Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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1 CORINTHIANS - Chapter 9

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1 Corinthians 9

Supplemental Commentary:

III:  ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS  7, 1 -- 11, 1 (continued)

3.  Paul's Rights as an Apostle  9, 1-27

9, 1-14:  His Claim of Rights.    1.  Am I not free?: since Paul is an Apostle, the highest rank in the Christian hierarchy, it would be expected that he too has rights in Christian liberty; yet he does not always use these rights.  Am I not an apostle?: Paul claims this title in the restricted sense (cf. Gal. 1, 11 -- 2, 10).  Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?:  an Apostle in the strictest sense was one who had received his instructions and commission directly from Christ and was a witness of the Resurrection (cf. Acts 1, 21 f).  Although Paul had not been instructed and sent by Christ during His earthly ministry, he had received his doctrine and mission in visions of the risen Lord (1 Cor. 15, 8; Gal. 1, 12.15 f).    2.  His work among the Corinthians marks him (as with a seal) as a genuine Apostle.    3-14.  Paul  has a right to support of the body for his spiritual ministry (4 and 11).  His arguments are taken from common practice among men (soldiers, v.7; vine-growers, v.7; shepherds, v.7; farmers, v.10), from the Mosaic Law (vv.9 and 13 referring to Deut. 25, 4; Num. 18, 8.31; Deut. 18, 1 ff), and from the law of Christ (v.14, referring to Christ's teaching now recorded in Matt. 10, 10; Luke 10, 7).

5.  A woman, a sister: the Greek text has "a sister woman."  The sense is much controverted.  This much is generally agreed upon.  (1) Some of the Apostles (even those of them who were related to Christ, and even Peter) used their right of obtaining support for themselves and also for a woman (whether wife or not) who looked after their material needs and possibly gave some secondary help in the ministry; (2) Paul, in spite of his right, supported himself and saved the Church further expense by not having the help of a woman.  Some interpreters think that the "sister woman" was a wife, but the more common opinion is that St. Paul was writing of a Christian woman who ministered as[to?] an apostle, but that he did not think of her as a wife.

9, 15-18:  Reason for Not Using Rights.  In 12 Paul had said that he had not used his right to support from the Corinthians; cf. 4, 12: "we toil working with our own hands."  At Corinth he had worked at tent-making (Acts 18, 3).  Some punctuate 17 f to read "If I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if, without willing it, I have a stewardship entrusted to me, what then is my reward?"  The comparison is clear: if one takes up work of his own accord he gets a salary, but if service is imposed upon him, as upon a slave, he gets no pay but fulfills his trust faithfully in self-interest since even his life may be at stake.  Paul thinks of his days as persecutor of the Church, and of his miraculous call.  In his humility he forgets his promptness to obey the call and his generous sacrifices in a wide and fruitful ministry.  All this for him is just the work of God, he has no title to glory nor to the special reward of a preacher (cf. 3, 14 f).  He seeks the extra glory and reward by working without charge.

9, 19-23:  Paul is All to All.    19.  Slave: the figure of 9, 17 is continued---full service without compensation.  The more: from the Greek and the Latin masculine, it is clear that this refers to individuals, not to greater rewards.    20-22.  Paul makes as many concessions as possible to customs, and prejudices at the sacrifice of his own preferences, though without sacrificing Christian freedom from the Mosaic Law (21a), nor Christian obligation to the law of Christ and God (21b).

9, 24-27:  He Makes Sure His Reward.  This serves as a link with what follows: Paul is not self-reliant for the obtaining of even the essential reward, whereas some of the Corinthians appear over-confident.    24.  So run: there are many crowns in the course to heaven, but we should give all our effort as if there were but one.    25.  From all things: i.e., from all that would make them less fit for victory.  A perishable crown: i.e., a garland of leaves and passing fame.    26.  Not as without a purpose: one's course should always be directed towards the goal or finishing line, God and His heavenly home.  By mortal sin we run in the opposite direction; by venial sin we divert to the side.    26 f.  Not as boxers swinging wildly, we should strike well what is to be subjected---our lower selves.  Chastise: some Greek manuscripts read "subject."  Lest perhaps after preaching to others I myself should be rejected: allusion is possibly made to the herald who announced the rules for combat and would naturally be expected himself to abide by the requirements.


Confraternity Bible:

His Claim of Rights  1 Am I not free?  Am I not an apostle?  Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?  Are not you my work in the Lord?  2 And if to others I am not an apostle, yet to you I am.  For you are the seal set upon my apostleship in the Lord.  3 My defense against those who question me is this: 4 Have we not a right to eat and to drink?  5* Have we not a right to take about with us a woman, a sister, as do the other apostles, and the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?  6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have not the right to do this?  7 What soldier ever serves at his own expense?  Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit?  Who feeds the flock, and does not eat of the milk of the flock?  8 Do I speak these things on human authority?  Or does not the Law also say these things?  9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, "Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treads out the grain."  Is it for the oxen that God has care?  10 Or does he say this simply for our sakes?  These things were written for us.  For he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes, in hope of partaking of the fruits.  11 If we have sown for you spiritual things, is it a great matter if we reap from you carnal things?  12 If others share in this right over you, why not we rather?  But we have not used this right, but we bear all things, lest we offer hindrance to the gospel of Christ.  13 Do you not know that they who minister in the temple eat what comes from the temple, and that they who serve the altar, have their share with the altar?  14 So also the Lord directed that those who preach the gospel should have their living from the gospel.

Reason for Not Using Rights  15 But I for my part have used none of these rights.  Neither do I write these things that so it should be done in my case.  For it were better for me to die than that anyone should make void my boast.  16* For even if I preach the gospel, I have therein no ground for boasting, since I am under constraint.  For woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!  17* If I do this willingly, I have a reward.  But if unwillingly, it is a stewardship that has been entrusted to me. 18* What then is my reward?  That preaching the gospel, I deliver the gospel without charge, so as not to abuse my right in the gospel.

Paul is All to All  19 For, free though I was as to all, unto all I have made myself a slave that I might gain the more converts.  20 And I have become to the Jews a Jew that I might gain the Jews; 21 to those under the Law, as one under the law (though not myself under the Law), that I might gain those under the Law; to those without the Law, as one without the Law (though I am not without the law of God, but am under the law of Christ), that I might gain those without the Law.  22 To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak.  I became all things to all men, that I might save all.  23 I do all things for the sake of the gospel, that I may be made partaker thereof.

He makes Sure His Reward  24 Do you not know that those who run in a race, all indeed run, but one receives the prize?  So run as to obtain it.  25 And everyone in a contest abstains from all things---and they indeed to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable.  26 I, therefore, so run as not without a purpose; I so fight as not beating the air; 27 but I chastise my body and bring it into subjection, lest perhaps after preaching to others I myself should be rejected.
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5: Woman: There is no question of a right to marry.  The Apostles had that right, but there is no evidence that many of them used it.  Paul here is defending his right to support from the Church, not only for himself, but also for a "sister" who would attend to his needs.  Brethren of the Lord: cf. Mark 3, 31.

16-18: Paul is not unwilling to preach the Gospel.  He is referring to the fact that he did not become an apostle of his own initiative, but that he received his commission while opposing the Church.  The miraculous call, as it were, leaves him no choice.  Realizing that the grace of the apostolate outweighs his great efforts, he voluntarily foregoes rights so as to increase his reward.