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1 Corinthians 9





This chapter can be divided into perhaps three sections.  The first one has to do with Paul’s authority.  The second one has to do with the church’s responsibility.  The third one has to do with Paul’s view of ministry/mission.

From our view it undoubtedly seems more than a bit ludicrous to question Paul’s bonafides when it comes to whether or not he was an apostle.  On the other hand, with all the other problems they were having in the Corinthian church, it shouldn’t surprise us that there were some folks back then who didn’t have the same opinion of Paul as we do. 

Paul defends his apostleship as the chapter opens.  His first defense is that he had seen the risen Lord.  His second defense is the fact that the Corinthian church was in existence is evidence of his mission/church planting efforts as an apostle. 

From there Paul moves into another area of conflict and disagreement.  Before I go further with this, please understand that this next topic is somewhat uncomfortable for me.  But it is nevertheless addressed in Scripture and in this chapter.  Paul takes on the issue of the church’s responsibility for remuneration for his ministry efforts.  In other words, Paul takes on the issue of the church’s responsibility to pay him. 

Paul actually attacks this issue from three different directions.  One is a cultural proof in that soldiers get paid and those who plant vineyards get to eat the fruit as well as those who raise sheep get to drink the milk.  In other words, people who work get to enjoy some of the fruit of their labor.  The second one is a Scriptural proof.  He goes back to the Law of Moses and talks about the fact that oxen are allowed to eat grain as they turn the gristmill.  The third one is a practical proof.  Paul reminds the folks that the men called to work at the Temple were taken care of through the gifts that were brought to the Temple. 

One of the things we can glean from this is churches have a responsibility to provide support to the pastors who care for them.   

From there Paul goes on to talk about his efforts in ministry/mission.  Beginning in verse 19, he says he is willing to be whatever he needed to be to win people to Christ.  This does not make him a charlatan or a hypocrite.  It simply means that Paul would not let his preferences get in the way of witnessing to people.  Without slipping into sin, Paul was willing to take on the lifestyle of those around him to earn the right to share the gospel with them.  He simply was not willing to allow anything, short of sin, to prohibit him from talking to others about Jesus.

Paul ends the chapter with some rather famous words.  He is talking about the Isthmian Games which were similar to our Olympics.  He reminds us that athletes always change their lifestyles in order to compete in athletic contests.  Runners can’t eat a diet of double cheeseburgers and expect to win a race.  So, should we all be willing to make sacrifices in our own lifestyles to enhance our opportunities to reach others with the Gospel. 

People that run, run with a purpose.  That purpose is to win.  People who box, box with focus.  Swinging wildly and not connecting with the opponent is no way to win a box match. 

Paul ends with a statement about living right and competing well so he is not disqualified.  This does not mean he was concerned about losing his salvation.  He couldn’t.  We can’t.  In the context of the example, he will always be on the team.  But if he doesn’t compete well, he could be sidelined from the game.  He didn’t want that to happen.  Neither should we.

Posted by Joe Ligon with