I’ve been looking at 1 Corinthians 9 lately for some personal research and I found this in my old files… it was from my time at seminary. I thought it was worthwhile to post, maybe someone will benefit from it.
This letter was written by Paul to the believers at Corinth to deal with problems that had arisen in the church. One of the topics Paul addresses is the tension between Christian freedom and weaker brethren.1 Paul consistently commands the readers to not abuse their fellow Christians with their freedoms but rather show love and preference when dealing with others. From 8:1 to 11:1 forms a sections that uses a specific example pertaining to meat sacrificed to idols, and in chapter 9 the author demonstrates his example to prove the overarching theme of love.
V. Meat sacrificed to idols (1 Corinthians 8:1 – 11:1)
In this section Paul confronts a problem in the Corinthian church, which is whether believers could/should eat meat sacrificed to idols, to show Christians how to treat one another.
A. The example of Paul (1 Corinthians 9:1-27)
At first appearance, this looks to be an excursus from the argument in the previous section.2 But if one examines closely the real argument, which is “how should Christians treat one another in view of freedom,” then this section can be viewed as the extreme argument, or trump card, which shows Paul’s life should be an example for all believers.3
- His rights (1 Corinthians 9:1-14)
If anyone was to say to Paul it is unfair to limit their personal freedom in Christ Paul had a great case to show how it was the right thing to do. Paul appeals to his rights as an apostle, as well as his authority as an apostle, and turns the question back around on the reader.4 “Am I not free,” is the question Paul asks and then he goes on describing his freedom as an apostle. His final verse concerns how even the Lord directed those who give the Gospel to benefit from it.5
2.His refusal to exercise his rights (1 Corinthians 9:15-18)
Paul contrasts his rights and freedoms as an apostle with this section that describes his refusal to take those freedoms in order that he may offer the Gospel free of charge to anyone. He does this to show how much he cares for others as well as providing an example for the readers.
3. His service of all men (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)
This section focuses on the extent to which Paul will deny his freedoms/rights in order to bring the Gospel to others as well as partake in their acceptance. He writes this to show how Christians should go out of their way to love their neighbor as themselves.
4. His self-control (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
Here the author brings out the reward aspect of serving others at one’s own expense. Paul emphasizes the reward, partaking in the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9:23). He compares the mission to share the Gospel with a race. He shows how discipline and denial are part of being successful. He exhorts the readers that they too should do whatever it takes, to deny themselves whatever the circumstances may dictate, to accomplish the mission of sharing the Gospel.
Bruce, F. F. 1 and 2 Corinthians. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1971.
MacArthur, John. 1 Corinthians. Chicago: Moody Press, 1984.
Morris, Leon. The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians. The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1983.
Plummer, Alfred. First Epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians. 2nd ed. The International Critical Commentary. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1914.
1 Morris, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians.,, pp 131.
2 Alfred Plummer, First Epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians, 2nd ed., The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1914), pp 176-7.
3 John MacArthur, 1 Corinthians (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984).
4 F. F. Bruce, 1 and 2 Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1971), pp 82-3.
5 Morris, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians.