Niagara Ministries Church of Midland
Pastor Angel De Jesus
Sunday, September 03, 2000
09:06:55 AM

1 Corinthians 9:1

Now Paul is going to illustrate this matter of Christian liberty in another field. He will discuss his own right as an apostle, his official right. Then he will discuss his right to be supported by the church. He had the right to expect the church to care for him and all his needs as a preacher of the gospel. He uses these personal matters to illustrate Christian liberty.
Paul first defends his official right as an apostle. Paul was in the habit of defending his apostleship because it was challenged in many places.

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? [1 Cor. 9:1].
“Am I not an apostle?” Of course the answer is, “Yes, Paul, you are an apostle.” The way this question is couched in the Greek demands a positive answer.
“Am I not free?” The answer is, “Yes, Paul, you are free.”
“Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?” One qualification of an apostle was that he had personally seen Jesus Christ. Paul had satisfied that requirement.
“Are not ye my work in the Lord?” The Corinthian believers were the evidence of his apostleship.

If I be not an apsotle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord [1 Cor. 9:2].
“If I be not an apostle unto others”—but he was an apostle to others. The “if” is the if of condition.
“Yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.”
As far as the Corinthian church was concerned, he didn’t have to defend his apostleship. It was evident to the Christians there that he was an apostle.

Mine answer to them that do examine me is this,
Have we not power to eat and to drink? [1 Cor. 9:3–4].

The word for “answer” in the Greek really means defense. It is as if Paul were in court and were being charged concerning his apostleship. He is giving his defense to those who examine him. What is his defense?
“Have we not power to eat and to drink?” As an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul had a right to eat and to drink. As an apostle he had that liberty. However, that liberty is curbed and curtailed by others. He had made the bold declaration. “Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend” (1 Cor. 8:13). He had the right to eat meat, but he was not going to eat meat. Now that is an exercise of free will, isn’t it? It is free will to be able to do something and then choose not to do it. In a sense, that is a higher liberty, perhaps the highest liberty that there is. If you cannot do something, you do not do it; there is no exercise of free will in that. But if you are able to do something and then choose not to do it, that is a revelation of your free will.

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? [1 Cor. 9:5].
Evidently “the brethren of the Lord” refers to the half brothers of Jesus, James and Jude, who were apparently married. And Peter was married. They took their wives with them when they went out on their missionary journeys. Paul says that he has the same freedom, but he chose not to have a wife because he felt his ministry would be curtailed and hindered.
Today in Bible conference work if you take your wife, they wonder whether you can’t go anywhere without her. If you don’t take your wife, they wonder what is wrong. A preacher is in a bad way. When my daughter was growing up, my wife stayed at home to take care of her, and I would go alone to the Bible conferences. I would be quizzed by some of the curious saints, and I would have to go into detail to explain why Mrs. McGee wasn’t with me. Now my daughter is grown and married, so my wife goes everywhere with me. Every now and then one of the saints asks, “Does your wife go with you all the time?” as if to say, “Can’t you ever get away from her?” In the ministry you will be questioned regardless of what you do.
Paul faced this same sort of thing. Paul says that he has the right to take a wife with him—he has that liberty—but he has made his decision to remain single. After all, he was a pioneer missionary, and his was a very rugged life.

Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working? [1 Cor. 9:6].
He is saying that he and Barnabas could stay home if they wished. In other words, “We don’t have to go as missionaries—our salvation wouldn’t be affected if we stayed home.”
Now he is going to get around to this matter of paying the preacher.

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?
Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?
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? [1 Cor. 9:7–9].

In those days an ox was used to tread out the corn. They hitched the ox to a horizontal wheel, and he walked around in a circle over the grain. This separated the grain from the chaff. Then the chaff was pitched up into the air so the wind would blow it away, and the good grain would fall down onto the threshing floor. God said they were not to muzzle the ox that was treading out the grain. Why? He was working and was to be permitted to eat the grain as he worked. That was the way God took care of the ox—He made that a law. The application is that the preacher is not to be muzzled. He is to be fed for his work.
I heard a story about a preacher in Kentucky who drove a very fine, beautiful horse, but the preacher himself was a very skinny fellow. One day one of his church officers asked him the question (which had been a matter of discussion), “How is it, preacher, that your horse is so fine looking and you are such a skinny fellow?” The preacher answered, “I will tell you. I feed my horse, and you are the ones who feed me.”
God says not to muzzle the ox that is working for you, and Paul applies that principle to pastors and teachers. God not only cares for oxen, He cares for preachers. Paul is saying that he, as an apostle who has fed others, has a right to be fed.

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.
If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? [1 Cor. 9:10–11].

Paul mentions this again in the Epistle to the Galatians. If folk have given you spiritual blessings, spiritual riches, then you should share your carnal blessings with them. I heard Torrey Johnson down in Bibletown in Florida say several times—and I think it is a good principle—that you ought to support the place where you get your blessing. Suppose you go down to eat at a certain restaurant. You don’t walk down the street and around the corner into another restaurant to pay your bill; you pay the restaurant that fed you. Yet many people do that sort of thing with their spiritual food. They get their spiritual blessings in one place, and they give their offerings in another place.

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 [1 Cor. 9:12].
Paul has a right to be supported for his work. Yet, he doesn’t want to do anything that would hinder the gospel of Christ. Therefore he doesn’t receive any remuneration; he supports himself by plying his trade, which is tentmaking.
In our day there are many religious rackets. To say there are not is to be as blind as a bat. Unfortunately, there are men who make merchandise of the gospel of Christ—there is no doubt about it. However, it is God’s method that those who have a spiritual ministry are to be supported by those who benefit.

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? [1 Cor. 9:13].
That is God’s method.

Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel [1 Cor. 9:14].
It is not wrong for the minister who has been a blessing to his people to be supported by the people. I have discovered that, when people receive a blessing, for the most part they will support the place where they get their blessing.

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 [1 Cor. 9:15].
You see, Paul did not take a salary. He was able to say that the church in Corinth was not supporting him; he didn’t receive anything from them. Paul supported himself by tentmaking.

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! [1 Cor. 9:16].
I understand Paul’s feeling. To be frank with you, necessity is laid on me also. I dare not stop giving out the Word of God. Of course, I would not lose my salvation if I stopped, but I continue because I feel an inner compulsion, and also I love to teach and preach the gospel.

For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.
What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel [1 Cor. 9:17–18].

Paul did not preach the gospel for an ulterior motive and neither do I. Yet God has promised a reward. I know we will not be disappointed.

For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more [1 Cor. 9:19].
He had the freedom to make himself a servant!
Now he gives this very familiar testimony of his own ministry.

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;
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 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.
And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you [1 Cor. 9:20–23].

Paul says, “I’m doing all of this because I am out on the racetrack. I am like an athlete out there running.” Running for what? A prize.

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain [1 Cor. 9:24].
In an athletic event, only one can come in first. But in the spiritual race all of us can win the prize if we are getting out the Word of God.

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 [1 Cor. 9:25].
The awards that God gives won’t swell your bank account down here and remain here when you leave; they will be for your eternal enrichment.

I therefore so run, not as uncertainly: so fight I, not as one that beateth the air [1 Cor. 9:26].
Paul says that he is not just shadowboxing. He is not just playing at this thing. He is not playing church. This is real.

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 [1 Cor. 9:27].
The translation “castaway” is unfortunate. The Greek word is , which means “not approved.” Paul is thinking of the judgment seat of Christ where the rewards are given. In his Second Epistle to the Corinthians he will talk about the fact that we shall all appear before the judgment seat of Christ where awards are given. Paul says that he is out on that racetrack trying to run so that he will get a reward. That is the reason he preaches the gospel as he does. Paul has liberty. This is the choice that he has made.
I think every Christian ought to work for a reward. We do not work for salvation; that is a gift given by the grace of God. My friend, if you are going to get a reward, you will have to work for it. If you are going to get a reward, then you had better get out on the racetrack and start moving.