1 Corinthians ix.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. &c. Am not I free? The apostle in this place wishes to teach the Corinthians, how careful and solicitous they should be not to give cause for scandal to their neighbour, and how anxious for his spiritual welfare, informing them, that as he refused to take even what he had a just right to, as a minister of the altar, that is, to live by the altar, so they must do in like manner, abstaining even from things lawful, for the good of religion. (Estius) — Am not I an apostle? &c. St. Paul here, to the 20th verse, answers those reflections, which the new preachers at Corinth made against him and Barnabas, as if they were only an inferior kind of apostles. To this he answers, that he had seen Jesus Christ, who appeared to him. He tells the Corinthians, that they at least, ought to respect him as their apostle, who had converted them. He tells them, that when any persons ask about his apostleship, he has this to say for himself, that he not only laboured as an apostle in converting them, but also laboured without taking of them what might supply him and his companions with necessaries, as to meat and drink. He insists upon this particular circumstance, to shew he did not preach Christ for gain-sake; and at the same time brings seven or eight proofs to shew that he, and all who preach the gospel, have a power and a right to be maintained with necessaries by them to whom they preach. 1. He had a title to be supplied with necessaries, as being an apostle. 2. And by them, as being their apostle. 3. By the example of a soldier, who has a right to be paid: of a husbandman, who has a right to partake of the fruit of his labours: of a shepherd, nourished by the milk of the flock. (ver. 7.) 4. He brings the example of those who threshed, or trode out the corn by oxen, as it was formerly the custom, that the threshers, nay even the oxen, when treading out the corn, were not to be muzzled according to the Scripture, (Deuteronomy xxv.) but were to eat, and to be fed with the corn or straw; much more men that labour, are to be fed with the fruit of their labours. (ver. 8. 9. 10.) 5. Nothing is more reasonable than to supply those with corporal and temporal things, who labour to procure spiritual and eternal blessings for others. (ver. 11.) 6. They who preached to the Corinthians after St. Paul, were maintained by them; had not he and Barnabas as much right as they? (ver. 12.) 7. He shews it by the examples of the ministers and priests in the law of Moses, who had a share of the sacrifices and victims offered, and who, serving the altar, lived by the altar. (ver. 13.) 8. He brings the authority of our Saviour, Christ, who said to his apostles, (Matthew x. 10.) that a labourer is worthy of his meat, or of his reward, as it is said, Luke x. 7. But St. Paul puts them in mind, (ver. 15.) that he did not make use of his right, as to any of these things: that he does not write in this manner, to get or have any thing of them hereafter: nay, he makes warm protestations, says St. Chrysostom,[1] that he will take nothing of them; that he will preach without putting others to any cost; (ver. 18.) that he will accept of nothing, lest thereby he put any obstacle to the gospel, or gave any person occasion to say he preached for gain. He tells them, it is better for him to die, than, by taking any thing of them, to make void this, which he has to glory in, and to justify himself against his backbiting adversaries: the sense is, that he is willing to spend his life as well as his labours among them, sooner than in these circumstances receive any temporal reward from them. Yet when the circumstances were different, he received of the Philippians (Philippians iv. 15.) enough to supply him in his necessities. He also tells them here, that he does not pretend to glory of boast for having preached: this being a necessary duty. — For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward. The sense seems to be, if I do this office cheerfully, and with a right intention to please God only, I shall have a copious reward prepared for such a labourer: if unwillingly, and imperfectly, and not with a pure intention, I cannot expect such a reward; though still a dispensing of it is entrusted to me; that is, it is always my duty to preach. Others, by willingly, understand the doing of it in so perfect a manner, as not to receive any thing, and unwillingly, when they would scarce do it, at least so zealously, unless they received what would maintain them. (Witham)

Ver. 5. It appears certain, from the testimony of the fathers, that St. Paul was not in the state of wedlock. St. Jerome informs us that the apostle is here speaking of such holy women who, according to the Jewish custom, supplied their teachers with the necessaries of life, as we see was done to Christ himself. It is evident from ancient records that this was a very prevalent custom in Judea, and therefore a cause of no scandal; but to the Gentiles this custom was unknown, and therefore lest it might prove a cause of scandal to any, St. Paul did not allow any woman to follow him as a companion. Tertullian denies, with St. Augustine and St. Jerome, that St. Paul is here speaking of his wife. (Estius; Calmet) — A woman, a sister.[2] Some erroneous translators have corrupted this text, by rendering it, a sister, a wife; whereas it is certain, St. Paul had no wife, (chap. vii. ver. 7. 8.) and that he only speaks of such devout women, as according to the custom of the Jewish nation, waited upon the preachers of the gospel, and supplied them with necessaries. (Challoner) — And to what end could he talk of burthening the Corinthians with providing for his wife, when he himself clearly affirmeth that he was single? (Chap. vii. v. 7. and 8.) This all the Greek fathers affirm, with St. Augustine, do op. Monach. chap. iv.; St. Jerome, adv. Jovin. chap. xiv. &c. &c. [Also see annotations on ver. 25, below]

Ver. 11. Is it a great matter? The apostle is here speaking of what he had given to the Corinthians, and what he had received from them; and this he does under the comparison of the sower and the reaper. Can any of you think it hard that we receive some part of your temporal goods, when we have bestowed upon you spiritual: nevertheless, we have not used this power, but we bear all things, &c. (ver. 12.) (Estius)

Ver. 16. It is no glory. That is, I have nothing to glory of. (Challoner) — If I preach the gospel through compulsion, fear, or mere necessity, having no other means of maintenance, I must not look for a reward in heaven; but now doing it through charity and freely, I shall have my reward from God; and the more abundant the charity, the greater the reward. (St. Augustine, de Op. Mor. i. 5.)

Ver. 17. But if against my will. That is, if I do not do it with alacrity and zeal, but instigated by the sole motive of punishment, woe unto me, as he says in the preceding verse, if I am instigated by this motive alone; still the dispensation of the gospel is entrusted to me, and I must comply with that obligation, either with the zeal and alacrity of a son, or for fear of punishment, as a slave. (Estius)

Ver. 19. Free as to all. That is, whereas I was under no obligation to any man, yet I made myself the servant of all, &c. (Calmet)

Ver. 20. I became to the Jews as a Jew. That is, upon occasions, not to hinder their conversion, I practised the ceremonies of their law; though I am not under their law, which is no longer obligatory, but only under the new law of Christ. (Witham)

Ver. 21. To them that were without the law. That is, to the Gentiles, who never were under the law of Moses. (Witham)

Ver. 23. How convincing is this and many similar texts against those who deny the merit of good works, and who would not have men to act with a view to any recompense, though rewards and recompenses are very frequently mentioned in holy writ. (Haydock)

Ver. 24. Know you not? Nothing is more famous in the annals of history than the public games in Greece: it is to these the apostle is here alluding. (Calmet) — All run indeed, &c. He brings the examples of runners and wrestlers for a prize in the Grecian games, where only one could gain the prize. It is true in our case many obtain the crown for which we strive, but every one is in danger of losing it, and so must use all his endeavours to obtain it. (Witham)

Ver. 25. He refraineth himself, &c. Curbs his inclinations, abstains from debauchery, or any thing that may weaken him, or hinder him from gaining this corruptible crown, how much more ought we to practise self-denials for an eternal crown?

In the fifth verse, where we translate, a woman, a sister, or a sister, a woman: the Protestant translation has a sister, a wife. We have reason to reject this translation, since it is evident by this epistle, that St. Paul at least then had not a wife, chap. vii. ver. 7. 8. And the ancient interpreters expressly examined and rejected this translation. See St. Jerome against Jovian. lib. i. tom. 4. part 2. p. 167. edit. Ben.; St. Augustine, lib. de opere Monach. tom. vi. chap. 4. p. 478. Nov. edit. The Greek word, as every one knows, signifies either a woman or a wife. Nor doth any thing here determine it to signify a wife. He speaks of a woman, or of women that were sisters, that is, Christians; so that a sister expounds what kind of woman it was. Dr. Hammond puts in the margin a sister-woman, as it were to correct the Protestant translation. (Witham)

Ver. 27. I chastise, &c. Here St. Paul shews the necessity of self-denial and mortification to subdue the flesh, and its inordinate desires. (Challoner) — Not even the labours of an apostle are exemptions from voluntary mortification and penance.


[1] Ver. 1. St. Chrysostom, om kb, p. 382. meta sphodrotatos arneitai.

[2] Ver. 5. Mulierem sororem, adelphen gunaika. Sororem mulierem, where Estius brings examples to shew that it is the same sense and construction, whether we read mulierem sororem, or sororem mulierem. Tertullian, the most ancient of the Latin fathers, read: mulieres circumducendi, not uxores. De pudicitia, chap. xiv. p. 566. Ed. Rig. and lib. de monogam. chap. viii. p. 519. he first says, Petrum solum invenio maritum. And on this place, non uxores demonstrat ab Apostolis circumductas….sed simpliciter mulieres, quæ, illos eodem instituto, quo et Dominum comitantes, ministrabant. St. Jerome, Ubi de mulieribus sororibus infertur, perspicuum est, non uxores debere intelligi, sed eas, ut diximus, quæ de suâ substantiâ ministrabant. St. Augustine, Hoc quidam non intelligentes, non sororem mulierem, sed uxorem interpretati sunt, fefellit illos verbi græci ambiguitas….quanquam hoc ita posuerit, ut falli non debuerint, quia nequè mulierem tantummodo ait, sed sororem mulierem, neque ducendi, sed circumducendi: verum alios Interpretes non fefellit hæc ambiguitas, et mulierem, non uxorem interpretati sunt.

Bible Text & Cross-references:

The apostle did not make use of his power, of being maintained at the charges of those to whom he preached, that he might give no hindrance to the gospel. Of running in the race, and striving for the mastery.

1 Am not I free? Am not I an apostle? Have not I seen Christ Jesus, our Lord? Are not you my work in the Lord?

2 And if I be not an apostle to others, but yet to you I am. For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

3 My defence with them that examine me is this.

4 Have we not power to eat and to drink?

5 Have we not power to bring about a woman, a sister, as well as the rest of the apostles, and the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?

6 Or I only and Barnabas, have we not power to do this?

7 Who serveth as a soldier at any time, at his own charges? Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? Who feedeth the flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?

8 Speak I these things according to man? Or doth not the law also say these things?

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 doth he say this indeed for our sakes? For these things are written for our sakes: that he that ploweth should plow in hope: and he that thresheth, in hope to receive fruit.

11 *If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great matter if we reap your carnal things?

12 If others be partakers of this power over you: why not we rather? Nevertheless, we have not used this power: but we bear all things, lest we should give any hindrance to the gospel of Christ.

13 *Know you not, that they who work in the holy place, eat the things that are of the holy place: and they who serve the altar, partake with the altar?

14 So also the Lord ordained, that they who preach the gospel, should live by the gospel.

15 But I have used none of these things. Neither have I written these things, that they should be so done to me: for it is good for me to die, rather than that any one should make void my glory.

16 For if I preach the gospel, it is no glory to me: for a necessity lieth upon me: for wo 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 is committed to me.

18 What is my reward then? That preaching the gospel, I may deliver the gospel without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.

19 For whereas I was free as to all, I made myself the servant of all: that I might gain the more.

20 And I became to the Jews as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews.

21 To them that are under the law, as if I were under the law, (whereas I myself was not under the law) that I might gain them that were under the law. To them that were without the law, as if I were without the law, (whereas I was not without the law of God, but was in the law of Christ) that I might gain them that were 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 And I do all things for the gospel’s sake: that I may be made partaker thereof.

24 Know you not that they who run in the race, all run indeed, but one receiveth the prize? So run that you may obtain.

25 And every one that striveth for the mastery refraineth himself from all things: and they indeed that they may receive a corruptible crown: but we an incorruptible one.

26 I, therefore, so run, not as at an uncertainty: I so fight, not as one beating the air:

27 But I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection: lest, perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become reprobate.



9: Deuteronomy xxv. 4.; 1 Timothy v. 18.

11: Romans xv. 27.

13: Deuteronomy xviii. 1.