effectiveness as a Christian leader, mentor, or community member.

1 Corinthians 9 Notes:

In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul delves into a personal discourse about his rights as an apostle, and more broadly, he discusses Christian liberty and the responsible exercise of freedom for the sake of the gospel.

Paul begins by affirming his apostleship, listing rights that logically accompany his calling, such as the right to food and drink, to be accompanied by a believing wife, and to receive material support from the churches he serves. However, he quickly pivots to the main thrust of his argument: despite his rights, he has not made use of them. Instead, Paul has chosen a path of self-denial and service, refraining from claiming support to avoid placing obstacles to the gospel of Christ.

He draws on various examples to justify this approach: the soldier, the farmer, the shepherd, and even the law of Moses, which stipulates that an ox should not be muzzled while treading out grain. The right to material support is clear, but Paul’s focus is not on his rights, but on the mission.

Paul explains his approach to ministry as becoming “all things to all people” so that by all possible means he might save some. This means adjusting his behavior to relate to Jews, Gentiles, and those under the law, even though he himself is not under the law. His adaptability is not a sign of moral flexibility but rather a strategic means for the gospel’s advance. For Paul, the freedom he has in Christ is not an excuse for self-indulgence but an opportunity for self-discipline and service.

He likens his disciplined approach to that of an athlete striving for a crown that will last forever, not just an earthly prize. This metaphor underscores the necessity for self-control and purpose in the Christian life. For Paul, the stakes are high—a matter of eternal consequence—and he lives and preaches with an awareness that he too is subject to judgment.

In the broader context of Paul's letter to the Corinthians, chapter 9 serves as a powerful lesson on the paradox of Christian freedom. Paul demonstrates that true freedom is found in becoming a servant to all, using one’s rights and privileges not for personal gain but for the benefit of others and for the spread of the gospel.