I Corinthians 9:1-15
An MIT linguistics professor was lecturing his class the
other day. “In English,” he said, “a double negative forms a
positive. However, in some languages, such as Russian, a
double negative remains a negative. But there isn’t a single
language, not one, in which a double positive can express a
A voice from the back of the room said, “Yeah, right.”
This week we are looking at the 9th chapter of I Corinthians.
We are going to be studying the first 15 verses.
The point Paul is making is that churches should provide for their
ministers financially. Even though Paul didn’t exercise his right to
be paid for his work, he wants the church to know they should be
willing to pay for ministerial service. Let’s pray and then we will
take a look at the first 6 verses.
I Corinthians 9:1-6
Paul starts off this chapter with a series of 4 questions.
In fact, most of this chapter includes questions that the church
would be able to answer easily.
Through this group of questions we see Paul:
Declared his Apostleship
Paul introduced himself at the beginning of the letter by calling
himself an apostle. He mentioned that he was called by the will of
He also mentions here in chapter 9 that he has seen the Lord.
Remember his encounter with Jesus while he was on the road to
Damascus to persecute Christians and have them arrested.
He continues by reminding them that the church is the fruit of his labor in the
Lord. God called Paul to lead the people of Corinth to faith in
Christ. Even if there are some outside the church who don’t
consider Paul an apostle, the church can say without a doubt that
Paul delivered the good news of the gospel to them.
Sealed his Apostleship
Paul calls the church a seal of his apostleship. This is a word the
people in this day would associate with the seal of a king. When a
king made a decree he would put wax on the document and then
heat it up and place his ring on the wax with his unique logo.
What Paul is saying is that the church is a result of his labor, no
one else can say they started the church at Corinth. Others can
say they pastored there or taught there, but Paul planted the
Defended his Apostleship
The word Paul uses which our Bibles translate as defend is the
Greek word Apologia. It is a compound word
Apo means from and logos means speech.
If you translated it literally you might say, to talk one’s self off
from. This word was often used by attorneys who would talk their
clients out of the charge that was being brought against them.
This is the same word that Peter used in I Peter 3:15 “But in
your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being
prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a
reason for the hope that is in you.”
Paul is ready to defend his apostleship because he knows God
called him to it.
Rights of Apostles
Paul continues with more questions of the church.
Don’t we have the right to eat and drink?
Don’t we have the right to take a wife?
Is it just Barnabas and I that shouldn’t be paid for serving the
If you remember our context, Paul just finished writing about the
mature believers who were eating food sacrificed to idols and they
kept on doing it even though it was causing the weaker believers
to stumble. Even though we have the right we sometimes don’t
The chapter before that was about being married or being single.
The main focus should be to honor God in all we do.
Now his point is that the church should be supporting him
It seems that the church may have felt that since Paul didn’t
indulge in the rights of apostles that maybe he wasn’t actually one
himself. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
I Corinthians 9:7-15
3 Examples from Life about Labor
Paul provides three examples from society to help reinforce his
point that ministers should be paid for their service to the Lord.
He asks what soldier would serve his country without pay. None.
He asks who plants a vineyard without eating the grapes. No one.
He asks who tends the sheep without drinking some milk. No one.
These are common everyday examples from life that the
Corinthians would have understood despite their hatred of manual
Paul doesn’t just leave his explanation there, he continues with a
Reminder from Old Testament about labor.
Paul brings up Deuteronomy 25:4 about putting a muzzle on an ox while it
treads out the grain. How cruel is it to put a muzzle on an ox while
it is working? God cares about the ox enough to provide for their
needs. How much more important are those who preach the good
news of the gospel?
Paul then explains that this Scripture wasn’t written for the ox but
for men. He mentions the plowman and the thresher who would
share in the harvest because of their labor.
It’s only right for those who are working to receive a benefit from
I love his transition in v 11.
If those who perform physical work receive material blessings why
wouldn’t someone who worked in spiritual matters receive
material blessings. Spiritual work is most definitely more important
than physical work.
Paul reminds them that others who have served in the church
have been paid for their efforts, why didn’t he? Was it because
they thought he wasn’t a true apostle or was it because they knew
he had other income from tent making?
Paul isn’t interested in the money, he just wants the church to
know that they should be fairly compensating those who dedicate
their life to serving them.
His primary concern was preaching Christ and Him crucified. He
isn’t going to let a little obstacle like this get in the way of what
God called him to do.
Reminder about Old Testament Priests
The last two analogies are about the temple priests who are taken
care of by the people who bring their sacrifices to the temple.
They don’t have to worry about what they will eat or when. God
takes care of them and provides for their needs.
Also the ones who serve at the altar are provided with enough
food for all their needs.
God cares for all of His children. He provides for all of their needs.
I heard about a church once that prayed, Lord, please keep our
pastor humble and we will keep him poor.
I’m grateful that God has allowed me to serve as the pastor here
for the past 10 years.
And I am thankful for the way you love me and care for me. I will
keep preaching the gospel and listening to what God would have
Let’s work together to advance the gospel.