I Corinthians 9 


                                    An Apostle’s Right to Maintenance (vs. 1-14)



1 "Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?

are not ye my work in the Lord?"  Am I not an apostle? am I not free? Paul

designed in this chapter to show that he was not only giving a precept, but setting

an example, He told the “strong” Corinthians, who had “knowledge,” that they should

be ready to abnegate their rights for the good of others, he now wishes to show them

that, in a matter which affected his whole life, he had himself abnegated his own rights.

Being free and an apostle, he could, if he had chosen, have claimed, as others had

done, a right to be supported by the Churches to which he preached, he had thought it

more for their good to waive this claim, and therefore he had done so at the cost

(as appears in many other passages: ch. 4:12; Acts 20:34; I Thessalonians 2:9)

of bitter hardship to himself. But Paul practically “goes off” at the word “apostle.”

It was so essential for him to vindicate, against the subterranean malignity of hostile

partisans, his dignity as an apostle, that in asserting that authority he almost loses sight

for the time of the main object for which he had alluded to the fact. Hence much that

he says is of the nature of a digression — though an important one — until he

resumes the main thread of his subject at ch.11:15 – Have I not seen Jesus Christ

our Lord?”  Doubtless he mainly refers to the vision on the road to Damascus

(Acts 9:3,17; ch.15:8), though he received other visions and revelations also

(Acts 18:9; 22:14,18; II Corinthians 12:1-9). He had probably not seen

Christ during His life on earth. The words are added to remind them that those who

boasted of personal knowledge and relation with Jesus — perhaps the Christ party —

had no exclusive prerogative – are not ye my work in the Lord? I am not only an

apostle, but emphatically your apostle (Acts 18:1-11; here, ch. 4:15) - What high

service did Paul render to the members of the Corinthian Church! “Are not ye my

work in the Lord?... The seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord. (v. 2) Ye are,

as far as ye are Christians, “my work.” You were converted under my ministry and

you away from idols to the one true and living God, from the kingdom of Satan to

the kingdom of Christ. No work on earth is equal to this. “He that converteth a sinner

from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude

of sins.” (James 5:20)  This work which I effected in you “in the Lord,” or by

the Lord, is a demonstration of my apostleship. What work again, I ask, approaches

this in grandeur and importance? It is the work of creating men  anew in Christ

Jesus;” it is the work of establishing that moral empire in the world, which is

righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”  (Romans 14:17) The man

who succeeds in accomplishing this work thereby demonstrates the divinity of his

ministry.  Hence Paul says, “Mine answer to them that do examine me is this.”

Those that question or deny my apostleship I refer to the spiritual work I have

accomplished; “this is my answer,” (v. 3) my defense. Truly it might be said of Paul,

“No man can do the works that thou doest, except God be with him.” The only way

by which we can prove ourselves true ministers is, not by words, but by spiritual



2 "If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of

mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.”  Unto others. If the emissaries from Jerusalem

or the Petrine party do not choose to regard me as their apostle or an apostle at all,

yet at any rate I am yours. Doubtless; rather, at least, at any rate. The seal of mine

apostleship. Your conversion attests the genuineness of my claim, as a seal attests

a document. Thus baptism is the seal of conversion (Ephesians 4:30; compare

Romans 4:11; John 3:33).


3 "Mine answer (my defense) to them that do examine me is this." The word

"examine" is the word used for a legal inquiry.,  4 Have we not power to eat

and to drink?” To be supported by those to whom we preach (Luke 10:7).


5 "Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and

as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?" To lead about a sister, a wife. There can

be no doubt that this represents the true reading, and that the meaning is, "We have

power to lead about, that is, to travel in company with, some Christian sister to whom

we are married, and who is supported at the expense of the Church." This plain

meaning, however, involving the assertion that the apostles and desposyni ("the

Lord's brethren") were married men, was so distasteful to the morbid asceticism

which held celibacy in a sort of Manichaean reverence, that the scribes of the

fourth, fifth, and later centuries freely tampered with the text, in the happily

fruitless attempt to get rid of this meaning. They endeavoured, by putting the word

in the plural or by omitting "wife," to suggest that the women whom the apostles

traveled with were "deaconesses." Augustine, Tertullian, Ambrose, and others

explain the verse of "ministering women" (Luke 8:2-3). The false interpretation

avenged itself on the bias which led to it. Valla adopts the willful invention that

the apostles, though married, traveled with their wives only as sisters. Such

subterfuges have eaten away the heart of honest exegesis from many passages of

Scripture, and originated the taunt that it is a "nose of wax," which readers can twist

as they like. It was the cause of such shameful abuses and misrepresentations that at

last the practice of traveling about with unmarried women, who went under the name

of "sisters," "beloved," "companions," was distinctly forbidden by the third canon of

the first Council of Nice. Simon Magus might unblushingly carry about with him a

Tyrian woman named Helena; but apostles and true Christians would never have

been guilty of any conduct which could give a handle to base suspicions. They

traveled only with their wives. A sister. A Christian woman (ch. 7:15; Romans 16:1;

James 2:15, etc.). A wife; i.e. as a wife. Other apostles. This is a positive mistranslation

for "the rest of the apostles." It might be too much to infer positively from this that

every one of the apostles and desposyni were married; but there is independent evidence

and tradition to show that at any rate most of them were. The brethren of the Lord.

They are clearly and undeniably distinguished from the apostles. According to the

Helvidian theory (to which the plain language of the Gospels seems to point), they

were sons of Joseph and Mary. This is the view of St. Clement of Alexandria in

ancient times, and writers so different from each other as De Wette, Neander,

Osiander, Meyer, Ewald, and Alford, in modern. Cephas. St. Paul also uses the

Aramaic name in Galatians 2:9. Peter's wife is mentioned in Matthew 8:14 and in

the tradition of her martyrdom (Clem. Alex., 'Strom.,' 7. § 63).


6 "Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?” Like Paul,

Barnabas was in every respect a genuine apostle, by the Divine call (Acts 13:2;

Galatians 2:9), though not one of the twelve. He seems to have continued in his

separate mission work the practice of independence which he had learned from

Paul. This allusion is interesting, because it is the last time that the name of Barnabas

occurs, and it shows that, even after the quarrel and separation, Paul regarded him

with love and esteem. To forbear working. To give up the manual labor by which

we maintain ourselves without any expense to the Churches (Acts 18:3;

II Thessaloninans 3:8-9). By right and God’s design, His ministers are to be

supported by His people If, then, Paul toiled at the dull, mechanical, despised, and

ill paid work of tent making, he did so, not because it was, in the abstract, his duty

to earn his own living, but because he chose to be nobly independent, that the

absolute disinterestedness of his motives might be manifest to all the world.

For this reason even when he was most in need he would never receive assistance

from any Church except that of Philippi, where he had at least one wealthy convert,

and where he was beloved with a peculiar warmth of affection.  


7 Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard,

and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of

the milk of the flock?”  In this and the following verses Paul adduces six successive

arguments to prove the right of a minister to be supported by his congregation.


§         From the ordinary laws of human justice (v. 7).

§         By analogy, from the Law of Moses (vs. 8-10).

§         A fortiori, from the obligations of common gratitude (v. 11).

§         From their concession of the right to others who had inferior claims

                              (v. 12).

§         From the Jewish provision for the maintenance of priests (v. 13).

§         By the rule laid down by Christ Himself (v. 14).


Goeth a warfare - Analogy from the payment of soldiers (II Corinthians 10:4).

At his own charges. The word used for “cost” means literally rations (Luke 3:14;

Romans 6:23).  Planteth a vineyard. Analogy from the support of the vine dressers

(Matthew 9:37). Feedeth a flock. Analogy from the support of shepherds (I Peter 5:2).

The two latter classes of laborers are paid in kind in the East to this day.


 8 "Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?" 

Say I these things as a man?  Am I relying exclusively on mere human analogies?

The same phrase occurs in Romans 3:5; Galatians 3:13. Saith not the Law. The

verbs used for "say" (λαλῶ - lalo) and "saith" (λέγει - legei) are different: "Do I speak

[general word] these things as a man? or saith [a more dignified word] not the Law,"



9 “For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of

the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?”  In the Law

of Moses.  (Deuteronomy 25:4). He uses the same argument again in I Timothy 5:18.

The mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn; rather, an ox while treading out the

corn. The flail was not unknown, but a common mode of threshing was to let oxen

tread the corn on the threshing floor. Doth God take care for oxen? Certainly He

does; and Paul can hardly mean to imply that He does not, seeing that tenderness

for the brute creation is a distinguishing characteristic of the Mosaic legislation

(Exodus 23:12, 19; Deuteronomy 22:6-7, 10, etc.). God’s tender mercies are

over all His works (Psalm 145:9) and Paul means to say that the human application

is much more important than God’s care of animals.  If Paul had failed to perceive

this truth, he must have learned it at least from Psalm 145:15-16; Jonah 4:11.

Even the Greeks showed by their proverb that they could pity the hunger of the

poor beasts of burden starving in the midst of plenty. It is, however, a tendency of

all Semitic idiom verbally to exclude or negative the inferior alternative. Paul did

not intend to say, "God has no care for oxen;" for he knew that "His tender mercies

are over all His works:" he only meant in Semitic fashion to say that the precept

was much more important in its human application; and herein he consciously or

unconsciously adopts the tone of Philo's comment on the same passage ('De Victim

Offerentibus,' § 1), that, for present purposes, oxen might be left out of account.

The rabbinic Midrash, which gave this turn to the passage, was happier and wiser

than most specimens of their exegesis. Paul sets the typico allegorical interpretation

above the literal in this instance (compare I Timothy 5:18), because he regards it as

the more important. It is a specimen of the common Jewish exegetic method of a

fortiori or minori ad magus. Luther's curious comment is: "God cares for all things;

but He does not care that anything should be written for oxen, because they cannot



10 “Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is

written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth

in hope should be partaker of his hope.”  Altogether. It is probable that Paul only

meant the word to be taken argumentatively, and not au pied de la lettre (to the foot

of the letter. This application (he says) is so obviously the right application, that the

other may be set aside as far as our purpose is concerned. In the margin of the

Revised Version it is rendered "Saith he it, as he doubtless doth, for our sake?"

In hope. Paul's large experience of life, and his insight into character, sufficed to

show him that despairing work must be ineffectual work. The spring and elasticity

of cheerful spirits is indispensable to success in any arduous undertaking.

"Life without hope draws nectar in a sieve,
And hope without an object cannot live."


11 “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap

your carnal things?” If we. The we is in both clauses emphatic, to show that the

argument applied directly to Paul's own case. Is it a great thing. An argument a fortiori.  

If ordinary labor is not undertaken gratuitously, is the spiritual laborer to be left to

starve? Paul always recognized the rights of preachers and ministers, and stated them

with emphasis (Galatians 6:6; Romans 15:27), although from higher motives he

waived all personal claim to profit by the result of his arguments. 


12 “If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? 

Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should

hinder the gospel of Christ.”  If others. Paul felt a touch of natural indignation at

the thought that these Corinthians submitted to the extremest and haughtiest

exactions from other teachers who had been loud in the statement of their own

pretensions, while his own claims were shamefully disparaged, and he was even

left, with perfect indifference, to suffer real privation. We shall find the full

expression of his wounded sensibilities in II Corinthians 11:1-15. We have not

used this power. This strong climax here asserts itself before the time. It anticipates

v. 15. Suffer. The same word, which also means "to contain without leaking," is

used in ch. 13:7; I Thessalonians 3:1, 5. All things. Any amount of privation and

distress. Hinder the gospel of Christ. By giving any handle for malicious

misrepresentations as to our being self interested. The word for "hindrance" means

etymologically "cutting into," i.e. an impediment on a path, etc.



13 “Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the

things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the

altar?” They which minister about holy things. Jewish priests. He adds his two

final arguments - since the right which he is pleading has its own intrinsic

importance - before proceeding to the example which he set in order to prevail

on the strong to give up their rights and their liberty, when need was, for the sake

of the weak. Live; literally, eat, or feed. The Zealots used this excuse for themselves

when they broke open the temple stores in the siege of Jerusalem (Josephus, 'Bell.

Jud.,' 5:13, § 6). Of the things of the temple. They shared in the victims offered

(see Numbers 18:8-13; Deuteronomy 18:1). Partakers with the altar. Only certain

portions of certain victims were allowed them.  


14 “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should

live of the gospel.”  Likewise Christian ministers as Christ ordained (Matthew 10:10;

Luke 10:7)  The reference has special interest, because it shows that Paul was at least

orally familiar with the discourses of Christ. Indeed, there is nothing impossible or

improbable in the supposition that some of these were already being circulated in

manuscript form. Should live of the gospel. If, that is, they desired and had need to do

so.  He does not say, to live of the altar,” because Christians have no “altar” except

in the metaphorical sense in which the cross is called an altar in Hebrews 13:10. 

“Should live of  the gospel,” not grow rich on the gospel, but have from it that which

is needful for subsistence. Looking at all that Paul says on that question here, and at

the immense service that a true minister renders to society, the conviction cannot

be avoided that no man has a stronger claim to a temporal recompense for his labor

than a true gospel minister. Albeit no claims are so universally ignored. What

Churches in these modern times tender to their ministers as an acknowledgment of

their service is regarded as a charity rather than a claim.   Charity, indeed! Call the

money you pay to your grocer, lawyer, doctor, charity; but in the name of all that is

just, do not call that charity which you tender to the man who consecrates his

entire being and time to impart to you the elements of eternal life.



                                    Paul’s Self-Denial (vs. 15-23)


15 “But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things,

that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that

any man should make my glorying void.”  Paul is not hinting that they have

neglected him.  I have used none of these things. None of the forms of right

which I might claim from these many sanctions. He is appealing to his own

abandonment of a right to encourage them to waive, if need required, the claims

of their Christian liberty. His object in waiving his plain right was that he might

give no handle to any who might desire to accuse him of self-interested motives

(here, v.4; Galatians 6:6, etc.). Have I written; rather, do I write; the epistolary

aorist. That it should be so done unto me. Do not take my argument as a hint

to you that you have neglected your duty of maintaining me, and have even

seen me suffer without offering me your assistance. Better for me to die. Not

"to die of hunger," as Chrysostom supposes, but generally, "I should prefer

death to the loss of my independence of attitude towards my converts." Than

that any man should make my glorying void. The Greek is remarkable. Literally

it is, than my ground of boasting - that any one should render it void. Another

reading is, better for me to die than - no one shall render void my ground of



16 “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity

is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!”  Paul is

desirous to remove all appearance of haughtiness from his tone. There was,

he says, no merit involved in his preaching the gospel.  He did so from the sense

of overwhelming moral compulsion, and he would have been miserable if he had

tried to resist it.  “We cannot but speak the things that we have seen and heard.”

 (Acts 4:20) 


17For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will,

a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.”  For if I do this thing

willingly.  The word rather means "spontaneously;" "without compulsion."

(Paul was preaching willingly but still it was in obedience to an irresistible behest –

Acts 9:6,15).  I have a reward: The reward (or rather, "wage ") of such self chosen

work would be the power to fulfill it (compare Matthew 6:1).  Against my will,

rather, involuntarily, "under Divine constraint."  A dispensation of the gospel is

committed unto me.  He was appointed a “steward” or “dispenser” of the

gospel, and could only regard himself at the best as “an unprofitable slave,”

who had done merely what it was his bare duty to do (Luke 17:10). There is

no merit in yielding to a must. 


18 “What is my reward then?  Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may

make the gospel of Christ without charge, (gratuitously, the happiness of

preaching the gospel without cost to any) that I abuse not my power in the

gospel.”  What is my reward then? The answer is that it was not such "wages"

as would ordinarily be considered such, but it was the happiness of preaching the

gospel without cost to any. I abuse not; rather, I use not to the full, as in ch. 7:31.

It may be said that this was a ground of boasting, not a reward. It was, however,

a point to which Paul attached the highest importance (I Thessalonians 2:9;

II Corinthians 11:7-12; Acts 20:33-34), and he might therefore speak of it,

though almost with a touch of half unconscious irony, as his "fee." There is no

need to adopt the construction suggested by Meyer: "What is my reward? [none]

that I may preach gratuitously;" or that of Afford, who finds the reward in the

next verse.


19 “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all,

that I might gain the more.”  For though I be free; rather, though I was free. He

has voluntarily abandoned this freedom. The true rendering of the verse is, For being

free from all men (Galatians 1:10), I enslaved myself to all. In acting thus he obeyed

his own principle of not abusing his liberty, but "by love serve one another"

(ibid. 5:13).


 20 “And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them

that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under

the law.”  Unto the Jews I became as a Jew. When, for instance, he circumcised

Timothy (Acts 16:3) and probably Titus also (Galatians 2:3; see 'Life of

St Paul,' 1. 412, sqq.); and he was continuing this principle of action when he took

the vow of the Nazarite (Acts 21:21-26), and called himself "a Pharisee, a son of

a Pharisee" (Acts 23:6). To them that are under the Law. That is, not only to Jews,

but even to the most rigorous legalists among the Jews. It should be carefully

observed that Paul is here describing the innocent concessions and compliances

which arise from the harmless and generous condescension of a loving spirit.

He never sank into the fear of man, which made Peter at Antioch unfaithful to his

real principles. He did not allow men to form from his conduct any mistaken

inference as to his essential views. He waived his personal predilections in matters

of indifference which only affected "the infinitely little."


21 “To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God,

but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.” To

them that are without law, as without law.  In other words, I so far became to the

heathen as a heathen (Romans 2:12), that I never willfully insulted their beliefs

(Acts 19:37) nor shocked their prejudices, but on the contrary, judged

them with perfect forbearance (Acts 17:30) and treated them with invariable courtesy.

Paul tried to look at every subject, so far as he could do so innocently, from ‘their

point of view (Acts 17.).   He defended their gospel liberty, and related to 

Gentile converts on terms of perfect equality (Galatians 2:12). Not without law to God.

Not even "without law" (ἄνομος - anomos) Much less "opposed to law" (ἀντινομος -  

antinomos), though free from it as a bondage (Galatians 2:19). The need for this

qualification is shown by the fact that in the Clementine writings, in the spurious letter

of Peter to James, Paul is surreptitiously calumniated as "the lawless one." Even the

Gentiles were "not without law to God" (Romans 2:14-15). So that Paul is here using

language which base opponents might distort, but which the common sense of honest

readers would prevent them from misinterpreting.


22 “To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all

things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”  His whole argument

here is a plea for condescension to the infirmities of weak converts.  A similar

condescension to their prejudices might be necessary to win them to Christianity

at all (ch. 8:13; “We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and

 not to please ourselves,” Romans 15:1). Paul often touches on our duties to weak

brethren (ch. 8:7; Romans 14:1; I Thessalonians 5:14; Acts 20:35). All things to all

men.  He repeats the same principle in ch. 10:33, “I please all men in all things, not

seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved;” and once

more, at the end of his course (II Timothy 2:10). This condescension laid him open to

the malicious attacks of religious enemies (Galatians 1:10). But not on that account

would  Paul ever be led to abandon the fruitful aid of that universal sympathy and

tolerance which is one of the best tests of Christian love. That I might by all means

save some. He adds this explanation of the motive of his condescension to various

scruples  lest any should accuse him of men pleasing, as some of his Galatian

opponents had done (Galatians 1:10). In his desire to win souls he acted with the

wisdom and sympathy taught by experience, suppressing himself.  Paul had a

passionate love for souls!  Nothing but the constraining love of Christ can

invest man either with the disposition or the power for such a work — a work

requiring self sacrifice, patience, tenderness, invincible determination, and hallowed

devotion. This is what gave Paul the power to be “made all things to all men.” 

I please all men in all things,” he says, “not seeking mine own profit, but the

profit of many, that they may be saved.”  (ch. 10:33) 


23 “And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with

you.” And this I do. The better reading is, and I do all things. For the gospel's sake.

This is a wider feeling than even "for the elect's sakes" of II Timothy 2:10. With you.

The “you” is not expressed in the original, where we only have συγκοινωνὸς

sugkoinonos - co-participant; joint participant -  “a fellow partaker of it.”

(Romans 11:17) – But the word illustrates the deep humility of the apostle. 



                                    Exhortation to Earnestness (vs. 24-27)


24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize?

So run, that ye may obtain.”  They as Corinthians would well know the full bearing

of every illustration derived from the triennial Isthmian games, which were the chief

glory of their city, and which at this period had even thrown the Olympic games into

the shade. The words “in a race,” are rather, in the stadium. The traces of the great

Corinthian stadium, where the games were held and the races run, are still visible on

the isthmus. This metaphor of “the race,” which has pervaded the common language

of Christianity, is also found in Hebrews 12:1; Philippians 3:14; II Timothy 4:7.

The prize. The bracium was the wreath given to the victor by the judges. The

Christian prize is that of “the high calling of God in Jesus Christ,” towards which

Paul himself was pressing forward.  “So run”:


·         The PRESCRIBED COURSE. The course is marked out and measured. The

     starting place is at the foot of the cross, and the goal is planted in the grave.


·         Run WITHOUT INCUMBRANCE. “Lay aside every weight,”(Hebrews

12:1) all worldly cares, and inordinate sympathetic embarrassing prejudices,

and fettering habits.


·         Run WITH ALL POSSIBLE CELERITY. Shake off sloth and languor,

stretch very muscle and limb, throw the whole force of your being into the



·         Run WITH UNTIRING PERSISTENCY. Pause not, nor loiter a

            moment until the end is obtained. “So run, that ye may obtain.”


25 “And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.

Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.”

And every man that striveth for the mastery” - rather, that strives to win in a

contest. Paul never allows his converts to dream of the indefectibility of grace, and

so to slide into antinomian security. He often reminds them of the extreme severity

and continuousness of the contest (Ephesians 6:12; I Timothy 6:12) – Is temperate

in all things.  One good moral result which sprang from the ancient system of

athleticism was the self denial and self mastery which it required. The candidate

for a prize had to be pure, sober, and enduring (Horace, ‘Ars Poet.,’ 412), to obey

orders, to eat sparely and simply and to bear effort and fatigue (Epict., ‘Enchir.,’ 35)

for ten months before the contest – Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; -

A fading garland of Isthmian pine, or Nemean parsley, or Pythian olive, or Olympian

baybut we an incorruptible.”  unwithering(I Peter 1:4); “amaranthine”

(ibid. 5:4); “a crown of righteousness” (II Timothy 4:8); “a crown of life”

(James 1:12; Revelation 2:10; comp. also II Timothy 2:5; Revelation 3:11). 


26 “I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that

beateth the air:”  Not as uncertainly; - My eye is fixed on a definite goal

(II Timothy 1:12).  So fight I.  (Romans 7:23; Ephesians 6:12; II Timothy

4:7); literally, so box I -  Not as one that beateth the air: - rather, as not beating

the air. Not what the Greeks called “a shadow battle.” I strike forthright blows,

not feints, or blows at random. 


27 “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by

any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a

castaway.  But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection:  literally,

I bruise my body, and lead it about as a slave. The word tamely rendered “keep in

subjection” means literally, I smite under the eyes. The boxing metaphor is kept up,

and the picturesque force of the words would convey a vivid impression to Corinthians

familiar with the contests of the Pancratum, in which boxing with the heavy lead-bound

caestus played a prominent part. The only other place in the New Testament where

the word occurs is Luke 18:5, where it seems (on the lips of the unjust judge) to have

a sort of slang sense. How Paul “bruised his body” may be seen in II Corinthians

6:4-10;  Colossians 3:5; Romans 8:13. It was not by absurd and harmful self torture,

but by noble labor and self-denial for the good of others – Lest that by any means,

when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.  “Lest” — such

is the meaning of the metaphor after proclaiming to others the laws of the contest

(as a herald), I should myself violate those conditions, and be not only defeated as

a combatant, but ignominiously rejected from the lists (made ineligible; disqualified –

CY – 2010) and not allowed to contend at all.  The metaphor is not strictly adhered to,

for the herald did not personally contend. No candidate could compete without a

preliminary scrutiny, and to be “rejected” was regarded as a deadly insult. The

word ἀδόκιμοςadokimos - rejected; disqualified -  by implication worthless

(literal or moral):  “rejected,” “reprobate” — here rendered “a castaway”

is a metaphor derived from the testing of metals, and the casting aside of those

which are spurious.  That Paul should see the necessity for such serious and

unceasing effort shows how little he believed in the possibility of saintly “works of

supererogation, over and above what is commanded.” “When the cedar of Lebanon

trembles, what shall the reed by the brookside do?”



                                        ADDITIONAL NOTES



                        The Reaching Out to Our Fellow Man (v. 22)


“By all means save some.”  (v. 22) - Two points present themselves for our

consideration here:  (a) The end the apostle had in view; (b) the method by which

he sought to secure it.


·         THE END. “To save some.” What does he mean by this? What to him

            was the salvation of men?


ü      It certainly means deliverance from a dread future calamity.

       “The wrath to come” (Luke 3:7); “the perdition of ungodly men”

      (II Peter :7) was to Paul no dream, but an awful reality. It was worth all

      possible effort and self sacrifice to save men from it. If he had no other

      impulse than that of mere human sympathy to move him, we have here a

      sufficient explanation of the enthusiasm of his zeal. It is often said that if

      Christian people really believed the future that is before multitudes of their

      fellow creatures to be so dark and dreadful as they say it is, they could

      never rest as they do in their own natural or spiritual satisfactions. They

      would rather be beside themselves with a frantic agony of sympathetic

      sorrow and desire to save. There is truth in this. The easy indifference with

      which too many of us regard the condition and prospects of the godless

      world around us, belies the reality of our faith.  Our conceptions of what the

      solemn issues of the future shall be may differ.  Some, after anxious and earnest

      thought, may have arrived at the conclusion that to forecast the nature or the

      duration of the penalty that will then fall on the transgressor is beyond our

      province, and that we can only take the language of Scripture as it stands,

      without attempting to penetrate the haze of dreadful mystery that hangs around

      it.  But the broad and certain facts of the case are such as may well affect us far

      more deeply than they do, and bring forth in us far richer and more abundant

      fruits of practical beneficence. It is to be feared that doctrinal controversy

      about the future tends to weaken rather than deepen and strengthen our

      impressions.  We lose in speculation and debate the practical earnestness the

      subject itself might be expected to awaken. Paul lived in the clear light of the

                        future. His soul was thrilled by the sense of its tremendous reality. And

                        though its issues probably were no more distinct and definite to his

                        apprehension than they are to ours, yet his faith in their certainty was

                        such as to stir up all the noble energies of his being in the endeavor

                        to save his fellow men.


ü      But the foresight of the future was far from being the only thing that

                        moved him; it was a present deliverance from a present calamity that he

                        had in view. To save men now from the evil that enthralled and cursed

                        them, ruining their Godlike nature, darkening all the glory of their life, —

                        this was the end he sought. He was no visionary. It was no object of

                        remote and uncertain utility, but one of most practical and immediate

                        urgency at which he aimed. Whatever its bearing on the future may be, the

                        influence of the gospel on the present passing life of men is so benign and

                        blessed that our utmost zeal in diffusing it is fully justified. If we think of

                        nothing more than the superficial social changes that Christianity has

                        introduced, how it is at this very hour the prolific root of all social progress

                        in every land, we see here an ample reward for all the sacrifices that have

                        ever been made for its extension. But beneath all this there lies the fact

                        that, as sin is the ruining, destroying power in man’s nature and life, it must

                        needs be a Godlike purpose that seeks to deliver him from it (Matthew 1:21;

                        Acts 3:26). “That I may by all means save some.” He could not

                        hope for all, but if “some” only yielded to his persuasive word, it would be

                        a blessed recompense. This is the inspiring hope of every true preacher and

                        worker for Christ. The net is cast, the arrow is shot at a venture; the issue

                        is not now made manifest. But a seemingly profitless work may be linked

                        indirectly with results that are very great and glorious. Waves of spiritual

                        influence, from a narrow circle, travel out where none can follow them.

                        (I am trusting to God this web site – CY – 2010)  While there are those

                        who shall find at last that the “great and wonderful things” they supposed

                        they had done in the name of Christ are little recognized, there are others

                        who will be amazed to discover that their lowly endeavors have yielded

                        fruits of which they never dreamed. And to“save some,” to be able to lay

                        some trophies at the Master’s feet, will be a blessed reward.


·         THE METHOD.I am become all things to all men.” It is remarkable

            that words which express the highest nobleness of an apostolic spirit

            should have come to be used by us in familiar discourse as descriptive of a

            type of character and mode of conduct that is mean and despicable. It is

            suggestive of the behavior of one who has no steadfast principle, no

            honest outspokenness; the mere obsequious time server, full of smiles and

            gilded insincerities; who, to serve his own ends, can pat on any face that

            suits the occasion;


                                                                        “A man

                                    Versed in the world as pilot in his compass,

                                    The needle pointing ever to that interest

                                    Which is his lode star, and who spreads his sails

                                    With vantage to the gale of others’ passion.”


            There was nothing of this sort in Paul. Nothing could be more abhorrent to

            his spirit than a time serving policy or a habit of smiling, plausible deceit.

            These words from his lips simply indicate that his strong desire to save men

            and win them to Christ led him to enter as much as possible into their

            circumstances, to place himself on their level. Thus would he disarm their

            prejudices and bring his heart into sympathetic contact with theirs. Thus

            would he commend to them the love of Him who “was made under the Law

            that He might redeem them that were under the Law;” (Galatians 4:4-5)

             who for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be

            made rich.” (II Corinthians 8:9)  For examples:  see Acts 16:3; 17:22-31; 21:26.)

            The lesson for all Christian preachers and workers is this: Cultivate a broad and

            generous human sympathy. In dealing with men in various conditions — doubt,

            error, poverty, sorrow, temptation, subjection to the power of evil — put

yourself as much as possible in their place, if you would hope to guide, or

comfort, or save them by pointing them to Jesus.



                                    Spiritual Athletics (vs. 24-27)


Paul compares the Christian life to a foot race and to a boxing contest. These were familiar to

the Corinthians, being conspicuous features of the celebrated Isthmian games. A wise teacher

speaks through things known of things unknown. Christ spoke in parables. Passing events may

be made the vehicles of abiding truths. The secular may often illustrate the sacred.  (Mr.

Spurgeon said that purpose of the sacred is to sanctify the secular! – CY – 2010)   There is no

loss of dignity or impropriety in such modes of instruction.  Some people are shocked by

references to everyday life; but such people ought to be shocked. Homely garb sometimes

wins the readier admittance.  Note some points of resemblance.



            FROM EARTH TO HEAVEN. It is a daily movement. We need beware of

            stumbling blocks, of straying from the right course, of indulgence which

            may hinder, of violation of laws, of loitering, since the TIME IS SHORT!



            does not fully illustrate it. We have opponents, many and resolute. We

            have a trinity against us as well as for us — the world, the flesh, and the

            devil. We have not only to “run,” but to “fight.”




ü      Preparation. For athletic contests how much “training” has to be

                        undergone, often very painful and wearying! Our preparation for Christian

                        life is arduous and long, but it does not commence before we enter upon

                        Christian life, but as we enter, and continues until the close. We “train” as

                        we run and as we fight.


ü      Earnestness. No indifferent competitor was likely to win in ancient races

                        or boxing contests. Indifference kills Christian life. The half-hearted go not

                        far from the starting point. Many have only enough earnestness to “enter”

                        for the race and fight; as soon as they have “entered,” they think all is



ü      Striving. To be amongst the runners is not enough; we must exert our

                        powers; we must call into activity all our energies. We must not be as those

                        who “beat the air,” but as those who beat their enemies. Christian life is

                        real, with issues of infinite importance. It is not for exhibition of skill, but

                        for stern work. “Strive [agonize] to enter in at the strait gate.” (Matthew

                        7:13-14)  Paul would have each Christian to be as the winner, who “spent

                        himself” in snatching the victory (v. 24). We do not hinder others from

                        attaining, and for this we may be not a little thankful; but we each need to

                        use the utmost effort.


ü      Patience. Christian life is not soon over. At first we may do well, but

                        when difficulties arise we shall be tested. Some who run fastest at first run

                        slowest at last. Our all wise Master spoke of “enduring to the end.”

                        (Matthew 24:13)


ü      Watchfulness. Lest we trip. Lest our enemy gets an advantage. The

                        great Preacher’s text was often “Watch!”  (Matthew 24:42-43; 25:13;

                        Mark 13:33-37;  14:37-38; Luke 12:38; 21:36)


ü      Resolution. If we are to endure to the end, we shall need stern resolve.

                        Fixedness of purpose is an essential for Christian life. We should determine

                        in God’s strength to go on, whatever may lie in our path: to fight on, no

                        matter what enemies confront us. Christian life demands courage and

                        fortitude; we must not be too easily frightened.


ü      Concentration. “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which

      are behind, and reaching forth unto those things before,  I press

      for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians

      3:13-14)  The “whole man” must be given to religion. Some professors

      are “called off” from the race, and lose it.  They lower their guard, for their

      hands must be about earthly things, and then their enemy overthrows them.


ü      Continuity. This tries many. If religion were spasmodic, they could be

                        religious. There are many “now and then” Christians. People like to be

                        pious at intervals.


ü      Mortification of the flesh. Ancient athletes knew, as their modern

                        brethren do, what this means. The victor was “temperate in all things.” A

                        pampered body meant disappointment, disgrace, loss. Paul said, “I keep

                        under [I buffet, I bruise] my body.” Our lower nature must be dealt

                        severely with. Indulgence is disaster; we must practice self-control, self-

                        denial, self-sacrifice.


ü      Confidence, but not excess of confidence. Confidence that will prompt

                        to exertion, not confidence which kills effort. “Lest... I myself should be a



·         SUCCESS MEETS WITH REWARD. Contrast the crowns of earth

            with the crown of heaven. Many do so much for a corruptible crown, and

            we so little for an incorruptible one. The substance of Jesus’ question “what

            shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and loses his own soul?”

            can be translated as: A garland of leaves and a day’s popularity sacrificed for

            the loss of PARADISE AND LIFE ETERNAL!



            ungodly are upon us. Fellow Christians watch us closely. The angels

            behold us, and are “ministering spirits” to us. Perhaps victors of the past,

            perhaps those who have failed in race and fight, watch us. The King sees us

            — the Judge — He who holds “the crown of righteousness” for those who

            have “fought a good fight” and “finished the course.” (I Timothy 4:7)

            “Wherefore seeing that we are compassed about with so great a cloud

            of witnesses”- (Hebrews 12:1-2). When we think of the race and fight, we

            should be encouraged that “I can do all things through Christ which

            strengtheneth me.”  (Philippians 4:13)



                                    An Incorruptible Crown (v. 25)


There was an ardor of temperament, a resoluteness of purpose, in the constitution and moral

life of Paul, which made the imagery of this passage peculiarly congenial to his soul. He was

fired with a sacred ambition, and he sought to inspire his hearers and readers with something

of his own enthusiasm. His glowing imagination could realize something of the glory gained by

the successful athlete who was welcomed with honor in his native state, whose statue was

shaped in marble by some illustrious sculptor, and whose praise was embalmed in verse

deathless as that of Pindar. How much more must he, with his cleared moral perceptions, his

elevated spiritual aims, have sympathized with the prospects which inspired all true Christian

athletes, who endured an earthly strife and hoped to gain a heavenly diadem!


·         THE GIVER OF THE CROWN. Christ has Himself contended, suffered,

            and overcome; on His head are many crowns. He is the Lord of the course

            and the conflict. Coming from such hands, the recompense must be

            infinitely precious. He sweetens the gift He bestows by words of gracious

            approval. He counts the crowns of His people as His own.


·         THE WEARER OF THE CROWN. He who is to partake the throne,

            the triumph, must first share the strife and bear the cross of Jesus. The

            crown of thorns comes before the crown of victory and empire. They who

            shall hereafter triumph are they who now and here strive and suffer, endure

            and hope. Their contest must be lawfully conducted and strenuously

            maintained. It is they who are “faithful unto death” to whom is promised

            the fair crown of life.  (Revelation 2:10)


·         THE VALUE OF THE CROWN. It is a gift, and not a reward to

            which there is a just claim; there is no case of merit here. At the same time,

            it is an expression of satisfaction and approval, and coming from Christ has

            in consequence a peculiar value to His people. The Isthmian wreath was in

            itself of no worth; its value lay in the witness it bore to the wearer’s

            prowess. But the Christian’s crown is not only a token of Divine

            approbation; it is accompanied by substantial recompense, especially by

            promotion to rule and authority. He who is crowned is made “ruler over

            many things.”  (Matthew 25:2,23)


·         THE IMPERISHABLENESS OF THE CROWN. It is not a material

            crown, like the wreath of fading leaves. It is a crown of righteousness and

            of life, and is consequently in its nature immortal. It is worn in the land of

            incorruption and of immortality. It blooms perennially in the atmosphere of



Here is an appeal to the aspiring. Why seek earthly distinctions which must pass away,

when within your reach is the unfading crown of glory?  Here is an inspiration and

stimulus to the Christian combatant. Why grow weary in the race, why sink faint hearted

in the contest, when there is stretched forth, before and above you, the Divine and

imperishable crown of life?




                                     Hell After Preaching (v. 27)

“But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection:  lest that by

any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

These are terrible words, and they teach at least three things:



            EARNEST SELF DISCIPLINE. “I keep under my body.” I subdue the

            flesh by violent and reiterated blows. The reason for this mortification of

            the flesh is, “lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I

            myself should be a castaway.” Self discipline may be said to consist of two



ü      The entire subjugation of the body to the mind. The body was

      intended to be the organ, the servant, and the instrument of the mind,

      but it has become the master. The supremacy of the body is the CURSE

      WORLD and the RUIN OF MAN.


ü      The subjugation of the mind to the Spirit of Christ. Though the mind

                        governs the body, if the mind is false, selfish, unloyal to Christ,

there is no self-discipline. The mind must be the servant of Christ in

order to be the legitimate sovereign of the body. These two things

include spiritual discipline.




            “When I have preached to others.” Paul had preached to others. He had

            preached to many in different lands, preached earnestly and successfully,

            preached so that thousands were converted by his ministry, preached so as

            no one else has ever preached; yet his preaching, he felt, did not do the

            work of self discipline. Indeed, there is much in the work of preaching that

            has a tendency to operate against personal spiritual culture.


ü      Familiarity with sacred truths destroys for us their charm of freshness.


ü      A professional handling of God’s Word interferes with its personal



ü      The opinions of audiences, favorable or otherwise, exert an influence

                        unfavorable to spiritual discipline. In connection with all this, Satan is

                        especially active in opposing the growth of spiritual piety in the

preacher’s tone. So that there is a terrible danger that, whilst the preacher

is cultivating the vineyards of others, he is neglecting his own.



            BY ULTIMATE RUIN. “I myself should be a castaway!” — rejected!

            Who shall fathom the meaning of this word? A successful preacher a

            “castaway” — be rejected! The Tophet of him who has offered mercy to

            others which he has despised, urged truths on the credence of others that

            he has disbelieved, enforced laws on others which he has transgressed, will

            burn with severer fires and peal with more awful thunders. A magnifying

            glass held in a certain position by the hand of a child may convey sufficient

            fire through it to wrap the neighborhood in conflagration, albeit the glass

            through which the fire has passed remains unheated, cold as flint. So a man

            may convey to others the rays of the sun of Righteousness, and yet his own

            heart remain cold as ice. Truly a terrible fact this.








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