I CORINTHIANS

Chapter 9

This chapter illustrates what a true, spiritual minister of God is like, with Paul as the main example. As Chapter 8 presents the wrong attitude of a man who calls himself a steward of the Gospel, Chapter 9 presents the right attitude.

Verse 1, "Am I not an apostle?"

That is, doesn't Paul have special authority? The answer is "Yes, by all means."

"am I not free?"

Free from what? He is free from judgment, condemnation, and wrath in hell because he is saved. He is free from the requirement and burden to obey God in order to please Him (Gal. 5:1). He is free from the power of sin (John 8:36; Rom. 6:18). He is free from a twisted conscience, misshapen by his unbelieving past (either Jewish taboos or secular habits). He is free from the obligation to care for a wife and family.

"Have I not seen...Lord?"

This is part of his distinct mark as an apostle. An apostle had to have seen Jesus Christ as Lord risen from the dead (Acts 1:20-22). In addition to the authority of his office, Paul can claim that he had a special experience that was unique among the Corinthian believers.

The appeal Paul is making is from the greater to the lesser. He is saying, "I have privileges because of my office and experiences, but I do not use them for my own personal benefit. So why do you use your privileges selfishly?" The logic is the same as in II Corinthians 10:12; 11:12-12:7. He uses the idea, "I do not do this, so why do you?"

"Are not ye...Lord?"

Last but not least, Paul was special among the Corinthians. If he had a distinction among no one else, he had one among them. Paul was one of the first men who brought them God's Word (e.g. I Cor. 7:10). Many became Christians through his work (I Cor. 4:15). He could have his way in certain things because of what he had done for them. Yet he casts aside all personal advantages for spiritual reasons.

Verse 2, "If...to you"

In a special way they were a proof of Paul's apostleship. In what way?

"for the seal...ye in the Lord"

His seal or verification that he is an apostle is the fact that many are saved. The outward evidence of his apostleship is the outward evidence that they are in the Lord.

From Acts 18:8, we see that the Gospel was going to people who were Gentiles as well as Jews. Some of these people had never heard of the Gospel before. Paul was doing pioneering work. He was doing some of the primary evangelistic work commanded to the apostles (Matt. 28:16-20). Some of those Corinthians had heard the Word Paul gave when he first came. Because of their changed life, they were a display of the fact that Paul was bringing God's true Word on the authority of God. Something was clearly happening in their lives (II Cor. 3:2,3), and Christ used Paul, His apostle, as one of His instruments to bring it to pass. Therefore, those who were truly born again should honor him as one who brought the Word of God to which they owe the change in their lives.

Verse 3, "Mine answer"

Even though it is Paul who is answering some people in the Corinthian church who disputed his authority, what he wrote was God's Word. He wrote principles true for all times and for all men (I Cor. 14:37).

"them that do examine me"

Paul begins to answer a challenge to his ministry which was hinted at in I Corinthians 4:3. Some in the congregation doubted if he was an apostle. Their argument, which we will discuss in Chapter 9, was that Paul was not an apostle because he did not take any privilege to show it. They said, "He does not really deserve the privilege because he is not an apostle." The answer of this chapter is this, "I chose not to take the privilege for spiritual reasons." If they cared to, these doubters could have recognized the fact that many in the church were living in the Lord because of Paul's work among them. That was plenty of testimony to his apostleship.

Conversely, we should note this warning. Beware of a leader who presses for the privileges he feels he has coming to him. Beware of a man who heavily wields his authority and emphasizes the esteem of his office. Such a man is not a faithful, spiritual minister of God.

Verse 4, "Have we not power"

As in verse 5 and 6, the word "power" means "authority" or "right."

"to eat and to drink?"

The answer is, "Yes, we as apostles do have that authority. But we do not eat or drink whatever we want, even though as an a apostle we have more authority than any man!" Why didn't he take his privileges? The answer is in Romans 14:13,17,21 and I Corinthians 8:8,13. The point is that he has taken his own advice, but they called him weak for doing that. In fact, the advice he gave was the Word of God, and his action showed him to be an obedient and faithful minister.

Verse 5,

The answer to the question in this verse is, "Yes, I have the authority to do these things." However, a faithful man does only what is in God's will for each situation. Marriage, or the authority to lead about a "sister, a wife" (that is, a wife must always be a "sister," someone who shows evidence of being a Christian), is a gift of God (I Cor. 7:7). Paul's bachelorhood is not a reflection of some personal problem in his life that has disqualified him from marriage. It is a reflection of his desire to do God's will.

"Cephas"

This is the apostle Peter. This verse is another piece of evidence that he was married (Matt. 8:14; Mark 1:30; John 1:42).

Verse 6,

This verse provides another example of Paul's reticence to take advantage of his privileges.

"to forbear working?"

The idea is Paul and Barnabas had the privilege to not work for a living when they were bringing the Gospel as ministers of God. Paul had the authority to expect support, as a minister of the Word, from the Corinthians. Because of the critical attitude of some (verse 3), he did not take material help from them. Paul received help only from the Philippian church (Phil. 4:14-19). A similar situation occurred in Thessalonica (II Thess. 3:8-12). That is why he wrote II Corinthians 11:8,9. Why did Paul deny the Corinthians the privilege of giving to himself? Was it because he did not love them that he did not want their support (II Cor. 11:11)? No, he refused their material help to stop the mouth of false prophets (II Cor. 11:12,13). All he ever did was based on his spiritual concern for the Corinthians (II Cor. 12:12-15). He cared for them as a father (I Cor. 4:15). Paul knew some would cast doubts upon his ministry if he took what was due him. He went the extra mile and suffered material loss. This resulted in:

1. A personal illustration of those things he was trying to teach them. He said they should suffer loss because the spiritual blessings were more important than material things (6:7), and he demonstrated that attitude in his own life.

2. A testimony to his liberty to not exercise his rights. He demonstrated his maturity in Christ (6:12). He was not a slave to his carnal desires. His spiritual part reigned over his material part.

3. A display of his concern for others. He was careful to calculate what impact his actions had on the congregation. He always had an evangelistic love for them (I Cor. 9:22; I Thess. 2:9).

Verse 7, "Who...? Who...? or who...?"

The answer to all of these questions is the same, "No one."

The appeal in this verse is from the experience and common sense of men. The idea is that even if we examine the physical world, we learn that anyone who offers a service deserves some support in order to continue to serve.

Although each example in verse 7 is drawn from the easily recognizable experiences of men, all three have clear Gospel implications and bring us back to the point that ministers of the Gospel also ought to have compensation.

The example of warfare has a corresponding evangelistic counterpart (II Cor. 10:3-5; Eph. 6:12-18; II Tim. 2:3,4). Similarly, there is a Gospel equivalent to planting (I Cor. 3:6-8), as well as to feeding or being a shepherd of a flock (John 21:16; Acts 20:28; I Pet. 5:2; Rev. 7:17). The point of this verse, expressed in verse 14, is that those who bring the Gospel should be helped materially by those who receive blessings of the Gospel.

Verse 8, "Say I...as a man?"

The intent of the question can be expressed as, "Am I defending my position only by human experience and logic? Do I have a weak and perhaps faulty argument?"

"Or saith...also?"

The logic of the verse can be stated as, "What I have said has been made from a human point of view. But what I have said is also supported by the Word of God."

The word "also" implies that these two particular views, one of "man" and the other of "law," are not pitted against each other. Rather, what the law says is identical to the conclusion we draw from our honest and accurate observations of the world.

Verse 9

This verse tells us what "the law saith." It is a quote of Deuteronomy 25:4. The ox which trod on top of the wheat or corn in order to help separate the grains from the stalks was permitted to eat what it could as it walked along.

"Doth God take care for oxen?"

It is true that God has a concern for his creation (Ps. 104). But the implication of the question, together with the next phrase in verse 10, leads us to conclude that the answer to the question is "No." God's primary concern is not for oxen but for His people. Verse 10 is, in a way, an interpretation of the quote in verse 9.

An interesting additional thought is that Deuteronomy 25:4 and all Old Testament verses have a wider Gospel meaning and are not just limited to a ceremonial or historical application. In this case, when God uses the word "ox," He is thinking of us who are saved and who bring the Gospel. When we think about it, that image is quite appropriate. Christ was the ox that was sacrificed. We identify with Him as an ox too because He died in our stead (I Pet. 2:24) and because He is the one who is beseeching the world in us (II Cor. 5:20).

There is one other way of looking at this verse. The answer to the question could be "Yes, God does take care of oxen" (Ps. 145:9; Prov. 12:10). In that case, the idea of the verse would be, "At the very least the oxen are taken care of, so why shouldn't the Corinthians take care of ministers of the Gospel who are more valuable than oxen?"

Verse 10, "...in hope should be partaker of his hope"

Partaking of what hope? Verse 12 tells us Paul and his fellow missionaries brought the Gospel and could hope to partake of some privilege over them. What privilege? Privilege to claim some carnal support for their spiritual efforts (verse 13).

Verse 11, "If we have sown unto you spiritual things..."

This phrase can be thought of as saying, "If it is true that Paul and other ministers have brought the Gospel, a spiritual message, to them..."

"is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?"

The answer to this question is, "No. It is not a great thing at all. It is a small thing to get carnal things in return. It is a small charge for such a great service." Implied in Paul's defense is the idea presented also in I Corinthians 6:2-4. There we learn that things of this life, carnal things, are the smallest matters compared to the spiritual things.

Essentially, the Corinthians owe him a debt. Although he has not and does not intend to collect that debt, Paul wants them to realize that they have an obligation.

A positive example of this verse is Romans 15:25-27. The churches of Macedonia and Achaia cheerfully gave to supply the carnal needs of churches which had sent out missionaries to bring spiritual things to them. Notice that material support which the church provided as one of its official functions was properly confined to members of the church (Gal. 6:10). It is not the obligation or mandate of the church to provide help for the material needs of the world.

Verse 12, "If others...we rather?"

The answer is, "Yes, we are." No matter what authority (the word "power" in this phrase and the next is "authority") any other people may claim, Paul and his helpers have the best claim. Paul and his helpers have greater authority than anyone else to expect some material remuneration from them.

"Nevertheless we have not used this power (authority)"

Paul deliberately decided not to take any material support from them. It was not because he did not have the authority. He was an apostle and could expect something on that basis. In addition, he had brought them the Gospel and could expect something as part of their free will offering of gratitude to the Lord. Paul was not revealing a weakness when he did not seek material aid. Rather, it revealed that he was spiritually strong and in control of the situation. Paul had good spiritual motives for his decision.

"but suffer all things, lest...Christ"

Paul was willing to suffer the loss of material help because he had reason to believe if he accepted such help, his action would hinder the work of the Gospel in the Corinthian church.

Some took his action as evidence that he had no right to demand support. They were implying that he really did not do anything to deserve help. They were really implying that he had no apostolic authority, so that his message was not to be trusted and that they did not have to obey him. The irony is that his refusal of support proved just the opposite. Paul was setting an example that would silence anyone who accused him of acquiring some personal gain out of the Gospel. It was common knowledge that the attendants of the idol temples in Corinth were quite mercenary. Some of Paul's detractors tried to accuse him of the same mentality. But Paul did not "use" the Gospel for that purpose. Besides, he had the Philippians' help, and he was a skilled tentmaker (Acts 18:3). So he was able to provide for his own material needs.

Verse 13

This verse is a repetition of the principle begun in verse 7. The illustration in this case is drawn from Leviticus 6:16, 26, etc. The priests who served in the tabernacle did not have an additional job in order to provide for their physical needs. Instead, they lived from the offerings which the people brought. Paul brought up this example for two reasons.

1. In verse 6 of this chapter, Paul mentioned that Barnabas also denied himself. Since Barnabas was a Levite (Acts 4:36), he is a good example of one who had every right to live off his spiritual service. Yet, Barnabas also denied himself for spiritual reasons.

2. These Old Testament laws were fulfilled when Christ came. What was once an Old Testament obligation is now a New Testament service of gratitude. All believers as priests (I Pet. 2:5,9) continue to bring the Gospel (Mal. 2:1-7) and make intercession for people to God (I Tim. 2:1). Although Paul was not a Levite, the principle in Leviticus 6 applies to him too. Therefore, all ministers of the Gospel can expect some help in return for the message they bring.

Verse 14

This verse is sort of a summary of the discussion of the chapter so far. It is God's will that those who faithfully teach the Word of God are supported physically by those who are taught (Gal. 6:6).

Isn't the ministry of bringing the Gospel the responsibility and privilege of all believers? Yes, it is. Well then, most believers have jobs in the marketplace. Why should missionaries and ministers be different? In some cases they do have jobs. Paul temporarily decided to have one for a certain reason. However, most times it is not very practical. Ministers who work in the Gospel all day long must not leave the Word to do other things if they want to do a good job. It is more efficient to follow the advice of this verse (Acts 6:2-7).

Also, we must remember that God Himself is the real bringer of the Gospel. When we give to those who bring the Gospel in his name, we are really giving to God. It is not that we should support the ministers because God cannot take care of His own servants. God is owner of all and really does not need our gift (Job 41:11 and Ps. 50:10-12). The point is that God expects a certain response of giving from the hearts of all those who call themselves Christians, based on the fact that they are His (I Cor. 3:23) and on the fact that they should bring a sacrifice of praise to him (Rom. 12:1,2).

Verse 15, "But...these things"

Again he repeats the point he has said so often, which is that he has not taken advantage of the privilege mentioned in verse 14.

"neither have I written...unto me"

The idea of this phrase can be worded as, "I am not writing to you so that you will hurry up and take a collection out of embarrassment." Paul does not want them to operate out of shame. In another letter he will give this church a long and careful discussion on giving to the Lord's work (II Cor. 8,9). The central idea of giving is wanting to give (II Cor. 9:7), based upon a love for God and his will.

"for it were better...my glorying void"

The phrase "my glorying" can be rendered, "the boast of me." Comparing this with I Corinthians 1:31, we see that Paul's boast is in the Christ of the Bible. That is the message of the Gospel, the only message he brought (I Cor. 2:2). The idea of the phrase is that if they were the only means to supply his physical needs, Paul would still be willing to go without, even to the point that he might die of want. Paul is willing to go to that drastic length if he had reason to believe that someone in that church might somehow use the fact that he gets help to discredit the message of the Gospel.

Verse 16, "For though I preach the Gospel..."

That is, even though Paul performs an important spiritual task...

"I have nothing to glory of"

... He does not have any reason to take credit.

The idea of the verse is that his important position as a minister of the Gospel is not a reflection of any personal abilities or efforts. The privilege he has of expecting some material help for his spiritual labor is commanded by the Word of God. The fact that he is in the position to be a minister and receive that help is not his doing. He did not seek the ministry in order that he could live off the labors of others. First of all, he is a minister because God planned it that way. Secondly, both God and Paul have the effect of the Gospel in mind. The material help is only incidental and a means to make sure the business of bringing the Gospel continues. Whether Paul gets material help or not is not essential. His preaching has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that he does or does not receive money. What is the necessary thing?

"for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel"

The necessary thing is Paul's obligation to bring the Gospel as a faithful steward, independent of anything else (Rom. 1:14,15). The same idea is expressed later in II Cor. 4:13 (see Ps. 116:10).

Once a person is saved, it is his natural response to bring the Gospel without ever mentioning his desire to receive material compensation. An interesting illustration of this principle is found in II Kings 7:3-11. The key verse is II Kings 7:9. How can anyone who has knowledge of where to find bread to sustain life refrain from telling those in need? In the spiritual application, such a selfish attitude could indicate that such a person really is not saved himself.

A minister must not only bring the Gospel, but also bring it faithfully. What he says must be true to God's Word. One way to effectively keep silent is to bring a gospel that is incomplete or false. In that regard, the 33rd chapter of Ezekiel is very important. The warning in I Corinthians 9:16, that begins with the word "woe" is not just that he must preach the Gospel, but he must be a faithful handler of the word he brings (I Cor. 4:2).

Verse 17

We can express the point of this verse in this way, "It may be that I am willing, or it may be that I am not. Yet, it really does not matter what my attitude is. I still must preach the Gospel faithfully!"

"For if...reward"

The idea here is that it may be that he has a willing heart to obey God. If that is so, it is an indication that he is saved and will receive the reward that God graciously gives to all His people, namely, eternal life.

"but if against my will a dispensation...unto me"

The word "dispensation" is oikonomian, or "the law of the house." The word "committed" can be translated "entrusted." (It is the word pepisteumai, a form of the word pistuo and is the common word for "belief" or "trust," I Cor. 1:21; 3:5.) The idea here is that it may be that he does not particularly desire to bring the Gospel. It does not matter. He is given the assignment of steward of the law of the house. The master expects him to administer the affairs of the house because that is the steward's job. Paul has to execute the law of the house. It is his job, a job that Almighty God has entrusted to his care.

The whole verse can be tied to the flow of logic in the previous verses in the following way. If Paul willingly preaches, refusing any material support, he still has a reward. He is saved and has a far greater eternal spiritual reward than anything this world can provide. If Paul is unwilling, because he may not be getting much material return out of it, he still has to do it because the job is his to do. He is not hired for pay nor does he have a contract as if he were offering his services like an independent businessman. He does it because it is given for him to do (Luke 17:10).

This verse is an expression of maturity. A mature Christian realizes the job must get done, so he goes ahead and does it, despite any physical difficulties or personal desires.

Paul is an example of a mature Christian. If it is difficult, Paul preaches anyway. If it is unpopular, Paul preaches anyway. If he would rather do something else, Paul preaches anyway.

Verse 18, "What is my reward then?"

The pronoun "what" is not demonstrative as if it is used to point out a reward. He is not saying, "Which one of the many choices of available rewards do I have?" Rather, the idea of the question is "what kind of reward is in view?" We can say for sure that the kind of reward in view is based neither on things material nor on things that support man's pride. The reward has two manifestations in this verse:

1. "Verily that when I preach...without charge" One reward is the freedom to refuse material help. He is not a slave to his material appetites, but treasures spiritual pay instead.

2. "That I...in the gospel" Another reward is the joy of not glorying in his own position of authority. He is not a slave to his own self esteem, but is free to glory in the Lord instead. (See I Pet. 5:2-6.)

Verse 19, "For though I be free from all"

This phrase recalls his similar statement in verse 1. Since Paul is an apostle with authority, and since he did not receive any compensation from them for any of the spiritual blessings he gave them, he has no obligation to anyone. Paul has no human constraints to what he does. He is free to be completely directed by the Lord.

"yet have I made...the more"

The word "more" refers to people who Paul hopes will be saved. Paul acted as a servant to supply another person's spiritual needs. He was always in control of the situation. Paul deliberately sought occasion to provide service to others in order to gain them for the kingdom of God (verse 22).

Verses 20-22

These verses list the occasions in which Paul accommodates himself to others for their spiritual benefit.

Paul is not advocating situational ethics, nor is he saying that we must mimic those to whom we are witnessing. Some life styles are sinful. We would not want to be part of the problem instead of offering a solution.

Paul was not trying to be all things to all men. Besides, trying to identify with every person we talk with is not only phoney, but a good way to go crazy.

The idea of these verses is that Paul was seeking a common point of contact. Paul was only emphasizing those parts of himself that honestly fit the situation. He was not affected, adding a personality trait that was not really his natural way. Rather, he was honestly identifying with those characteristics of the person to whom he ministered that were truly part of his background and personality, which would help him talk to and eventually bring the Gospel to him.

Let us look at some of these characteristics.

"Jew"

Paul was born a Jew. He did not need to pretend to be a Jew. Generally he did not talk about it, but it was a true claim. At times he emphasized it to gain an audience for the Gospel (Acts 21:39-22:3).

"Law"

This refers to the Old Testament laws. Paul knew that he was under no obligation to obey any laws to please God, certainly not the ceremonial laws. Yet, he was willing to follow other people's prohibitions if it furthered the Gospel in their lives (Rom. 14:21; I Cor. 8:13). Of course this is subject to the constraint that such behavior does not contradict the Gospel.

"without the law"

This means he also identified with Gentiles. Sometimes he lived as a Gentile would and never mentioned the fact that he was Jewish born. He had a Gentile feature to his life that he could emphasize if the occasion arose to do so. Paul was born a Roman citizen, and at times he focused upon that (Acts 22:25:28). Paul was not saying that he was hiding part of his life and telling only part of the story. Nor was he saying that he was an anarchist, if it was useful to be one. He was always under God's laws. He must always do God's will. The law of Christ, which is to love one another (Rom. 3:8-10), told him that for the spiritual benefit of others, sometimes Paul should emphasize those parts of himself that were not particularly Jewish.

"weak"

This characteristic identified Paul with all men. Paul was a man, sinful and human, who needed God's grace and sustaining strength and guidance. Sometimes it was a help to his witness to emphasize that (Acts 14:15).

The point of these verses is quite simple and practical. All of us as merchants, farmers, wives, college students, children, no matter what our particular ethnic background, have had certain experiences, good and bad. We must use what we can as a common denominator to help us talk with people. We must use what is honest and true about ourselves, but always seek to bring them the Gospel. That is also what the first phrase in the next verse is talking about.

Verse 23, "And this I do for the Gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you"

The word "thereof" refers to the Gospel. Paul is not saying that he would be saved based upon his ability to effectively witness to others. He knows that he is saved. That is not a question (II Tim. 1:12). Rather, the focus is upon the "you." The words "partakers with you" are really one word that is a combination of the prefix sug, "together," and the root koinonos, "in common," or "together." Therefore, the idea is Paul is saved. Through his actions he hopes salvation will be the common experience of both him and them. Paul has fellowship with the Father through the Son. He hopes that together they can have that fellowship.

We should have as much interest in others' salvation as in our own. We do not walk faithfully with God unless we have an interest in the salvation of others.

Chapter 9 ends with the complement idea that we should have as much interest in our own salvation as in that of others. We cannot get so wrapped up in job of witnessing that we neglect our own walk with God (I Tim. 4:16). This idea begins in verse 24.

Verse 24, "Know ye not that they which run the race"

The word "race" is the word stadia, translated "furlong" in John 6:19 and Revelation 21:16. It is not referring, first of all, to a competitive contest, but to a unit of measure. The idea is we pass milestones in our spiritual progress in maturity. There are regular checks in our journey on the way through life to eternity. As we look back in life, we should be able to see the stadia behind us. There should be some progress in our maturity as a Christian.

Hebrews 12:1 ties the word "run" with a different word for "race." There the word "race" is agona and means a contest or fight (I Tim. 6:12, "fight"). Hebrews 12:1 reinforces the idea that the race is not a competitive contest, but a battle in which we strive to gain victory over sin in our life.

"run all, but one receiveth"

The idea is not that if one receives grace and maturity, the others will be deprived because only one wins. It is not the idea of competition, but of each participant maturing or passing the milestones in his life. In a foot race only one person wins, but all the contestants strive to win. Similarly, Christians should have the single minded desire to follow Christ. They should imitate the dedication which natural athletes demonstrate in sports. The call, "so run, that ye may obtain," is a fair challenge. All who sacrifice, as athletes do, to remain faithful stewards of the Gospel will obtain the prize.

"The prize"

This word is brabion in Greek and is used here and in Philippians 3:14. A similar word, brabuo, used only in Colossians 3:15, is translated as "rule." The idea is closer to "umpire" or "the ability to discern whether something or someone has reached his mark or goal." The Philippian verse is clearest. The idea there is that the prize is to live as a mature Christian. This, of course, is not limited to only one person to the exclusion of others. It is the gift of all who seek the Lord.

Verse 25

This verse adds the idea that a person who is committed to a sport counts the cost and does not indulge himself in those worldly pleasures which others enjoy. He could live it up, but he deliberately does not because his objective is to achieve a high level of achievement in his sport. A runner who is a true runner knows he must discipline himself. He needs the right daily exercise, the right food, and sleep. He needs to get proper clothing. He needs to refrain from doing things and eating things that would interfere with his concentration and ability. He must pass by those things on which others spend time and energy. Those things may have been part of his life at one time, but no longer.

Notice the importance of single minded dedication to the Lord in such verses as Matthew 6:24 and Luke 9:62. This is not the path to salvation, but the character of a saved person.

"corruptible crown"

All the dedication and effort of the athletes of this world results in an award that does not last. Material glory is ephemeral. The cheers of today are gone tomorrow.

"but we an incorruptible"

This is an ellipsis. The word "crown" must be mentally inserted at the end of the phrase. The crown all believers receive is God Himself (Isa. 28:5). God is incorruptible. Their faithfulness now ends up in perfect fellowship with their God in eternity.

Verse 26, "not as uncertainty...not...beateth the air"

The idea of dedication so far portrayed is not a frenzied, one dimensional Christian. That kind of person is driven by fear, uncertain about the results of his efforts. A Christian's dedication is more in the area of the attitude of his heart. The focus in a Christian's life is not so much on his own effort, but on God's grace. God has given him a spiritual interest and goal. A Christian now looks to the Lord, content with His plan, empowered by His spirit, and hopeful of His promise. A Christian rests in the arms of Him who loves him more than anyone else does. The results of that life is not uncertain, nor is it empty.

Verse 27, "But I keep under my body and bring it unto subjection"

This verse describes how God works out His will in His people. The idea is that as a Christian, Paul is master over his body. His body is the part of the material world that is closest to him and is the part that is most influential in diverting his attention and efforts away from spiritual goals. As a Christian, Paul is able to control his body (Matt. 10:38,39; Rom. 6:11-14; Ch. 8).

"lest...I myself should be a castaway"

The word "castaway" is a combination of a prefix meaning "no" or "not," and the root dokimas, which means "to approve" or "try," as in Romans 16:10, "approved" and II Corinthians 13:5, "prove." The idea of the word "castaway" is to be tried and found wanting. We cannot soften the word "castaway." It is a very harsh word, translated as "reprobate" in Romans 1:28 and II Corinthians 13:5-7, as well as in II Timothy 3:8 and Titus 1:16. In Hebrews 6:8 it is translated "rejected." It is not a question of losing salvation, for that cannot be (John 10:28; Rom. 8:1; Eph. 1:13). It is a question of, "Am I really saved in the first place?"

A ministry is not a substitute for salvation. A person's dedicated service in the ministry of the Gospel is evidence that salvation has probably come to him. But if a person who is in the ministry focuses upon material things, then the question is, "Was he really saved in the first place?"

As we learn in I Timothy 4:16, the most important issue of life is the nurture and cultivation of our own walk with God. It is our own personal struggle between the spiritual and material that counts. For people like Paul, there is a very real danger of focusing upon the ministry and not on Christ. A person can easily be content with religion, the outward physical manifestation of a spiritual service, and expect that to be enough. Sometimes a loser of a race is consoled with the words, "At least you participated. At least you tried." The kind of comfort is not transferable to a Christian race. A runner of a Christian race must not be satisfied to just be in the race. A person should always be sure that he also runs to obtain the prize. The whole point of ministering is to do God's will and please Him as a true believer. The motive is not gain or acclaim, but love for a wonderful Lord who has shown him grace.

God can use anything to further His will, even a donkey or an unsaved man. Being used by God does not indicate or assure that a person is saved. Paul's desire is that he not be lost, no matter what else he does. Furthermore, Paul desires salvation for himself, no matter what happens to those to whom he witnesses. Whether his preaching results in salvation or not, he must dedicate his life to God's will in suppression of any material focus he has, for that is what a saved person would do. Paul does not rest in his ministry. Paul rests in God. He wants to make sure that between the material and the spiritual he always makes the right choice.

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