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[a] = summary lessons
[b] = exegetical analysis
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A Mini-Series is a small subset of lessons from a major series which covers a particular subject or book. The class numbers will be in reference to the major series rather than the mini-series.
1 Corinthians 9:14-23 by Robert Dean
Series:1st Corinthians (2002)
Duration:1 hr 8 mins 6 secs



Paul summarizes his argument to this point by saying, 1 Corinthians 9:14 NASB "So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel." Notice this isn't an option, it is commanded. The word for "proclaim" is the Greek word KATAGGELLO [kataggellw]. The word AGGELOS is a messenger and the verb is AGGELO which has to do with communicating a message. When it has the preposition KATA prefixed to it, it intensifies the idea of the verb, and the verb KATAGGELLO means to announce something, to declare something, to declare a message, in some contexts it might even carry the connotation of inculcating a message. This verb is used eighteen times in the New Testament, and it is used about seven times in the book of Acts. Interestingly enough, the context in Acts mirrors this context. In Acts 13:5, 38; 16:17; 17:3, 23 this word means to evangelise. Primarily it means to announce or proclaim the gospel, or it seems to suggest that from those particular verses. However, in the middle of that section there is a verse that changes that concept. In Acts 13:5, 38 Paul is going to a new area and says he is going to proclaim the gospel. That would indicate to us that this is a fresh area where there are no believers and he is going to go there and witness, and so there would be the tendency to want to translate this "witnessing." However, after his first missionary journey when they had gone to Cyprus and then to Lystra, Iconium and Derbe Paul turns to Baranbas and says, Let us go back to all these places where we have proclaimed the gospel—KATAGGELLO. They didn't just preach the gospel, they didn't just witness; they taught post-salvation truth while they were there as well. So when Paul uses this word KATAGGELLO with the gospel he is indicating much more than simple witnessing. So the term "preaching the gospel" may have a narrow meaning of simply evangelising but in many cases it refers to the total context of the apostolic job.

We have to remember the historical context. The literary context of chapter nine is that Paul is talking about the function of his apostolic gift. The way the phrase KATAGGELLO is used is to describe the entirety of the apostolic ministry which begins with witnessing and extends to planting a local church. In verse 13 it is clear that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel, so clearly the Lord indicated that those out there witnessing should also be supported by those who respond to that ministry. That was made clear in Matthew chapter ten where the Lord was commissioning the disciples and sending them out top announce the gospel, and He uses the same terminology of KATAGGELLO.

Matthew 10:5 NASB "These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: "Do not go in {the} way of {the} Gentiles, and do not enter {any} city of the Samaritans; [6] but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." So this is a dispensationally distinct mandate and is not related to their later apostolic calling. [7] "And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'" …. This is the gospel at that time … [8] "Heal {the} sick, raise {the} dead, cleanse {the} lepers, cast out demons…" Based on Old Testament passages and Rabbinical tradition this was the activity that was expected of the Messiah. So they are giving signs that the Messiah was at hand. "…Freely you received, freely give." Freely we have received the gospel. We received salvation, we don't do anything to earn it or deserve it, it is a free gift. So in response to that as gratitude we give back. [9] "Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, [10] or a bag for {your} journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support." They were to trust God for the provision of their logistical needs and that would be supplied by the people they ministered to. In other words, He is saying to go out and witness and those to whom they witnessed were going to supply their needs, and they were going to trust in the Lord because ultimately it is the Lord who supplies our needs. They were to earn their living through their ministry, they had a right to do that.

Matthew 11:1 NASB "When Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples, He departed from there to teach and preach in their cities. [2] Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent {word} by his disciples [3] and said to Him, 'Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?' [4] Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and report to John what you hear and see: [5] {the} BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and {the} lame walk, {the} lepers are cleansed and {the} deaf hear, {the} dead are raised up, and {the} POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM." Notice the list, it is very similar to the list pointed out earlier. These are signs of the Messianic presence, that the Messiah has come. But His last phrase in 11:5, that they have had the gospel preached to them is a different word for "preached." It was KATAGGELLO in chapter ten when He tells them to go out and preach in v. 7; there is another phrase in 11:4, EUAGGELLO, from which we get our English word "evangelise." So he uses both words in a similar context, which indicates that they are synonyms, they overlap with one another. So you can't come along and say that what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 9:14 has to do with the broader based ministry, and then in verse 16 he shifts to EUAGGELLO again that he is now talking about the more precise witnessing. In Acts 13 Paul begins speak and the entire chapter contains this gospel message of Paul's. In that gospel message he uses these two words synonymously with what he is doing. At one point he is preaching the gospel, KATAGGELLO, and four verses later he is preaching the gospel, EUAGGELLO. This shows that these words are roughly interchangeable in Paul's vocabulary. Paul is making it clear that he understood the principle taught by the Lord in Matthew chapter ten that the apostles, the disciples, evangelists, pastors and teachers, have a right to be supported by those to whom the gospel ministry goes. They have a legitimate right to earn a living from the preaching of the gospel.

1 Corinthians 9:18 NASB "What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel." The context is that he is not going to stipulate a salary for his coming to an area, but he has already said that this is a legitimate right that all of the other apostles are exercising.

1 Corinthians 9:15 NASB "But I have used none of these things. And I am not writing these things so that it will be done so in my case; for it would be better for me to die than have any man make my boast an empty one." What does he mean by "these things"? He is saying he hasn't exercised his right to take a wife or to have them support him.

At this point there is a grammatical break in the Greek text, a figure of speech called an aposiopesis. This is a figure of speech which occurs when you are talking about one subject and you are beginning to get rather excited and emotional and intense about it and then suddenly you just stop talking about what you have been talking about and you break in and go in a completely different direction. You insert something because it is so personal and so intense that there is an emotional break and you shift your subject. It always shows intense emotion. What this reveals is that Paul is very intense at this point, because we are going to get into something that is very personal to him in terms of his own personal policy. But no matter how personal it is, no matter how strongly Paul feels about it for his own ministry, he is not condemning or judging anybody else for doing it differently.

In vv. 16-18 Paul shows how clearly he has thought through these issues. 1 Corinthians 9:16 NASB "For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel." What is Paul getting at here? This is a difficult section and it is often misunderstood. First of all Paul shifts his verb to EUAGGALIZO [e)uaggelizw] here, which is where we get our word "evangelism." He is not changing the subject. It is a summary term for the apostolic responsibility to preach the gospel and all that it entails, which means not simply the good news that Christ died on the cross for our sins but it goes on to include post-salvation truth. So the apostles taught not only the gospel but also the spiritual life—all is included here in this terminology. Paul uses a third class condition "if," which indicates it could be one way or it could be another way. The condition is uncertain of fulfilment. "If I preach the gospel"—maybe I will and maybe I won't—"I have nothing to boast of." In other words, if he preaches the gospel, he is saying he can't even be rewarded for his apostolic ministry because, he says, "for I am under compulsion." What he means is that he doesn't have a choice, he is under compulsion. In the Greek it is the word ANAGKE [a)nagkh] a term indicating that he has no choice, that he is under a mandatory role, he is under compulsion, it is a necessity for him to preach the gospel. Paul is saying he has a privilege of preaching the gospel, so give me the right not to charge for it. When Jesus Christ commissioned him on the road to Damascus it was such a powerful compulsion, he did not have a choice about being an apostle. That was a sovereign decision of Jesus Christ. So what Paul wants to do is to indicate that this is his grace response to God, so rather than go around and talk about money what he has chosen to do, because he couldn't do anything other than preach the gospel, is that he was not going to ask for any money for it. He does receive money in Philippi and other places, he clearly receives money, but he is not going to ask for it. That is his decision. His grounds for boasting is in the cross, so he says, give me an opportunity to do something freely for the Lord because of what he did for me. This is so personal for him because of the way he was saved. Paul always viewed himself as the chief of sinners. He never got away from the fact that he had committed maybe hundreds of murders of Christians before he was saved. He never forgot that. This is not to say he felt guilty about it, he never forgot it because he realized that he was the chief of sinners and that that reminded him of how extensive the grace of God is.

1 Corinthians 9:17 NASB "For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me." This is a 1st class condition, For if, and we are going to assume this is true. The thrust of this is, If I were to do this voluntarily, then I would have a reward. "…but if against my will…" and then what we expect to read, "I don't have a reward." That is the implication there, he doesn't say it. His conclusion is, "I have a stewardship entrusted to me."  This verse makes it sound that he is saying this: "If I do this willingly then I have a reward; but if against my will, then I have no reward." But that is not concept. What he is saying is, If I had an option and I chose to preach, then I would have a reward. But I didn't have an option; I was compelled to preach the gospel.  

Paul's argument is: Since I really don't have a choice in being an apostle and carrying out an apostolic ministry there is no reward in that. However, I do want to apply some personal volition here in a way that is rewardable. So my way of doing this is that I don't ever ask for a salary, and I have every right to do that. Unfortunately the Corinthians think he is being weak in doing that.

1 Corinthians 9:18 NASB "What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel." He is saying he has every right to charge, but he is not going to do it.

Philippians 4:10 NASB "But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned {before,} but you lacked opportunity." Their concern or care for him was financial. He is in prison at this time. [11] Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. [12] I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. [13] I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." "I can do all things" in context means I can handle any financial situation through Christ who strengthens me. [14] "Nevertheless, you have done well to share {with me} in my affliction." He is talking about finances and the principle that God supplies.

1 Corinthians 9:19 NASB "For though I am free from all {men,} I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more." In other words, he has put himself in a position of working day in and day out like a slave in the tent-making industry in order that he might have more converts in Corinth. Paul realized that if he never mentioned money and didn't seek a salary from them he would be more effective in his ministry than if he did.

The problem we run into in the next few verses is that they are often taken to mean, Well, I can just compromise, be anything to anybody at any time, and that is not what they say. The second problem is that often today these verses are ripped out of context and used to legitimise and compromise with culture.

1 Corinthians 9:20 NASB "To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law [Gentile proselytes], as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law." Some people think that Paul is saying he is going to be wishy-washy and all things to all people. That is not what Paul is saying. In Matthew 5:22 Jesus says it is wrong to call somebody a fool. He is talking about personal relationships. But then in Matthew 23:17 He turns around uses the same vocabulary to talk about the Pharisees. He calls them fools. What is the difference? The issue in Matthew 23 is doctrine; the issue in Matthew 5 was a personal conflict. So doctrine becomes the issue. Paul illustrates this in Acts 16 where he wanted Timothy to go with him after Timothy was saved and he was going mostly to Jews, and he knew that as Timothy had a Greek father and had never been circumcised that circumcision would be a problem. So he had Timothy circumcised. This is the illustration of verse 20: "To the Jews I became as a Jew." But in Galatians 2 he said, "But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised." It wasn't an issue with Titus because in the context of what was happening in Galatians 2 circumcision was being linked with something necessary for salvation. Now it had become a doctrinal issue. In Acts 16 it was a cultural issue. So the principle that Paul is indicating here is, don't make non-issues issues. You have to be sensitive to the real issues. Money is not an issue; personal opinion is not an issue.

1 Corinthians 9:21 NASB "to those who are without law as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. [22] To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some." The issue is eternal state of saved or unsaved. He is going to subordinate all his decisions to whether or not it helps him to communicate the gospel or whether it becomes a distraction. That becomes the bottom line, not whether I have a legitimate right to it or not. [23] "I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it." He keeps his focus on the main thing.