In Chapter 9 of 1 Corinthians Paul’s main focus is on himself and the personal sacrifices that he has made in order to help others.
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Paul Discusses Giving Up His Rights
Paul explained the rights that he has as a man and how he willingly gives up those rights so he is able to build stronger relationships with not only Jesus Christ, but others. Paul reminded the people that, since he was in fact planting a spiritual seed inside of them, he should be entitled to a certain amount of the harvest, such as food.
Of course, since he is carrying out a sacred task for God, Paul told the people that he denied himself any luxuries that the people could provide. By refusing to be paid for his ministry work, Paul illustrated the fact that God would provide for those who preach the Good News.
Comparing God’s Work to a Race
As Paul sought to bring others to salvation in Christ, he explained that his ability to find common ground with those that he preached to helped him to not only understand them, but also helped him relate to a more broad range of people.
At the end of 1 Corinthians Chapter 9, Paul compared himself to a dedicated and highly-trained athlete. Just as an athlete is disciplined and has intent, Paul said so should the followers of Jesus Christ. He went on to equate a runner in a foot race to God’s faithful followers, ultimately calling attention to the fact that Christians are racing towards more than just a medal or trophy.
The Prize for Finishing the Race
Paul further explained that his life had a purpose and it was full of intent so that he could be assured of his eventual prize. For those who fully devoted themselves to God and to preaching the Good News, the prize at the end of the race is eternal life in the kingdom of Heaven.
1 Corinthians 9 (King James Version)
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?
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.
3 Mine answer to them that do examine me is this,
4 Have we not power to eat and to drink?
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?
6 Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?
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?
8 Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?
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?
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.
11 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?
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.
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?
14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
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.
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!
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.
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.
19 For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.
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;
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.
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.
23 And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.
24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
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.
26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
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.