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1 Corinthians 9 New Testament for Everyone (NTE)

The ‘Rights’ of an Apostle

I’m a free man, aren’t I? I’m an apostle, aren’t I? I’ve seen Jesus our Lord, haven’t I? You are my work in the Lord, aren’t you? I may not be an apostle to other people, but I certainly am to you; in fact, you are the authorized stamp of my apostleship in the Lord.

This is the defence I make to anyone who wants to bring a charge against me. Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Do we not have the right to take a Christian wife with us on our travels, as the other apostles do, as the Lord’s brothers do, as Cephas does? Or are Barnabas and I the only ones who don’t have the right to be set free from the need to work? Who serves in the army at their own expense? Who plants a vineyard and doesn’t eat its fruit? Who looks after animals and doesn’t drink the milk?

I’m not just using human illustrations to make the point; the law says the same thing, doesn’t it? This is what is written in Moses’s law: ‘You must not muzzle a threshing ox.’ God isn’t concerned for oxen, is he? 10 Doesn’t it refer completely to us? Yes, it does – because it’s written that the one who ploughs should do so in hope of the produce, and the thresher should thresh in hope of a share in the crop. 11 So if we have sown spiritual things among you, is it such a big thing that we should reap worldly things? 12 If others have that kind of right over you, don’t we have it even more?

Giving Up Rights for the Gospel

But we haven’t made use of this right. Instead, we put up with everything, so as to place no obstacle in the way of the Messiah’s gospel.

13 Don’t you know that those who work in the Temple eat the Temple food, and those who serve at the altar share in the food from the altar? 14 In the same way the Lord has laid it down that those who announce the gospel should get their living from the gospel.

15 But I haven’t made use of any of this. I’m not writing this in order to make it happen like this for me. It would be better for me to die than . . . Nobody’s going to deprive me of my boast! 16 If I announce the gospel, you see, that’s no reason for me to be proud. I’m under compulsion! Woe betide me if I don’t announce the gospel! 17 If I do it willingly, I have a reward; if I do it unwillingly – well, this is the commission that’s been entrusted to me! 18 So what is my reward? Just this: that when I announce the gospel I should give it away free of charge; that I shouldn’t make use of my rights in the gospel.

The Apostle’s Freedom – to be Enslaved to Everyone

19 The reason for all this is as follows. I am indeed free from everyone; but I have enslaved myself to everyone, so that I can win all the more. 20 I became like a Jew to the Jews, to win Jews. I became like someone under the law to the people who are under the law, even though I’m not myself under the law, so that I could win those under the law. 21 To the lawless I became like someone lawless (even though I’m not lawless before God, but under the Messiah’s law), so that I could win the lawless. 22 I became weak to the weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that in all ways I might save some. 23 I do it all because of the gospel, so that I can be a partner in its benefits.

The Christian Athlete

24 Don’t you know that when people run on the race-track everybody runs, but only one person gets the prize? Run in such a way that you’ll win it. 25 Everyone who goes in for athletics exercises self-discipline in everything. They do it to gain a crown that perishes; we do it for an imperishable one. 26 Well then: I don’t run in an aimless fashion! I don’t box like someone punching the air! 27 No: I give my body rough treatment, and make it my slave, in case, after announcing the message to others, I myself should end up being disqualified.

New Testament for Everyone (NTE)

Scripture quotations from The New Testament for Everyone are copyright © Nicholas Thomas Wright 2011.

1 Corinthians 9 New International Version (NIV)

Paul’s Rights as an Apostle

Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. Don’t we have the right to food and drink? Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas[a]? Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?

Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”[b] Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10 Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?

But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.

13 Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? 14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

15 But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast. 16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. 18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.

Paul’s Use of His Freedom

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

The Need for Self-Discipline

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Footnotes:

  1. 1 Corinthians 9:5 That is, Peter
  2. 1 Corinthians 9:9 Deut. 25:4
New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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