Lesson 30

Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

9:1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Haven't I seen Jesus Christ, our Lord? Aren't you my work in the Lord? 9:2 If to others I am not an apostle, yet at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. 9:3 My defense to those who examine me is this. 9:4 Have we no right to eat and to drink? 9:5 Have we no right to take along a wife who is a believer, even as the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? 9:6 Or have only Barnabas and I no right to not work? 9:7 What soldier ever serves at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard, and doesn't eat of its fruit? Or who feeds a flock, and doesn't drink from the flock's milk? 9:8 Do I speak these things according to the ways of men? Or doesn't the law also say the same thing? 9:9 For it is written in the law of Moses, "You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain." Is it for the oxen that God cares, 9:10 or does he say it assuredly for our sake? Yes, it was written for our sake, because he who plows ought to plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should partake of his hope. 9:11 If we sowed to you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we reap your fleshly things? 9:12 If others partake of this right over you, don't we yet more?

Today's Lesson 

Chapter nine of Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians is an interesting one. For eight chapters Paul has discussed problems that existed in the Corinthian church that had come to his attention. Chapter nine, though, launches almost immediately into a defense of his own ministry. However, there is some connection between chapters eight and nine.


Paul had just finished telling the Corinthians that even though they were free to eat meat even though it had been sacrificed to idols, they should consider those weaker Christians whose conscious might be harmed by this practice. They were encouraged to restrain their own freedoms in Christ for the sake of love for their brothers and sisters.


In Chapter nine, Paul tells the Corinthians that even though he is free to seek financial support for preaching the gospel of Christ he has not done so. Even though, as an apostle, it was acceptable to demand that the churches under his care support him, Paul did not do this. He did not seek to be a burden on these churches and he did not want to give anyone a reason to question his motives.


In fact, we learn through this passage that Paul could have sought support for himself and a wife, just as other ministers of Christ did. Among those that followed these practice were the rest of the apostles, the "bothers of the Lord" (probably including James), and Cephas (also called Peter). This provides us with an interesting view into the leadership of the Christian church during Paul's day.


Paul justifies this right in several ways. "What soldier ever serves at his own expense?" Armies were notorious for desertion in the face of non-payment. If a soldier at war deserved such rights, how much more did a soldier of Christ? "Who plants a vineyard, and doesn't eat of its fruit? Or who feeds a flock, and doesn't drink from the flock's milk?" In these examples Paul seeks to draw on the everyday life of the people. The workers on the farm had a right to expect to feast off the bounty that the farm provided. Who would work in a prosperous field and yet go hungry? Paul even showed them were the Old Testament scriptures support such a thing by quoting Deuteronomy 25:4.


Paul reminds the Corinthians that what he has given them is much greater than that which they are willing to buy from others. It is right that Paul should be able to ask for and receive their financial support should he require it. Paul chose to deny himself this right for their sake, but Paul is not above using it as an example for them. Just because one has a freedom in Christ does not mean that one should exercise this freedom in every situation. Paul had a right to request financial support and chose not to do so. The stronger Christians at Corinth had a right to eat meat of any kind, but ought to chose to forgo that right if it meant helping a fellow Christian.

We can all learn a lesson from Paul. Sometimes we should do things for free although we could demand payment. Are you resenting doing things for free for other brothers and sisters in Christ? Do you need to change your viewpoint and be mature enough follow in Paul's footsteps? Think about it.


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