The church in Corinth has not supported Paul in his work as the one that brought them the gospel or as an apostle. He gives them examples from life in the world, they would feed an ox working for them. Or, if they plowed someone’s field they would expect a share of the crop, or if the helped with the harvest by threshing they would expect a share. Then he asks in 1 Corinthians 9:11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too great a thing if we reap material things from you? Of course not, in fact, why are they not offering? But Paul is not laying claim to the things he needs for his own life, instead, he has given, he has enslaved himself as it says in 1 Corinthians 9:19 “I have enslaved myself to all, in order that I may gain more”. Paul then uses the example of one running in a race which would have been well known to them through the Isthmian games, held near Corinth the first and third year of every Olympiad which happened every four years. Using this familiar example of running a race, Paul encourages them to run to win. But it is not to win the crown that perishes in 1 Corinthians 9:25 And everyone who competes exercises self-control in all things. Thus those do so in order that they may receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.
There Is One Lord, Jesus Christ
You Must Not Muzzle an Ox While it is Threshing
1 Corinthians 9:1–9
Paul asks questions about how those serving the Lord as ministers should be treated. In the law of Moses, the Levites had no land, their entire job was the ministry of the things of God as servants to the rest of the tribes. They were about a tenth of the people and the other tribes were all to give a tenth to the Priests and the Levites.
Is it different in the new covenant with Jesus Christ? All of us are children of God. All of us are anointed by the Holy Spirit. All of us have work in our lives for the Lord. But most are to live godly lives in the world, to raise their family, to prosper in the work of their hands that in
2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to cause all grace to abound to you, so that in everything at all times, because you have enough of everything, you may overflow in every good work.
Paul was called by Jesus Christ to take the gospel to the Gentiles in
Acts 9:15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, because this man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel.
Barnabas and Saul (Paul) were called for a work in
Acts 13:2 And while they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart now for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
And as Paul continued his missionary work, he went to Corinth and established the Church in
Acts 18:11 So he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
If anyone had a right to claim some benefit from his work in the ministry, it was Paul. And his message to them is that they ought to know this and volunteer to provide his support. They would not think to require an ox to work without food but what is the answer to the question, if God is not concerned about the ox, then what is it that “God is concerned” with? in
1 Corinthians 9:9 For in the law of Moses it is written, “You must not muzzle an ox while it is threshing.” It is not about oxen God is concerned, is it?
Those Who Proclaim the Gospel Live From the Gospel
1 Corinthians 9:10–17
In this world, we have need of food and shelter and these come as we do work. As he has just said “You must not muzzle an ox while it is threshing.” Paul reminds them of their own expectation in
1 Corinthians 9:10b the one who plows ought to plow in hope and the one who threshes ought to do so in hope of a share.
But it isn’t just that it is right for us each to prosper by the work of our hands. He goes on to now make the connection with “spiritual things” and they out to already know it is not too great a thing in
1 Corinthians 9:11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too great a thing if we reap material things from you?
Corinth was a Roman city primarily Greek that had temples to many gods and these temples were attended. There were also Jews among them that would understand the place of the Priests and the Levites, that they were provided for as he describes in
1 Corinthians 9:13 Do you not know that those performing the holy services eat the things from the temple, and those attending to the altar have a share with the altar?
It is right for a minister of the gospel to live by the support and the gifts of those they minister to in
1 Corinthians 9:14 In the same way also the Lord ordered those who proclaim the gospel to live from the gospel.
I Have Enslaved Myself to All
1 Corinthians 9:18–27
Paul has made the point that he has every right to claim support from them for the work he has done among them. But Paul is first the servant of Jesus Christ, his work is to “gain more” as he says in
1 Corinthians 9:19 For although I am free from all people, I have enslaved myself to all, in order that I may gain more.
Paul has chosen to “offer the gospel free of charge, in order not to make full use of my right in the gospel” in 1 Corinthians 9:18. He has denied his claim for support from them to make the gospel free to them. The reason he has done this is in
1 Corinthians 9:23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, in order that I may become a participant with it.
or as he said in 1 Corinthians 9:19 to “gain more” and he admonishes them also to run as if in a race and in 1 Corinthians 9:24 “Run in such a way that you may win”.
Our Fathers Were All Under the Cloud
1 Corinthians 10:1–13
The Cup of Blessing Which we Bless
1 Corinthians 10:14–22
- 1 Corinthians 9:1–9 You Must Not Muzzle an Ox While it is Threshing
- 1 Corinthians 9:10–17 Those Who Proclaim the Gospel Live From the Gospel
- 1 Corinthians 9:18–27 I Have Enslaved Myself to All
- 1 Corinthians 8:1-13
- 1 Corinthians 9:1-27
- 1 Corinthians 10:1-22