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1 Corinthians 9:1-12

1. Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?

1. Non sum liber? non sum Apostolus? 477477     “Ne suis-ie point Apostre? ne suis-ie point en liberte;” — “Am I not an Apostle? Am I not free?” “The order of the words in Calvin’s Latin version is the order in which they are read in the Vat., Alex., and some other MSS. and ancient versions, and in which they are quoted by Origen, Tertullian and Augustine...The Latin retains the primitive order; we read, therefore, in Wiclif’s version — “Whether I am not free? am I not Apostle?” — Penn. Ed. nonne Iesum Christum Dominum nostrum vidi? nonne opus meum vos estis in Domino?

2. If I be not an an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.

2. Si aliis non sum Apostolus, vobis tamen sum: sigillum enim Apostolatus mei vos estis in Domino?

3. Mine answer to them that do examine me is this,

3. Haec mea defensio est apudeos, qui in me inquirunt.

4. Have we not power to eat and to drink?

4. Numquid non habemus potestatem edendi et bibendi?

5. Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?

5. Numquid potestatem non habemus circumducendae uxoris sororis, quemadmodum et reliqui Apostoli, et fratres Domini, et Cephas?

6. Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?

6. An ego solus et Barnabas non habemus potestatem hoc agendi? 478478     “De ne trauailler point;” — “To refrain from working.”

7. Who goeth a warfare any time own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?

7. Quis militavit suo sumptu unquam? quis plantat vitem, et ex fructu ejus non comedit? quis pascit gregem, et lacte gregis non vescitur?

8. Say I these things as a man? Or saith not the law the same also?

8. Num secundum hominem haec dico?

9. For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?

9. Numquid lex quoque eadem non dicit? in lege enim Mosis (Deuteronomy 25:4) scripture est: non obligabis os bovi trituranti: numquid boves curae sunt Deo,

10. Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thrasheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.

10. Vel propter nos omnino dicit? Et sane propter nos scripturm est: quoniam debet sub spe, qui arat, arare, et qui triturat, sub spe participandi. (Alias: quia debeat sub spe qui arat, arare, et qui triturat sub spe, spei suae particeps esse debeat.)

11. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?

11. Si nos vobis spiritualia seminavimus, magnum, si carnalia vestra metamus?

12. If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.

12. Si alii hanc in vos sumunt potestatem, an non magis nos? atqui non usi sumus facultate hac: sed omnia sufferimus, ut ne quam offensionem demus Evangelio Christi.

 

1. Am I not free? He confirms by facts what he had stated immediately before, — that he would rather never taste of flesh during his whole life, than give occasion of stumbling to a brother, and, at the same time, he shows that he requires nothing more from them than what he had himself practiced. And, assuredly, natural equity requires that whatever law is imposed by any one upon others, should be submitted to by himself. More especially a Christian teacher should impose upon himself this necessity, that he may have it always in his power to confirm his doctrine by an exemplary life. We know by experience, that it is a very unpleasant thing that Paul required from the Corinthians — to refrain, for the sake of their brethren, from making use of the liberty that was allowed them. He could scarcely have demanded this, if he had not taken the lead and shown them the way. And he had, it is true, promised that he would do this, but, as he might not be believed by all on his simply promising for the future, he makes mention of what he had already done. He brings forward a remarkable instance, in respect of his having denied himself the liberty which he might otherwise have used, purely in order that he might give the false Apostles no occasion for calumniating. He had preferred to earn his food with his own hands, rather than be supported at the expense of the Corinthians, to whom he administered the Gospel.

He treats, however, at great length of the right of the Apostles to receive food and clothing. This he does, partly for the purpose of stirring them up the more to forego many things for the sake of their brethren after his example, because they were unduly tenacious in the retaining of their own rights, and partly for the purpose of exposing more fully in view the unreasonableness of calumniators, who took occasion for reviling from what was anything but blameworthy. He speaks, also, interrogatively, in order to press the matter home more closely. The question — Am I not free? is of a general nature. When he adds — Am I not an Apostle? he specifies a particular kind of liberty. “If I am an Apostle of Christ, why should my condition be worse than that of others?” Hence he proves his liberty on the ground of his being an Apostle.

Have I not seen Jesus Christ? He expressly adds this, in order that he may not be reckoned inferior in any respect, to the other Apostles, for this one thing the malevolent and envious bawled out on all occasions — that he had received from the hands of men whatever he had of the gospel, inasmuch as he had never seen Christ. And, certainly, he had not had converse with Christ while he was in the world, but Christ had appeared to him after his resurrection. It was not a smaller privilege, however, to have seen Christ in his immortal glory, than to have seen him in the abasement of mortal flesh. He makes mention, also, afterwards of this vision, (1 Corinthians 15:8,) and mention is made of it twice in the Acts, (Acts 9:3, and Acts 22:6.) Hence this passage tends to establish his call, because, although he had not been set apart as one of the twelve, there was no less authority in the appointment which Christ published from heaven.

Are not ye my work? He now, in the second place, establishes his Apostleship from the effect of it, because he had gained over the Corinthians to the Lord by the gospel. Now this is a great thing that Paul claims for himself, when he calls their conversion his work, for it is in a manner a new creation of the soul. But how will this correspond with what we had above — that

he that planteth is nothing, and he that watereth is nothing?
(1 Corinthians 3:7.)

I answer, that as God is the efficient cause, while man, with his preaching, is an instrument that can do nothing of itself, we must always speak of the efficacy of the ministry in such a manner that the entire praise of the work may be reserved for God alone. But in some cases, when the ministry is spoken of, man is compared with God, and then that statement holds good — He that planteth is nothing, and he that watereth is nothing; for what can be left to a man if he is brought into competition with God? Hence Scripture represents ministers as nothing in comparison with God; but when the ministry is simply treated of without any comparison with God, then, as in this passage, its efficacy is honorably made mention of, with signal encomiums. For, in that case, the question is not, what man can do of himself without God, but, on the contrary, God himself, who is the author, is conjoined with the instrument, and the Spirit’s influence with man’s labor. In other words, the question is not, what man himself accomplishes by his own power, but what God effects through his hands.

2. If I am not an Apostle to others The sum of this tends to the establishing of his authority among the Corinthians, so as to place it beyond all dispute. “If there are those,” says he, “who have doubts as to my Apostleship, to you, at least, it ought to be beyond all doubt, for, as I planted your Church by my ministry, you are either not believers, or you must necessarily recognize me as an Apostle. And that he may not seem to rest in mere words, he states that the reality itself was to be seen, 479479     “La verite et l’effet le demonstre;” — “Truth and reality demonstrate it.” because God had sealed his Apostleship by the faith of the Corinthians. Should any one, however, object, that this suits the false Apostles too, who gather disciples to themselves, I answer, that pure doctrine is above all things required, in order that any one may have a confirmation of his ministry in the sight of God from its effect. There is nothing, therefore, here to furnish impostors with matter of congratulation, if they have deceived any of the populace, nay, even nations and kingdoms, by their falsehoods. Although in some cases persons are the occasion of spreading the kingdom of Christ, who, nevertheless, do not preach the gospel sincerely, as is said in Philippians 1:16, it is not without good reason that Paul infers from the fruit of his labor, that he is divinely commissioned: for the structure of the Corinthian Church was such, that the blessing of God could easily be seen shining forth in it, which ought to have served as a confirmation of Paul’s office.

3. My defense. Apart from the principal matter that he has at present in hand, it appears also to have been his intention to beat down, in passing, the calumnies of those who clamored against his call, as if he had been one of the ordinary class of ministers. “I am accustomed,” says he, “to put you forward as my shield, in the event of any one detracting from the honor of my Apostleship.” Hence it follows, that the Corinthians are injurious and inimical to themselves, if they do not acknowledge him as such, for if their faith was a solemn attestation of Paul’s Apostleship, and his defense, against slanderers, the one could not be invalidated without the other falling along with it.

Where others read — those who interrogate me, I have rendered it — those that examine me — for he refers to those who raised a dispute as to his Apostleship. 480480     “Ceux qui vouloyent mettre en debat son Apostolat, et le contreroller, comme on dit;” — “Those who were desirous to bring his Apostleship into dispute, and overhale it, as they say.” Latin writers, I confess, speak of a criminal being interrogated 481481     The expression is made use of by Suetonius. (Aug. 33.) Reum ita fertur interrogasse. He is said to have interrogated the criminal in such a manner.) — Ed. according to the laws, but the meaning of the word ἀνακρίνειν which Paul makes use of, seemed to me to be brought out better in this way.

4. Have we not power? He concludes from what has been already said, that he had a right to receive food and clothing from them, 482482     “Combion qu’il n’en air pus use;” — “Though he had not made use of it.” for Paul ate and drank, but not at the expense of the Church. This, then, was one liberty that he dispensed with. The other was, that he had not a wife — to be maintained, also, at the public expense. Eusebius infers from these words that Paul was married, but had left his wife somewhere, that she might not be a burden to the Churches, but there is no foundation for this, for he might bring forward this, even though unmarried. In honoring a Christian wife with the name of sister, he intimates, first of all, by this, how firm and lovely ought to be the connection between a pious pair, being held by a double tie. Farther he hints at the same time what modesty and honorable conduct ought to subsist between them. Hence, too, we may infer, how very far marriage is from being unsuitable to the ministers of the Church. I pass over the fact, that the Apostles made use of it, as to whose example we shall have occasion to speak ere long, but Paul here teaches, in general terms, what is allowable for all.

5. Even as the other Apostles. In addition to the Lord’s permission, he mentions the common practice of others. And with the view of bringing out more fully the waiving of his right, he proceeds step by step. In the first place, he brings forward the Apostles He then adds, “Nay, even the brethren of the Lord themselves also make use of it without hesitation — nay more, Peter himself, to whom the first place is assigned by consent of all, allows himself the same liberty.” By the brethren of the Lord, he means John and James, who were accounted pillars, as he states elsewhere. (Galatians 2:9.) And, agreeably to what is customary in Scripture, he gives the name of brethren to those who were connected with Him by relationship.

Now, if any one should think to establish Popery from this, he would act a ridiculous part. We confess that Peter was acknowledged as first among the Apostles, as it is necessary that in every society there should always be some one to preside over the others, and they were of their own accord prepared to respect Peter for the eminent endowments by which he was distinguished, as it is proper to esteem and honor all that excel in the gifts of God’s grace. That preeminence, however, was not lordship — nay more, it had nothing resembling lordship. For while he was eminent among the others, still he was subject to them as his colleagues. Farther, it is one thing to have pre-eminence in one Church, and quite another, to claim for one’s self a kingdom or dominion over the whole world. But indeed, even though we should concede everything as to Peter, what has this to do with the Pope? For as Matthias succeeded Judas, (Acts 1:26,) so some Judas might succeed Peter. Nay more, we see that during a period of more than nine hundred years among his successors, or at least among those who boast that they are his successors, there has not been one who was one whit better than Judas. This, however, is not the place to treat of these points. Consult my Institutes. (Volume 3.)

One thing farther must here be noticed, that the Apostles had no horror of marriage, which the Papal clergy so much abominate, as unbecoming the sanctity of their order. But it was after their time that that admirable discovery was made, that the priests of the Lord are polluted if they have intercourse with their lawful wives; and, at length matters came to such a pitch, that Pope Syricius did not hesitate to call marriage “a pollution of the flesh, in which no one can please God.” What then must become of the poor Apostles, who continued in that pollution until death? Here, however, they have contrived a refined subtilty to effect their escape; for they say that the Apostles gave up the use of the marriage bed, but led about their wives with them, that they might receive the fruits of the gospel, or, in other words, support at the public expense. As if they could not have been maintained by the Churches, unless they wandered about from place to place; and farther, as if it were a likely thing that they would run hither and thither of their own accord, and without any necessity, in order that they might live in idleness at the public expense! For as to the explanation given by Ambrose, as referring to other persons’ wives, who followed the Apostles for the purpose of hearing their doctrine, it is exceedingly forced.

7. Who hath gone a warfare at his own charges? It is the present tense that is used 483483     The verb is στρατεύεται, goeth a warfare, or serves as a soldier. — Ed as meaning — is accustomed to go a warfare. I have, however, with the view of taking off somewhat of the harshness, rendered it in the preterite. Now, by three comparisons, and these, too, taken from common life, he makes it out that it was allowable for him to live, if he chose, at the public expense of the Church, to show that he assumes nothing to himself but what human nature itself teaches us is reasonable. The first is taken from military law, for soldiers are wont to have their provisions furnished to them at the public expense. The second is taken from vine-dressers, for the husbandman plants a vine — not to throw away his pains, but to gather the fruit. The third is taken from keepers of cattle, for the shepherd does not lay out his labor for nothing, but eats of the milk of the flock — that is, he is supported from the produce. As natural equity points out this as reasonable, who will be so unjust as to refuse sustenance to the pastors of the Church? While it may happen, that some serve as soldiers at their own expense, as, for example, the Romans in ancient times, when no tribute was as yet paid, and there were no taxes, 484484     The Roman soldiers received no pay (stipendium) from the public expense until 347 years after the founding of Rome. (See Liv. 4. 59 and 5. 7.) — Ed. this does not militate against Paul’s statement, for he simply takes his argument from common and everywhere received practice.

8. Say I these things as a man? Lest any one should cavil, and say that in the things of the Lord the case is different, and therefore that he had to no purpose brought forward so many comparisons, he now adds, that the very same thing is commanded by the Lord. To speak as a man sometimes means — speaking according to the perverse judgment of the flesh, (as in Romans 3:5.) Here, however, it means — bringing forward only those things that are in common use among men, and are merely current (as they speak) in a human court. Now, that God himself designed that the labors of men should be remunerated by wages, he proves from this, that he prohibits the muzzling of the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn; and with the view of applying it to the subject in hand, he says, that God was not concerned as to oxen, but rather had regard to men.

In the first place, it may be asked, Why has he more particularly selected this proof, while he had in the law passages that were much clearer? as for example, Deuteronomy 24:15,

The wages of the hireling shall not remain with thee over night.

If any one, however, will take a nearer view, he will acknowledge that there is more force in this quotation, in which the Lord requires cattle to be taken care of, for from this it is inferred, from the less to the greater, how much equity he requires among men, when he wishes that it should be shown to brute animals. When he says, that God does not take care for oxen, you are not to understand him as meaning to exclude oxen from the care of God’s Providence, inasmuch as he does not overlook even the least sparrow. (Matthew 6:26, and Matthew 10:29.) Nor is it as if he meant to expound that precept allegorically, as some hair-brained spirits take occasion from this to turn everything into allegories. Thus they turn dogs into men, trees into angels, and turn all scripture into a laughing-stock.

Paul’s meaning is simple — that, when the Lord enjoins humanity to oxen, he does not do it for the sake of oxen, but rather from a regard to men, on whose account, too, the very oxen were created. That compassion, therefore, towards oxen should be a stimulus to us to stir up to the exercise of humanity among us, as Solomon says, (Proverbs 12:10,)

The righteous man hath a care over his beast,
but the bowels of the wicked are cruel.

Let it then be understood by you, that God is not so concerned for oxen, as to have had merely a regard to oxen in making that law, for he had mankind in view, and wished to accustom them to equity, that they might not defraud the workman of his hire. For it is not the ox that has the principal part in plowing or treading out the corn, but man, by whose industry the ox himself is set to work. Hence, what he immediately adds — He that ploweth, should plow in hope, etc. is an exposition of the precept, as if he had said, that it extends generally to any kind of recompense for labor.

10. Because he that ploweth ought to plow in hope. There is a twofold reading in this passage, even in the Greek manuscripts, but the one that is more generally received is — He that thrasheth, in hope of partaking of his hope At the same time, the one that does not repeat the term hope twice in the second clause appears simpler, and more natural. 485485     The common reading is — καὶ ὁ ἀλοῶν τὢς ἐνπίδος αὐτοῦ μετέχειν επ ᾿ ελπίδι, and he that thrasheth in hope should be a partaker of his hope In the other reading, the επ ᾿ ἐλπίδι (in hope) are omitted. The latter is the reading in five ancient and three later MSS. The common reading is construed by Bloomfield as follows — καὶ ὁ ἀλοῶν (ὀφείλει ἀλοᾷν) επ ᾿ ἐλπίδι (τοῦ) μετέχειν τὢς ελπίδος αὐτοῦ “And he that thrasheth ought to thrash in hope to partake of (the fruits of) his hope.” — Ed Hence, if I were at liberty to choose, I would prefer to read it thus: He that ploweth should plow in hope, and he that thrasheth in hope of participating As, however, the most of the Greek manuscripts agree in the former reading, and as the meaning remains the same, I have not ventured to make change upon it. Now he expounds the preceding injunction, and hence he says, that it is an unjust thing that the husbandman should lay out his pains to no purpose in plowing and thrashing, but that the end of his labor is the hope of receiving the fruits. As it is so, we may infer, that this belongs to oxen also, but Paul’s intention was to extend it farther, and apply it principally to men. Now, the husbandman is said to be a partaker of his hope, when he enjoys the produce which he has obtained when reaping, but hoped for when plowing.

11. If we have sown unto you spiritual things There was one cavil remaining — for it might be objected, that labors connected with this life should without doubt have food and clothing as their reward; and that plowing and thrashing yield fruit, of which those that labor in these things are partakers; but that it is otherwise with the gospel, because its fruit is spiritual; and hence the minister of the word, if he would receive fruit corresponding to his labor, ought to demand nothing that is carnal. Lest any one, therefore, should cavil in this manner, he argues from the greater to the less. “Though food and clothing are not of the same nature with a minister’s labors, what injury do you sustain, if you recompense what is inestimable with a thing that is small and contemptible? For in proportion to the superiority of the soul above the body, does the word of the Lord excel outward sustenance, 486486     “Et le vestement;” — “And clothing.” inasmuch as it is the food of the soul.”

12. If others assume this power over you Again he establishes his own right from the example of others. For why should he alone be denied what others assumed as their due? For as no one labored more than he among the Corinthians, no one was more deserving of a reward. He does not, however, make mention of what he has done, but of what he would have done in accordance with his right, if he had not of his own accord refrained from using it.

But we have not used this power. He returns now to the point on which the matter hinges — that he had of his own accord given up that power which no one could refuse him, and that he was prepared rather to suffer all things, than by the use of his liberty throw any impediment in the way of the progress of the gospel. He wishes, therefore, that the Corinthians should, after his example, keep this end in view — to do nothing that would hinder or retard the progress of the gospel; for what he declares respecting himself it was their duty to perform according to their station; and he confirms here what he had said previously — that we must consider what is expedient (1 Corinthians 6:12.)


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