Category Archives: 1 CORINTHIANS 9

The apostle Paul sets out his attitude to support of the Lord’s work. he exhorts believers to strive for the prize.

1 CORINTHIANS 9

SURVEY OF THE CHAPTER
The chapter consists of a defence by the apostle of his apostleship, and therefore of his authority.  The word “power” in verses 4,5,6, 12 (twice), is the word authority.  It seems there were those in the assembly at Corinth who were suggesting that his claim to be an apostle was suspect.  They perhaps pointed to the fact that he had not been with the Lord Jesus during His public ministry on earth, as he had been converted after Christ had ascended to heaven.  For this reason they were not prepared to act on what he wrote or spoke to them, nor to support him financially in his work.
There have been those during modern times who have also questioned the right of the apostle Paul to write what he did.  Such should remember his words in 1 Corinthians 14:27, “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord”.  They should also remember that the apostle Peter, (whose apostleship was never disputed), gave Paul the right hand of fellowship, Galatians 2:9, and called him “our beloved brother Paul”, 2 Peter 3:15, even after he had been withstood by Paul on a matter of principle, Galatians 2:11.  If Peter had no doubt as to the veracity of Paul’s claim to apostleship, the Corinthians should not either, and nor should we.
In verses 1-14 the apostle sets out the principles governing the support of those who evangelise and teach.  Then he shows first, in verses 15-23, that he did not use those means of support in every situation, and second, in verses 24-27, this was because he was self-controlled as he ran his Christian race.

STRUCTURE OF THE CHAPTER

Section (a) Verses 1-14    Support in service.
Section (b) Verses 15-23 Selflessness in service.
Section (c) Verses 24-27 Self-control in service.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 9, VERSES 1 TO 14:

9:1  Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?

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

9:3  Mine answer to them that do examine me is this,

9:4  Have we not power to eat and to drink?

9:5  Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?

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

9:7  Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?

9:8  Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?

9:9  For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?

9:10  Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.

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

9:12  If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.

9:13  Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?

9:14  Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.

Section (a)    Verses 1-14    Support in service.

As he confronts his detractors, Paul asks them four questions.  The first has to do with his apostleship; the second with his liberty; the third with his privileges; the fourth with his labours.

9:1  Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?

Am I not an apostle?  The word apostle is made up of two Greek words, apo and stello.  The first is a preposition meaning “away from”, in the sense, not of being away, but of moving away.  The second is the verb to send.  An apostle is therefore one who is sent away from a person.  Implied in this are the two ideas of being approved by that person, and bearing his authority.  He is not sent away in dismissal and disapproval, but with a commission to accomplish the will of the sender.  Such was the apostle Paul, and the One who sent Him was Christ Himself.  On the road to Damascus the Lord Jesus said to him, “But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness of these things that thou hast seen, and those things in the which I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom I now send thee…” Acts 26:16,17. Some while later, when Paul was in the temple, the Lord had appeared in a vision to him and said, “Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles”, Acts 22:21.  So there is abundant evidence for the fact that Paul was indeed sent from the Lord.  As such, his authority to instruct, warn and rebuke was undoubted, being the authority of the One who had sent him.
Am I not free?  This means that he was, as an apostle of Jesus Christ, free from the supposed authority of men, as they sought to criticise and curtail him in his service.  As he wrote to the Galatians, “Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead)”, Galatians 1:1.  Even those who were apostles because they had been sent forth by Christ when He was upon earth were not able to add anything to him, Galatians 2:6, and in fact gave him the right hand of fellowship, Galatians 2:9.  He was free from men of ill-intent, like some in the assembly at Corinth, and free from men of good-intent, like the other apostles.  This is not to say he was independent, for he was an apostle of Jesus Christ, and was bound by His will.
Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?  One of the signs of an apostle was that he must have been with the Lord down here, and also seen Him in resurrection.  The words of Peter were, “Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that He was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of His resurrection”.  So these were the qualifications to be one of the twelve apostles.  Paul was not of the twelve, which is no doubt why he separates  being an apostle from having seen the Lord, in this verse.  He is not an apostle through having been with Christ down here and then seeing Him in resurrection, but he can testify to having seen Him in the glory of heaven, and this the twelve could not do.  They saw the Lord disappearing into heaven, Paul saw Him as having arrived there.  And this is his special witness, for he was entrusted with truth as to the vital connection between believers of this age and Christ in heaven.  Ananias, the man sent to speak to Paul three days after his conversion, said to him, “The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know His will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of His mouth”, Acts 22:14.
The nature of his apostleship fitted the task he was given to do.  It was important for the twelve to have been with Christ when He was here, because they were initially going to testify to Israel, the people Christ had been amongst, and who had crucified Him.  Paul, however, was sent to the Gentiles, and Christ had not been amongst them.
Are not ye my work in the Lord?  Paul now puts the question of his authority in the context of his ministry at Corinth.  How was it that instead of being pagan idolaters, as many of them had been, they were now the worshippers of the true God?  It was because he had ministered among them that this was so, in the mercy of God.  As he says in the second epistle, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves”, 2 Corinthians 13:5.  This puts the onus on them.  If they claimed to be true believers, then they would have to admit it was through Paul.  And if it was through Paul, then he had authority as an apostle.

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

If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you- even if others elsewhere doubted his apostleship, they at least should not do so.
For the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord- not only were they the evidence of the success of his ministry in the gospel, but they were God’s seal of approval on his labours.  They should not lightly regard such evidence of God’s working.

9:3  Mine answer to them that do examine me is this,

Mine answer to them that do examine me is this- it seems there were those who were so presumptuous as to bring the apostle up before the judgement bar of their opinion.  The words “answer” and “examine” are both law-court words, so the Corinthians were serious in their accusation, and Paul is equally serious in his answer to them.  Instead of protesting, and asserting his authority over them, the apostle goes along with the process so as to show he has nothing to hide.  He does so by asking some questions of his own.

9:4  Have we not power to eat and to drink?

Have we not power to eat and to drink?  In the previous verse it was “me”, being a question of apostleship, as well as other things.  Here it is “we”, because he is associating Apollos with himself in these matters, even though Apollos was not an apostle.  He did have a special connection with Corinth as an evangelist, however, as we see from 3:5,6.  So it is as an evangelist that Paul claims the right to eat and drink at the expense of the believers.  Those who engage in pioneer gospel work may expect that those who are converted under their ministry will give them the necessities of life as a mark of appreciation to the Lord for sending them.  He will establish this principle from the Old Testament later in the chapter.

9:5  Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?

Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles- here Paul claims the same right as others to bring his wife with him, as this verse suggests Peter and the other apostles did.  They were to safeguard their wives by not leaving them, perhaps alone, in their house.  This also protected the apostles from any suggestion of wrong-doing as they stayed in the houses of other believers.  The world is ever watching, and all appearance of evil must be carefully avoided.  Unbelievers are always ready to put the wrong construction on a situation where a preacher stays in a home when the husband is at work all day and the wife is in the house.  A celebrated evangelist of the 20th century refused to stay at a hotel or ride in a car with anyone other than his wife or daughter, and this was very wise.
And as the brethren of the Lord- notice that the brethren of the Lord, (that is, the children of Joseph and Mary), are now prominent enough in Christian circles to be held up as an example.  Their former stubbornness to believe has not prevented the believers from respecting them now they have been converted.  Their former hostility to Christ is not held against them.  Nor, for their part, has their former hostility given way to a grudging acceptance of Christ, but they are wholeheartedly committed to His cause.
And Cephas? This reminds us that Peter had a wife.  We know this also from Mark 1:30 for mention is made of his wife’s mother.  How strange that a large section of Christendom believes that their priests should be celibate, yet the one they claim as the first Pope was married!
Perhaps Cephas, or Peter, is mentioned last and separately because it is likely that it was the “Cephas-party” at Corinth, 1 Corinthians 1:12, who were the most antagonistic to Paul, probably being the Jewish element in the assembly.

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

Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?  This would indicate that when the Holy Spirit said to the assembly at Antioch “Separate Me Barnabas and Saul”, Acts 13:2, it was not simply that they were separated to do a task for the Lord.  They were also separated from the need to work secularly, in order that they might serve the Lord full-time.  The apostle is very specific here, however, in saying that the permission to forbear working was only given to Barnabas and himself, “I only, and Barnabas”.  He excludes the persons, including apostles, he has just cited as examples.  Much of the financial resources of believers, at least in the Western world, are expended on payments to preachers who could very well earn a living whilst serving the Lord, and also on the construction and upkeep of elaborate buildings in which to meet.  There is a great need to return to primitive Christianity, so that the finance that goes into such things is diverted into projects where there is real need.  It is significant that the Lord said to those He had previously sent out to preach in Israel but who were now about to venture forth into the wider world, (and therefore we might think had more need of being supported by others), “‘When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye anything?’  And they said, ‘Nothing’.  Then said He unto them, ‘But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one'”, Luke 22:35,36.  So there was a complete reversal of former instructions.

9:7  Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?

Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges?  We now have a series of questions which highlight the fact that the principle he is contending for is accepted in other departments of life.  No conscript soldier is expected to finance himself, for he is risking his life as he fights on behalf of others.  If they wish to be defended, they must pay his wages.  So those who evangelise, seeking to make inroads into the territory of the enemy of souls, Satan himself, may justifiably expect to be financed in that activity.
Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof?  Those who take the trouble to use time, effort, and money to plant a vineyard are clearly within their rights to eat some of the resulting fruit.  Those who “cultivate the vine”, meaning those who teach the saints, can expect some return for their labours.
Or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?  Those who act as pastors, and not only feed but tend and care for the flock of God, should not be out of pocket for their labours.  The apostle elsewhere commands that the elders who rule well should be given double honour, 1 Timothy 5:17,18, where the word for honour includes the idea of financial support if necessary.  This is not a go-ahead for the idea of paid pastors, but we should not avoid one principle for the sake of upholding another.  The idea of eating the milk comes from the fact that the milk from sheep and goats was made into cheese.  This, incidentally, is a much more healthy option than dairy produce from cows.

9:8  Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?

Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?  Having drawn the conclusions any sensible person would about earthly life, Paul now supports his statements with the statutes of the Law of God.  An illustration, moreover, which includes within it the three ideas of evangelist, teacher and pastor, for he will refer to the work of oxen, and these animals plough the ground, bring in the sheaves, and tread out the corn.

9:9  For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?

For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn- so mere animals were provided for in God’s law, for he has a great concern for all aspects of His creation.  Not one sparrow falls to the ground without Him noticing, Matthew 10:29, a fact which those who kill birds and animals for “sport” would do well to take note of.
The procedure in the East was to spread the gathered sheaves of corn on the flat surface of the threshing-floor, and then drive an ox over it, either on its own, or dragging a heavy log behind it.  The action of hooves and heavy object would gradually separate the husk from the grain, until it could be winnowed to remove the chaff.  No farmer was to cover the mouth of his ox as it did this, but was to allow it to bend its head and take some of the corn it had trodden out.
This quotation is also found in 1 Timothy 5:18 in connection with the support of elders that rule well.  There it is coupled with an allusion to the Lord’s words in Luke 10:9 about the labourer being worthy of his hire.
Doth God take care for oxen?  The answer is, of course “Yes”, but the scripture means more than this, as the apostle now explains. 

9:10  Or saith He it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that plougheth should plough in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.

Or saith He it altogether for our sakes?  The word altogether has the force of “certainly”.  So God is taking care of oxen in His statute, but He is certainly also establishing a principle in the spiritual sphere.
For our sakes, no doubt, this is written- the idea of certainty is confirmed by the use of the phrase “no doubt”.  The Old Testament requirement regarding the well-being of oxen may be lifted into the higher sphere of the service of God, and applied to those who serve in that higher sphere.  This application of the Old Testament must be done with care and restraint, lest the truth of Scripture should be undermined.
That he that plougheth should plough in hope- evangelists are to “plough” the consciences and hearts of sinners, so that repentance is wrought in them, and they believe the gospel.  As they do this, they should have the confidence that as a result of them labouring, some will believe, and in gratitude to those who preached Christ unto them, they will give them financial and other support.  Their ploughing has resulted in a harvest, and they have a right to benefit from that harvest.  In this way, pioneer evangelism is self-supporting, and does not divert funds which could more profitably be used elsewhere.  It will also mean that those who have run unsent, and therefore are not the Lord’s messengers, since they have no converts, are not supported, and realise their mistake and seek the Lord’s guidance as to what He really wanted them to do.
And that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope- the ox that threshed the corn by treading it out should share the prospect of eating the corn with the ox that ploughed the field that yielded the corn.  The hope of the one is the hope of the other.  They both have an interest in the resulting harvest, and both have the right to have some of it.  So the evangelist and the teacher are both entitled to be supported by those they minister to; in the case of evangelists, their converts, in the case of teachers, those who learn from them.  The one who threshes partakes of the hope of the one who ploughs, for unless the latter does his work, the former has no-one to teach.

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

If we have sown unto you spiritual things- the apostle puts the onus on the Corinthians again, and forces them to think about the answer.  He and Barnabas had engaged in spiritual sowing, scattering the word of God in the hearts of the men of Corinth.  A harvest of souls had resulted; this was a spiritual thing.  They had continued to sow the truth of the Word of God in their hearts after they had been saved; this was another spiritual thing.
Is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?  Is it too great a burden for those who have been saved by their ministry, and nurtured by their teaching, to help and support them by the supply of the things of everyday life?  The word carnal has no suggestion of sinfulness in this context, of course.  It means the ordinary necessities of life.

9:12  If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.

If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather?  If other teachers came to them and they supported them, how much more claim had Paul and Barnabas over them, who had founded and fostered the assembly.
Nevertheless we have not used this power- despite having marshalled many arguments as to why the Corinthians should support them, the apostle now declares that he and Barnabas declined to accept help from them.  He will say why they did this in the second epistle in the words, “But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion”, 2 Corinthians 11:12.  In other words, he did not want those who opposed him to have occasion or reason to find fault with him on the ground that he preached for financial advantage.
But suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ- instead of claiming his right to support, the apostle put up cheerfully with his self-imposed lack of support from the Corinthians.  He did not wish to put a road-block in the way of the progress of the gospel of Christ in their hearts.  It is a mistake to think that the gospel is only for the unsaved.  The epistle that is pre-eminently the one that defines the gospel is the Epistle to the Romans, written to believers.  The epistle that defends the gospel in the Epistle to the Galatians, written to believers.  There is constant need for believers to be exposed to the principles of the gospel, for it fits believers for everyday living on earth, as well as fitting sinners for heaven.

9:13  Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?

Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple?  They must surely have known this fact from the life of Israel recorded in the Old Testament.  The Levites had provision made for them by God, so that they could give themselves wholly over to the service of God in the tabernacle and later the temple.  This is why they were not allowed to have land, for they did not need it, being supported by the tithes of the rest of Israel.
And they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?  The priests had a higher privilege still, for they were allowed to take some parts of the offerings that had been laid on the altar for God.  These sacrifices were called the bread of God, Leviticus 21:6, but they also were the food of the priests.

9:14  Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.

Even so hath the Lord ordained- the will of God in relation to the support of those who preach the gospel is of equal authority to the will of God in a past age regarding the support of the priests and Levites.  It is important that the gospel is not hindered by lack of resources.  Much more could be done in the way of evangelism if the Lord’s people spent less on themselves.  The average wage of those in the Western world puts them in the top 10% of the world’s earners.
Note the elevated view the apostle has of evangelism, for he puts it in the same category as the ministry about the altar.  This reminds us that those who preach the gospel are engaged in priestly activity; not, of course, as Levitical priests, but as Christian ones.  The apostle described himself as serving God in the gospel of His Son, Romans 1:9, where the word for serve means to serve worshipfully.  Preaching should be done with dignity and gravity, having the glory of God in view all the time.
That they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel- just as the priests in the tabernacle system were supported by the tithes and offerings of the people they ministered for, so evangelists should be supported by their converts, and also by those from whom they went out. 

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 9, VERSES 15-23:

9:15  But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.

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

9:17  For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.

9:18  What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.

9:19  For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.

9:20  And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;

9:21  To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.

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

9:23  And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.

Section (b)    Verses 15-23    Selflessness in service.

9:15  But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.

But I have used none of these things- the apostle was completely disinterested in monetary gain.  As he could say to the Ephesian elders, “I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel”, Acts 20:33, (unlike Achan in Joshua 7:21).  He could also say, “These hands have ministered to my necessities, and those that are with me”, verse 34.  Far from taking from men, the apostle was energetic in giving to them, both in terms of spiritual good, and material.  Christianity has gained the reputation, through the centuries, that it is concerned with getting gain.  The only way that situation can be reversed is for true believers to redouble their efforts, and show to the world that Christianity is about giving, not receiving.  There are many ways in which this could be done in the sad days in which we live, where so many of the Lord’s people are destitute through no fault of their own.
Neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me- he is not writing so that the situation may change.  Rather, he is asserting that he has no interest in altering his position, for he is determined to continue supporting himself when necessary, and will not stand on his rights in this matter.  He is certainly not soliciting funds from the Corinthians.
For it were better for me to die- the apostle would rather die, and therefore cease serving the Lord, than be accused of making a gain from Christian service.  He saw clearly that if he did try to make a gain from it, then this would cancel out any good that might result from his labours.  Notice that the apostle makes the time of his death the time when he ceases to serve the Lord.  He does not envisage a period of retirement.  His opportunities for service may be different in old age, but he intends to carry on to the end.  Is this our attitude?  Or are we planning to give up the Lord’s work in later years?
Than that any man should make my glorying void- note that in a limited sense the believer is allowed to glory, (meaning to boast), but only in those things that are detrimental to self.  As far as our position as believers is concerned, we have nothing to boast of at all, as Romans 3:27 and Ephesians 2:9 clearly state.

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

For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of- the fact that he was entrusted with the glorious gospel did not mean he was himself glorious.  The preacher must be lost sight of in the preaching, so that men see “no man, save Jesus only”, Matthew 17:8.  Like John the Baptist, “He must increase and I must decrease” should be the watchword of those who preach, John 3:30.
For necessity is laid upon me- the apostle realised he was under an obligation to preach the gospel.  As he wrote to the Romans, “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.  So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are at Rome also”, Romans 1:14,15.  The work of Christ for him had put him under obligation, and he paid the debt of gratitude by preaching the gospel so as to promote Christ.  All believers have this obligation. The Lord Jesus told His disciples, “So  likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do'”, Luke 17:10.
Not everyone is called to preach, but all are sent into the world to represent Christ in the place that rejected Him, as we learn from John 20:21, “As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you”.  This was not limited to apostles, for John tells us it was disciples that were gathered together in the upper room, verse 19.
Yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!  Paul realised that the question of whether he had discharged his obligations to Christ would come up at the Judgement Seat of Christ.  If he had failed in this area, it would go ill with him, and instead of the Lord’s blessing on his labours, there would be a woe, and censure.  He lived his life in the light of that Judgement Seat, and so should we.

9:17  For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.

For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward- he tells us what he considers adequate reward in the next verse.
But if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me- even if he was unwilling, he still had to take account of the fact that he had been entrusted with the affairs of another, and “it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful”, 1 Corinthians 4:2.  The word dispensation has to do with the administration of the affairs of a household.  Paul was given the task of overseeing the affairs of God’s household, and even if he had not been a willing steward, he could not escape his responsibilities. 

9:18  What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.

What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge- we might have expected him to say that his reward was at the Judgement Seat of Christ.  It reveals much of the heart-attitude of the apostle to Christian things that the only reward he was looking for was to have the satisfaction of preaching only for the sake of Christ.
That I abuse not my power in the gospel- he has told us in verse 3 that he has power to eat and drink at the expense of the saints.  He thought it an abuse of power to claim that right, if those to whom he ministered were hostile to him.  The apostle would not demand his rights, for that is contrary to the spirit of Christ and the gospel. 

9:19  For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.

For though I be free from all men- he had so ordered his life and service that he was not under obligation to any person.  He was free to speak the truth of God without having to consider whether he was upsetting his sponsors, for he had none.
Yet have I made myself servant unto all- having taking up a position of freedom, he did not use it to pursue his own agenda.  He deliberately took the slave’s place, which is to serve the interests of others, with no consideration of personal comfort or ambition.  He had learnt the lesson of Philippians 2:7, for Christ Jesus had stooped from the highest glory to become a servant; now that mind was in Paul.
That I might gain the more- he sought only the spiritual welfare of men, that he might gain them for Christ and His glory.

9:20  And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;

And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews- he now tells us what being a “servant unto all” involved for him.  Even though he was born a Jew, when he was baptized he put on Christ.  In that position there is neither Jew nor Greek, as Galatians 3:27,28 tells us.  He had to become a Jew in attitude, so that he might win them for Christ.  This shows that his renouncing of things that were gain for him in favour of Christ’s interests, Philippians 3:7, was not a mere gesture, but affected his whole life.
Paul had to withstand Peter and others because they were reverting back to living like Jews to placate the Judaising party, which said believers needed to keep the law.  In that context Peter’s action was wrong, for it undermined the grace of the gospel.  What Paul refers to here is the temporary adoption of Jewish modes of thought and practice in order to gain the hearing of the Jews, for he longed for their salvation.
It is also worth noting in this connection that there are many in Israel today who call themselves Messianic Jews, but who also wish to be known as believers in Christ.  Whilst not suggesting that these people are not truly saved, they are certainly mistaken in trying to live as Jews and Christians at the same time, for the two positions are incompatible.
To them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law- as one crucified with Christ, Paul was no longer under the law as the rule of life.  He did not live a lawless life, however, for he was “under law to Christ”, as he will say in the next verse, and the indwelling Spirit enabled him to fulfil the righteousness of the law, Romans 8:4.  But he did not do this so as to merit eternal life, but because he had received that life as a gift.  He was free of the demands of the law, but on certain occasions, in order not to offend the Jews who still thought themselves to be under law, he had performed various rituals of the law.  We see this when he had Timothy circumcised, Acts 16:3; took a vow, Acts 18:18, and engaged in certain of the temple practices, Acts 21:18-26,.  He was conscious that these things were no longer binding even on Jews, (they had never been binding on Gentiles), but in order to gain the ear of Jews, and not repulse them, he did this things in the exercise of Christian liberty.

9:21  To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.

To them that are without law, as without law- the Gentiles had never been formally given the legal code of the Mosaic law, for it was a covenant between God and the nation of Israel, and constituted the terms on which they could be reckoned as His people.  This is made clear in Exodus 24:8 and Deuteronomy 4;8.  (Having understood that, we must also understand that God has written a sense of right and wrong into the consciences of all men, as Romans 2:12-15 makes clear).  As a man who was neither Jew nor Gentile, because he was in Christ, and as one who was under grace not law, Romans 6:14, Paul was free to mix with those who had not the law of God as their rule of life, and who in that sense, were without the law.  Note he does not say that he became lawless, because that has wicked connotations; he simply became like those who had not been formally given the law.
(being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,)  As a believer Paul had an enhanced sense of what God’s demands were, but he was not under the law so as to fulfil those demands, for the law supplied no power by which to keep those demands.  In Christ there is power, however, for the Spirit enables the righteous requirement of God in the law to be fulfilled, not as a means of gaining eternal life, but as a suitable response to God’s grace.  This is called the law of Christ, in Galatians 6:2, and consists of living as Christ did when down here, by the power of the indwelling Spirit of God, the same Spirit that filled the Lord Jesus, for He is called the Spirit of God’s Son, Galatians 4:6.
That I might gain them that are without law- Paul’s great delight was to so preach that men realised that the grace of God in Christ was enough to save them, and he never attempted to put Gentiles under law as a means of salvation.

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

To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak- those who were weak in the faith were not dismissed by the apostle.  He had learnt from Christ, who was patient with men, and even when they were slow to learn, persevered with them until they understood.  The blind man who was healed of his blindness in stages is a figure for the disciples who were only gradually perceiving the teaching they were being given, Mark 8:22-26, and see also verse 18 of that chapter, where the Lord asks the disciples, “Having eyes, see ye not?”
I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some- literally the words could be rendered, “all these things to all men”.  In other words, the apostle is carefully restricting the ways in which he became all things to men.  He would not be anything and everything to men so as to gain them, but he would do and be what he specifies in these verses.  Sadly, this statement has been twisted by some to mean that evangelists are free to use any means in order to win the lost.  This is not the case, and the apostle makes it clear that we should do all to the glory of God, 1 Corinthians 10:31, which immediately excludes the use of anything that is sinful or doubtful.  The evangelist has a very simple commission from God, “Preach the Word”, 2 Timothy 4:2.  He may have every confidence that God will bless His word as He pleases.

9:23  And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.

And this I do for the gospel’s sake- there was no personal advantage for Paul in acting this way.  In fact He was liable to be criticised for his policy, but he was only concerned for the gospel and its success in the hearts of men.
That I might be partaker thereof with you- he anticipates that the Corinthian believers will have a keen interest in the success of the gospel, and will share the apostle’s joy when souls are saved.  The man who found his lost sheep gathered his neighbours together and said “Rejoice with me”, Luke 15:6.  He wanted his neighbours to share his joy, and so did the apostle.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 9, VERSES 24-27:

9:24    Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.

9:25  And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

9:26  I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:

9:27  But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. 

Section (c)    Verses 24-27    Self-control in service.

9:24  Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize?  So run, that ye may obtain.

Exhortation to determination.

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize?  The apostle uses an illustration that they will know well, for the Isthmian Games, which were similar to the Olympic Games, were held near Corinth.  There were strict rules governing not only the actual races, but the preparation and training for them.  This was because the Games were held in honour of the gods, and they did not wish to offend them.  We may think of the runners as they begin, run, and finish.  Those who come to the starting line do so with the intention of running, so it can be said that they all run.  So there is no distinction between the runners at that point.  At the finish, however, there is a very big difference, for only one receives the victor’s garland.
So run, that ye may obtain- what makes the difference between the runners, so that only one gets the prize?  Simply the effort that is put in when the race is in progress.  The apostle is urging the Corinthians to put every effort into the race set before them, and so run that the prize of the Judge’s “Well done!” may be theirs.  Of course the apostle is not suggesting that only one believer during the two thousand years of this age is going to receive a prize.  He is simply contrasting running without maximum effort, and running with maximum effort.

9:25  And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

Exhortation to moderation.

And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things- not only were there strict rules at the Games to govern the actual activity in the stadium, but also governing the training beforehand.  The participants had to satisfy the judges that they had taken their training seriously, and had controlled their diet and their life-style so as to put in a good performance when the time came, to the glory of the gods. The Corinthians are to see to it that they are temperate, controlling themselves, so that nothing interferes with their Christian striving.  The word for striving is the Greek word from which we get the English word agony, such is the level of effort that is expected of Christians.  To be temperate means to control oneself, not allowing anything of the world or the flesh to interrupt our training programme or our running.
Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible- each of the Games had its own particular crown, or wreath, for the victor.  But despite the variety, they had one thing in common- they would be made out of foliage that would soon wither.  If athletes took so much time and effort to gain a fading wreath, how much more should believers strive for a crown that shall never fade, and which shall be to the praise, not of the gods, but of the true God of heaven.  This is a great incentive to put lethargy and indifference behind us, and resolve to strive as never before for the honour of our God.

9:26  I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:

Exhortation to avoid hesitation.

I therefore so run, not as uncertainly- in verse 24 it was “ye”.  In verse 25 it was “we”.  Now in this verse it is “I”, showing that the apostle took his exhortations to others very seriously, and applied them to himself.  The very worst thing a runner can do is hesitate.  He must be focussed and consistent in his effort.  To hesitate is to lose the prize.
So fight I, not as one that beateth the air- having spoken of the event that took place on the track, what of that which took place in the ring, where two men were boxing?  The lesson here is simply that to miss the target is to waste energy and lose the prize.  The boxer must concentrate all his effort on landing a punch on his opponent.  To wildly punch the air achieves nothing.

9:27  But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. 

But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection- whilst the metaphors of the contest and the boxing match are not to be taken literally, nevertheless the apostle does refer to his body here, being the seat of the sin principle, and the base from which the flesh operates as it tries to hinder progress and success in the Christian race.  The fact that he did not avail himself of things he had a right to, as mentioned in the former part of the chapter, illustrates the way in which he was ruthless with himself.  He is not appealing to the Corinthians to do something he was not prepared to do himself.
Lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway- he was wary of any way in which the body would get the better of him.  The word castaway has not to do with shipwrecks and desert islands, but continues the metaphor of the Games.  It was possible to pass the test as to one’s training and fitness regime, only to fail to meet the approval of the judges as to conduct during the race.  This would mean certain disqualification.  So the apostle is careful to persevere in keeping his body in subjection, so that he might win the prize at the end.  Of course keeping the body in subjection does not mean self-harm, but does mean that we should not give way to the impulses the body is capable of expressing, for they will prevent fitness for the Christian contest.
Needless to say the apostle is not supposing that he could lose his salvation, because his eternal security does not depend upon him, but upon Christ.  What does depend on him is the winning of the prize, and he will lose it, much-used preacher though he was, if he does not contend according to the rules of the Judge, Christ Himself.  If an apostle was concerned lest this should happen to him, how much more should it concern  the rest of believers.  How embarrassing to herald the gospel, like the man at the Games calling the contestants to the starting line, and then be like an athlete who is disqualified at the end of the race!

If you have concerns about the security of true believers, and wonder whether a converted person can ever be lost, please click on “DOCTRINES OF SCRIPTURE: The eternal security of true believers”, (in the side menu), for help in this matter.