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Paul’s Use of Liberty

Am I not free [unrestrained and exempt from any obligation]? Am I not an apostle? Have I not [a]seen Jesus our [risen] Lord [in person]? Are you not [the result and proof of] my work in the Lord? If I am not [considered] an apostle to others, at least I am one to you; for you are the seal and the certificate and the living evidence of my apostleship in the Lord [confirming and authenticating it].

This is my defense to those who would put me on trial and interrogate me [concerning my authority as an apostle]: Have we not the right to our food and drink [at the expense of the churches]? Have we not the right to take along with us a believing wife, as do the rest of the apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas (Peter)? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to stop doing manual labor [in order to support our ministry]? [Consider this:] Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock?

Do I say these things only from a man’s perspective? Does the Law not endorse the same principles? For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain [to keep it from eating the grain].” Is it [only] for oxen that God cares?(A) 10 Or does He speak entirely for our sake? Yes, it was written for our sake: The plowman ought to plow [b]in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the harvest. 11 If we have sown [the good seed of] spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share in this rightful claim over you, do not we even more? However, we did not exercise this right, but we put up with everything so that we will not hinder [the spread of] the good news of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who officiate in the sacred services of the temple eat from the temple [offerings of meat and bread] and those who regularly attend the altar have their share from the [offerings brought to the] altar?(B) 14 So also [on the same principle] the Lord directed those who preach the gospel to get their living from the gospel.

15 But I have used none of these privileges, nor am I writing this [to suggest] that any such provision be made for me now. For it would be better for me to die than to have anyone deprive me of my [c]boast [in this matter of financial support]. 16 For if I [merely] preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast about, for I am compelled [that is, absolutely obligated to do it]. Woe to me if I do not preach the good news [of salvation]! 17 For if I do this work [d]of my own free will, then I have a reward; but if it is not of my will [but by God’s choosing], I have been entrusted with a [sacred] stewardship. 18 What then is my reward? [Just this:] that, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge [to everyone], so as not to take advantage of my rights [as a preacher and apostle] in [preaching] the gospel.

19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to everyone, so that I may win more [for Christ]. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews [for Christ]; to men under the Law, [I became] as one [e]under the Law, though not being under the Law myself, so that I might win those who are under the Law. 21 To those who are without (outside) the Law, [I became] as one without the Law, though [I am] not without the law of God, but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. 22 To the [f]weak I became [as the] weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means [in any and every way] save some [by leading them to faith in Jesus Christ]. 23 And I do all this for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings along with you.

24 [g]Do you not know that in a race all the runners run [their very best to win], but only one receives the prize? Run [your race] in such a way that you may seize the prize and make it yours! 25 Now every athlete who [goes into training and] competes in the games is disciplined and exercises self-control in all things. They do it to win a [h]crown that withers, but we [do it to receive] an imperishable [crown that cannot wither]. 26 Therefore I do not run without a definite goal; I do not flail around like one beating the air [just shadow boxing]. 27 But [like a boxer] I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached [the gospel] to others, I myself will not somehow be disqualified [as unfit for service].

Avoid Israel’s Mistakes

10 For I do not want you to be unaware, believers, that our fathers were all under the cloud [in which God’s presence went before them] and they all passed [miraculously and safely] through the [Red] Sea;(C) And all [of them] were baptized into Moses [into his safekeeping as their leader] in the cloud and in the sea; and all [of them] ate the same [i]spiritual food;(D) and all [of them] drank the same [j]spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.(E) Nevertheless, God was not well-pleased with [k]most of them, for they were scattered along the ground in the wilderness [because their lack of self-control led to disobedience which led to death].(F)

Now these things [the warnings and admonitions] took place as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did.(G) Do not be worshipers of handmade gods, as some of them were; just as it is written [in Scripture], “The people sat down to eat and drink [after sacrificing to the [l]golden calf at Horeb], and stood up to play [indulging in immoral activities].”(H) We must not indulge in [nor tolerate] sexual immorality, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand [suddenly] fell [dead] in a single day!(I) We must not tempt the Lord [that is, test His patience, question His purpose or exploit His goodness], as some of them did—and they were killed by serpents.(J) 10 And do not murmur [in unwarranted discontent], as some of them did—and were destroyed by the [m]destroyer.(K) 11 Now these things happened to them as an example and warning [to us]; they were written for our instruction [to admonish and equip us], upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 Therefore let the one who thinks he stands firm [immune to temptation, being overconfident and self-righteous], take care that he does not fall [into sin and condemnation]. 13 No temptation [regardless of its source] has overtaken or enticed you that is not common to human experience [nor is any temptation unusual or beyond human resistance]; but God is faithful [to His word—He is compassionate and trustworthy], and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability [to resist], but along with the temptation He [has in the past and is now and] will [always] provide the way out as well, so that you will be able to endure it [without yielding, and will overcome temptation with joy].

14 Therefore, my beloved, run [keep far, far away] from [any sort of] idolatry [and that includes loving anything more than God, or participating in anything that leads to sin and enslaves the soul]. 15 I am speaking as to wise and sensible people; judge [carefully and thoughtfully consider] for yourselves what I say. 16 Is the cup of blessing which we bless [at the Lord’s Supper] not a sharing in the blood of Christ? [Indeed it is.] Is the bread which we break not a sharing in the body of Christ? [Indeed it is.] 17 Since there is one bread, we [believers] who are many are [united into] one body; for we all partake of the one bread [which represents the body of Christ]. 18 Consider the people of Israel; are those who eat the sacrifices not partners of the altar [united in their worship of the same God]? [Indeed they are.](L) 19 What do I mean then? That a thing offered to idols is anything [special or changed simply because it is offered], or that an idol is anything? 20 On the contrary, the things which the Gentiles (pagans) sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons [in effect], and not to God; and I do not want you to become partners with demons [by eating at feasts in pagan temples].(M) 21 You cannot drink [both] the Lord’s cup and the cup of demons. You cannot share in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons [thereby becoming partners with them]. 22 Do we [really] provoke the Lord to jealousy [when we eat food sacrificed to handmade “gods” at pagan feasts]? Are we [spiritually] stronger than He? [Certainly not! He knows that the idols are nothing. But we deeply [n]offend Him.](N)

23 All things are lawful [that is, morally legitimate, permissible], but not all things are beneficial or advantageous. All things are lawful, but not all things are constructive [to character] and edifying [to spiritual life]. 24 Let no one seek [only] his own good, but [also] that of the other person. 25 [Regarding meat offered to idols:] Eat anything that is sold in the meat market without asking any questions for the sake of your conscience, 26 For the [whole] earth is the Lord’s, and everything that is in it.(O) 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you [to a meal at his home] and you want to go, eat whatever is served to you without asking questions [about its source] for the sake of your conscience. 28 But if anyone says to you, “This meat has been offered in sacrifice to an idol,” do not eat it, out of consideration for the one who told you, and for conscience’s sake— 29 and by conscience I mean for the sake of the other man’s, not yours. For [o]why is my freedom [of choice] judged by another’s conscience [another’s ethics—another’s sense of right and wrong]? 30 If I take my share [of food] with thankfulness, why am I accused because of something for which I give thanks?

31 So then, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of [our great] God. 32 Do not offend Jews or Greeks or even the church of God [but live to honor Him]; 33 just as I please everyone in all things [as much as possible adapting myself to the interests of others], not seeking my own benefit but that of the many, so that they [will be open to the message of salvation and] may be saved.

Christian Order

11 Imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.

I praise and appreciate you because you remember me in everything and you firmly hold to the [p]traditions [the substance of my instructions], just as I have passed them on to you. But I want you to understand that Christ is the head (authority over) of every man, and man is the head of woman, and God is the head of Christ. Every man who prays or [q]prophesies with something on his head dishonors his head [and the One who is his head]. And every woman who prays or prophesies when she has her [r]head uncovered disgraces her head; for she is one and the same as the [s]woman whose head is shaved [in disgrace]. If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and [t]if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, she should cover her head. A man ought not have his head covered [during worship], since he is the image and [reflected] glory of God; but the woman is [the expression of] man’s glory.(P) For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man;(Q) for indeed man was not created for the sake of woman, but woman for the sake of man.(R) 10 Therefore the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head, [u]for the sake of the angels [so as not to offend them]. 11 Nevertheless, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as the woman originates from the man, so also man is born through the woman; and all things [whether male or female] originate from God [as their Creator]. 13 [v]Judge for yourselves; is it proper for a woman to offer prayer to God [publicly] with her head uncovered? 14 Does not common sense itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her ornament and glory? For her long hair is given to her as a covering. 16 Now if anyone is inclined to be contentious [about this], we have no other practice [in worship than this], nor do the churches of God [in general].

17 But in giving this next instruction, I do not praise you, because when you meet together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you meet together in church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and in part I believe it, 19 for [doubtless] there have to be factions among you, so that those who are of approved character may be clearly recognized among you. 20 So when you meet together, it is not to eat the [w]Lord’s Supper, 21 for when you eat, each one hurries to get his own supper first [not waiting for others or the poor]. So one goes hungry while another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those [impoverished believers] who have nothing? What will I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? In this I will not praise you!

The Lord’s Supper

23 [x]For I received from the Lord Himself that [instruction] which I passed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is (represents) My body, which is [offered as a sacrifice] for you. Do this in [affectionate] remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant [ratified and established] in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in [affectionate] remembrance of Me.” 26 For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are [symbolically] proclaiming [the fact of] the Lord’s death until He comes [again].

27 So then whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in a way that is unworthy [of Him] will be guilty of [profaning and sinning against] the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But a person must [prayerfully] examine himself [and his relationship to Christ], and only when he has done so should he eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks [without solemn reverence and heartfelt gratitude for the sacrifice of Christ], eats and drinks a judgment on himself if he does not [y]recognize the body [of Christ]. 30 That [careless and unworthy participation] is the reason why many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep [in death]. 31 But if we evaluated and judged ourselves honestly [recognizing our shortcomings and correcting our behavior], we would not be judged. 32 But when we [fall short and] are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined [by undergoing His correction] so that we will not be condemned [to eternal punishment] along with the world.

33 So then, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat [the Lord’s Supper], wait for one another [and see to it that no one is left out]. 34 If anyone is too hungry [to wait], let him eat at home, so that you will not come together for judgment [on yourselves]. About the remaining matters [of which I was informed], I will take care of them when I come.


  1. 1 Corinthians 9:1 Paul knew that to be an apostle in the same sense as the original twelve apostles (with Matthias replacing Judas Iscariot, Acts 1:26), he had to be an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:22). His encounter with Christ on his journey to Damascus met this requirement (Acts 9:2-8, 27; 22:6-21; 26:12-18).
  2. 1 Corinthians 9:10 In the NT the word “hope” expresses a cherished desire along with the confident assurance of obtaining that which is longed for.
  3. 1 Corinthians 9:15 Paul was not bragging, but rejoicing because he could support himself as a tradesman while he ministered.
  4. 1 Corinthians 9:17 Paul did not seek his call to minister, he was chosen by a sovereign act of God.
  5. 1 Corinthians 9:20 Cf Acts 21:20-26.
  6. 1 Corinthians 9:22 Paul may be talking about those with spiritually immature consciences regarding questionable issues (see ch 8). If so, he means that he abstained from any practice which he knew was actually acceptable for him, but capable of posing a bad example for others who were less mature spiritually.
  7. 1 Corinthians 9:24 The Isthmian Games, held near Corinth, were among the major athletic competitions of ancient Greece. The Corinthians’ familiarity with this sporting event would have made this passage (vv 24-27) very meaningful to them.
  8. 1 Corinthians 9:25 Lit perishable crown, usually a woven wreath of pine worn as a crown.
  9. 1 Corinthians 10:3 I.e. divinely provided manna.
  10. 1 Corinthians 10:4 I.e. divinely provided water from a rock.
  11. 1 Corinthians 10:5 Of all those adult Israelites who had been in bondage in Egypt, only Joshua and Caleb (along with those born in the wilderness) were allowed to enter the promised land.
  12. 1 Corinthians 10:7 The selection of a calf-god was probably inspired by the Egyptian bull-god Apis (Hapis), believed to be a living manifestation of the Egyptian god Ptah.
  13. 1 Corinthians 10:10 Perhaps a reference to the angel of destruction whom the rabbis called Mashhith.
  14. 1 Corinthians 10:22 The offense consists of becoming “partners with demons” (v 20) merely to enjoy the pagan meal as an exercise of the believer’s liberty.
  15. 1 Corinthians 10:29 Or to what end, i.e. what good can come of it?
  16. 1 Corinthians 11:2 The following discourse covers appropriate conduct and relationships within the church, as well as within church-related activities.
  17. 1 Corinthians 11:4 The references to men or women prophesying (here and v 5) indicate that Paul has church meetings in mind, where the speaker is leading the congregation in prayer or addressing them.
  18. 1 Corinthians 11:5 In public, respectable women wore their hair done up in a modest style. In the Greco-Roman-Jewish culture of the time, hair worn down and loose would suggest a woman of questionable morals.
  19. 1 Corinthians 11:5 Possibly the mark of an adulteress or prostitute, but likely a sign of disgrace for any number of reasons. In one of Aristophanes’ comedies, for example, head shaving is recommended for a woman whose son is cowardly or otherwise worthless.
  20. 1 Corinthians 11:6 There is little doubt that this would appear disgraceful and embarrassing, but Paul is essentially providing his readers a simple way to determine for themselves if a woman should cover her head while prophesying or leading prayer in church.
  21. 1 Corinthians 11:10 This may be an indication that angels are present at gatherings of believers.
  22. 1 Corinthians 11:13 This verse acknowledges custom as another, separate argument for a woman’s head covering (v 5).
  23. 1 Corinthians 11:20 When Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper (or the Lord’s Table), it was the Passover meal with the special rituals and explanations that He introduced (Matt 26:26 ff; Luke 22:15 ff). The description given here indicates that the early church celebrated the Lord’s Supper in similar fashion by having a full meal (the so-called agape “love” feast) that included the special rites with the bread and wine (see v 21).
  24. 1 Corinthians 11:23 Many scholars believe this may be the first written description of the Lord’s Supper since this letter from Paul is dated earlier than any of the Gospels.
  25. 1 Corinthians 11:29 I.e. respect Christ’s sacrifice and his fellow believers for whom Christ also died.

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