1 Corinthians 9
9 I am an apostle, God’s messenger, responsible to no mere man. I am one who has actually seen Jesus our Lord with my own eyes. And your changed lives are the result of my hard work for him. 2 If in the opinion of others, I am not an apostle, I certainly am to you, for you have been won to Christ through me. 3 This is my answer to those who question my rights.
4 Or don’t I have any rights at all? Can’t I claim the same privilege the other apostles have of being a guest in your homes? 5 If I had a wife, and if she were a believer,[a] couldn’t I bring her along on these trips just as the other disciples do, and as the Lord’s brothers do, and as Peter does? 6 And must Barnabas and I alone keep working for our living while you supply these others? 7 What soldier in the army has to pay his own expenses? And have you ever heard of a farmer who harvests his crop and doesn’t have the right to eat some of it? What shepherd takes care of a flock of sheep and goats and isn’t allowed to drink some of the milk? 8 And I’m not merely quoting the opinions of men as to what is right. I’m telling you what God’s law says. 9 For in the law God gave to Moses he said that you must not put a muzzle on an ox to keep it from eating when it is treading out the wheat. Do you suppose God was thinking only about oxen when he said this? 10 Wasn’t he also thinking about us? Of course he was. He said this to show us that Christian workers should be paid by those they help. Those who do the plowing and threshing should expect some share of the harvest.
11 We have planted good spiritual seed in your souls. Is it too much to ask, in return, for mere food and clothing? 12 You give them to others who preach to you, and you should. But shouldn’t we have an even greater right to them? Yet we have never used this right but supply our own needs without your help. We have never demanded payment of any kind for fear that, if we did, you might be less interested in our message to you from Christ.
13 Don’t you realize that God told those working in his temple to take for their own needs some of the food brought there as gifts to him? And those who work at the altar of God get a share of the food that is brought by those offering it to the Lord. 14 In the same way the Lord has given orders that those who preach the Gospel should be supported by those who accept it.
15 Yet I have never asked you for one penny. And I am not writing this to hint that I would like to start now. In fact, I would rather die of hunger than lose the satisfaction I get from preaching to you without charge. 16 For just preaching the Gospel isn’t any special credit to me—I couldn’t keep from preaching it if I wanted to. I would be utterly miserable. Woe unto me if I don’t.
17 If I were volunteering my services of my own free will, then the Lord would give me a special reward; but that is not the situation, for God has picked me out and given me this sacred trust, and I have no choice. 18 Under this circumstance, what is my pay? It is the special joy I get from preaching the Good News without expense to anyone, never demanding my rights.
19 And this has a real advantage: I am not bound to obey anyone just because he pays my salary; yet I have freely and happily become a servant of any and all so that I can win them to Christ. 20 When I am with the Jews I seem as one of them so that they will listen to the Gospel and I can win them to Christ. When I am with Gentiles who follow Jewish customs and ceremonies I don’t argue, even though I don’t agree, because I want to help them. 21 When with the heathen I agree with them as much as I can, except of course that I must always do what is right as a Christian. And so, by agreeing, I can win their confidence[b] and help them too.
22 When I am with those whose consciences bother them easily, I don’t act as though I know it all and don’t say they are foolish; the result is that they are willing to let me help them. Yes, whatever a person is like, I try to find common ground with him so that he will let me tell him about Christ and let Christ save him. 23 I do this to get the Gospel to them and also for the blessing I myself receive when I see them come to Christ.
24 In a race everyone runs, but only one person gets first prize. So run your race to win. 25 To win the contest you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best. An athlete goes to all this trouble just to win a blue ribbon or a silver cup,[c] but we do it for a heavenly reward that never disappears. 26 So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I fight to win. I’m not just shadow-boxing or playing around. 27 Like an athlete I punish my body, treating it roughly, training it to do what it should, not what it wants to. Otherwise I fear that after enlisting others for the race, I myself might be declared unfit and ordered to stand aside.
- 1 Corinthians 9:5 If I had a wife, and if she were a believer, implied; literally, “Have we no right to lead about a wife that is a believer?”
- 1 Corinthians 9:21 I can win their confidence, implied.
- 1 Corinthians 9:25 a silver cup, literally, “a wreath that quickly fades,” given to the winners of the original Olympic races of Paul’s time.
1 Corinthians 9
New International Version
Paul’s Rights as an Apostle
9 Am I not free?(A) Am I not an apostle?(B) Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?(C) Are you not the result of my work in the Lord?(D) 2 Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal(E) of my apostleship in the Lord.
3 This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. 4 Don’t we have the right to food and drink?(F) 5 Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife(G) along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers(H) and Cephas[a]?(I) 6 Or is it only I and Barnabas(J) who lack the right to not work for a living?
7 Who serves as a soldier(K) at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard(L) and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? 8 Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”[b](M) Is it about oxen that God is concerned?(N) 10 Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us,(O) because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.(P) 11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?(Q) 12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?
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?(T) 14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.(U)
15 But I have not used any of these rights.(V) 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.(W) 16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach.(X) Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward;(Y) if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me.(Z) 18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge,(AA) and so not make full use of my rights(AB) as a preacher of the gospel.
Paul’s Use of His Freedom
19 Though I am free(AC) and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone,(AD) to win as many as possible.(AE) 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.(AF) To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law),(AG) so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law(AH) (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law),(AI) so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak.(AJ) I have become all things to all people(AK) so that by all possible means I might save some.(AL) 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?(AM) Run(AN) 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(AO) that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.(AP) 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly;(AQ) I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.(AR) 27 No, I strike a blow to my body(AS) and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.(AT)