RPM, Volume 18, Number 24, June 5 to June 11, 2016

Barnes' New Testament Notes

Notes on the New Testament
Explanatory and Practical
Part 58

By Albert Barnes



Introduction to First Corinthians Chapter 8

IN this chapter another subject is discussed, which had been proposed by the church at Corinth for the decision of the apostle:

Whether it was right for Christians to partake of the meat that had been offered in sacrifice to idols? On this question there would be doubtless a difference of opinion kmong the Corinthian Christians. When those sacrifices were made to heathen gods, a part of the animal was given to the priest that officiated, a part was consumed on the altar, and a part (probably the principal part) was the property of him who offered it. This part was either eaten by him at home, as food which had been in some sense consecrated or blessed by having been offered to an idol; or it was partaken of at a feast in honour of the idol; or it was in some instances exposed for sale in the market, in the same way as other meat. Whether, therefore, it would be right to partake of that food, either when invited to the house of a heathen friend, or when it was exposed for sale in the market, was a question which could not but present itself to a conscientious Christian. The objection to partaking of it would be, that to partake of it either in the temples or at the feasts of their heathen neighbours, would be to lend their countenance to idolatry. On the other hand, there were many who supposed that it was always lawful, and that the scruples of their brethren were needless. Some of their arguments Paul has alluded to in the course of the chapter: they were, that an idol was nothing in the world; that there was but one God, and that every one must know this; and that, therefore; there was no danger that any worshipper of the true God could be led into the absurdities of idolatry, 1 Co 8:4-6. To this the apostle replies, that though there might be this knowledge, yet

(1.) knowledge sometimes puffed up, and made us proud, and that we should be careful lest it should lead us astray by our vain self-confidence, 1 Co 8:1,2,7.

(2.) That all had not that knowledge, (1 Co 8:7) and that they even then, notwithstanding all the light which had been shed around them by Christianity, and notwithstanding the absurdity of idolatry, still regarded an idol as a real existence, as a god, and worshipped it as such; and that it would be highly improper to countenance in any way that idea. He left the inference, therefore, that it was not proper, from this argument, to partake of the sacrifices to idols.

A second argument in favour of partaking of that food is alluded to in 1 Co 8:8; to wit, that it must be in itself a matter of indifference; that it could make no difference before God, where all depended on moral purity and holiness of heart, whether a man had eaten meat or not; that we were really no better or worse for it; and that, therefore, it was proper to partake of that food. To this Paul replies,

(1.) that though this was true, as an abstract proposition, yet it might be the occasion of leading others into sin, 1 Co 8:9.

(2.) That the effect on a weak brother would be to lead him to suppose that an idol was something, and to confirm him in his supposition that an idol should have some regard, and be worshipped in the temple, 1 Co 8:10.

(3.) That the consequence might be, that a Christian of little information and experience might be drawn away and perish, 1 Co 8:11.

(4.) That this would be to sin against Christ, if a feeble Christian should be thus destroyed, 1 Co 8:12. And,

(5.) that as for himself, if indulgence in meat was in any way the occasion of making another sin, he would eat no meat as long as the world stood, (1 Co 8:13;) since to abstain from meat was a far less evil than the injury or destruction of an immortal soul.

Verse 1. Now as touching. In regard to; in answer to your inquiry whether it is right or not to partake of those things.

Things offered unto idols. Sacrifices unto idols. Meat that had been offered in sacrifice, and then either exposed to sale in the market, or served up at the feasts held in honour of idols at their temples, or at the houses of their devotees. The priests, who were entitled to a part of the meat that was offered in sacrifice, would expose it to sale in the market; and it was a custom with the Gentiles to make feasts in honour of the idol gods on the meat that was offered in sacrifice. See 1 Co 8:10 of this chapter, and 1 Co 10:20,21. Some Christians would hold that there could be no harm in partaking of this meat any more than any other meat, since an idol was nothing; and others would have many scruples in regard to it, since it would seem to countenance idol worship. The request made of Paul was, that he should settle some general principle which they might all safely follow.

We know. We admit; we cannot dispute; it is so plain a case that no one can be ignorant on this point. Probably these are the words of the Corinthians, and perhaps they were contained in the letter which was sent to Paul. They would affirm that they were not ignorant in regard to the nature of idols; they were well assured that they were nothing at all; and hence they seemed to infer that it might be right and proper to partake of this food anywhere and everywhere, even in the idol temples themselves. See 1 Co 8:10. To this Paul replies in the course of the chapter, and particularly in 1 Co 8:7.

That we all have knowledge. That is, on this subject; we are acquainted with the true nature of idols, and of idol worship; we all esteem an idol to be nothing, and cannot be in danger of being led into idolatry, or into any improper views in regard to this subject, by participating of the food and feasts connected with idol worship. This is the statement and argument of the Corinthians. To this Paul makes two answers.

(1.) In a parenthesis in 1 Co 8:1-3, to wit, that it was not safe to rely on mere knowledge in such a case, since the effect of mere knowledge was often to puff men up and to make them proud, but that they ought to act rather from "charity," or love; and,

(2.) that though the mass of them might have this knowledge, yet that all did not possess it, and they might be injured, 1 Co 8:7. Having stated this argument of the Corinthians, that all had knowledge, in 1 Co 8:1, Paul then in a parenthesis states the usual effect of knowledge, and shows that it is not a safe guide, 1 Co 8:1-3. In 1 Co 8:4, he resumes the statement (commenced in 1 Co 8:1) of the Corinthians, but which, in a mode quite frequent in his writings, he had broken off by his parenthesis on the subject of knowledge; and in 1 Co 8:4-6, he states the argument more at length—concedes that there was to them but one God, and that the majority of them must know that; but states in 1 Co 8:7, that all had not this knowledge, and that those who had knowledge ought to act so as not to injure those who had not.

Knowledge puffeth up. This is the beginning of the parenthesis. It is the reply of Paul to the statement of the Corinthians, that all had knowledge. The sense is, "Admitting that you all have knowledge; that you know what is the nature of an idol, and of idol worship; yet mere knowledge in this case is not a safe guide; its effect may be to puff up, to fill with pride and self-sufficiency, and to lead you astray. Charity, or love, as well as knowledge, should be allowed to come in as a guide in such cases, and will be a safer guide than mere knowledge." There had been some remarkable proofs of the impropriety of relying on mere knowledge as a guide in religious matters among the Corinthians, and it was well for Paul to remind them of it. These pretenders to uncommon wisdom had given rise to their factions, disputes, and parties, (see chap. i.—iii.;) and Paul now reminds them that it was not safe to rely on such a guide. And it is no more safe now than it was then. Mere knowledge, or science, when the heart is not right, fills with pride; swells a man with vain self-confidence and reliance in his own powers, and very often leads him entirely astray. Knowledge combined with right feelings, with pure principles, with a heart filled with love to God and men, may be trusted; but not mere intellectual attainments—mere abstract science—the mere cultivation of the intellect. Unless the heart is cultivated with that, the effect of knowledge is to make a man a pedant; to fill him with vain ideas of his own importance; and thus to lead him into error and to sin.

But charity edifieth. Love, (h agaph;) so the word means; and so it would be well to translate it. Our word charity we now apply almost exclusively to alms, giving, or to the favourable opinion which we entertain of others when they seem to be in error or fault. The word in the Scripture means simply love. See Barnes "1 Co 13:1"

and following. The sense here is, "Knowledge is not a safe guide, and should not be trusted. Love to each other and to God, true Christian affection, will be a safer guide than mere knowledge. Your conclusion on this question should not be formed from mere abstract knowledge; but you should ask what LOVE to others—to the peace, purity, happiness, and salvation of your brethren—would demand. If love to them would prompt to this course, and permit you to partake of this food, it should be done; if not, if it would injure them, whatever mere knowledge would dictate, it should not be done." The doctrine is, that love to God and to each other is a better guide in determining what to do than mere knowledge. And it is so. It will prompt us to seek the welfare of others, and to avoid what would injure them. It will make us tender, affectionate, and kind; and will better tell us what to do, and how, to do it in the best way, than all the abstract knowledge that is conceivable. The man who is influenced by love, ever pure and ever glowing, is not in much danger of going astray, or of doing injury to the cause of God. The man who relies on his knowledge is heady, high-minded, obstinate, contentious, vexatious, perverse, opinionated; and most of the difficulties in the church arise from such men. Love makes no difficulty, but heals and allays all: mere knowledge heals or allays none, but is often the occasion of most bitter strife and contention. Paul was wise in recommending that the question should be settled by love; and it would be wise if all Christians would follow his instructions.

{a} "unto idols" Ac 15:10,19

{b} "knowledge" Ro 14:14,22

{c} "puffeth" Isa 47:10

{*} "charity" "love"

{d} "edifieth" 1 Co 13


Verse 2. And if any man think, etc. The connexion and the scope of this passage require us to understand this as designed to condemn that vain conceit of knowledge, or self-confidence, which would lead us to despise others, or to disregard their interests. "If any one is conceited of his knowledge, is so vain, and proud, and self-confident, that he is led to despise others, and to disregard their true interests, he has not yet learned the very first elements of true knowledge as he ought to learn them. True knowledge will make us humble, modest, and kind to others. It will not puff us up, and it will not lead us to overlook the real happiness of others." See Ro 11:25.

Any thing. Any matter pertaining to science, morals, philosophy, or religion. This is a general maxim pertaining to all pretenders to knowledge.

He knoweth nothing yet, etc. He has not known what is most necessary to be known on tile subject; nor has he known the true use and design of knowledge, which is to edify and promote the happiness of others. If a man has not so learned anything as to make it contribute to the happiness of others, it is a proof that he has never learned the true design of the first elements of knowledge. Paul's design is to induce them to seek the welfare of their brethren. Knowledge, rightly applied, will promote the happiness of all. And it is true now as it was then, that if a man is a miser in knowledge, as in wealth; if he lives to accumulate, never to impart; if he is filled with a vain conceit of his wisdom, and seeks not to benefit others by enlightening their ignorance, and guiding them in the way of truth, he has never learned the true use of science, any more than the man has of wealth who always hoards, never gives. It is valueless unless it is diffused, as the light of heaven would be valueless unless diffused all over the world, and the waters would be valueless if always preserved in lakes and reservoirs, and never diffused over hills and vales to refresh the earth.

{e} "man think" Ro 11:25; Ga 6:3; 1 Ti 6:3,4


Verse 3. But if any man love God. If any man is truly attached to God; if he seeks to serve him, and to promote his glory. The sense seems to be this: "There is no true and real knowledge which is not connected with love to God. This will prompt a man also to love his brethren, and will lead him to promote their happiness. A man's course, therefore, is not to be regulated by mere knowledge, but the grand principle is love to God and love to man. Love edifies; love promotes happiness; love will prompt to what is right; and love will secure the approbation of God." Thus explained, this difficult verse accords with the whole scope of the parenthesis, which is to show that a man should not be guided in his intercourse with others by mere knowledge, however great that may be; but that a safer and better principle was love, charity, (agaph) whether exercised towards God or man. Under the guidance of this, man would be in little danger of error. Under the direction of mere knowledge, he would never be sure of a safe guide. See 1 Co 13.

The same is known of him. The words "is known," (egnwstai,) I suppose to be taken here in the sense of "is approved by God; is loved by him; meets with his favour," etc. In this sense the word known is often used in the Scriptures. See Barnes "Mt 7:23".

The sense is, "If any man acts under the influence of sacred charity, or love to God, and consequent love to man, he will meet with the approbation of God. He will seek his glory, and the good of his brethren; he will be likely to do right; and God will approve of his intentions and desires, and will regard him as his child. Little distinguished, therefore, as he may be for human knowledge, for that science which puffs up with vain self-confidence, yet he will have a more truly elevated rank, and will meet with the approbation and praise of God. This is of more value than mere knowledge, and this love is a far safer guide than any mere intellectual attainments. So the world would have found it to be if they had acted on it; and so Christians would always find it.

{a} "known of him" Na 1:7; 2 Ti 2:19


Verse 4. As concerning therefore, etc. The parenthesis closes with 1 Co 8:3. The apostle now proceeds to the real question in debate, and repeats in this verse the question, and the admission that all had knowledge. The admission that all had knowledge proceeds through 1 Co 8:4,5,6; and in 1 Co 8:7, he gives the answer to it. In 1 Co 8:4-6, everything is admitted by Paul which they asked in regard to the real extent of their knowledge on this subject; and in 1 Co 8:7 he shows that, even on the ground of this admission, the conclusion would not follow that it was right to partake of the food offered in sacrifice in the temple of an idol.

The eating of those things, etc. Whether it is right to eat them. Here the question is varied somewhat from what it was in 1 Co 8:1, but substantially the same inquiry is stated. The question was, whether it was right for Christians to eat the meat of animals that had been slain in sacrifice to idols.

We know. 1 Co 8:1. We Corinthians know; and Paul seems fully to admit that they had all the knowledge which they claimed, 1 Co 8:7. But his object was to show that even admitting that, it would not follow that it would be right to partake of that meat. It is well to bear in mind, that the object of their statement in regard to knowledge was to show that there could be no impropriety in partaking of the food. This argument the apostle answers in 1 Co 8:7.

That an idol is nothing. Is not the true God; is not a proper object of worship. We are not so stupid as to suppose that the block of wood, or the carved image, or the chiseled marble is a real intelligence, and is conscious and capable of receiving worship, or benefiting its rotaries. We fully admit, and know, that the whole thing is delusive; and there can be no danger that, by partaking of the food offered in sacrifice to them, we should ever be brought to a belief of the stupendous falsehood that they are true objects of worship, or to deny the true God. There is no doubt that the more intelligent heathen had this knowledge; and doubtless nearly all Christians possessed it, though a few who had been educated in the grosser views of heathenism might still have regarded the idol with a superstitious reverence. For whatever might have been the knowledge of statesmen and philosophers on the subject, it was still doubtless true that the great mass of the heathen world did regard the dumb idols as the proper objects of worship, and supposed that they were inhabited by invisible spirits—the gods. For purposes of state, and policy, and imposition, the lawgivers and priests of the pagan world were careful to cherish this delusion. See 1 Co 8:7.

Is nothing. Is delusive; is imaginary. There may have been a reference here to the name of all idol among the Hebrews. They called idols (Elilim,) or, in the singular, (Elil) vain, null, nothing-worth, nothingness, vanity, weakness, etc.; indicating their vanity and powerlessness, Le 26:1; 1 Ch 16:26; Isa 2:8,18-20; 10:10; 19:1,3; 31:7; Ps 96:5; Eze 30:13; Hab 2:18; Zec 11:17, etc.

In the world. It is nothing at all; it has no power over the world; no real existence anywhere. There are no such gods as the heathens pretend to worship. There is but one God; and that fact is known to us all. The phrase "in the world" seems to be added by way of emphasis, to show the utter nothingness of idols; to explain in the most emphatic manner the belief that they had no real existence.

And that there is none other God but one. This was a great cardinal truth of religion. See Barnes "Mr 12:29.

Comp. De 6:4,5. To keep this great truth in mind was the grand object of the Jewish economy; and this was so plain and important, that the Corinthians supposed that it must be admitted by all. Even though they should partake of the meat that was offered in sacrifice to idols, yet they supposed it was not possible that any of them could forget the great cardinal truth that there was but one God.

{b} "idol" Is 41:24


Verse 5. That are called gods. Gods so called. The heathens everywhere worshipped multitudes, and gave to them the name of gods.

Whether in heaven. Residing in heaven, as a part of the gods were supposed to do. Perhaps there may be allusion here to the sun, moon, and stars; but I rather suppose that reference is made to the celestial deities, or to those who were supposed to reside in heaven, though they were supposed occasionally to visit the earth, as Jupiter, Juno, Mercury, etc.

Or in earth. Upon the earth; or that reigned particularly over the earth, or sea, as Ceres, Neptune, etc. The ancient heathens worshipped some gods that were supposed to dwell in heaven; others that were supposed to reside on earth; and others that presided over the inferior regions, as Pluto, etc.

As there be gods many, (wsper,) etc. As there are, in fact, many which are so called or regarded. It is a fact that the heathens worship many whom they esteem to be gods, or whom they regard as such. This cannot be an admission of Paul that they were truly gods, and ought to be worshipped; but it is a declaration that they esteemed them to be such, or that a large number of imaginary beings were thus adored. The emphasis should be placed on the word many; and the design of the parenthesis is to show that the number of these that were worshipped was not a few, but was immense; and that they were in fact worshipped as gods, and allowed to have the influence over their minds and lives which they would have if they were real; that is, that the effect of this popular belief was to produce just as much fear, alarm, superstition, and corruption, as though these imaginary gods had a real existence. So that though the more intelligent of the heathen put no confidence in them, yet the effect on the great mass was the same as if they had had a real existence, and exerted over them a real control.

And lords many, (kurioi polloi) Those who had a rule over them; to whom they submitted themselves; and whose laws they obeyed. This name lord was often given to their idol gods. Thus among the nations of Canaan their idols were called Baal (or lord,) the tutelary god of the Phenicians and Syrians, Jud 8:33; 9:4,46.

It is used here with reference to the idols, and means that the laws which they were supposed to give in regard to their worship had control over the minds of their worshippers.

{d} "are called gods" Joh 10:34,35


Verse 6. But to us. Christians. We acknowledge but one God. Whatever the heathen worship, we know that there is but one God; and he alone has a right to rule over us.

One God, the Father. Whom we acknowledge as the Father of all; Author of all things; and who sustains to all his works the relation of a father. The word "Father" here is not used as applicable to the first person of the Trinity, as distinguished from the second, but is applied to God as God; not as the Father in contradistinction from the Son, but to the Divine nature as such, without reference to that distinction—the Father as distinguished from Ms offspring, the works that owe their origin to him. This is manifest,

(1.) because the apostle does not use the correlative term "Son," when he comes to speak of the "one Lord Jesus Christ;" and,

(2.) because the scope of the passage requires it. The apostle speaks of God, of the Divine nature, the one infinitely holy Being, as sustaining the relation of Father to his creatures. He produced them. He provides for them. He protects them, as a father does his children. He regards their welfare; pities them in their sorrows; sustains them in trial; shows himself to be their friend. The name Father is thus given frequently to God, as applicable to the one God, the Divine Being, Ps 103:13; Jer 31:9; Mal 1:6; 2:10; Mt 6:9; Lu 11:2, etc. In other places it is applied to the first person of the Trinity as distinguished from the second; and in these instances the correlative Son is used, Lu 10:22; 22:42; Joh 1:18; 3:35; 5:19-23,26,30,36; Heb 1:5; 2 Pe 1:17, etc.

Of whom. ex ou. From whom, as a fountain and source; by whose counsel, plan, and purpose. He is the great source of all; and all depend on him. It was by his purpose and power that all things were formed, and to all he sustains the relation of a Father. The agent in producing all things, however, was the Son, Col 1:16. See Barnes "Joh 1:3".

Are all things. These words evidently refer to the whole work of creation, as deriving their origin from God, Ge 1:1. Everything has thus been formed in accordance with his plan; and all things now depend on him as their Father.

And we. We Christians. We are what we are by him. We owe our existence to him; and by him we have been regenerated and saved. It is owing to his counsel, purpose, agency, that we have an existence; and owing to him that we have the hope of eternal life. The leading idea here is, probably, that to God Christians owe their hopes and happiness.

In him. eiv auton; or rather, unto him: that is, we are formed for hun, and should live to his glory. We have been made what we are, as Christians, that we may promote his honour and glory.

And one Lord, etc. One Lord, in contradistinction from the "many lords" whom the heathens worshipped. The word Lord here is used in the sense of proprietor, ruler, governor, or king; and the idea is, that Christians acknowledge subjection to him alone, and not to many sovereigns, as the heathens did. Jesus Christ is the Ruler and Lord of his people. They acknowledge their allegiance to him as their supreme Lawgiver and King. They do not acknowledge subjection to many rulers, whether imaginary gods or men; but receive their laws from him alone. The word "Lord" here does not imply of necessity any inferiority to God; since it is a term which is frequently applied to God himself. The idea in the passage is, that from God, the Father of all, we derive our existence, and all that we have; and that we acknowledge immediate and direct subjection to the Lord Jesus as our Lawgiver and Sovereign. From him Christians receive their laws, and to him they submit their lives. And this idea is so far from supposing inferiority in the Lord Jesus to God, that it rather supposes equality; since a right to give laws to men, to rule their consciences, to direct their religious opinions, and their lives, can appropriately appertain only to one who has equality with God.

By whom, etc. di ou. By whose agency; or through whom, as the agent. The word "by" (di) stands in contradistinction from "of" (ex) in the former part of the verse; and obviously means, that though "all things" derived their existence from God, as the Fountain and Author, yet it was "by" the agency of the Lord Jesus. This doctrine, that the Son of God was the great agent in the creation of the world, is elsewhere abundantly taught in the Scriptures. See Barnes "Joh 1:3".

Are all things. The universe; for so the phrase ta panta, properly means. No words could better express the idea of the universe than these; and the declaration is therefore explicit that the Lord Jesus created all things. Some explain this of the "new creation;" as if Paul had said that all things pertaining to our salvation were from him. But the objections to this interpretation are obvious.

(1.) It is not the natural signification.

(2.) The phrase "all things" naturally denotes the universe.

(3.) The scope of the passage requires us so to understand it. Paul is not speaking of the new creature; but he is speaking of the question whether there is more than one God, one Creator, one Ruler, over the wide universe. The heathen said there was; Christians affirmed that there was not. The scope, therefore, of the passage requires us to understand this of the vast material universe; and the obvious declaration here is, that the Lord Jesus was the Creator of all.

And we. We Christians, (1 Pe 1:21;) or, we as men; we have derived our existence "by" (di) or through him. The expression will apply either to our original creation, or to our hopes of heaven, as being by him; and is equally true respecting both. Probably the idea is, that all that we have, as men and as Christians, our lives and our hopes, are through him, and by his agency.

By him. (di autou) By his agency. Paul had said, in respect to God the Father of all, that we were unto (eiv) him; he here says that in regard to the Lord Jesus, we are by (di) him, or by his agency. The sense is, "God is the author, the former of the plan; the source of being and of hope; and we are to live to him: but Jesus is the agent by whom all these things are made, and through whom they are conferred on us." Arians and Socinians have made use of this passage to prove that the Son was inferior to God; and the argument is, that the name God is not given to Jesus, but another name implying inferiority; and that the design of Paul was to make a distinction between God and the Lord Jesus. It is not the design of these Notes to examine opinions in theology; but in reply to this argument we may observe briefly,

(1.) that those who hold to the divinity of the Lord Jesus do not deny that there is a distinction between him and the Father: they fully admit and maintain it, both in regard to his eternal existence, (i.e., that there is an eternal distinction of persons in the Godhead,) and in regard to his office as Mediator.

(2.) The term "Lord," given here, does not of necessity suppose that he is inferior to God.

(3.) The design of the passage supposes that there was equality in some respects. God the Father and the Lord Jesus sustain relations to men that in some sense correspond to the "many gods" and the "many lords" that the heathen adored; but they were equal in nature.

(4.) The work of creation is expressly in this passage ascribed to the Lord Jesus. But the work of creation cannot be performed by a creature. There can be no delegated God, and no delegated omnipotence, or delegated infinite wisdom and omnipresence. The work of creation implies divinity; or it is impossible to prove that there is a God: and if the Lord Jesus made "ALL THINGS," he must be God.

{a} "to us" Mal 2:10; Eph 4:6

{1} "we in him" "for"

{b} "by whom" Joh 1:3; Heb 1:2


Verse 7. Howbeit. But. In the previous verses Paul had stated the argument of the Corinthians—that they all knew that an idol was nothing; that they worshipped but one God; and that there could be no danger of their falling into idolatry, even should they partake of the meat offered in sacrifice to idols. Here he replies, that though this might be generally true, yet it was not universally; for that some were ignorant on this subject, and supposed that an idol had a real existence, and that to partake of that meat would be to confirm them in their superstition. The inference therefore is, that on their account they should abstain. See 1 Co 8:11-13.

There is not, etc. There are some who are weak and ignorant; who have still remains of heathen opinions and superstitious feelings.

That knowledge. That there is but one God; and that an idol is nothing.

For some, with conscience of the idol. From conscientious regard to the idol; believing that an idol god has a real existence; and that his favour should be sought, and his wrath be deprecated. It is not to be supposed that converted men would regard idols as the only God; but they might suppose that they were intermediate beings, good or bad angels, and that it was proper to seek their favour or avert their wrath. We are to bear in mind that the heathen were exceedingly ignorant; and that their former notions and superstitious feelings about the gods whom their fathers worshipped, and whom they had adored, would not soon leave them, even on their conversion to Christianity. This is just one instance, like thousands, in which former erroneous opinions, prejudices, or superstitious views may influence those who are truly converted to God, and greatly mar and disfigure the beauty and symmetry of their religious character.

Eat it aa a thing, etc. As offered to an idol who was entitled to adoration; or as having a right to their homage. They supposed that some invisible spirit was present with the idol; and that his favour should be sought, or his wrath averted, by sacrifice.

And their conscience being weak. Being unenlightened on this subject; and being too weak to withstand the temptation in such a case. Not having a conscience sufficiently clear and strong to enable them to resist the temptation; to overcome all their former prejudices and superstitious feelings; and to act in an independent manner, as if an idol were nothing. Or their conscience was morbidly sensitive and delicate on this subject: they might be disposed to do right, and yet not have sufficient knowledge to convince them that an idol was nothing, and that they ought not to regard it.

Is defiled. Polluted; contaminated. By thus countenancing idolatry he is led into sin, and contracts guilt that will give him pain when his conscience becomes more enlightened, 1 Co 8:11,13. From superstitious reverence of the idol, he might think that he was doing right; but the effect would be to lead him to a conformity to idol worship that would defile his conscience, pollute his mind, and ultimately produce the deep and painful conviction of guilt. The general reply, therefore, of Paul to the first argument in favour of partaking of the meat offered in sacrifice to idols is, that all Christians have not full knowledge on the subject; and that to partake of that might lead them into the sin of idolatry, and corrupt and destroy their souls.


Verse 8. But meat commendeth us not to God. This is to be regarded as the view presented by the Corinthian Christians, or by the advocates for partaking of the meat offered in sacrifice to idols. The sense is, "Religion is of a deeper and more spiritual nature than a mere regard to circumstances like these, God looks at the heart. He regards the motives, the thoughts, the moral actions of men, The mere circumstance of eating meat, or abstaining from it, cannot make a man better or worse in the sight of a holy God. The acceptable worship of God is not placed in such things. It is more spiritual; more deep; more important. And therefore, the inference is, "it cannot be a matter of much importance whether a man eats the meat offered in sacrifice to idols, or abstains." To this argument the apostle replies, (1 Co 8:9-13,) that, although this might be true in itself, yet it might be the occasion of leading others into sin, and it would then become a matter of great importance in the sight of God, and should be in the sight of all true Christians. The word "commendeth" (paristhsi) means, properly, to introduce to the favour of any one, as a king or ruler; and here means to recommend to the favour of God. God does not regard this as a matter of importance. He does not make his favour depend on unimportant circumstances like this.

Neither if we eat. If we partake of the meat offered to idols.

Are we the better. Margin, Have we the more. Gr., Do we abound, (perisseuomen;) that is, in moral worth or excellence of character. See Barnes "Ro 14:17".

Are we the worse. Margin, Have we the less. Greek, Do we lack or want, (usteroumeya;) that is, in moral worth or excellence.

{a} "meat commendeth" Ro 14:17

{1} "we eat" "have we the more"

{2} "we eat not" "have we the less"


Verse 9. But take heed. This is the reply of Paul to the argument of the Corinthians in 1 Co 8:8. "Though all that you say should be admitted to be true, as it must be; though a man is neither morally better nor worse for partaking of meat or abstaining from it; yet the grand principle to be observed is, so to act as not to injure your brethren. Though you may be no better or worse for eating or not eating, yet, if your conduct shall injure others, and lead them into sin, that is a sufficient guide to determine you what to do in the case. You should abstain entirely. It is of far more importance that your brother should not be led into sin, than it is that you should partake of meat which you acknowledge (1 Co 8:8) is in itself of no importance."

Lest by any means. Mhpwv. You should be careful that by no conduct of yours your brother be led into sin. This is a general principle that is to regulate Christian conduct in all matters that are in themselves indifferent.

This liberty of your's. This which you claim as a right; this power which you have, and the exercise of which is in itself lawful. The liberty or power (exousia) here referred to was that of partaking of the meat that was offered in sacrifice to idols, 1 Co 8:8. A man may have a right abstractedly to do a thing, but it may not be prudent or wise to exercise it.

Become a stumbling-block. An occasion of sin. See Barnes "Mt 5:29, also, See Barnes "Ro 14:13".

See that it be not the occasion of leading others to sin, and to abandon their Christian profession, 1 Co 8:10.

To them that are weak. To those professing Christians who are not fully informed or instructed in regard to the true nature of idolatry, and who still may have a superstitious regard for the gods whom their fathers worshipped.

{3} "this liberty" "power"

{b} "liberty" Ro 14:13,20; Gal 5:13


Verse 10. For if any man. Any Christian brother who is ignorant, or any one who might otherwise become a Christian.

Which hast knowledge. Who are fully informed in regard to the real nature of idol worship. You will be looked up to as an example. You will be presumed to be partaking of this feast in honour of the idol. You will thus encourage him, and he will partake of it with a conscientious regard to the idol.

Sit at meat. Sitting down to an entertainment in the temple of the idol. Feasts were often celebrated, as they are now among the heathen, in honour of idols. Those entertainments were either in the temple of the idol, or at the house of him who gave it.

Shall not the conscience of him which is weak. Of the man who is not fully informed, or who still regards the idol with superstitious feelings. See 1 Co 8:7.

Be emboldened. Margin, Edified. Oikodomhyhsetai. Confirmed; established. So the word edify is commonly used in the New Testament, Ac 9:31; Ro 14:19; Eph 4:12; 1 Th 5:11.

The sense here is, "Before this he had a superstitious regard for idols. He had the remains of his former feelings and opinions. But he was not established in the belief that an idol was anything; and his superstitious feelings were fast giving way to the better Christian doctrine that they were nothing. But now, by your example, he will be fully confirmed in the belief that an idol is to be regarded with respect and homage. He will see you in the very temple, partaking of a feast in honour of the idol; and he will infer not only that it is right, but that it is a matter of conscience with you, and will follow your example."

{4} "be emboldened" "edified"


Verse 11. And through thy knowledge. Because you knew that an idol was nothing, and that there could be really no danger of falling into idolatry from partaking of these entertainments. You will thus be the means of deceiving and destroying him. The argument of the apostle here is, that if this was to be the result, the duty of those who had this knowledge was plain.

Shall the weak brother. The uninformed and ignorant Christian. That it means a real Christian there can be no doubt. For,

(1.) it is the usual term by which Christians are designated—the endearing name of brother; and,

(2.) the scope of the passage requires it so to be understood. See Barnes "Ro 14:20".

Perish. Be destroyed; ruined; lost. See Barnes "Joh 10:28".

So the word apoleitai properly and usually signifies. The sense is, that the tendency of this course would be, to lead the weak brother into sin, to apostasy, and to ruin. But this does not prove that any who were truly converted should apostatize and be lost; for,

(1.) there may be a tendency to a thing, and yet that thing may never happen. It may be arrested, and the event not occur.

(2.) The warning designed to prevent it may be effectual, and be the means of saving. A man in a canoe floating down the Niagara river may have a tendency to go over the falls; but he may be hailed from the shore, and the hailing may be effectual, and he may be saved. The call to him was designed to save him, and actually had that effect. So it may be in the warnings to Christians.

(3.) The apostle does not say that any true Christian would be lost. He puts a question; and affirms that if one thing was done, another might follow. But this is not affirming that any one would be lost. So I might say, that if the man continued to float on towards the falls of Niagara, he would be destroyed. If one thing was done, the other would be a consequence. But this would be very different from a statement that a man had actually gone over the falls, and been lost.

(4.) It is elsewhere abundantly proved, that no one who has been truly converted will apostatize and be destroyed. See Barnes "Joh 10:28".

Comp. See Barnes "Ro 8:29, See Barnes "Ro 8:30".

For whom Christ died? This is urged as an argument why we should not do anything that would tend to destroy the souls of men. And no stronger argument could be used. The argument is, that we should not do anything that would tend to frustrate the work of Christ, that would render the shedding of his blood vain. The possibility of doing this is urged; and that bare possibility should deter us from a course of conduct that might have this tendency. It is an appeal drawn from the deep and tender love, the sufferings, and the dying groans of the Son of God. If he endured so much to save the soul, assuredly we should not pursue a course that would tend to destroy it. If he denied himself so much to redeemdestroy.


Verse 12. But when ye sin so against the brethren. This is designed further to show the evil of causing others to sin; and hence the evil which might arise from partaking of the meat offered to idols. The word sin here is to be taken in the sense of injuring, offending, leading into sin. You violate the law which requires you to love your brethren, and to seek their welfare, and thus you sin against them. Sin is properly against God; but there may be a course of injury pursued against men, or doing them injustice or wrong, and this is sin against them. Christians are bound to do right towards all.

And wound their weak conscience. The word wound here (tuptontev, smiting, beating) is taken in the sense of injure. Their consciences are ill-informed. They have not the knowledge which you have. And by your conduct they are led farther into error, and believe that the idol is something, and is to be honoured. They are thus led into sin, and their conscience is more and more perverted, and oppressed more and more with a sense of guilt.

Ye sin against Christ. Because,

(1.) Christ has commanded you to love them, and seek their good, and not to lead them into sin; and,

(2.) because they are so intimately united to Christ, See Barnes "Joh 15:1, etc., that to offend them is to offend him; to injure the members is to injure the Head; to destroy their souls is to pain his heart and to injure his cause. See Barnes "Mt 10:40".

Comp. Lu 10:16.

{a} "But when" Mt 25:40,45


Verse 13. Wherefore. As the conclusion of the whole matter.

If meat, etc. Paul here proposes his own views and feelings, or tells them how he would act, in order to show them how they should act in these circumstances.

Make my brother to offend. Lead him into sin; or shall be the cause of leading him into error and guilt. It does not mean, if the eating of meat should enrage or irritate another; but if it is the occasion of his being led into transgression. How this might be done is stated in 1 Co 8:10.

I will eat no flesh, etc. My eating meat is a matter of comparative unimportance. I can dispense with it. It is of much less importance to me than happiness, a good conscience, and salvation are to my brother. And the law of love therefore to him, requires me to deny myself rather than to be the occasion of leading him into sin. This is a noble resolution; and marks a great, disinterested, and magnanimous spirit. It is a spirit that seeks the good of all; that can deny itself; that is supremely anxious for the glory of God and the salvation of man, and that can make personal comfort and gratification subservient to the good of others. It was the principle on which Paul always acted; and is the very spirit of the self-denying Son of God.

While the world standeth. Greek, For ever. The phrase, "I will never eat meat," would express the idea.

Lest I make, etc. Rather than lead him into sin, by my indulging in eating the meat offered in sacrifice to idols.

{b} "lest" 1 Co 9:22

REMARKS on First Corinthians Chapter 8

This chapter is very important, as it settles some principles in regard to the conduct of Christians; and shows how they should act in reference to things that are indifferent; or which in themselves can be considered as neither right nor wrong; and in reference to those things which may be considered in themselves as right and lawful, but whose indulgence might injure others. And from the chapter we learn:

(1.) That Christians, though they are truly converted, yet may have many erroneous views and feelings in reference to many things, 1 Co 8:6. This was true of those converted from ancient heathenism, and it is true of those who are now converted from heathenism, and of all young converts. Former opinions, and prejudices, and even superstitions, abide long in the mind, and cast a long and withering influence over the regions of Christian piety. The morning dawn is at first very obscure. The change from night to daybreak is at first scarcely perceptible. And so it may be in conversion. The views which a heathen entertained from his childhood could not at once be removed. The influence of corrupt opinions and feelings, which a sinner has long indulged, may travel over in his conversion, and may long endanger his piety and destroy his peace. Corrupt and infidel thoughts, associations of pollution, cannot be destroyed at once; and we are not to expect from a child in the Christian life, the full vigour, and the elevated principle, and the strength to resist temptation, which we expect of the man matured in the service of the Lord Jesus. This should lead us to charity in regard to the imperfections and failings of young converts; to a willingness to aid and counsel them; to carefulness not to lead them into sin; and it should lead us not to expect the same amount of piety, zeal, and purity in converts from degraded heathens, which we expect in Christian lands, and where converts have been trained up under all the advantages of Sabbath-schools and Bible-classes.

(2.) Our opinions should be formed, and our treatment of others regulated, not by abstract knowledge, but by love, 1 Co 8:1. A man is usually much more likely to act right who is influenced by charity and love, than one who is guided by simple knowledge, or by self-confidence. One is humble, kind, tender towards the frailties of others, sensible himself of infirmity, and is disposed to do right; the other may be vain, harsh, censorious, unkind, and severe. Knowledge is useful; but for the practical purposes of life, in an erring and fallen world, love is more useful; and while the one often leads astray, the other seldom errs. Whatever knowledge we may have, we should make it a point from which we are never to depart, that our opinions of others, and our treatment of them, should be formed under the influence of love.

(3.) We should not be self-confident of our wisdom, 1 Co 8:2. Religion produces humility. Mere knowledge may fill the heart with pride and vanity. True knowledge is not inconsistent with humility; but it must be joined with a heart that is right. The men that have been most eminent in knowledge have also been distinguished for humility; but the heart was right, and they saw the folly of depending on mere knowledge.

(4.) There is but one God, 1 Co 8:4-6. This great truth lies at the foundation of all true religion; and yet is so simple that it may be known by all Christians, however humble, and is to be presumed to be known by all. But though simple, it is a great and glorious truth. To keep this before the minds of men, was one great purpose of all God's revelations; and to communicate it to men is now the grand object of all missionary enterprises. The world is full of idols and idolaters; but the knowledge of this simple truth would change the moral aspect of the entire globe. To spread this truth should be the great aim and purpose of all true Christians; and when this truth is spread, the idols of the heathen will fall to the dust.

(5.) Christians acknowledge one and only one Lord, 1 Co 8:6. He rules over them. His laws bind them. He controls them. He has a right to them. He can dispose of them as he pleases. They are not their own; but are bound to live entirely to him, and for the promotion of his cause.

(6.) It becomes Christians to exercise continual care, lest their conduct, even in things which are in themselves lawful, should be the occasion of leading others into sin, 1 Co 8:9. Christians very often pursue a course of conduct which may not be in itself unlawful but which may lead others who have not their intelligence, or strength of principle, into error. One man may be safe where another man is in danger. One man may be able to resist temptations which would entirely overcome another. A course of life may, perhaps, be safe for a man of years and of mature judgment, which would be ruinous to a young man. And the grand principle here should be, not to do that, even though it may be lawful itself, which would, be the occasion of leading others into sin.

(7.) We see here the importance and the power of example, 1 Co 8:10,11. Nothing is of more value than a correct Christian example. And this applies particularly to those who are in the more elevated ranks of life; who occupy stations of importance; who are at the head of families, colleges, and schools. The ignorant will be likely to follow the example of the learned; the poor of the rich; those in humble life will imitate the manners of the great. Even in things, therefore, which may not be in themselves unlawful in these circumstances, they should set an example of self-denial, of plainness, of abstinence, for the sake of those beneath them. They should so live that it would be safe and right for all to imitate their example, Christ, though he was rich, yet so lived that all may safely imitate him, though he was honoured of God, and exalted to the highest office as the Redeemer of the world, yet he lived so that all in every rank may follow him; though he had all power, and was worshipped by angels, yet so lived that he might teach the most humble and lowly how to live; and so lived that it is safe and proper for all to live as he did. So should every monarch, and prince, and rich man; every noble, and every learned man; every man of honour and office; every master of a family, and every man of age and wisdom, live that all others may learn of them how to live, and that they may safely walk in their footsteps.

(8.) We have here a noble instance of the principles on which Paul was willing to act, 1 Co 8:13. He was willing to deny himself of any gratification, if his conduct was likely to be the occasion of leading others into sin. Even from that which was in itself lawful he would abstain for ever, if by indulgence he would be the occasion of another's falling into transgression. But how rare is this virtue! How seldom is it practised! How few Christians and Christian ministers are there who deny themselves any gratification in things in themselves right, lest they should induce others to sin. And yet this is the grand principle of Christianity; and this should influence and guide all the professed friends and followers of Christ. This principle might be applied to many things in which many Christians now freely indulge; and, if applied, would produce great and important changes in society.

1st. Entertainments and feasts which, perhaps, you may be able to afford, (that is, afford in the supposition that what you have is yours, and not the Lord's,) may lead many of those who cannot afford it to imitate you, and to involve themselves in debt, in extravagance, in ruin.

2nd. You might possibly be safe at a festival, at a public dinner, or in a large party; but your example would encourage others where they would not be safe; and yet, how could you reply should they say that you were there, and that they were encouraged by you?

3rd. On the supposition that the use of wine and other fermented liquors may be in themselves lawful, and that you might be safe in using them, yet others may be led by your example to an improper use of them, or contract a taste for stimulating drinks that may end in their ruin. Would it be right for you to continue the use of wine in such circumstances? Would Paul have done it? Would he not have adopted the noble principle in this chapter, that he would not touch it while the world stands, if it led him to sin?

4th. You might be safe in a party of amusement, in the circle of the gay, and in scenes of merriment and mirth. I say you might be, though the supposition is scarcely possible that Christian piety is ever safe in such scenes, and though it is certain that Paul or the Saviour would not have been found there. But how will it be for the young, and for those of less strength of Christian virtue? Will they be safe there? Will they be able to guard against these allurements as you could? Will they not be led into the love of gaiety, vanity, and folly? And what would Paul have done in such cases? What would Jesus Christ have done? What should Christians now do? This single principle, if fairly applied, would go far to change the aspect of the Christian world. If all Christians had Paul's delicate sensibilities, and Paul's strength of Christian virtue, and Paul's willingness to deny himself to benefit others, the aspect of the Christian world would soon change. How many practices, now freely indulged in, would be abandoned! And how soon would every Christian be seen to set such an example that all others could safely follow it!



First Corinthians CHAPTER 9

THE apostle had, in 1 Co 8:13, mentioned his willingness to deny himself, if he might be the means of benefiting others. On this principle he had acted; and on this he purposed to act, The mention of this principle of action seems to have led him to a further illustration of it in his own case, and in the illustration to meet an objection that had been urged against him at Corinth; and the scope of this chapter seems to have been not only to give an illustration of this principle, (1 Co 9:27,) but to show that this principle on which he acted would account for his conduct when with them, and would meet all the objections which had been made against his apostleship. These objections seem to have been,

(1) that he had not seen Jesus Christ; and, therefore, could not be an apostle, 1 Co 9:1.

(2.) That he did not live like the other apostles, that he was unmarried, was a solitary man, and a wanderer, and was unlike the other apostles in his mode of life, not indulging as apostles might do in the ordinary comforts of life, 1 Co 9:4,6.

(3.) That he and Barnabas were compelled to labour for their support, and were conscious, therefore, that they had no pretensions to the apostolic office, 1 Co 9:6. And,

(4.) that the fact that he was unsupplied; that he did not apply to Christians for his maintenance; that he did not urge this as a right, showed that he was conscious that he had no claims to the apostolic character and rank.

To all this he replies in this chapter; and the main drift and design of his reply is to show that he acted on the principle suggested in 1 Co 8:13, that of denying himself; and consequently, that though he had a right to maintenance, yet that the fact that he did not urge that right was no proof that he was not sent from God, but was rather a proof of his being actuated by the high and holy principles which ought to influence those who were called to this office. In urging this reply, he shows:

(1.) That he had seen Jesus Christ, and had this qualification for the office of an apostle, 1 Co 9:1.

(2.) That he had the power like others to partake of the common enjoyments of life, and that his not doing it was no proof that he was not an apostle, 1 Co 9:4.

(3.) That he was not prohibited from entering the domestic relations as others had done, but had the right to enjoy the same privileges if he chose; and that his not doing it was no proof that he was not an apostle, but was an instance of his denying himself for the good of others, 1 Co 9:5.

(4.) That he was not under a necessity of labouring with his own hands, but that he might have required support as others did; that his labouring was only another instance of his readiness to deny himself to promote the welfare of others, 1 Co 9:6.

This sentiment he illustrates through the remainder of the chapter, by showing that he had a right to support in the work of the apostle:- ship, and that his not insisting on it was an instance of his being willing to deny himself that he might do good to others; that he did not urge this right, because to do that might injure the cause, (1 Co 9:12,16;) and that whether he received support or not, he was bound to preach the gospel. In this he shows

(a.) that God gave him the right to support if he chose to exercise it, (1 Co 9:7-10,13;)

(b.) that it was equitable that he should be supported, (1 Co 9:11;)

(c.) that the Lord had ordained this as a general law, that they which preached the gospel should live by it, (1 Co 9:14;)

(d.) that he had not chosen to avail himself of it because it might do injury, (1 Co 9:12,16;)

(e.) that necessity was laid upon him at all events to preach the gospel, (1 Co 9:16;)

(f.) that if he did this without an earthly reward, he would be rewarded in heaven in a distinguished manner, (1 Co 9:17,18;)

(g.) that he had made it the grand principle of his life, not to make money, but to save souls, and that he had sought this by a course of continued self-denial, (1 Co 9:19-22;)

(h.) that all this was done for the sake of the gospel, (1 Co 9:23;) and

(i.) that he had a grand and glorious object in view, which required him, after the manner of the Athletae, to keep his body under, to practise self-denial, to be temperate, to forego many comforts of which he might otherwise have partaken, and that the grandeur and glory of this object was enough to justify all his self-denial, and to make all his sacrifices pleasant, 1 Co 9:24-27.

Thus the whole chapter is an incidental discussion of the subject of his apostleship, in illustration of the sentiment advanced in 1 Co 8:13, that he was willing to practise self-denial for the good of others; and is one of the most elevated, heavenly, and beautiful discussions in the New Testament; and contains one of the most ennobling descriptions of the virtue of self-denial, and of the principles which should actuate the Christian ministry, anywhere to be found. All classic writings would be searched in vain, and all records of profane history, for an instance of such pure and elevated principle as is presented in this chapter.

Verse 1. Am I not an apostle? This was the point to be settled; and it is probable that some at Corinth had denied that he could be an apostle, since it was requisite, in order to that, to have seen the Lord Jesus; and since it was supposed that Paul had not been a witness of his life, doctrines, and death.

Am I not free? Am I not a free man; have I not the liberty which all Christians possess, and especially which all the apostles possess? The liberty referred to here is doubtless the privilege or right of abstaining from labour; of enjoying, as others did, the domestic relations of life: and of a support as a public minister and apostle. Probably some had objected to his claims of apostleship that he had not used this right, and that he was conscious that he had no claim to it. By this mode of interrogation, he strongly implies that he was a freeman, and that he had this right.

Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord

? Here it is implied, and seems to be admitted by Paul, that in order to be an apostle it was necessary to have seen the Saviour. This is often declared expressly. See Barnes "Ac 1:21,22.

The reason of this was, that the apostles were appointed to be WITNESS of the life, doctrines, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and that in their being witnesses consisted the PECULIARITY of the apostolic office. That this was the case is abundantly manifest from Mt 28:18,19; Lu 24:48; Ac 1:21,22; 2:32; Ac 10:39-41. Hence it was essential, in order that any one should be such a witness, and an apostle, that he should have seen the Lord Jesus. In the case of Paul, therefore, who was called to this office after the death and resurrection of the Saviour, and who had not therefore had an opportunity of seeing and hearing him when living, this was provided for by the fact that the Lord Jesus showed himself to him after his death and ascension, in order that he might have this qualification for the apostolic office, Ac 9:3-5,17. To the fact of his having been thus in a miraculous manner qualified for the apostolic office, Paul frequently appeals, and always with the same view, that it was necessary to have seen the Lord Jesus to qualify one for this office, Ac 22:14,15; 26:16; 1 Co 15:8.

It follows from this, therefore, that no one was an apostle in the strict and proper sense who had not seen the Lord Jesus. And it follows, also, that the apostles could have no successors in that which constituted the PECULIARITY of their office; and that the office must have commenced and ended with them.

Are not ye my work in the Lord? Have you not been converted by my labours, or under my ministry; and are you not a proof that the Lord, when I have been claiming to be an apostle, has owned me as an apostle, and blessed me in this work? God would not give his sanction to an impostor, and a false pretender; and as Paul had laboured there as an apostle, this was an argument that he had been truly commissioned of God. A minister may appeal to the blessing of God on his labours in proof that he is sent of him. And one of the best of all arguments that a man is sent from God exists where multitudes of souls are converted from sin, and turned to holiness, by his labours. What better credentials than this can a man need, that he is in the employ of God? What more consoling to his own mind? What more satisfactory to the world?

{a} "not seen" Ac 9:3,17

{b} "my work" 1 Co 4:15


Verse 2. If I be not an apostle unto others. "If I have not given evidence to others of my apostolic mission; of my being sent by the Lord Jesus, yet I have to you. Assuredly you, among whom I have laboured so long and so successfully, should not doubt that I am sent from the Lord. You have been well acquainted with me; you have witnessed my endowments, you have seen my success, and you have had abundant evidence that I have been sent on this great work. It is therefore strange in you to doubt my apostolic commission; and it is unkind in you so to construe my declining to accept your contributions and aid for my support, as if I were conscious that I was not entitled to that."

For the seal of mine apostleship; Your conversion is the demonstration that I am an apostle. Paul uses strong language. He does not mean to say that their conversion furnished some evidence that he was an apostle; but that it was absolute proof, and irrefragable demonstration, that he was an apostle. A seal is that which is affixed to a deed, or other instrument, to make it firm, secure, and indisputable. It is the proof or demonstration of the validity of the conveyance, or of the writing. See Barnes "Joh 3:33" See Barnes "Joh 6:27".

The sense here is, therefore, that the conversion of the Corinthians was a certain demonstration that he was an apostle, and should be so regarded by them, and treated by them. It was such a proof,

(1.) because Paul claimed to be an apostle while among them, and God blessed and owned this claim.

(2.) Their conversion could not have been accomplished by man. It was the work of God. It was the evidence then which God gave to Paul and to them, that he was with him, and had sent him.

(3.) They knew him, had seen him, heard him, were acquainted with his doctrines and manner of life, and could bear testimony to what he was, and what he taught. We may remark, that the conversion of sinners is the best evidence to a minister that he is sent of God. The Divine blessing on his labours should cheer his heart, and lead him to believe that God has sent and that he approves him. And every minister should so live and labour, should so deny himself, that he may be able to appeal to the people among whom he labours, that he is a minister of the Lord Jesus.


Verse 3. Mine answer. Greek, emh apologia My apology; my defence. The same word occurs in Ac 22:1; 25:16; 2 Co 7:11; Php 1:7,17; 2 Ti 4:16; 1 Pe 3:15. See Barnes "Act 22:1".

Here it means his answer or defence against those who sat in judgment on his claims to be an apostle.

To them that do examine me. To those who inquire of me; or who censure and condemn me as not having any claims to the apostolic office. The word used here (anakrinw) is properly a forensic term, and is usually applied to judges in courts; to those who sit in judgment, and investigate and decide in litigated cases brought before them, Lu 23:14; Ac 4:9; 12:19; 24:8.

The apostle here may possibly allude to the arrogance and pride of those who presumed to sit as judges on his qualification for the apostolic office. It is not meant that this answer had been given by Paul before this, but that this was the defence which he had to offer.

Is this. This which follows; the statements which are made in the following verses. In these statements (1 Co 9:4-6, etc.) he seems to have designed to take up their objections to his apostolic claims one by one, and to show that they were of no force.


Verse 4. Have we not power, exousian. Have we not the right. The word power here is evidently used in the sense of right, (comp. Joh 1:12, margin;) and the apostle means to say that though they had not exercised this right by demanding a maintenance, yet it was not because they were conscious that they had no such right, but because they chose to forego it for wise and important purposes.

To eat and to drink. To be maintained at the expense of those among whom we labour. Have we not a right to demand that they shall yield us a proper support? By the interrogative form of the statement, Paul intends more strongly to affirm that they had such a right. The interrogative mode is often adopted to express the strongest affirmation. The objection here urged seems to have been this: "You, Paul and Barnabas, labour with your own hands, Ac 18:3. Other religious teachers lay claim to maintenance, and are supported without personal labour. This is the case with pagan and Jewish priests, and with Christian teachers among us. You must be conscious, therefore, that you are not apostles, and that you have no claim or right to support. To this the answer of Paul is, "We admit that we labour with our own hands. But your inference does not follow. It is not because we have not a right to such support, and it is not because we are conscious that we have no such claim, but it is for a higher purpose. It is because it will do good if we should not urge this right, and enforce this claim." That they hadsuch a right, Paul proves at length in the subsequent part of the chapter.


Verse 5. Have we not power? Have we not a right? The objection here seems to have been, that Paul and Barnabas were unmarried, or at least that they travelled without wives. The objectors urged that others had wives, and that they took them with them, and expected provision to be made for them as well as for themselves. They therefore showed that they felt that they had a claim to support for their families, and that they were conscious that they were sent of God. But Paul and Barnabas had no families. And the objectors inferred that they were conscious that they had no claim to the apostleship, and no right to support. To this Paul replies as before, that they had a right to do as others did, but they chose not to do it for other reasons than that they were conscious that they had no such right.

To lead about. To have in attendance with us; to conduct from place to place; and to have them maintained at the expense of the churches amongst which we labour.

A sister, a wife. Margin, "or woman." This phrase has much perplexed commentators. But the simple meaning seems to be, "A wife who should be a Christian and regarded as sustaining the relation of a Christian sister." Probably Paul meant to advert to the fact that the wives of the apostles were and should be Christians; and that it was a matter of course, that if an apostle led about a wife she would be a Christian; or that he would marry no other. Comp. 1 Co 7:11.

As well as other apostles. It is evident from this that the apostles generally were married. The phrase used here is oi loipoi apostoloi, (the remaining apostles, or the other apostles.) And if they were married, it is right and proper for ministers to marry now, whatever the papist may say to the contrary. It is safer to follow the example of the apostles than the opinions of the papal church. The reasons why the apostles had wives with them on their journeys may have been various, They may have been either to give instruction and counsel to those of their own sex to whom the apostles could not have access, or to minister to the wants of their husbands as they travelled. It is to be remembered that they travelled among heathens; they had no acquaintance and no friends there; they therefore took with them their female friends and wives to minister to them, and sustain them in sickness, trial, etc. Paul says that he and Barnabas had a right to do this; but they had not used this right because they chose rather to make the gospel without charge, (1 Co 9:18,) and that thus they judged they could do more good. It follows from this,

(1.) that it is right for ministers to marry, and that the papal doctrine of the celibacy of the clergy is contrary to apostolic example.

(2.) It is right for missionaries to marry, and to take their wives with them to heathen lands. The apostles were missionaries, and spent their lives in heathen nations, as missionaries do now, and there may be as good reasons for missionaries, marrying now as there were then.

(3.) Yet there are men, like Paul, who can do more good without being married. There are circumstances, like his, where it is not advisable that they should marry, and there can be no doubt that Paul regarded the unmarried state for a missionary as preferable and advisable. Probably the same is to be said of most missionaries at the present day, that they could do more good if unmarried, than they can if burdened with the cares of families.

And as the brethren of the Lord. The brothers of the Lord Jesus—James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas, Mt 13:55. It seems from this, that although at first they did not believe in him, (Joh 7:5,) and had regarded him as disgraced, (Mr 3:21,) yet that they had subsequently become converted, and were employed as ministers and evangelists. It is evident also from this statement, that they were married, and were attended with their wives in their travels.

And Cephas. Peter. See Barnes "Joh 1:42".

This proves,

(1.) as well as the declaration in Mt 8:14, that Peter had been married.

(2.) That he had a wife after he became an apostle, and while engaged in the work of the ministry.

(3.) That his wife accompanied him in his travels.

(4.) That it is right and proper for ministers and missionaries to be married now. Is it not strange that the pretended successor of Peter, the pope of Rome, should forbid marriage, when Peter himself was married? Is it not a proof how little the papacy regards the Bible, and the example and authority of those from whom it pretends to derive its power? And is it not strange that this doctrine of the celibacy of the clergy, which has been the source of abomination, impurity, and licentiousness everywhere, should have been sustained and countenanced at all by the Christian world? And is it not strange that this, with all the other corrupt doctrines of the papacy, should be attempted to be imposed on the enlightened people of the United States, [or of Great Britain,] as a part of the religion of Christ?

{*} "wife" "woman"


Verse 6. Or I only and Barnabas. Paul and Barnabas had wrought together as tent-makers at Corinth, Ac 18:3. From this fact it had been inferred that they knew that they had no claim to a support.

Power to forbear working? To abstain from labour, and to receive support as others do. The question implies a strong affirmation that they had such power. The sense is, "Why should I and Barnabas be regarded as having no right to support? Have we been less faithful than others? Have we done less? Have we given fewer evidences that we are sent by the Lord, or that God approves us in our work? Have we been less successful? Why, then, should we be singled out—and why should it be supposed that we are obliged to labour for our support? Is there no other conceivable reason why we should support ourselves than a consciousness that we have no right to support from the people with whom we labour? It is evident from 1 Co 9:12, that Barnabas as well as Paul relinquished his right to a support, and laboured to maintain himself. And it is manifest from the whole passage, that there was some peculiar "spleen" (Doddridge) against these two ministers of the gospel. What it was we know not. It might have arisen from the enmity and opposition of Judaizing teachers, who were offended at their zeal and success among the Gentiles, and who could find no other cause of complaint against them than that they chose to support themselves, and not live in idleness, or to tax the church for their support. That must have been a bad cause which was sustained by such an argument.

{a} "we power" 2 Th 3:8,9


Verse 7. Who goeth a warfare, etc. Paul now proceeds to illustrate the RIGHT which he knew ministers had to a support, (1 Co 9:7-14) and then to show the REASON why he had not availed himself of that right, 1 Co 9:15-23. The right he illustrates from the nature of the case, (1 Co 9:7,11;) from the authority of Scripture, (1 Co 9:8-10;) from the example of the priests under the Jewish law, (1 Co 9:13;) and from the authority of Jesus Christ, 1 Co 9:14. In this verse (1 Co 9:7) the right is enforced by the nature of the case, and by three illustrations. The first is, the right of a soldier or warrior to his wages. The Christian ministry is compared to a warfare, and the Christian minister to a soldier. Comp. 1 Ti 1:18. The soldier had a right to receive pay from him who employed him. He did not go at his own expense. This was a matter of common equity; and on this principle all acted who enlisted as soldiers. So Paul says it is but equitable also that the soldier of the Lord Jesus should be sustained, and should not be required to support himself. And why, we may ask, should he be, any more than the man who devotes his strength, and time, and talents to the defence of his country? The work of the ministry is as arduous, and as self-denying, and perhaps as dangerous, as the work of a soldier; and common justice, therefore, demands that he who devotes his youth, and health, and life to it, for the benefit of others, should have a competent support. Why should not he receive a competent support who seeks to save men, as well as he who lives to destroy them? Why not he who endeavours to recover them to God, and make them pure and happy, as well as he who lives to destroy life, and pour out human blood, and to fill the air with the shrieks of new-made widows and orphans? Or why not he who seeks, though in another mode, to defend the great interests of his country, and to maintain the interests of justice, truth, and mercy, for the benefit of mankind, as well as he who is willing in the tented field to spend his time, or exhaust his health and life in protecting the rights of the nation?

At his own charges? His own expense. On the meaning of the word "charges"—oqwnioiv— see See Barnes "Lu 3:14".

Compare Ro 6:23; 2 Co 11:8. The word does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament.

Who planteth a vineyard, etc. This is the second illustration from the nature of the case, to show that ministers of the gospel have a right to support. The argument is this: "It is reasonable that those who labour should have a fair compensation. A man who plants a vineyard does not expect to labour for nothing; he expects support from that labour, and looks for it from the vineyard. The vineyard owes its beauty, growth, and productiveness to him. It is reasonable, therefore, that from that vineyard he should receive a support, as a compensation for his toil. So we labour for your welfare. You derive advantage from our toil. We spend our time, and strength, and talent for your benefit; and it is reasonable that we should be supported while we thus labour for your good." The church, of God is often compared to a vineyard; and this adds to the beauty of this illustration. See Isa 5:1-4. See Barnes "Lu 20:9, and Lu 20:10-16.

Who feedeth a flock

, etc. This is the third illustration drawn from the nature of the case, to show that ministers have a right to support. The word "feedeth"—poimainei—denotes not only to feed, but to guard, protect, defend, as a shepherd does his flock. See Barnes "Joh 21:15, Joh 21:16-17. "The wages of the shepherds in the East do not consist of ready money, but in a part of the milk of the flocks which they tend. Thus Spon says of the shepherds in modern Greece, 'These shepherds are poor Albanians, who feed the cattle, and live in huts built of rushes: they have a tenth part of the milk, and of the lambs, which is their whole wages: the cattle belong to the Turks.' The shepherds in Ethiopia, also, according to Alvarez, have no pay except the milk and butter which they obtain from the cows, and on which they and their families subsist."—Rosenmuller. The church is often compared to a flock. See Barnes "Joh 10:1, etc. The argument here is this: A shepherd spends his days and nights in guarding his folds. He leads his flock to green pastures, he conducts them to still waters, (comp. Ps 23:2;) he defends them from enemies; he guards the young, the sick, the feeble, etc. He spends his time in protecting it and providing for it. He expects support, when in the wilderness or in the pastures, mainly from the milk which the flock should furnish. He labours for their comfort; and it is proper that he should derive a maintenance from them, and he has a right to it. So the minister of the gospel watches for the good of souls. He devotes his time, strength, learning, talents, to their welfare. He instructs, guides, directs, defends; he endeavours to guard them against their spiritual enemies, and to lead them in the path of comfort and peace. He lives to instruct the ignorant; to warn and secure those who are in danger; to guide the perplexed; to reclaim the wandering; to comfort the afflicted; to bind up the broken in heart; to attend on the sick; to be an example and an instructor to the young; and to be a counsellor and a pattern to all. As he labours for their good, it is no more than equal and right that they should minister to his temporal wants, and compensate him for his efforts to promote their happiness and salvation. And can any man say that this is NOT right and just?

{b} "warfare" 1 Ti 1:18

{c} "vineyard" De 20:6; Pr 27:18

{d} "feedeth" 1 Pe 5:2


Verse 8. Say I these things as a man? Do I speak this on my own authority, or without the sanction of God? Is not this, which appears to be so reasonable and equitable, also supported by the authority of God?

Or saith not the law the same also? The law of Moses, to which the Jewish part of the church at Corinth—which probably had mainly urged these objections—professed to bow with deference. Paul was accustomed, especially in arguing with the Jews, to derive his proofs from the Old Testament. In the previous verse he had shown that it was equitable that ministers of the gospel should be supported. In this and the following verses he shows that the same principle was recognised and acted on under the Jewish dispensation. He does not mean to say, by this example of the ox treading out the corn, that the law as given by Moses referred to the Christian ministry; but that the principle there was settled that the labourer should have a support, and that a suitable provision should not be withheld even from an ox; and if God so regarded the welfare of a brute when labouring, it was much more reasonable to suppose that he would require a suitable provision to be made for the ministers of religion.


Verse 9. For it is written. De 25:4.

In the law of Moses. See Barnes "Lu 24:44".

Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth, etc. To muzzle, means "to bind the mouth; to fasten the mouth to prevent eating or biting."— Webster. This was done either by passing straps around the mouth, or by placing, as is now sometimes done, a small basket over the mouth, fastened by straps to the horns of the animal, so as to prevent its eating, but not to impede its breathing freely. This was an instance of the humanity of the laws of Moses. The idea is, that the ox should not be prevented from eating when it was in the midst of food; and that as it laboured for its owner, it was entitled to support; and there was a propriety that it should be permitted to partake of the grain which it was threshing.

That treadeth, etc. This was one of the common modes of threshing in the east, as it is with us. See Barnes "Mt 3:12".

The corn. The grain, of any kind; wheat, rye, barley, etc. Maize, to which we apply the word corn, was then unknown. See Barnes "Mt 12:1".

Doth God take care for oxen? Doth God take care for oxen ONLY? Or is not this rather a principle which shows God's care for all that labour, and the humanity and equity of his laws? And if he is so solicitous about the welfare of brutes as to frame an express law in their behalf, is it not to be presumed that the same principle of humanity and equity will run through all his dealings and requirements? The apostle does not mean to deny that God does take care for oxen, for the very law was proof that he did; but he means to ask whether it is to be supposed that God would regard the comfort of oxen and not of men also? whether we are not to suppose that the same principle would apply also to those who labour in the service of God? He uses this passage, therefore, not as originally having reference to men, or to ministers of the gospel, which cannot be; but as establishing a general principle in regard to the equity and humanity of the Divine laws; and as thus showing that the spirit of the law of God would lead to the conclusion that God intended that the labourer everywhere should have a competent support.

{a} "written in the law" De 25:4; 1 Ti 5:18


Verse 10. Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? The word "altogether" —pantwv—cannot mean that this was the sole and only design of the law, to teach that ministers of the gospel were entitled to support; for,

(1.) this would be directly contrary to the law itself, which had some direct and undoubted reference to oxen;

(2.) the scope of the argument here does not require this interpretation, since the whole object will be met by supposing that this settled a principle of humanity and equity in the Divine law, according to which it was proper that ministers should have a support; and,

(3.) the word "altogether"—pantwv—does not of necessity require this interpretation. It may be rendered chiefly, mainly, principally, or doubtless. Lu 4:23, "Ye will surely (pantwv, certainly, surely, doubtless) say unto me this proverb," etc. Ac 18:21, "I must by all means (pantwv, certainly, surely) keep this feast." Ac 21:22, "The multitude must needs (pantwv, will certainly, surely, inevitably) come together," etc. Ac 28:4, "No doubt (pantwv) this man is a murderer," etc. The word here therefore means, that the principle stated in the law about the oxen was so broad and humane, that it might

certainly, surely, particularly be regarded as applicable to the case under consideration. An important and material argument might be drawn from it; an argument from the less to the greater. The precept enjoined justice, equity, humanity; and that was more applicable to the case of the ministers of the gospel than to the case of oxen.

For our sakes, etc. To show that the laws and requirements of God are humane, kind, and equitable; not that Moses had Paul or any other minister in his eye, but the principle was one that applied particularly to this case.

hat he that ploweth, etc. The Greek in this place would be more literally and more properly rendered, "For (oti) he that plougheth OUGHT (ofeilei) to plough in hope;" i.e., in hope of reaping a harvest, or of obtaining success in his labours; and the sense is, "The man who cultivates the earth, in order that he may be excited to industry and diligence, ought to have a reasonable prospect that he shall himself be permitted to enjoy the fruit of his labours. This is the case with those who do plough; and if this should be the case with those who cultivate the earth, it is as certainly reasonable that those who labour in God's husbandry, and who devote their strength to his service, should be encouraged with a reasonable prospect of success and support."

And that he that thresheth, etc. This sentence, in the Greek, is very elliptical and obscure; but the sense is, evidently, "He that thresheth ought to partake of his hope; i.e., of the fruits of his hope, or of the result of his labour. It is fair and right that he should enjoy the fruits of his toil. So in God's husbandry; it is right and proper that they who toil for the advancement of his cause should be supported and rewarded." The same sentiment is expressed in 2 Ti 2:6, "The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits."

{b} "he that ploweth" 2 Ti 2:6


Verse 11. If we have sown unto you spiritual things. If we have been the means of imparting to you the gospel, and bestowing upon you its high hopes and privileges. See Barnes "Ro 15:27".

The figure of sowing, to denote the preaching of the gospel, is not unfrequently employed in the Scriptures. See Joh 4:37; and the parable of the sower, Mt 13:3, etc.

Is it a great thing, etc. See Barnes "Ro 15:27".

Is it to be regarded as unequal, unjust, or burdensome? Is it to be supposed that we are receiving that for which we have not rendered a valuable consideration? The sense is, "We impart blessings of more value than we receive. We receive a supply of our temporal wants. We impart to you, under the Divine blessing, the gospel, with all its hopes and consolations. We make you acquainted with God; with the plan of salvation; with the hope of heaven. We instruct your children; we guide you in the path of comfort and peace; we raise you from the degradations of idolatry and of sin; and we open before you the hope of the resurrection of the just, and of all the bliss of heaven: and to do this, we give ourselves to toil and peril by land and by sea. And can it be made a matter of question whether all these high and exalted hopes are of as much value to dying man as the small amount which shall be needful to minister to the wants of those who are the means of imparting these blessings? Paul says this, therefore, from the reasonableness of the case. The propriety of support might be further urged,

(1.) because without it the ministry would be comparatively useless. Ministers, like physicians, lawyers, and farmers, should be allowed to attend mainly to the great business of their lives, and to their appropriate work. No physician, no farmer, no mechanic, could accomplish much, if his attention was constantly turned off from his appropriate business to engage in something else. And how can the minister of the gospel, if his time is nearly all taken up in labouring to provide for the wants of his family?

(2.) The great mass of ministers spend their early days, and many of them all their property, in preparing to preach the gospel to others. And as the mechanic, who has spent his early years in learning a trade, and the physician and lawyer in preparing for their profession, receive support in that calling, why should not the minister of the gospel?

(3.) Men, in other things, cheerfully pay those who labour for them. They compensate the schoolmaster, the physician, the lawyer, the merchant, the mechanic; and they do it cheerfully, because they suppose they receive a valuable consideration for their money. But is it not so with regard to ministers of the gospel? Is not a man's family as certainly benefited by the labours of a faithful clergyman and pastor, as by the skill of a physician or a lawyer, or by the service of the schoolmaster? Are not the affairs of the soul and of eternity as important to a man's family as those of time and the welfare of the body? So the music-master and the dancing-master are paid, and paid cheerfully and liberally; and yet can there be any comparison between the value of their services and those of the minister of the gospel?

(4.) It might be added, that society is benefited in a pecuniary way by the service of a faithful minister to a far greater extent than the amount of compensation which he receives. One drunkard, reformed under his labours, may earn and save to his family and to society as much as the whole salary of the pastor. The promotion of order, peace, sobriety, industry, education, and regularity in business, and honesty in contracting and in paying debts, saves much more to the community at large, than the cost of the support of the gospel. In regard to this, any man may make the comparison at his leisure, between those places where the ministry is established, and where temperance, industry, and sober habits prevail, and those places where there is no ministry, and where gambling, idleness, and dissipation abound. It is always a matter of economy to a people, in the end, to support schoolmasters and ministers as they ought to be supported.

Reap your carnal things. Partake of those things which relate to the present life; the support of the body, i.e., food and raiment.

{c} "if we" Ro 15:27

{*} "carnal" "worldly"


Verse 12. If others. Other teachers living with you. There can be no doubt that the teachers in Corinth urged this right, and received a support.

Be partakers of this power. Of this right to a support and maintenance.

Are not we rather? We the apostles; we who have laboured for your conversion; who have founded your church; who have been the first and the most laborious in instructing you, and imparting to you Spiritual blessings? Have not we a better claim than they?

Nevertheless we have not used this power. We have not urged this claim; we have chosen to forego this right, and to labour for our own support. The reason why they had done this, he states in the subsequent part of the chapter. See 2 Co 11:7-9; 12:14. Comp. Ac 18:3; Ac 20:34,35.

But suffer all things. Endure all privations and hardships; we subject ourselves to poverty, want, hunger, thirst, nakedness, rather than urge a claim on you, and thus leave the suspicion that we are actuated by mercenary motives. The word used here (stegomen, suffer) means, properly, to cover, to keep off, as rain, etc., and then to contain, to sustain, tolerate, endure. Here it means, to bear or endure all hardships. Comp. See Barnes "1 Co 4:11-13.

Lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. Paul here states the reason why he had not urged a claim to support in preaching the gospel. It was not because he was not entitled to a full support, but it was that by denying himself of this right he could do good, and avoid some evil consequences which would have resulted if he had strenuously urged it. His conduct therefore in this was just one illustration of the principle on which he said (1 Co 8:13) he would always act: a readiness to deny himself of things lawful, if by that he could promote the welfare of others. The reasons why his urging this claim might have hindered the gospel, may have been many.

(1.) It might have exposed him and the ministry generally to the charge of being mercenary.

(2.) It would have prevented his presenting in bold relief the fact that he was bound to preach the gospel at all events, and that he was actuated in it by a simple conviction of its truth.

(3.) It might have alienated many minds, who might otherwise have been led to embrace it.

(4.) It would have prevented the exercise of self-denial in him, and the benefits which resulted from that self-denial, etc., 1 Co 9:17,18,23,27.

{*} "power" "right"

{a} "Nevertheless" 2 Co 11:7-9; 12:14


Verse 13. Do ye not know, etc. In this verse Paul illustrates the doctrine that the ministers of religion were entitled to a support from the fact that those who were appointed to offer sacrifice received a maintenance in their work.

They which minister about holy things. Probably the Levites. Their office was to render assistance to the priests, to keep guard around the tabernacle, and subsequently around the temple. It was also their duty to see that the temple was kept clean, and to prepare supplies for the sanctuary, such as oil, wine, incense, etc. They had the care of the revenues; and, after the time of David, were required to sing in the temple, and to play upon instruments, Nu 3:1-36; 4:1,30,35,42; Nu 8:5-22; 1 Ch 23:3-5,24,27; 24:20-31.

Live of the things of the temple? Marg., Feed; i.e., are supported in their work by the offerings of the people, and by the provisions which were made for the temple service. Nu 18:24-32.

And they which wait at the altar. Probably the priests who were employed in offering sacrifice.

Are partakers with the altar? That is, a part of the animal offered in sacrifice is burned as an offering to God, and a part becomes the property of the priest for his support; and thus the altar and the priest become joint, participators of the sacrifice. From these offerings the priests derived their maintenance. See Nu 18:8-19; De 18:1, etc. The argument of the apostle here is this: "As the ministers of religion under the Jewish dispensation were entitled to support by the authority and the law of God, that fact settles a general principle which is applicable also to the gospel, that he intends that the ministers of religion should derive their support in their work. If it was reasonable then, it is reasonable now. If God commanded it then, it is to be presumed that he intends to require it now.

{1} "live" "feed"

{b} "they which wait" Nu 18:8; De 18:1


Verse 14. Even so. In the same manner, and for the same reasons.

Hath the Lord ordained. Hath the Lord appointed, commanded, arranged that it should be so, (dietaxe.) The word here means, that he has made this a law, or has required it; The word "Lord" here doubtless refers to the Lord Jesus, who has sent forth his ministers to labour in the great harvest of the world.

That they which preach the gospel. They who are sent forth by him; who devote their lives to this work; who are called and employed by him in this service. This refers, therefore, not only to the apostles, but to all who are duly called to this work, and who are his ambassadors.

Should live of the gospel. Should be supported and. maintained in this work. Paul here probably refers to the appointment of the Lord Jesus, when he sent forth his disciples to preach, Mt 10:10; Lu 10:8. Compare Ga 6:6. The man may be said to "live in the gospel" who is supported while he preaches it, or who derives his maintenance in that work. Here we may observe,

(1.) that the command is, that they shall live (zhn) of the gospel. It is not that they should grow rich, or lay up treasures, or speculate in it, or become merchants, farmers, teachers, or book-makers for a living; but it is, that they should have such a maintenance as to constitute a livelihood. They should be made comfortable, not rich. They should receive so much as to keep their minds from being harassed with cares, and their families from want; not so much as to lead them to forget their dependence on God, or on the people. Probably the true rule is, that they should be able to live as the mass of the people among whom they labour live; that they should be able to receive and entertain the poor, and be willing to do it; and so that the rich also may not despise them, or turn away from their dwelling.

(2.) This is a command of the Lord Jesus; and if it is a command, it should be obeyed as much as any other law of the Redeemer. And if this is a command, then the minister is entitled to a support; and then also a people are not at liberty to withhold it. Further, there are as strong reasons why they should support him, as there are why they should pay a schoolmaster, a lawyer, a physician, or a day-labourer. The minister usually toils as hard as others; expends as much in preparing for his work; and does as much good. And there is even a higher claim in this case. God has given an express command in this case; he has not in the others.

(3.) The salary of a minister should not be regarded as a gift merely, any more than the pay of a congress-man, a physician, or a lawyer. He has a claim to it; and God has commanded that it should be paid. It is, moreover, a matter of stipulation and of compact, by which a people agree to compensate him for his services. And yet, is there anything in the shape of debt where there is so much looseness as an regard to this subject? Are men usually as conscientious in this as they are in paying a physician or a merchant? Are not ministers often in distress for that which has been promised them, and which they have a right to expect? And is not their usefulness, and the happiness of the people, and the honour of religion, intimately connected with obeying the rule of the Lord Jesus in this respect?

{c} "Lord ordained" Lu 10:7

{+} "ordained" "appointed"

{d} "that they" Gal 6:6


Verse 15. But I have used none of these things. I have not urged and enforced this right. I have chosen to support myself by the labour of my own hands. This had been objected to him as a reason why he could not be an apostle. He here shows that that was not the reason why he had not urged this claim; but that it was because in this way he could do most to honour the gospel and save the souls of men. Comp. Ac 20:33; 2 Th 3:8. The sense is, "Though my right to a support is established, in common with others, both by reason, the nature of the case, the examples in the law, and the command of the Lord Jesus, yet there are reasons why I have not chosen to avail myself of this right, and why I have not urged these claims."

Neither have I written these things, etc. "I have not presented this argument now in order to induce you to provide for me. I do not intend now to ask or receive a support from you. I urge it to show that I feel that I have a right to it; that my conduct is not an argument that I am conscious I am not an apostle; and that I might urge it were there not strong reasons which determine me not to do it. I neither ask you to send me now a support, nor, if I visit you again, do I expect you will contribute to my maintenance."

For it were better for me to die, etc. There are advantages growing out of my not urging this claim which are of more importance to me than life. Rather than forego these advantages, it would be better for me—it would be a thing which I would prefer—to pine in poverty and want; to be exposed to peril, and cold, and storms, until life should close. I esteem my "glorying," the advantages of my course, to be of more value than life itself.

Than that any man should make my glorying void. His glorying, or boasting, or joying, as it may be more properly rendered, (to kauchma mou comp. Php 1:26; Heb 3:6,) was,

(1.) that he had preached the gospel without expense to anybody, and had thus prevented the charge of avarice, (1 Co 9:18;) and

(2.) that he had been able to keep his body under, and pursue a course of self-denial that would result in his happiness and glory in heaven, 1 Co 9:23-27. "Any man" would have made that "void," if he had supported Paul; had prevented the necessity of his labour, and had thus exposed him to the charge of having preached the gospel for the sake of gain.

{e} "I have used" 2 Co 11:10


Verse 16. For though I preach the gospel, etc. This, with the two following verses, is a very difficult passage, and has been very variously understood by interpreters. The general scope and purpose of the passage is to show what was the ground of his "glorying," or of his hope of "reward" in preaching the gospel. In 1 Co 9:15, he had intimated that he had cause of "glorying," and that that cause was one which he was determined no one should take away. In this passage, (1 Co 9:16-18,) he states what that was. He says, it was not simply that he preached; for there was a necessity laid on him, and he could not help it: his call was such, the command was such, that his life would be miserable if he did not do it. But all idea of "glorying," or of "reward," must be connected with some voluntary service—something which would show the inclination, disposition, desire of the soul. And as that in his case could not be well shown, where a "necessity" was laid on him, it could be shown only in his submitting voluntarily to trials; in denying himself; in being willing to forego comforts which he might lawfully enjoy; and in thus furnishing a full and complete test of his readiness to do anything to promote the gospel. The essential idea here is, therefore, that there was such a necessity laid on him in his call to preach the gospel, that his compliance with that call could not be regarded as appropriately connected with reward; and that in his case the circumstance which showed that reward would be proper, was, his denying himself, and making the gospel without charge. This would show that his heart was in the thing; that he was not urged on by necessity; that he loved the work; and that it would be consistent for the Lord to reward him for his self-denials and toils in his service.

I have nothing to glory of. The force of this would be better seen by a more literal translation. "It is not to me glorying;" i.e., this is not the cause of my glorying, or rejoicing, (ouk esti moi kauchma.) In 1 Co 9:15, he had said that he had a cause of glorying, or of joy, (kauchma.) He here says that that joy or glorying did not consist in the simple fact that he preached the gospel; for necessity was laid on him: there was some other cause and source of his joy or glorying than that simple fact, 1 Co 9:18. Others preached the gospel also: in common with them, it might be a source of joy to him that he preached the gospel; but it was not the source of his peculiar joy for he had been called into the apostleship in such a manner as to render it inevitable that he should preach the gospel. His glorying was of another kind.

For necessity is laid upon me. My preaching is in a manner inevitable, and cannot therefore be regarded as that in which I peculiarly glory. I was called into the ministry in a miraculous manner; I was addressed personally by the Lord Jesus; I was arrested when I was a persecutor; I was commanded to go and preach; I had a direct commission from heaven. There was no room for hesitancy or debate on the subject, (Gal 1:16,) and I gave myself at once and entirely to the work, Ac 9:6. I have been urged to this by a direct call from heaven; and to yield obedience to this call cannot be regarded as evincing such an inclination to give myself to this work as if the call had been in the usual mode, and with less decided manifestations. We are not to suppose that Paul was compelled to preach, or that he was not voluntary in his work, or that he did not prefer it to any other employment: but he speaks in a popular sense, as saying that he "could not help it;" or that the evidence of his call was irresistible, and left no room for hesitation. He was free; but there was not the slightest room for debate on the subject. The evidence of his call was so strong that he could not but yield. Probably none now have evidences of their call to the ministry as strong as this. But there are many, very many, who feel that a kind of necessity is laid on them to preach. Their consciences urge them to it. They would be miserable in any other employment. The course of Providence has shut them up to it. Like Saul of Tarsus, they may have been persecutors, or revilers, or "injurious," or blasphemers, (1 Ti 1:13;) or they may, like him, have commenced a career of ambition; or they may have been engaged in some scheme of money-making or of pleasure; and in an hour when they little expected it, they have been arrested by the truth of God, and their attention directed to the gospel ministry. Many a minister has, before entering the ministry, formed many other purposes of life; but the providence of God barred his way, hemmed in his goings, and constrained him to become an ambassador of the cross.

Yea, woe is unto me, etc. I should be miserable and wretched if I did not preach. My preaching, therefore, in itself considered, cannot be a subject of glorying. I am shut up to it. I am urged to it in every way. I should be wretched were I not to do it, and were I to seek any other calling. My conscience would reproach me. My judgment would condemn me. My heart would pain me. I should have no comfort in any other calling; and God would frown upon me. Learn hence,

(1.) That Paul had been converted. Once he had no love for the ministry, but persecuted the Saviour. With the feelings which he then had, he would have been wretched in the ministry; with those which he now had, he would have been wretched out of it. His heart, therefore, had been wholly changed.

(2.) All ministers who are duly called to the work can say the same thing. They would be wretched in any other calling. Their conscience would reproach them. They would have no interest in the plans of the world; in the schemes of wealth, and pleasure, and fame. Their heart is in this work, and in this alone. In this, though amidst circumstances of poverty, persecution, nakedness, cold, peril, sickness, they have comfort. In any other calling, though surrounded by affluence, friends, wealth, honours, pleasures, gaiety, fashion, they would be miserable.

(3.) A man whose heart is not in the ministry, and who would be as happy in any other calling, is not fit to be an ambassador of Jesus Christ. Unless his heart is there, and he prefers that to any other calling, he should never think of preaching the gospel.

(4.) Men who leave the ministry, and voluntarily devote themselves to some other calling when they might preach, never had the proper spirit of an ambassador of Jesus. If for the sake of ease or gain; if to avoid the cares and anxieties of the life of a pastor; if to make money, or secure money when made; if to cultivate a farm, to teach a school, to write a book, to live upon an estate, or to enjoy life, they lay aside the ministry, it is proof that they never had a call to the work. So did not Paul; and so did not Paul's Master and ours. They loved the work, and they left it not till death. Neither for ease, honour, nor wealth; neither to avoid care, toil, pain, or poverty, did they cease in their work, until the one could say, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith," (2 Ti 4:7;) and the other, "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do," Joh 17:4.

(5.) We see the reason why men are sometimes miserable in other callings. They should have entered the ministry. God called them to it; and they became hopefully pious. But they chose the law, or the practice of medicine, or chose to be farmers, merchants, teachers, professors, or statesmen. And God withers their piety, blights their happiness, follows them with the reproaches of conscience, makes them sad, melancholy, wretched. They do no good; and they have no comfort in life. Every man should do the will of God, and then every man would be happy.

{a} "necessity" Jer 1:17; 20:9


Verse 17. For if I do this thing willingly. If I preach so as to show that my heart is in it; that I am not compelled. If I pursue such a course as to show that I prefer it to all other employments. If Paul took a compensation for his services, he could not well do this; if he did not, he showed that his heart was in it, and that he preferred the work to all others. Even though he had been in a manner compelled to engage in that work, yet he so acted in the work as to show that it had his hearty preference. This was done by his submitting to voluntary self-denials and sacrifices, in order to spread the Saviour's name.

I have a reward. I shall meet with the approbation of my Lord, and shall obtain the reward in the world to come which is promised to those who engage heartily, and laboriously, and successfully in turning sinners to God, Pr 11:30; Da 12:3; Mt 13:43; 25:21-23; Jas 5:20.

But if against my will. Akwn. If under a necessity, (1 Co 9:16;) if by the command of another,—(Grotius;) if I do it by the fear of punishment, or by any strong necessity which is laid on me.

A dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. I am entrusted with (pepisteumai) this dispensation, office, economy (oikonomian) of the gospel. It has been laid upon me; I have been called to it; I must engage in this Work; and if I do it from mere compulsion, or in such a way that my will shall not acquiesce in it, and concur with it, I shall have no distinguished reward. The work must be done; I must preach the gospel; and it becomes me so to do it as to show that my heart and will entirely concur; that it is not a matter of compulsion, but of choice. This he proposed to do by so denying himself, and so foregoing comforts which he might lawfully enjoy, and so subjecting himself to perils and toils in preaching the gospel, as to show that his heart was in the work, and that he truly loved it.

{b} "dispensation" Col 1:25


Verse 18. What is my reward then? What is the source of my reward? or what is there in my conduct that will show that I am entitled to reward? What is there that will demonstrate that my heart is in the work of the ministry; that I am free and voluntary, and that I am not urged by mere necessity? Though I have been called by miracle, and though necessity is laid upon me, so that I cannot but preach the gospel, yet how shall I so do it as to make it proper for God to reward me as a voluntary agent? Paul immediately states the circumstance that showed that he was entitled to the reward; and that was, that he denied himself, and was willing to forego his lawful enjoyments, and even his rights, that he might make the gospel without charge.

I may make the gospel of Christ without charge. Without expense to those who hear it. I will support myself by my own labour, and will thus show that I am not urged to preaching by mere "necessity," but that I love it. Observe here,

(1.) that Paul did not give up a support because he was not entitled to it.

(2.) He does not say that it would be well or advisable for others to do it.

(3.) It is right, and well for a man, if he chooses, and can do it, to make the gospel without charge, and to support himself.

(4.) All that this case proves is, that it would be proper only where a "necessity" was laid on a man, as it was on Paul; when he could not otherwise show that his heart was in the work, and that he was voluntary and loved it.

(5.) This passage cannot be urged by a people to prove that ministers ought not to have a support. Paul says they have a right to it. A man may forego a right if he pleases. He may choose not to urge it; but no one can demand of him that he should not urge it; much less have they a right to demand that he should give up his rights.

(6.) It is best in general that those who hear the gospel should contribute to its support. It is not only equal and right, but it is best for them. We generally set very little value on that which costs us nothing; and the very way to make the gospel contemptible, is to have it preached by those who are supported by the state, or by their own labour in some other department; or by men who neither by their talents, their learning, nor their industry, have any claim to a support. All ministers are not like Paul. They have neither been called as he was, nor have they his talent, his zeal, or his eloquence. Paul's example, then, should not be urged as an authority for a people to withhold from their pastor what is his due; nor, because Paul chose to forego his rights, should people now demand that a minister should devote his time, and health, and life to their welfare for naught.

That I abuse not my power in the gospel. Paul had a right to a support. This power he might urge. But to urge it in his circumstances would be a hinderance of the gospel. And to do that would be to abuse his power, or to pervert it to purposes for which it was never designed.


Verse 19. For though I be free. I am a freeman. I am under obligation to none. I am not bound to give them my labours, and at the same time to toil for my own support. I have claims like others, and could urge them; and no man could demand that I should give myself to a life of servitude, and comply with their prejudices and wishes, as if I were a slave, in order to their conversion. Compare 1 Co 9:1. See Barnes "1 Co 6:12".

From all men. ek pantwn. This may either refer to all persons or to all things. The word men is not in the original. The connexion, however, seems to fix the signification to persons. "I am a freeman. And although I have conducted [myself] like a slave, yet it has been done voluntarily."

I have made myself servant unto all. Greek, "I have enslaved myself (emauton edoulwsa) unto all." That is,

(1.) I labour for them, or in their service, and to promote their welfare.

(2.) I do it, as the slave does, without reward or hire. I am not paid for it, but submit to the toil, and do it without receiving pay.

(3.) Like the slave who wishes to gratify his master, or who is compelled from the necessity of the case, I comply with the prejudices, habits, customs, and opinions of others as far as I can with a good conscience. The slave is subject to the master's will. That will must be obeyed. The whims, prejudices, caprices of the master must be submitted to, even if they are mere caprice, and wholly unreasonable. So Paul says that he had voluntarily put himself into this condition, a condition making it necessary for him to suit himself to the opinions, prejudices, caprices, and feelings of all men, so far as he could do it with a good conscience, in order that he might save them. We are not to understand here that Paul embraced any opinions which were false in order to do this, or that he submitted to anything which is morally wrong. But he complied with their customs, and habits, and feelings, as far as it could lawfully be done. He did not needlessly offend them, or run counter to their prejudices.

That I might gain the more. That I might gain more to Christ; that I might be the means of saving more souls. What a noble instance of self-denial and true greatness is here! How worthy of religion! How elevated the conduct! How magnanimous, and how benevolent! No man would do this who had not a greatness of intellect that would rise above narrow prejudices; and who had not a nobleness of heart that would seek at personal sacrifice the happiness of all men. It is said that not a few early Christians, in illustration of this principle of conduct, actually sold themselves into slavery in order that they might have access to and benefit slaves—an act to which nothing would prompt a man but the religion of the cross. Comp. See Barnes "Ro 1:14".

{a} "servant" Ro 1:14; Ga 5:13


Verse 20. And unto the Jews. In this verse, and the two following, Paul states more at length the conduct which he had exhibited, and to which he refers in 1 Co 9:19. He had shown this conduct to all classes of men. He had preached much to his own countrymen, and had evinced these principles there.

I became as a Jew. I complied with their rites, customs, prejudices, as far as I could with a good conscience. I did not needlessly offend them. I did not attack and oppose their views, when there was no danger that my conduct should be mistaken. For a full illustration of Paul's conduct in this respect, and the principles which influenced him, See Barnes "Ac 16:3" See Barnes "Ac 18:18" See Barnes "Ac 21:21" also Ac 21:22-27 See Barnes "Ac 23:1" also Ac 23:5-6.

To those that are under the law. This I understand as another form of saying that he conformed to the rites, customs, and even prejudices of the Jews. The phrase, "under the law," means undoubtedly the law of Moses; and probably he here refers particularly to those Jews who lived in the land of Judea, as being more immediately and entirely under the law of Moses, than those who lived among the Gentiles.

As under the law. That is, I conformed to their rites and customs as far as I could do it. I did not violate them unnecessarily. I did not disregard them for the purpose of offending them; nor refuse to observe them when it could be done with a good conscience. There can be no doubt that Paul, when he was in Judea, submitted himself to the laws, and lived in conformity with them.

That I might gain. That I might obtain their confidence and affection. That I might not outrage their feelings, excite their prejudices, and provoke them to anger; and that I might thus have access to their minds, and be the means of converting them to the Christian faith.

{b} "unto the Jews" Ac 16:3; 21:23-26


Verse 21. To them that are without law. To the Gentiles, who have not the law of Moses. See Barnes "Ro 2:12,14".

As without law. Not practicing the peculiar rites and ceremonies enjoined in the law of Moses. Not insisting on them, or urging them; but showing that the obligation to those rites had been done away; and that they were not binding, though when among the Jews I might still continue to observe them. See Barnes "Ac 15:1"

and following: and the argument of Paul in Gal 2:11-18. I neglected the ceremonial precepts of the Mosaic law, when I was with those who had not heard of the law of Moses, or those who did not observe them, because I knew that the binding obligation of these ceremonial precepts had ceased. I did not, therefore, press them upon the Gentiles, nor did I superstitiously and publicly practise them. In all this, Paul has reference only to those things which he regarded as in themselves indifferent, and not a matter of conscience; and his purpose was not needlessly to excite the prejudice or the opposition of the world. Nothing is ever gained by provoking opposition for the mere sake of opposition. Nothing tends more to hinder the gospel than that. In all things of conscience and truth a man should be firm, and should lose his life rather than abandon either; in all things of indifference, of mere custom, of prejudice, he should yield, and accommodate himself to the modes of thinking among men, and adapt himself to their views, feelings, and habits of life, that he may win them to Christ.

Being not without law to God. Not regarding myself as being absolutely without law, or as being freed from obligation to obey God. Even in all this, I endeavoured so to live as that it might be seen that I felt myself bound by law to God. I was not a despiser, and contemner and neglecter of law, as such, but only regarded myself as not bound by the peculiar ceremonial law of Moses. This is an instance of Paul's conscientiousness. He would not leave room to have it supposed for a moment that he disregarded all law. He was bound to God by law; and in the conduct to which he was referring, he felt that he was obeying him. He was bound by higher law than those ceremonial observances which were now to be done away. This passage would destroy all the refuges of the Antinomians. Whatever privileges the gospel has introduced, it has not set us free from the restraints and obligations of law. That is binding still; and no man is at liberty to disregard the moral law of God. Christ came to magnify, strengthen, and to honour the law, not to destroy it.

But under the law to Christ. Bound by the law enjoined by Christ; under the law of affectionate gratitude and duty to him. I obeyed his commands; followed his instructions; sought his honour; yielded to his will. In this he would violate none of the rules of the moral law. And he here intimates, that his grand object was to yield obedience to the law of the Saviour, and that this was the governing purpose of his life. And this would guide a man right. In doing this, he would never violate any of the precepts of the moral law, for Christ obeyed them, and enjoined their observance. He would never feel that he was without law to God, for Christ obeyed God, and enjoined it on all. He would never feel that religion came to set him free from law, or to authorize licentiousness; for its grand purpose and aim is to make men holy, and to bind them everywhere to the observance of the pure law of the Redeemer.

{a} "being not without law" 1 Co 7:22


Verse 22. To the weak. See Barnes "Ro 15:1".

To those weak in faith; scrupulous in regard to certain observances; whose consciences were tender and unenlightened, and who would be offended even by things which might be in themselves lawful. He did not lacerate their feelings, and run counter to their prejudices, for the mere sake of doing it.

Became I as weak. I did not shock them. I complied with their customs. I conformed to them in my dress, habits, manner of life, and even in the services of religion. I abstained from food which they deemed it their duty to abstain from; and where, if I had partaken of it, I should have offended them. Paul did not do this to gratify himself, or them, but to do them good. And Paul's example should teach us not to make it the main business of life to gratify ourselves: and it should teach us not to lacerate the feelings of others; not to excite their prejudices needlessly; not to offend them where it will do no good. If truth offends men, we cannot help it. But in matters of ceremony, and dress, and habits, and customs, and forms, we should be willing to conform to them, as far as can be done, and for the sole purpose of saving their souls.

I am made all things to all men. I become all things; that is, I accommodate myself to them in all things, so far as can be done with a good conscience.

That I might by all means. Pantwv. That I might use every possible endeavour that some at least might be saved. It is implied here that the opposition to the gospel was everywhere great; that men were reluctant to embrace it; that the great mass were going to ruin, and that Paul was willing to make the highest possible exertions, to deny himself, and practise every innocent art, that he might save a few at least out of the innumerable multitudes that were going to death and hell. It follows from this,

(1.) that men are in danger of ruin.

(2.) We should make an effort to save men. We should deny ourselves, and give ourselves to toil and privation, that we may save some at least from ruin.

(3.) The doctrine of universal salvation is not true. If it were, what use or propriety would there have been in these efforts of Paul? If all were to be saved, why should he deny himself, and labour and toil to save "SOME?" Why should a man make a constant effort to save a few at least, if he well knew that all were to be saved? Assuredly Paul did not know or believe that all men would be saved; but if the doctrine is true, he would have been quite as likely to have known it as its modern advocates and defenders.

{b} "weak" Ro 15:1; 2 Co 11:29

{c} "I am made" 1 Co 10:33

{d} "that I might" Ro 11:14


Verse 23. For the gospel's sake. That it may be advanced, and may be successful.

That I might be partaker thereof with you. You hope to be saved. You regard yourselves as Christians; and I wish to give evidence also that I am a Christian, and that I shall be admitted to heaven to partake of the happiness of the redeemed. This he did, by so denying himself as to give evidence that he was truly actuated by Christian principles.


Verse 24. Know ye not, etc. In the remainder of this chapter, Paul illustrates the general sentiment on which he had been dwelling— the duty of practicing self-denial for the salvation of others—by a reference to the well-known games which were celebrated near Corinth. Throughout the chapter, his object had been to show that in declining to receive a support for preaching, he had done it, not because he was conscious that he had no claim to it, but because by doing it he could better advance the salvation of men, the furtherance of the gospel, and, in his peculiar case, (1 Co 9:16,17,) could obtain better evidence, and furnish to others better evidence that he was actuated by a sincere desire to honour God in the Gospel. He had denied himself. He had voluntarily submitted to great privations. He had had a great object in view in doing it. And he now says, that in the well-known athletic games at Corinth, the same thing was done by the racers, (1 Co 9:24,) and by wrestlers, or boxers, 1 Co 9:25. If they had done it, for objects so comparatively unimportant as the attainment of an earthly garland, assuredly it was proper for him to do it to obtain a crown which should never fade away. This is one of the most beautiful, appropriate, vigorous, and bold illustrations that can anywhere be found; and is a striking instance of the force with which the most vigorous and self-denying efforts of Christians can be vindicated, and can be urged by a reference to the conduct of men in the affairs of this life. By the phrase, "know ye not," Paul intimates that those games to which he alludes, were well known to them, and that they must be familiar with their design, and with the manner in which they were conducted. The games to which the apostle alludes were celebrated with extraordinary pomp and splendour, every fourth year, on the Isthmus which joined the Peloponnesus to the main land, and on a part of which the city of Corinth stood. There were in Greece four species of games: the Pythian, or Delphic; the Isthmian, or Corinthian; the Nemean, and the Olympic. On these occasions persons were assembled from all parts of Greece, and the time during which they continued was devoted to extraordinary festivity and amusement. The Isthmian or Corinthian games were celebrated in the narrow part of the Isthmus of Corinth, to the north of the city, and were doubtless the games to which the apostle more particularly alluded, though the games in each of the places were substantially of the same nature, and the same illustration would in the main apply to all. The Nemean games were celebrated at Nemaea, a town of Argolis, and were instituted by the Argives in honour of Archemorus, who died by the bite of a serpent, but were renewed by Hercules. They consisted of horse and foot races, of boxing, leaping, running, etc. The conqueror was at first rewarded with a crown of olive, afterwards of green parsley. They were celebrated every third, or, according to others, every fifth year. The Pythian games were celebrated every four years at Delphi, in Phocis, at the foot of Mount Parnassus, where was the seat of the celebrated Delphic oracle. These games were of the same character substantially as those celebrated in other places, and attracted persons not only from other parts of Greece, but from distant countries. See Travels of Anacharsis, vol. ii. pp. 375—418. The Olympic games were celebrated in Olympia, a town of Elis, on the southern bank of the Alphiss river, on the western part of the Peloponnesus. They were on many accounts the most celebrated of any in Greece. They were said to have been instituted by Hercules, who planted a grove called Altis, which he dedicated to Jupiter. They were attended not only from all parts of Greece, but from the most distant countries. These were celebrated every fourth year; and hence, in Grecian chronology, a period of four years was called an Olympiad. See Anacharsis, vol. iii. 434, seq. It thus happened that in one or more of these places, there were games celebrated every year, to which no small part of the inhabitants of Greece were attracted. Though the apostle probably had particular reference to the Isthmian games celebrated in the vicinity of Corinth, yet his illustration is applicable to them all; for in all the exercises were nearly the same. They consisted chiefly in leaping, running, throwing the discus or quoit, boxing, wrestling, and were expressed in the following line:

alma, podwkeihn, diskon, akonta, palhn:

Leaping, running, throwing the quoit, darting, wrestling. Connected with these were also, sometimes, other exercises, as races of chariots, horses, etc. The apostle refers to but two of these exercises in his illustration.

They which run. This was one of the principal exercises at the games. Fleetness or swiftness was regarded as an extraordinary virtue; and great pains were taken in order to excel in this. Indeed, they regarded it so highly, that those who prepared themselves for it thought it worth while to use means to burn their spleen, because it was believed to be a hinderance to them, and to retard them in the race. (Rob. Cal.) Homer tells us that swiftness was one of the most excellent endowments with which a man can be blessed.

"No greater honour e'er has been attain'd,
Than what strong hands or nimble feet have gain'd."

One reason why this was deemed so valuable an attainment among the Greeks was, that it fitted men eminently for war as it was then conducted. It enabled them to make a sudden and unexpected onset, or a rapid retreat. Hence the character which Homer constantly gives of Achilles is, that he was swift of foot. And thus David, in his poetical lamentations over Saul and Jonathan, takes special notice of this qualification of theirs, as fitting them for war.

"They were swifter than eagles,
Stronger than lions."—2 Sa 1:23

For these races they prepared themselves by a long course of previous discipline and exercise; and nothing was left undone that might contribute to secure the victory.

In a race. en stadiw In the stadium. The stadium, or running-ground, or place in which the boxers contended, and where races were run. At Olympia the stadium was a causeway 604 feet in length, and of proportionable width. (Herod. lib. 2. c. 149.) It was surrounded by a terrace, and by the seats of the judges of the games. At one end was fixed the boundary or goal to which they ran.

Run all. All run who have entered the lists. Usually there were many racers who contended for the prize.

But one receiveth the prize? The victor, and he alone. The prize which was conferred was a wreath of olive at the Olympic games; a wreath of apple at Delphi; of pine at the Isthmian; and of parsley at the Nemean games.—Addison. Whatever the prize was, it was conferred on the successful champion on the last day of the games, and with great solemnity, pomp, congratulation, and rejoicing. \-

Every one thronged to see and congratulate them;
their relations, friends, and countrymen, shedding tears of
tenderness and joy, Lifted them on their shoulders to show
them to the crowd, and held them up to the applauses of the
whole assembly, who strewed handfuls of flowers over them.

(Anachar. iii. 448.) Nay, at their return home, they rode in a
triumphal chariot; the walls of the city were broken down to
give them entrance; and in many cities a subsistence was
given them out of the public treasury, and they were
exempted from taxes. Cicero says that a victory at the
Olympic games was not much less honourable than a triumph
at Rome. see Anachar. iii. 469, and Rob. Cal., art. Race.

When Paul says that but one receives the prize, he does not mean to say that there will be the same small proportion among those who shall enter into heaven, and among Christians. But his idea is, that as they make an effort to obtain the prize, so should we; as many who strive for it then lose it, it is possible that we may; and that therefore we should strive for the crown, and make an effort for it, as if but one out of many could obtain it. This, he says, was the course which he pursued; and it shows, in a most striking manner, the fact that an effort may be made, and should be made, to enter into heaven.

So run, that ye may obtain. So run in the Christian race, that you may obtain the prize of glory, the crown incorruptible. So live, so deny yourselves, so make constant exertion, that you may not fail of that prize, the crown of glory, which awaits the righteous in heaven. Comp. Heb 12:1. Christians may do this when

(1.) they give themselves wholly to God, and make this the grand business of life;

(2.) "when they lay aside every weight," (Heb 12:1,) and renounce all sin and all improper attachments;

(3.) when they do not allow themselves to be diverted from the object, but keep the goal constantly in view;

(4.) when they do not flag, or grow weary in their course;

(5.) when they deny themselves; and

(6.) when they keep their eye fully fixed on Christ (Heb 12:2) as their example and their strength, and on heaven as the end of their race, and on the crown of glory as their reward.

{a} "So run, that ye" Php 2:16; 3:14; 1 Ti 6:12; 2 Ti 2:5


Verse 25. And every man that striveth for the mastery. o agwnizomenov. That agonizes; that is, that is engaged in the exercise of wrestling, boxing, or pitching the bar or quoit. See Barnes "Lu 13:24".

The sense is, every one who endeavours to obtain a victory in these athletic exercises.

Is temperate in all things. The word which is rendered "is temperate," (egkrateuetai,) denotes abstinence from all that would excite, stimulate, and ultimately enfeeble; from wine, from exciting and luxurious living, and from licentious indulgences. It means that they did all they could to make the body vigorous, active, and supple. They pursued a course of entire temperate living. Comp. Ac 24:25; 1 Co 7:9; Gal 5:23; 2 Pe 1:6.

It relates not only to indulgences unlawful in themselves, but to abstinence from many things that were regarded as lawful, but which were believed to render the body weak and effeminate. The phrase, "in all things," means that this course of temperance or abstinence was not confined to one thing, or to one class of things, but to every kind of food and drink, and every indulgence that had a tendency to render the body weak and effeminate. The preparations which those who proposed to contend in these games made is well known, and is often referred to by the classic writers. Epictetus, as quoted by Grotius, (in loco,) thus speaks of these preparations. "Do you wish to gain the prize at the Olympic games? consider the requisite preparations and the consequence. You must observe a strict regimen; must live on food which is unpleasant; must abstain from all delicacies; must exercise yourself at the prescribed times in heat and in cold; you must drink nothing cool, (qucron;) must take no wine as usual; you must put yourself under a pugilist, as you would under a physician, and afterwards enter the lists." (Epiet., oh. 35.) Horace has described the preparations necessary in the same way.

Qui studet optatam cursu contingere metam
Multa tulit fecitque puer; sudavit, et alsit,
Abstinuit Venere et Baccho.—De ARTE Poet. 412

A youth who hopes the Olympic prize to gain,
All arts must try, and every toil sustain;
The extremes of heat and cold must often prove,
And shun the weakening joys of wine and love.- Francis

To obtain a corruptible crown. A garland, diadem, or civic wreath, that must soon fade away. The garland bestowed on the victor was made of olive, pine, apple, laurel, or parsley. That would soon lose its beauty and fade; of course, it could be of little value. Yet we see how eagerly they sought it; how much self-denial those who entered the lists would practise to obtain it; how long they would deny themselves of the common pleasures of life, that they might be successful. So much temperance would heathens practise to obtain a fading wreath of laurel, pine, or parsley! Learn hence,

(1.) the duty of denying ourselves to obtain a far more valuable reward, the incorruptible crown of heaven.

(2.) The duty of all Christians, who strive for that crown, to be temperate in all things. If the heathens practised temperance to obtain a fading laurel, should not we to obtain one that never fades?

(3.) How much their conduct puts to shame the conduct of many professing Christians and Christian ministers. They set such a value on a civic wreath of pine or laurel, that they were willing to deny themselves, and practise the most rigid abstinence. They knew that indulgence in WINE and in luxurious living unfitted them for the struggle and for victory; they knew that it enfeebled their powers, and weakened their frame; and, like men intent on an object dear to them, they abstained wholly from these things, and embraced the principles of total abstinence. Yet how many professed Christians, and Christian ministers, though striving for the crown that fadeth not away, indulge in wine, and in the filthy, offensive, and disgusting use of tobacco; and in luxurious living, and in habits of indolence and sloth! How many there are that WILL not give up these habits, though they know that they are enfeebling, injurious, offensive, and destructive to religious comfort and usefulness. Can a man be truly in earnest in his professed religion; can he be a sincere Christian, who is not willing to abandon anything and everything that will tend to impair the rigour of his mind, and weaken his body, and make him a stumbling-block to others?

(4.) The value of temperance is here presented in a very striking and impressive view. When even the heathens wished to accomplish anything that demanded skill, strength, power, rigour of body, they saw the necessity of being temperate, and they were so. And this proves what all experiment has proved, that if men wish to accomplish much, they must be temperate. It proves that men can do more without intoxicating drink than they can with it. The example of these Grecian Athletae—their wrestlers, boxers, and racers—is against all the farmers, and mechanics, and seamen, and day-labourers, and gentlemen, and clergymen, and lawyers, who plead that stimulating drink is necessary to enable them to bear cold and heat, and toil and exposure. A little experience from men like the Grecian wrestlers, who had something that they wished to do, is much better than a great deal of philosophy and sophistical reasoning from men who wish to drink, and to find some argument for drinking that shall be a salvo to their consciences. Perhaps the world has furnished no stronger argument in favour of total abstinence than the example of the Grecian Athletae. It is certain that their example, the example of men who wished to accomplish much by bodily rigour and health, is an effectual and irrefragable argument against all those who plead that stimulating drinks are desirable or necessary in order to increase the rigour of the bodily frame. ,/p>

But we. We Christians.

An incorruptible. An incorruptible, an unfading crown. The blessings of heaven that shall be bestowed on the righteous are often represented under the image of a crown or diadem; a crown that is unfading and eternal, 2 Ti 4:8; Jas 1:12; 1 Pe 5:4; Re 2:10; 3:11; 4:4.

The doctrine here taught is, the necessity of making an effort to secure eternal life. The apostle never thought of entering heaven by indolence, or by inactivity. He urged, by every possible argument, the necessity of making an exertion to secure the rewards of the just. His reasons for this effort are many. Let a few be pondered.

(1.) The work of salvation is difficult. The thousand obstacles arising, the love of sin, and the opposition of Satan and of the world, are in the way.

(2.) The danger of losing the crown of glory is great. Every moment exposes it to hazard, for at any moment we may die.

(3.) The danger is not only great, but it is dreadful. If anything should arouse man, it should be the apprehension of eternal damnation and everlasting wrath.

(4.) Men in this life, in the games of Greece, in the career of ambition, in the pursuit of pleasure and wealth, make immense efforts to obtain the fading and perishing object of their desires. Why should not a man be willing to make as great efforts at least to secure eternal glory?

(5.) The value of the interest at stake. Eternal happiness is before those who will embrace the offers of life. If a man should be influenced by anything to make an effort, should it not be by the prospect of eternal glory? What should influence him if this should not?

{b} "incorruptible" 2 Ti 4:8; Jas 1:12; 1 Pe 5:4; Re 2:10; 3:11


Verse 26. I therefore so run. In the Christian race; in my effort to obtain the prize, the crown of immortality. I exert myself to the utmost, that I may not fail of securing the crown.

Not as uncertainly; ouk adhlwv. This word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It usually means, in the classic writers, obscurely. Here it means that he did not run as not knowing to what object he aimed. "I do not run at hap-hazard; I do not exert myself for naught; I know at what I aim, and I keep my eye fixed on the object; I have the goal and the crown in view." Probably also the apostle intended to convey this idea, "I so live and act that I am sure of obtaining the crown. I make it a great and grand point of my life so to live that there may be no room for doubt or hesitancy about this matter. I believe it may be obtained; and that by a proper course there may be a constant certainty of securing it; and I so LIVE." Oh, how happy and blessed would it be if all Christians thus lived! How much doubt, and hesitancy, and despondency would it remove from many a Christian's mind! And yet it is morally certain that if every Christian were to be only as anxious and careful as were the ancient Grecian wrestlers and racers in the games, they would have the undoubted assurance of gaining the prize. Doddridge and Macknight, however, render this, "as not out of view;" or as not distinguished; meaning that the apostle was not unseen, but that he regarded himself as constantly in the view of the judge, the Lord Jesus Christ. I prefer the other interpretation, however, as best according with the connexion and with the proper meaning of the word.

So fight I. outw pukteuw. This word is applied to the boxers, or the pugilists, in the Grecian games. The exercise of boxing, or fighting with the fist, was a part of the entertainment with which the enlightened nations of Greece delighted to amuse themselves.

Not as one that beateth the air. The phrase here is taken from the habits of the pugilists or boxers, who were accustomed, before entering the lists, to exercise their limbs with the gauntlet, in order to acquire greater skill and dexterity. There was also, before the real contest commenced, a play with their fists and weapons, by way of show or bravado, which was called skiamacia, a mock-battle, or a fighting the air. The phrase also is applicable to a missing the aim, when a blow was struck in a real struggle, and when the adversary would elude the blow, so that it would be spent in the empty air. This last is the idea which Paul means to present. He did not miss his aim; he did not exert himself and spend his strength for naught. Every blow that he struck told; and he did not waste his energies on that which would produce no result. He did not strive with rash, ill-advised, or uncertain blows; but all his efforts were directed, with good account, to the grand purpose of subjugating his enemy—sin, and the corrupt desires of the flesh—and bringing everything into captivity to God. Much may be learned from this. Many an effort of Christians is merely beating the air. The energy is expended for naught. There is a want of wisdom, or skill, or perseverance; there is a failure of plan; or there is a mistake in regard to what is to be done, and what should be done. There is often among Christians very little aim or object; there is no plan; and the efforts are wasted, scattered, inefficient efforts; so that, at the close of life, many a man may say that he has spent his ministry or his Christian course mainly, or entirely, in beating the air. Besides, many a one sets up a man of straw, and fights that. He fancies error and heresy in others, and opposes that. He becomes a heresy-hunter; or he opposes some irregularity in religion that, if left alone, would die of itself; or he fixes all his attention on some minor evil, and devotes his life to the destruction of that alone. When death comes, he may have never struck a blow at one of the real and dangerous enemies of the gospel; and the simple record on the tombstone of many a minister and many a private Christian might be, "Here lies one who spent his life in beating the air."

{a} "beateth" "striketh"


Verse 27. But I keep under my body. Upwpiazw. This word occurs in the New Testament only here and in Lu 18:5, "Lest by her continual coming she weary me." The word is derived probably from upwpoin, the part of the face under the eye, (Passow;) and means, properly, to strike under the eye, either with the fist or the cestus, so as to render the part livid, or, as we say, black and blue; or, as is vulgarly termed, to give any one a black eye. The word is derived, of course, from the athletic exercises of the Greeks. It then comes to mean, to treat any one with harshness, severity, or cruelty; and thence also so to treat any evil inclinations or dispositions; or to subject one's self to mortification or self-denial, or to a severe and rigid discipline, that all the corrupt passions might be removed. The word here means, that Paul made use of all possible means to subdue his corrupt and carnal inclinations; to show that he was not under the dominion of evil passions, but was wholly under the dominion of the gospel.

And bring it into subjection, doulagwgw. This word properly means, to reduce to servitude or slavery; and probably was usually applied to the act of subduing an enemy, and leading him captive from the field of battle; as the captives in war were regarded as slaves. It then means, effectually and totally to subdue, to conquer, to reduce to bondage and subjection. Paul means by it, the purpose to obtain a complete victory over his corrupt passions and propensities, and a design to gain the mastery over all his natural and evil inclinations.

Lest that by any means. See Barnes "1 Co 9:22".

Paul designed to make every possible effort to be saved. He did not mean to be lost, but he meant to be saved. He felt that there was danger of being deceived and lost; and he meant by some means to have evidence of piety that would abide the trial of the day of judgment.

When I have preached to others. Doddridge renders this, "lest after having served as a herald to others, I should myself be disapproved;" and supposes that there was allusion in this to the Grecian herald, whose business it was to proclaim the conditions of the games, to display the prizes, etc. In this interpretation, also, Macknight, Rosenmuller, Koppe, and most of the modern interpreters agree. They suppose, therefore, that the allusion to the games is carried through all this description. But there is this difficulty in this interpretation, that it represents the apostle as both a herald and a contender in the games, and thus leads to an inextricable confusion of metaphor. Probably, therefore, this is to be taken in the usual sense of the word preaching in the New Testament; and the apostle here is to be understood as dropping the metaphor, and speaking in the usual manner. He had preached to others, to many others. He had proclaimed the gospel far and near. He had preached to many thousands, and had been the means of the conversion of thousands. The contest, the agony, the struggle in which he had been engaged, was that of preaching the gospel in the most effectual manner. And yet he felt that there was a possibility that even after all this he might be lost.

I myself should be a castaway. This word (adokimov) is taken from bad metals, and properly denotes those which will not bear the test that is applied to them; that are found to be base and worthless, and are therefore rejected and cast away. The apostle had subjected himself to trials. He had given himself to self-denial and toil; to persecution and want; to perils, and cold, and nakedness, and hunger. He had done this, among other things, to give his religion a fair trial, to see whether it would bear all these tests—as metal is cast into the fire to see whether it is genuine, or is base and worthless. In doing this, he had endeavoured to subdue his corrupt propensities, and bring everything into captivity to the Redeemer, that it might be found that he was sincere, and humble, and devoted Christian. Many have supposed that the word "cast-away" here refers to those who had entered the lists, and had contended, and who had then been examined as to the manner in which they had conducted the contest, and had been found to have departed from the rules of the games, and who were then rejected. But this interpretation is too artificial and unnatural. The simple idea of Paul is, that he was afraid that he should be disapproved, rejected, cast off; that it would appear, after all, that he had no religion, and would then be cast away as unfit to enter into heaven.

From the many remarks which might be made from this interesting chapter, we may select the following:

(1.) We see the great anxiety which Paul had to save souls. This was his grand purpose; and for this he was willing to deny himself and to bear any trial.

(2.) We should be kind to others; we should not needlessly offend them; we should conform to them, as far as it can be done consistently with Christian integrity.

(3.) We should make an effort to be saved. Oh, if men made such exertions to obtain a corruptible crown, how much greater should we make to obtain one that fadeth not away!

(4.) Ministers, like others, are in danger of losing their souls. If Paul felt this danger, who is there among the ministers of the cross who should not feel it? If Paul was not safe, who is?

(5.) The fact that a man has preached to many is no certain evidence that he will be saved, 1 Co 9:27. Paul had preached to thousands, and yet he felt that after all this there was a possibility that he might be lost.

(6.) The fact that a man has been very successful in the ministry is no certain evidence that he will be saved. God converts men; and he may sometimes do it by the instrumentality of those who themselves are deceived, or are deceivers. They may preach much truth; and God may bless that truth, and make it the means of saving the soul. There is no conclusive evidence that a man is a Christian simply because he is a successful and laborious preacher, any more than there is that a man is a Christian because he is a good farmer, and because God sends down the rain and the sunshine on his fields. Paul felt that even his success was no certain evidence that he would be saved. And if Paul felt thus, who should not feel that after the most distinguished success, he may himself be at last a cast-away?

(7.) It will be a solemn and awful thing for a minister of the gospel, and a successful minister, to go down to hell. What more fearful doom can be conceived, than after having led others in the way to life; after having described to them the glories of heaven; after having conducted them to the "sweet fields beyond the swelling flood" of death, he should find himself shut out, rejected, and cast down to hell! What more terrible can be imagined in the world of perdition than the doom of one who was once a minister of God, and once esteemed as a light in the church and a guide of souls, now sentenced to inextinguishable fires, while multitudes saved by him shall have gone to heaven ! How fearful is the condition, and how solemn the vocation, of a minister of the gospel!

(8.) Ministers should be solicitous about their personal piety. Paul, one might suppose, might have rested contented with the remarkable manner of his conversion. He might have supposed that that put the matter beyond all possible doubt. But he did no such thing. He felt that it was necessary to have evidence day by day that he was then a Christian. Of all men, Paul was perhaps least disposed to live on past experience, and to trust to such experience. Of all men, he had perhaps most reason to trust to such experience; and yet how seldom does he refer to it, how little does he regard it! The great question with him was, "Am I now a Christian? am I living as a Christian should now? am I evincing to others, am I giving to myself daily, constant, growing evidence that I am actuated by the pure principles of the gospel, and that that gospel is the object of my highest preference, and my holiest and constant desire?"

Oh, how holy would be the ministry, if all should endeavour every day to live and act for Christ and for souls with as much steadiness and fidelity as did the apostle Paul!

{a} "I keep" Ro 8:12

{+} "castaway" "rejected"

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