Read 1 Corinthians 9:1-23

Looking at the first few verses of 1 Corinthians 9 it is apparent that people have been questioning Paul’s authority:

1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord?

2 Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

3 This is my defence to those who sit in judgment on me.


What questions do you think people have asked (and what assumptions have they made) in the first three verses?

Basically Paul wasn’t a true apostle because he hadn’t seen Jesus. But note verse 2 – the fact that they were a church established by Paul should confirm his position!

So what is an Apostle?

One who is sent forth as a messenger (Matthew 28:16-20) and should not be confused with a disciple (who is a follower or a student who learns from a "teacher").

In Luke 24 verses 9 & 10 we read: ‘When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others.

It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles’.

Also in Luke 24 where we read about the two who met Jesus on the road to Damascus (v33) we read: They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together

So obviously, from amongst the others, there were already eleven Disciples who had been with Jesus from the beginning. (See notes on Original Disciples at the end, and the introduction to John study) They has been chosen by him as disciples, and then after his resurrection, sent out as apostles. (Judas was replaced by Matthias, chosen by lot before the day of Pentecost). (There are others who are referred to as Apostles: Barnabus –  Acts 13:2, 14:14; Silas and Timothy – 1 Thessalonians 1:1, 2:6 but see 2 Corinthians 1:1; and possibly Apollos – 1 Corinthians 4:9)

Now read 1Corinthians 15:3-8:

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

The authority of Paul seems to have been a recurring problem and the answers Paul gave in this letter don’t appear to satisfy his critics, because when he writes to them again he takes three chapters to defend his position: 2 Corinthians 10,11 & 12

So we return to 1 Corinthians 9. Before we move on we’ll look at verse 5

Don't we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord's brothers and Cephas?

What is that all about?

Some have taken this to suggest that Paul was married, but we saw in 1 Corinthians 7:7-8 that he wasn’t.  Paul is going to argue that those appointed as leaders of the local church should be supported by that church, and the support should be sufficient to cover their wives (and by extension their children) as well.

Now we can look at verses 4 & 6-14

4 Don't we have the right to food and drink?

6 Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living?

7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk?

8 Do I say this merely from a human point of view? 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. Is it about oxen that God is concerned?

10 Surely he says this for us, doesn't he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the ploughman ploughs and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.

11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?

12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn't we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.

13 Don't you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar?

14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

Here it seems he is being questioned on his right to receive support (maybe because he was not a ‘true’ apostle). It is interesting that he includes Barnabus, mentioned in Acts 14:14 as an Apostle, but not one of the original ones, and perhaps someone who, like Paul, worked for his living.

So how could Paul go on his missionary journeys? Where did the money come from?

Where do we read about Paul’s work as a tentmaker?

(Show map of Paul’s second missionary journey)

Interestingly, it is in Acts, when Paul first visits Corinth to establish the very church that is now complaining

Read Acts 18:1-11 (and these comments):

1 After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.

2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, (These were Paul’s first contacts
– exiles from Rome due to the order of Caesar Claudius)

3 and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them.

A happy practical arrangement!

4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

(A logical place to meet ‘religious’ minded people and begin his ministry)

5 When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.

Silas and Timothy brought money from one of the churches in Macedonia specifically to pay for Paul’s ministry, so now he could spend every day evangelising – but still in the synagogue. This preaching was to cause a problem amongst the unconverted Jews:

6 But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.

7 Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshipper of God.

Presumably he had become a convert, and his house was large enough to have meetings. But it wasn’t all bad news:

8 Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptised.

9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.

10 For I am with you, and no-one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.

11 So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.

We see from v3 that he worked as a tentmaker to supply his needs, but in v5 when Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia he no longer needed to work. For this we need to look at Paul’s second letter where he again has to defend himself:-  2 Corinthians 11:7-9

Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge?

8 I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you.

9 And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so.

‘Robbed other churches’ in v8 refers to the fact that it was another church who had sent the money. Which church?

Philippians 4:14

Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only.

(see also in Ephesus: Acts 20:34, and Thessalonia: 1 Thess 2:9)

So let’s return to 1 Corinthians 9

I like the first example in verse 7: Who serves as a soldier at his own expense?

We all know that soldiers are fed, housed, their transport arranged, arms and uniform provided – in fact everything is provided for them. It would be unthinkable to require a soldier to have to supply for his needs whilst fighting.

So it is for those who are called into battle for the Lord on behalf of those of us who stay at home. It is only right that we should all contribute to the support of those who fight in our place. It is true that ‘the Lord will supply’, but he does it through people like us!

Now look at verses 13 & 14. About as strong as Paul can get!

13 Don't you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar?

14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

But now read the second part of verse 12, and verses 15-18

12b But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.

15 But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me. I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of this boast.

16 Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me.

18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it.

19a Though I am free and belong to no man

So why hasn’t Paul asked the church to support him?

If they paid him, Paul would feel he is just being employed as a preacher. As it is, he is free to preach as he wishes: free from any constraints imposed on him by the church as his employer, and free from the need to satisfy his contractual obligations rather than preach as the spirit led.

Is it right for churches to employ ministers today? And direct what they do?

Is it right for Missionary Organisations to require their missionaries to get together a number of people and/or churches who will agree to pay the cost of their support before they are allowed onto the mission field?

19 Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.

20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.

21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law.

22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.

Paul now explains that the freedom he therefore has actually allows him to be constrained by the customs and ways of life of the people he is seeking to reach. If necessary, in order to be accepted by Jews, he can live like a Jew and be bound by their customs. If he needs to live like a Gentile, he can do that too, and happily ‘eat meat offered to idols’.

How does verse 22 apply to us? Are there groups in society that I would never go near?

How much of a cop-out is to say ‘I’m not called to do that’?

23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

What are these blessings?

 a. Blessings in the present

      1) God's forgiveness

      2) God's care

      3) God's family

      4) God's Spirit

 b. Blessings in the future

      1) God's eternal kingdom

      2) God's eternal city

      3) God's eternal presence

      4) God's eternal care

This helpful list of blessings, now and in the future, are taken from a greatly expanded list in Mark A Copeland’s “The Gospel of the Kingdom” : The Blessings of the Kingdom.


Do we have to ‘save some (v22)’ in order to share in the blessings?

Original named Disciples

1. Simon Peter: Renamed by Jesus to Peter (meaning rock), his original name was Simon bar Jonah; Mk 3:16 was a fisherman from Bethsaida ‘of Galilee’ Jn 1:44, cf. Jn 12:21. Also known as Simon bar Jochanan (Aram.), Cephas (Aram.), and Simon Peter.

2. Andrew: The brother of Simon/Peter, a Bethsaida fisherman, and a former disciple of John the Baptist.

3. James, son of Zebedee: The brother of John.

4. John: The brother of James. Jesus named both of them Bo-aner'ges, which means "sons of thunder'.'" Mk 3:17

5. Philip: Also from Bethsaida Jn 1:44, 12:21

6. Bartholomew, son of Talemai; usually identified with Nathanael, who is mentioned in Jn 1:45-51.

7. Matthew: The tax collector. The similarity between Mt 9:9-10, Mk 2:14-15 and Lu 5:27-29 may indicate that Matthew was also known as Levi.

8. Thomas: Judas Thomas Didymus - Aramaic T'oma' = twin, and Greek Didymos = twin. Doubting Thomas.

9. James, son of Alphaeus: Generally identified with "James the Less", and also identified by Roman Catholics with "James the Just".

10. Thaddeus: In some manuscripts of Matthew, the name "Lebbaeus" occurs in this place. Thaddeus is traditionally identified with Jude; (Perhaps the other Judas)

11. Simon the Zealot: Some have identified him with Simeon of Jerusalem.

12. Judas Iscariot

This list can be found on many websites!

1 Corinthians 91 Corinthians 11

Study 10  1 Corinthians 9:1-23, 15:3-8
Apostles, Disciples, Financial support, Kingdom blessings.

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