Scriptures

1 Corinthians 9

Introduction

Paul’s Own Life, An Example Of One Giving Up Rights For The Sake Of Others

1 Corinthians 9:1-3

“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? 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. This is my defence to those who sit in judgment on me.” 1 Corinthians 9:1-3

Chapter 9 seems to be an explanation of Paul’s selfless statement in 1 Corinthians 8:13. Paul was “free” in the sense that he had the same liberties as any other Christian. As an “apostle,” Paul could have truly pressed his liberties and made others bend to his scruples, yet he chose to give up any of his liberties so that souls would be saved.

Apparently some in Corinth were rejecting Paul’s apostleship. None of the following statements would make sense regarding liberties if Paul was not an apostle. Therefore he defends his apostolic office by saying that he had “seen Jesus our Lord”, a qualification for apostles. Acts 1:22.

The Corinthian church was a result of Paul’s labours and they really had no grounds to discount his words. The Corinthians had spiritual gifts that were administered to them by Paul.

Only an apostle of Jesus Christ had the power to transfer the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Acts 8. The fact that Paul laid his hands on the Corinthians and gave them spiritual gifts is a sign of his apostleship.

Those faithful brethren in Corinth knew assuredly that Paul was an apostle. These faithful brethren were the “seal” ‘sphragis’ of Paul’s apostleship. The word “seal” is ‘the impression of a signet-ring, a seal’. The seal of the king’s ring carried the weight of authority. It represented the validity of a matter.

The fact that the Corinthian church was established and brethren were “in the Lord” through baptism made for a valid argument regarding the apostleship of Paul, Galatians 3:26-27.

In the opening verses Paul shows that he realizes that there are members of the church in Corinth who either question, or even deny, his apostleship.

Their objections

1. He was unmarried, an argument which certainly carried weight with Jewish converts, who had been brought up to believe that marriage is a divine obligation.

In Judaism, a man who was unmarried at 30 years of age, ‘diminished the Face of God in the world’. Furthermore, no unmarried man would be considered worthy to regarded as a ‘Rabbi’ or ‘teacher’.

2. He did not accept payment for his ministry.

Every Teacher in Judaism was expected to accept payment for his teaching, and if Paul declined to follow the traditional practice it must because his teaching was worthless.

3. He was not one of the ‘original’ apostles.

Chosen and sent out by the Lord personally. Indeed, he was late on the scene! Consequently, in their estimation, he did not possess the same degree of authority.

4. And, his attitude towards Gentiles who wishes to become Christians was far too lenient!

They objected to his teaching on ‘Freedom in Christ’.

In 1 Corinthians 9:1+2 Paul declares his qualifications.

1. He had ‘seen the Lord’ after His resurrection. Acts 1:21+22. This was necessary if he was to become a ‘Witness’. When a replacement for Judas was chosen, this was a major issue.

Note that ‘witnesses’ cannot possibly have ‘successors’. Consequently, the R. Catholic doctrine and claim of ‘apostolic succession’ is false. Also, this fact nullifies the claim of the ‘Watchtower’ followers to be ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’. The claim is as fabricated as the name ‘Jehovah’.

2. He had been chosen by the Lord Himself. Acts 1.2 / Galatians 1:1. Read Galatians 1+2.

He had demonstrated

‘The signs of an apostle’. 2 Corinthians 12:12

The Jews demanded ‘a sign’ from anyone who claimed to speak for God. Matthew 12:38. A message from God must be validated by a demonstration of divine power!

Paul has now given a proper defence, as in a legal trial, regarding his apostleship. The “this” seems best to describe the previous two verses where Paul defends his apostleship. In 1 Corinthians 9:3-14. He argues his right to the privileges and respect received by the other apostles.

Paul had rights as an Evangelist, apostle and Christian; however, he waived those rights for the benefit of others. 1 Corinthians 9:4-12

“Don’t we have the right to food and drink? 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? Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living? 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? Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever ploughs and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 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.” 1 Corinthians 9:4-12

Again, let us remember that liberties are under consideration. Though many would not see it to be lawful to support a gospel preacher or the apostles Paul reminds them that just because he preaches does not negate his right (or liberty) to eat and drink.

Paul also had the right to

‘lead about a wife that is a believer.’

Though many had wives Paul did not take advantage of this liberty.

Paul said that he had a right (liberty) to “forbear working” as one who labours in the kingdom of God. The preachers of the Gospel had a right to not work at secular employment but to be supported by the brethren. Read 1 Corinthians 9:14.

Three Illustrations to get across the point that it would have been a liberty of Paul’s to take wages from the brethren; however, he did not do this,

1. Soldiers do not serve for free.

2. Farmers plant with the expectation of a return from their crop.

3. The labourer among animals receives wages for his work.

It has ever been lawful for a worker to be paid his wages for labor. Paul said,

“Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing?” 1 Corinthians 9:8

Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 25:4. This was an issue of cruelty because while the ox was muzzled during laborious work it could not eat.

The Gentiles were of this practice, however, the Lord commanded that the Hebrews allow their ox to eat while treading out the corn. If it is cruel to make an ox work and not let him eat, then it is a cruel act to make an evangelist labour with no compensation.

The evangelist is pictured as a sower sowing seed in the ground. The evangelist was preaching and teaching to the Corinthian brethren and were due their just compensation of the brethren’s

“carnal things.”

“Is it a great matter” puts emphasis upon the Corinthian’s attitude toward paying evangelist.

Paul may have been killing two birds with one stone here. The thrust of the apostle’s point is liberties (areas where it does not get one closer to God if we do or do not do them). To receive wages for the work of a preacher may be done or not done. Those preachers who received wages were doing so because it is indeed a work.

Another proof that he had the right to receive compensation was that other preachers at Corinth had already been receiving compensation for their labours. At this point one may expect Paul to demand compensation; however, this was not his intention for bring all this up.

Why didn’t the apostle use their right to receive compensation for their labour? So that the Gospel plan of salvation be not hindered. It may be that some weak brethren would find an occasion to stumble in this area.

Some may have believed that if Paul, Silas and Timothy would have taken wages from them then their motive for preaching was money rather than a love for people’s souls. Rather than pressing his rights, Paul gave them up for their sakes.

“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? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” 1 Corinthians 9:13+14

Under the Mosaic Law, the priest who laboured in teaching, sacrificing, changing the showbread and keeping the candlesticks lit were authorized to take wages in the form of parts of the animal sacrifices, Numbers 18:8-20. While others tribes farmed, the priests were about the business of the altar and temple.

Clearly Paul authorizes a local preacher, who is doing the work of an evangelist, 2 Timothy 4:1-5, to receive wages from the brethren. This work is not only in proclaiming Gospel truths to the lost but to the brethren as well, see 1 Corinthians 9:11 that all may be edified in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, Ephesians 4:11+12. The word “ordain” ‘diatasso’ is ‘to make arrangements, to arrange for oneself, get things arranged; to be appointed’.

God made arrangements for those who would be preachers of the Gospel and appointed for them a means of wages through the brethren. Each local church must make judgments based on contributions as to what the local preacher may be compensated.

When Jesus sent out the 12 apostles to preach the gospel He said,

“Get you no gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses; no wallet for your journey, neither two coats, nor shoes, nor staff: for the labourer is worthy of his food” Matthew 10:9-10

These men brought the blessings of the Gospel to people and the people were to share their blessings with the messenger. 1 Corinthians 9:11.

Paul’s drive came from his being obligated to the Lord to preach. 1 Corinthians 9:15-23

“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. 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! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. 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.” 1 Corinthians 9:15-18

Paul’s glory was in the fact that the Corinthians had obeyed the gospel through his teaching, 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 / 1 Corinthians 9:2. Though the Lord had “ordained” 1 Corinthians 9:14, that such preachers be compensated and “other”, 1 Corinthians 9:12 preachers in Corinth had received such compensation, Paul would not take it.

Paul would rather die than to have a brother in Christ stumble in this area of receiving wages. Clearly the receiving of wages from a local church or not receiving wages was a matter of judgment rather than a doctrinal must.

Some preachers, like Paul, were tent makers, Acts 18:3 and still others receive wages from churches that they are not even a member of, Philippians 4:15.

Apparently Paul perceived that there were brethren at Corinth that would be offended by him taking wages from them so he did not do it for their soul’s sake. Paul is not trying to prove a case for receiving wages but he has in mind the soul and love of a brother in mind, 1 Corinthians 8:13.

Though it was his right to receive wages and though it was his right to eat any meats he was willing to forgo those rights for the sake of others souls. This is brotherly love personified. So, if eating meats sacrificed to idols was offensive to some Paul would not do it. If being compensated for his work as an evangelist caused some to stumble in offense he would not take it.

To demand wages from the brethren would have been to glory in the position of an evangelist. Paul’s purpose for preaching was not monetary gain but to gain souls of men. Woe would be pronounced upon Paul or any others if the Gospel is not preached.

“Necessity is laid upon me.”

The Lord had handpicked Paul for this work, Acts 9:15-16. Paul intended to be obedient to the Lord’s command, Acts 26:16-19.

The apostle Paul was compelled by Jesus to be an apostle and preacher. Paul would have had great feelings within for helping others obey the Gospel had he done this voluntarily along with receiving wages as was his right (reward).

Paul’s work, however, was of necessity. Because it was of necessity by the Lord, he recognizes that the gospel message has been entrusted to him by the Lord to care for and distribute.

Paul’s outlook of a reward appears to be different that others view. The preacher certainly has the right to receive wages and that point has been established above. These men enter into the work of evangelist voluntarily and receive their just rewards, inward satisfaction for saving souls and compensation for doing so.

Paul’s reward was that he gain the souls of men rather than receiving wages, he would rather preach without the chance of a brother saying, ‘Paul, you’re only doing this for money.’ Paul, therefore, chose not to demand his “right in the gospel” of receiving wages for preaching.

This whole section is stressing 1 Corinthians 8:13 regarding giving up rights for the sake of other’s souls. Paul said,

“Let no man seek his own, but each his neighbour’s good”. 1 Corinthians 10:24

The word “right” ‘exousia’ means “freedom of choice, right to act, decide, or dispose of one’s property as one wishes”. The word ‘exosia’ is used in other passages in this fashion, 2 Thessalonians 3:9 / John 10:18 / 1 Corinthians 7:37 / 1 Corinthians 8:9 / 1 Corinthians 9:4ff / Hebrews 13:10 /Revelation 13:5 / Romans 9:21.

The Christian has the ‘right,’ freedom of choice, right to act, decide, when participating in things lawful but not necessary. There are many areas that we use our judgment to accomplish God’s will.

It is our judgment to use more than one cup when serving the Lord’s Supper, conducting Bible classes, using song books, and so forth. While these expediencies are not demanded the Christian has the right to use these things because they do not violate any other laws of God.

If a brother is conscientiously bothered by the use of these things we may want to stop and do something different. If however, a brother demands that we stop due to his perception of the liberties being sinful we must stand our ground, Galatians 2:3-5.

In 1 Corinthians 9:15-18. He defends his principle of becoming ‘all things to all men’ which his critics regard as ‘carrying popular favour’. He insists that he takes this stand in order to ‘save some’, and he asserts his ‘right’ to be materially supported, even though he does not actually exercise it.

He cites examples with which they would certainly be familiar

1. He implies that the apostles took their wives with them on their travels, perhaps because in would create a favourable impression influence on the women in the Greco-Roman world.

2. Others received support that was granted without opposition; such as Soldiers, Shepherds, Vine-dressers, and Priests.

3. Finally he argues that simple gratitude should inspire in them a willingness to ‘share’ material blessings. Some churches understood this and acknowledged this obligation, e.g., the church at Philippi, which

‘once and again sent to my needs’. Philippians 4:15-16

The fact that it was he who brought the Gospel to Corinth, and spent time with them, should have led them provide him with support in his ministry.

An ‘apostle’ is ‘one sent’, from the Greek ‘apostolos’. Paul and Barnabas are both called ‘apostles’, Acts 14:14. The difference is that Barnabas was an apostle of the Church in Antioch, by whom he and Paul were sent out. This is why, on their return from the first Missionary Journey, they reported to the Church in Antioch.

Incidentally when Paul set out to Damascus, armed with letters from the High Priest in Jerusalem, he could be called ‘an apostle’ of the High Priest. The authority of an apostle depends on the authority of the one who sends him out.

Only those chosen and sent out by Christ personally are backed by the authority of Christ. ‘He who hears you, hears me. And he who hears Me, hears the One who sent me’.

The duration of apostleship

In Ephesians 4:11-13, Paul lists the offices (the various gifts) with which Christ blessed the church. The list consists of Ordinary and Extraordinary. Temporary and Permanent gifts. The Extraordinary but temporary gifts, were the offices of Apostle and Prophet. The Permanent and abiding gifts, are the offices of Evangelists, Pastors, the word is a form of ‘poimenos’ and refers to Elders or Shepherds and Teachers.

These ‘gifts’ were all given for the edification i.e., the ‘building up’ of the Church. The word ‘edification’ comes from the Greek word which means ‘to build a house’.

Note! The translation of these verses, in some versions, conveys an erroneous idea.

These translations state;

‘till we all come TO the unity of the faith…’

The correct rendering is,

‘till we all come, IN the unity of the faith to a perfect man’

i.e., this means to ‘maturity’; manhood; no longer being babes in Christ.

We already possess the ‘unity of the faith’.

‘By one Spirit we have all been ‘baptized into one Body’ 1 Corinthians 12:13

The faith has ‘once for all time been delivered to the saint’. Jude. Any conduct or teaching that violates the Unity of the Body is a sin which bring grave consequences. 1 Corinthians 3:16+17.

The passage teaches that, through the exercise of the various abilities and talents that the Lord has bestowed on the members of the Church, the Church, the Body, is able to build itself up.

“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 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. 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. 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. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:1 that he was free and again in verse 19 he states that he is free. Paul’s liberty, as others liberty, was to eat meats sacrificed to idols, lead about a wife, and receive wages for his preaching.

Paul voluntarily gave up these things in many cases so as to not offend others. Paul voluntarily brought himself under bondage to others in that he humbly submitted to others spiritual weakness in areas of indifference that he may help them in the long run.

This verse teaches a valuable principle that must be understood correctly in view of all Scriptures. The Jews held stringently to dietary laws expressed in the Pentateuch, Leviticus 11 / Deuteronomy 14. Circumcision was a vital part of Jewish culture and law as well, Genesis 17:11.

At a time when men and women were in a state of change from the Law of Moses to the Law of Christ many held tightly to that Law that had been a part of their heritage and society for as far back as they could remember. The road to the Law of Christ was not easy for many though the Old Testament Scriptures foretold of its coming, Jeremiah 31:30ff.

Paul’s objective was to help these Jews see their need for Christ, due to their sin, and thereby “gain” the many. If Paul would come into a city and eat swine’s flesh, show disdain for circumcision and the Sabbath, the minds of the Jews would have been turned away from him.

Since neither of these issues were a matter of salvation Paul did whatever others were doing for propriety sake, Acts 18:8 / Acts 21:26. Yet when one would teach that these dietary laws, circumcision, or any other part of the Mosaic Law was essential to salvation, Paul rigidly opposed it as a false doctrine, Acts 15 / Galatians 2:2-4 / Galatians 5:3f.

Paul wanted to be less offensive that he may gain the many. A great example of this spirit is that Paul had Timothy circumcised so as not to offend any Jews that they may come in contact with while preaching, Acts 16:3.

Note, however, that when the doctrine of Christ was at stake, Paul cared not that he offended. In fact, he pressed the matter diligently even if it meant losing his life, Acts 21:13.

The Lord Jesus practiced this same approach; however, when one presses these liberties and binds them as Law Jesus in no way accommodated such false teaching but aggressively opposed the teaching, Luke 11:37-54.

Paul’s consistency of behaviour is illustrated in this verse. Since keeping some aspects of Mosaic Law such as dietary laws, circumcision, and the Sabbath would not have hindered Paul’s objective of heaven neither would not doing these things among the Gentiles obstruct his heavenly goal.

Paul abstained from Jewish law around the Gentiles as he practiced them around the Jews that he may gain the many. We may practice some things around some and not do so around those we know it offends.

Paul was not a lawless individual. The apostle writes,

“But under law to Christ”.

The teachings of Jesus were binding and essential, 2 John 9. What this verse teaches is that there is a law to follow (the Law of Christ). So many do not understand that there is a clear distinction between liberties, expedients, and law.

Some confuse lawful living with destroying the grace of God and making the cross of Jesus Christ of none effect. The author of Hebrews proves that we are currently under the Law of Christ when he said,

“For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law”. Hebrews 7:12

Certainly Paul did not become a lawless man of fornication and murderer to save the fornicators and murderers. Those areas of liberty are under consideration and the weak brother is understood to be the one who does not have knowledge of certain liberties and thereby abstains from such for conscience sake, 1 Corinthians 8:7 / Romans 14:1ff.

Paul used wise judgment as to when to exercise or abstain from exercising a liberty for the sake of individual people he was with. His objective remained constant; that objective was to gain souls.

To be a joint partaker with other saints is to be understood in the realm of salvation and heaven. Paul would have hindered his own chances of making it to heaven if he was inconsiderate of others in the realm of Christian liberties, 1 Corinthians 8:11+12 / Romans 14:15.

Paul was not just being a good boy by giving up such liberties rather than pressing them. He did so for the sake of the souls involved including his own.

The heavenly goal and prize through self-denial. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

“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. 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. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 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”. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

A very familiar scenario is given by Paul. The athletic contest in and around Corinth were well known. Every four years the Olympics were held at Olympia and every two years the Isthmian games would be held. Though many may enter an event there is only one who shall win. Each contestant has the same goal of victory; however, only one will win the crown. As the athlete prepares for the one championship race even so the Christian is to strive to attain the heavenly reward.

To “strive” ‘agonizomai’ means to contend for a prize, esp. in the public games. “Exercise self-control” ‘egkrateuomai’ means, mastery over a person or thing; self-control. During the struggle for the victory the athlete has mastery over his body. Likewise, during the struggle for the incorruptible crown of life the Christian must have mastery over self.

We know that we have certain liberties, however, these liberties may not be expedient to exercise at all times. The Christian is master of his own mind. He meditates in prayer giving no place to the devil. He or she takes every opportunity to confess sins that they may remain in the light of God, 1 John 1:5-7.

Life is a stringent endurance race that produces a crown of victory for the faithful Christian who is in control of their heart, Revelation 2:10. The apostle Paul said,

“Through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God”. Acts 14:22 / Matthew 7:13-14

“Uncertainly” ‘adelos’ means to be in the dark about a thing. Paul knew full well what his goal was. He was not running as one lost not knowing where to go. The finish line was clear! “Fight” ‘pukteuo’ means to practice boxing, box, spar, to strike with the fist on the head.

As a boxer delivers blows they are calculated and have a direct target in mind. So Paul struggles with precision in his Christian life rather than as one who would beat the air aimlessly.

To “buffet” the body ‘hupopiazo’ is to have a black eye, to bruise, mortify. To buffet is to “discipline (one’s body and physical appetites) by self-denial and austerity. This disciplining of the body was necessary that Paul keep his self from falling away from the grace of God.

To be “rejected” ‘adikimos’ means not standing the test, spurious, properly of coin, disreputable, reprobate. Paul kept his attitude toward liberties and expedient matters in check lest he loose his own soul, Romans 14:15 / 1 Corinthians 8:12.

Notice word ‘rejected’ in 1 Corinthians 9:27. See Hebrews 6:8 and Romans 1:28. Continuing into 1 Corinthians 10:12, the entire section consists of warnings to Christians. The example continues to be used in Hebrews 3:12. Note, ‘Falling away from’. Note also verse 14.

Hebrews 4:11 / Hebrews 6:3-6 / 2 Peter 2:20-22 / Galatians 5:4. ‘Fallen from grace’ See Romans 7:6 for the phrase in Greek. ‘Discharged’, ‘Severed from Christ.’

This refutes the argument that claims a child of God cannot sin. 1 John 3:9. Also see also 1 John 1:6-10. Advising the Christian what to do when he does sin and also, John’s description of person who says he never sins. See also 1 John 2:1.

Apostasy is a subject that concerns only Christians. The very fact the word exists declares that the apostasy exists and that it is possible for a Christian to ‘apostatize’. It focuses attention on the condition. Whether or not a child of God can fall away and be lost, and thus cease to be a son of God, is an issue not to be treated lightly.

Question

Is it scriptural for a congregation to support a full-time worker?

I have no doubt that questions similar to this, have been asked time and time again in the course of the history of British churches of Christ. And there are those among us for whom the issue has not yet been resolved.

History of ‘Mutual Ministry’ in churches of Christ in Britain

This is a sound, Biblical principle which has been greatly misunderstood and misused, to the extent that it has done great harm to the work of the Lord.

The Principle

Let us lay down an irrefutable and undeniable principle, namely, that no question concerning the doctrine or practice of the church can be considered to have been resolved, until it is resolved scripturally.

Indeed, we see that this fact is recognized in the question, ‘Is it scriptural?’ I believe that the answer must be an emphatic ‘Yes!’ and the proof is found in the ninth chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, verses 4 to 14.

Let us consider the circumstances in which Paul introduces the subject. In the previous chapter, chapter 8, he has dealt at some length with the matter of Christian liberty and has shown that Christians must be prepared to forego perfectly legitimate rights, if to insist on the exercising of such rights endangers or harms the soul of a weaker brother.

That chapter closes at verse 13, which begins with the word ‘Therefore’, contains the statement with which Paul concludes his argument. Then, in chapter 9, he points out that he, also, has rights, rights which, for the good of both the Church and the Lord’s work in general, he has not exercised, and he proceeds to mentions two of them.

First, he asserts his right to receive material support from his brethren, whilst he is engaged in preaching the Gospel. He specifically mentions

‘the right to eat and drink’ (v.4).

He then extends this right to cover the material needs of a wife also, should he choose to be accompanied and supported in his labours by a wife, just as other brethren some of whom he names.

Two Rights Asserted

The first argument says, in effect, Moses.

‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain.’ Deuteronomy 25:4

Incidentally, let me point out that, in l Timothy 5:18, this principle is also applied Elders. Elders who are ‘full-time Elders’ and who may need support are as entitled to receive it from the church, as is the shepherd who cares for the flock.

In verse 9, Paul injects a slightly humorous note as he thinks about the verse in Deuteronomy 25:4, when he asks,

‘Did God issue this command because He is especially concerned about oxen? Do you not see that this is an illustration used for our sakes?’

The second argument is in verse 10, he says that a man ‘works in hope’ and mentions, as examples, the ploughman and the reaper. They expect to share the results of their work.

Even in our modern society the validity of this principle is recognised. Farm-workers, coal- miners, fishermen, factory-workers, all expect to enjoy benefits from that which their work produces.

The third argument is based on simple gratitude, verse 12.

‘If we have sown spiritual good among you, why should it be regarded as too much; amazing, or surprising, if we expect to reap your material blessings?’

Some of the churches Paul had served were quick to acknowledge their indebtedness to him and had spontaneously sent help to meet his material needs, thus making it unnecessary for him to ‘work with his own hands’, to support himself as he preached the Gospel. Philippians 4:16. ‘You sent me help once and again’.

Whilst we should never regard full-time work for the Lord as a profession or a job, we surely realize that those who have the desire and the ability, and therefore the responsibility, to undertake such work, will be much more effective and useful, if their minds are freed from concerns about the need to earn a living.

Thankfully, there are brethren, who whilst recognizing that they, personally, are unable for whatever reason, whether disposition or ability, or even because of circumstance, to spend their lives in the Lord’s work, nevertheless understand that they are able to help in their own special way, because they are able to earn money which may be turned back into the support of those who are able to undertake the work of the Kingdom. The ‘prophet’s hands’ still need to be held up, even today!

I recall a certain brother who gave generously to meet a particular need, and who said,

‘Perhaps this is my talent. Perhaps it is the only thing I can do!’

He was too modest! I later heard him preach the Word very effectively!

‘I have the right to receive support from the people of God, whilst I do this work; the right to receive whatever assistance I need, either financial or material’.

The fourth argument says,

‘And not only for myself, but also for a wife, if I choose to take a wife. After all, other apostles do this! The rest of them do it, including Peter! And the Lord’s own brothers do it also! Among all those who spend their lives in the work of the Gospel, are Barnabas and I to be the only ones who are denied this right?’

There are four arguments

Having made these claims, in verse 7, Paul then proceeds to establish them by presenting four very clear and powerful arguments which demonstrate the principle in action, and which he feels sure, his readers will readily recognize and acknowledge.

First, the argument based on equity, on fairness. (Verse 7) He declares that it is just and fair, and, in evidence, presents the following examples from everyday life.

1. The Soldier’s needs are provided for.

‘Who serves as a soldier at his own expense?’

The soldier is not required to provide his own equipment or his own rations. Such items are provided for him. The word ‘expense’ is significant. It is the word ‘opsonion’, which, in 2 Corinthians 11:8 is rendered ‘support’. On the four occasions when this word occurs in the New Testament scriptures it means ‘wages, expense, charges, support’.

1. The planter of a vineyard expects to eat some of the fruit that the vineyard produces.

The shepherd who cares for the flock has the right to expect the flock to take care of him. Paul is insisting that, by the same token, those whose lives are spent in the work of the Lord have the clearly established right to have their material needs met, and it should not be necessary for them to beg or to depend on the charity of their brethren.

The argument based on God’s Law, verse 8, and illustrated in the Scriptures. Verses 13-14. In verse 8, he asks,

‘Are you now telling me that this is merely a human viewpoint?’

In other words, ‘Are you saying that, even if this is the way the world conducts its affair, what the world does has no bearing on the Church of God? Then, let me show you that the Law (of God) lays down the same principle. It is written in the law of God that you,

‘shall not muzzle the ox.’

This is a command.

Those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, in the same way the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the Gospel should get their living by the Gospel. See again 1 Timothy 5:17-18. Here Paul is alluding to the fact that any priest, Jewish (or Pagan), enjoyed certain privileges.

For instance, the priest received a share of the offerings brought to the altar. (verse13) Indeed, if we examine the Jewish priestly system, it comes as something of a surprise when we discover just how much material support the priests received. The fact is that they were well provided for and enjoyed a fairly high degree of comfort.

Priestly Provision

There were numerous regular sacrifices from which the priest received his portion.

1. From ‘the Whole Burnt Offering’, he received only the hides and skins, but these he was able to sell. Leviticus 5:8.

2. From the ‘Sin Offering’, only the fatty portions were offered in sacrifice, and the priest received all the flesh.

3. This was also true of the ‘Trespass Offering.’

4. The ‘Meal Offering’, which consisted of flour, oil and wine, was also given to the priests for their personal use. Again, only a token amount was offered on the altar. Leviticus 2 and Leviticus 7:9-10.

5. The ‘Peace Offering’ was shared between the altar, the priests and the worshipper.

The priest also received for his own use, the ‘first fruits’ of the barley, wheat, honey, olives, vine fig trees and pomegranates. Deuteronomy 18:3+4. He also had the right to ‘1/50th of the crop’, since he had no land of his own. Even ‘the tithe’, the tenth of everything that grew in the earth, which could be used for food, was shared between the priests and the Levites. The priests also received a 24th part of the ‘dough’, made of wheat, barley, oats or rye.

And what is surely remarkable is the fact that, when the nation was at war, the priests received a share of any spoil that was captured in battle. The spoil was usually divided equally between the army and the people, and the priests received a 1/500th of the half given to the army, and a 1/50th part of the half given to the people. Numbers 31:25-47.

Having been brought up under this system, the Jewish Christians had no difficulty in understanding the principle which Paul is explaining to the Corinthians, namely, that the man whose life is spent in the service of God has both the privilege and the right to receive the support of God’s people.

It is regrettable that, as plain as is the teaching presented in l Corinthians 9, we, as churches of Christ, claiming to appeal for a ‘return to New Testament Christianity’ ‘appear to’ have been reluctant to put it into practice.

In the year 1840, the very first full-time evangelist to work among the churches, George C. Reid, wrote to James Wallis, the editor of the early ‘Christian Messenger’ expression the conviction that if capable men were to be encouraged to devout their lives to the preaching of the Gospel, provision should be made for their adequate support.

But, I repeat, the principle is there for all to see and will only be ignored by those spiritually immature or scripturally untaught. The unpalatable truth is that, if we were passionate about preaching the Gospel and were willing to increase our giving, it would be possible to support more dedicated and capable people.

Summary of 1 Corinthians 9

Christian liberties are introduced in chapter 6 when Paul said,

“All things are lawful for me; but not all things are expedient” 1 Corinthians 6:12

Chapter seven briefly touches upon the subject of liberties when Paul said,

“Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but the keeping of the commandments of God” 1 Corinthians 7:19

Liberties are dealt with in full at chapter eight as Paul discusses the issue of eating meats sacrificed to idols. The fact that liberties exist is firmly fixed in chapters six and seven.

Chapter eight introduces another idea regarding liberties that is fully developed in chapter nine. That idea is the fact that the Christian may sin while using a liberty.

Paul said,

“But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to the weak” 1 Corinthians 8:9

The word “liberty” means to have freedom or power of choice. Matters that do not affect my salvation are termed matters of liberty (adiaphora or matters of indifference).

There are times in a Christian’s life when said liberties may have to be forfeited for the sake of others. Paul displays a heart of one who truly loves souls when he said,

“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” 1 Corinthians 9:18

Paul had many “rights” ‘liberties’ as a Christian, however, he would never press those rights on others to the point of causing them to sin. To the Romans he said,

“Destroy not with thy meat him for whom Christ died”. Romans 14:15

Chapter nine is a chapter of admonition to all saints. Paul uses his own self as an example of one willing to give up all rights or liberties for the sake of others. Paul had the right to lead about a believing wife, forbear working, and receive compensation for his work as an evangelist; however, he forfeited those rights that others would be saved.

The thought of sin on the part of the individual practicing a liberty is now fully developed in chapter 9. Heaven was the goal at hand for self and others. If while practicing a liberty I cause a brother to forfeit his salvation through sin, then I have also been rejected of God for my part in that brother’s sin, 1 Corinthians 9:27.

The message is that while we make our trek toward heaven, only those who discipline their selves to consider others, in relationship to the gospel truths, shall be in heaven. Often people want to know how far Christians should permit the weak brother to dictate our actions.

Paul answers this question at Acts 15:1ff when it was said that the Jews who had obeyed the Gospel yet clung to many Mosaic Laws demanded people to be circumcised.

The apostle Paul said at Galatians 2:3-5 that we would give way to their subjection not even for a moment. The answer to the question is simple. When brethren claim that our liberties are sinful then we must stand our ground lest they be found to bind where God has not bound or loose where God has not loosed.

Review

So far in this letter Paul has confronted the problems that have been disturbing the Corinthian church, problems about which they had themselves written to him, others about which he had been informed by ‘Chloe’s people’ who had, apparently, visited Corinth from Ephesus where Paul was working.

1. He has rebuked the members of the church because they have created divisive ‘parties’ or ‘cliques’, in support of their ‘favourite’ preachers and teachers.

2. He has exposed and condemned a case of immorality in the congregation, with which they had failed to deal.

3. He has given instruction on Christian marital relationships.

4. He has explained how freedom in Christ responds when faced such sensitive issues as the eating of meat which has been offered in sacrifice to an idol.

5. He has responded to the criticism of his apostleship and justified his right to marry and to receive financial support, like ‘the other Apostles’.

6. And he has revealed his reasons for taking the stand he has taken, namely,

a). Because he has received a Divine Commission and is compelled to preach the Gospel, and

b). Because, whilst he is working to save others, he is mindful of the fact that he must consider his own salvation. Or, as he strikingly expresses it;

‘lest having preached to others I myself become a castaway’ (A.V).

A modern translation will say,

‘lest I myself fail to qualify’.

This leads him to introduce two examples that illustrate what he is saying and it seems to me, at least that the illustrations are uniquely applicable to the two main groups in the Corinthian congregation, the Greeks and the Jews. And each illustration concerned an event of major importance to these two races. Greek and Jewish.

First the games

We are all familiar with the ‘Olympic games’, which were revived in 1896 by the French Baron Coubertin, who formed the Olympic Association a couple of years earlier, but the similarity between the Ancient and the Modern Games exists in name only!

In fact, the Olympics, as they are popularly called, were not the only ‘Games’ celebrated by the Greeks. Other Games were also held in Paul’s time, and he is no doubt thinking not of the Olympic Games, but of the Isthmian Games with which the Corinthians were both familiar and proud, because they were held very close to Corinth, every two years.

That pride is reflected in the strict conditions of qualification that Paul has in mind as he writes.

1. Only athletes of pure Greek blood were allowed to compete.

2. The athletes had to show proof of their ancestry.

3. No-one who had a criminal record, or who had forfeited his citizenship by breaking the Law, was allowed to complete, no matter how otherwise qualified he might be. (No talk of ‘human’ rights! If you committed a crime you forfeited your rights!)

4. Only Men were allowed to take part. Although history records the names of several rich women who owned winning chariots, but they were not likely to have been present at the Games anyway! It was said that it would be ‘unethical’ and ‘inappropriate’ for women to be present. The reason? The athletes competed naked.

And, even in modern Olympics, the first Games in which women were allowed to compete was in 1900, in Paris. I think they were allowed to compete in Tennis and Golf! (As a matter of fact, the first woman to become an Olympic Champion was an English woman named Charlotte Cooper who won the Tennis Singles Title that year. Some Women’s Athletic events were added in 1948.)

5. Those who qualified to participate were required to undergo months of rigorous, supervised training. We know that today’s athletes spend months in intensive training in order to be fit enough to compete. You may recall that before the London Games, we read newspaper reports describing the intensity of the physical preparation to which the athletes subjected themselves. Out on the road before daybreak! Running 100’s of miles a week! Spending 100’s of hours in the Gym! All in order to reach peak fitness.

Paul refers to this intensive training, and points out that it is endured, not to win a gold medal which would be permanent reminder of a victory, or to receive a knighthood, or some other honour, but to be awarded a crown of leaves, in Olympia a crown of olive leaves, and in the Corinthian Games, a crown of pine leaves, which almost certainly withered before the year was out.

Of course, there were other honours that lasted longer most of which were bestowed on the winner by his home city. When he returned home, the successful Olympian would be treated like a general returning from a victorious battle. The city walls would actually be thrown down so that he could enter like a conqueror, and they would even erect a statue of him in the city so that his fellow-citizens could honour him.

And it did not end there

There were Greek poets who were renowned for writing poems in which they celebrated, named and praised the successful athletes, because of the honour they brought to their cities.

Why were the games regarded as important? And they were certainly regarded as important! Even if Greek states were at war with each other, when the time for the Games came around, the war was suspended for the duration of the great event, because the Games were regarded as important in promoting Greek Unity!

The Corinthians knew all this, and, because they were intensely proud of their Games, Paul’s illustration in this chapter would resonate with them, and carry great weight. The lessons drew from it made an impression on them. They felt involved! He was talking about them!

Paul says, these ‘Games’ athletes endured all this to win a wreath of Pine leaves that withered away, awarded to the one winner, but the prize for which we seek endures throughout Eternity, a ‘Crown of Life’, and, importantly, there are no losers! Everyone who finishes the course received the prize!

His aim in using this example is to encourage his Corinthian brethren to remain faithful, and so he says,

‘Run in such a way that you may obtain it’.

He then tells them how they must qualify in 1 Corinthians 9:25.

1. Be temperate. The word that is translated ‘temperate’ in several versions, really means ‘self-controlled’.

Some people suppose it permits ‘moderation in all things’, i.e. ‘everything is allowed ‘in moderation’. But it actually means that there must be

‘self-control in all things’.

The Greek athlete endured at least ten months of rigorous training, regarding it as a matter of honour to scrupulously abide by the rules and the strict code of conduct associated with the Games.

2. Be dedicated and decisive. 1 Corinthians 9:26.

We should notice that Paul makes this personal. 1 Corinthians 9:16-17. All this applies to himself, as much as to his brethren. When he urges them to ‘strive’, he tells them that this is what he also must do. He is not exempt from hardship, and he is not saved because he is an Apostle.

Instead, he tells them,

‘I don’t run like a man who doesn’t know where he is going!’

On the contrary, he knows what his goal is, and has also considered the cost and has decided that it is something to which he is prepared to make a commitment.

Notice the two statements which follow.

‘I fight not as one who beats the air!’

In other words, he is not putting on a show! He is not ‘shadow-boxing’. He is not as we say going through the motions and it is here that far too many translations miss the point!

For example, The New King James Version says,

‘I discipline my body and bring it into subjection’

and this completely misses the force of his statement.

He says,

‘I pommel my body’.

This is a technical expression that literally means ‘to strike it full in the face’. The word describes the most devastating blow that a boxer could deliver to an opponent.

He adds

‘I keep it under.’

He subjects his body to constant stress and tension. In fact, he uses a word from which we get our word ‘agonize’. The preparation an athlete underwent in order to be fit for the Games amounted to physical agony.

Why does he endure such exhausting training?

1 Corinthians 9:27 “Lest when I have preached to others me I should become disqualified.”

Jesus Himself puts it like this,

‘No man who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God’.

The man who handled the plough does not gaze around him, or allow himself to be distracted when he ploughs. He fixes his eyes on a point in the distance and steers towards it, and in this way he produces a straight line.

We should never forget, it is the one who ‘endures to the end’ who shall be saved. It is he who remains ‘faithful’ that the crown is awarded. And every one who finishes the course is awarded the prize.

Go To 1 Corinthians 10

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us."

Ephesians 3:20

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