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The Rights of an Apostle


Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? 2If I am not an apostle to others, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

3 This is my defense to those who would examine me. 4Do we not have the right to our food and drink? 5Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? 7Who at any time pays the expenses for doing military service? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not get any of its milk?

8 Do I say this on human authority? Does not the law also say the same? 9For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10Or does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was indeed written for our sake, for whoever plows should plow in hope and whoever threshes should thresh in hope of a share in the crop. 11If we have sown spiritual good among you, is it too much if we reap your material benefits? 12If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we still more?

Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 13Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is sacrificed on the altar? 14In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing this so that they may be applied in my case. Indeed, I would rather die than that—no one will deprive me of my ground for boasting! 16If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel! 17For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. 18What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.

19 For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. 20To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. 21To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. 22To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. 23I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

24 Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. 25Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. 26So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; 27but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.


22. To the weak I became as weak Now again he employs a general statement, in which he shows to what sort of persons he accomodated himself, and with what design. He judaized in the presence of the Jews, but not before them all, for there were many headstrong persons, who, under the influence of Pharisaical pride or malice, would have wished that Christian liberty were altogether taken away. To those persons he would never have been so accommodating, for Christ would not have us care for persons of that sort.

Let them alone, (says he,) they are blind, and leaders of the blind. (Matthew 15:14.)

Hence we must accommodate ourselves to the weak, not to the obstinate. 501501     The reader will find this sentiment more fully brought out in the Harmony, volume 2, p. 258. — Ed.

Now his design was, that he might bring them to Christ — not that he might promote his own advantage, or retain their good will. To these things a third must be added — that it was only in things indifferent, that are otherwise in our choice, that he accommodated himself to the weak. Now, if we consider how great a man Paul was, who stooped thus far, ought we not to feel ashamed — we who are next to nothing in comparison with him — if, bound up in self, we look with disdain upon the weak, and do not deign to yield up a single point to them? But while it is proper that we should accommodate ourselves to the weak, according to the Apostle’s injunction, and that, in things indifferent, and with a view to their edification, those act an improper part, who, with the view of consulting their own ease, avoid those things that would offend men, and the wicked, too, rather than the weak. Those, however, commit a two-fold error, who do not distinguish between things indifferent and things unlawful, and accordingly do not hesitate, for the sake of pleasing men, to engage in things that the Lord has prohibited. The crowning point, however, of the evil is this — that they abuse this statement of Paul to excuse their wicked dissimulation. But if any one will keep in view these three things that I have briefly pointed out, he will have it easily in his power to refute those persons.

We must observe, also, the word that he makes use of in the concluding clause; 502502     “Afin que totalement ien sauue quelques uns;” — “That I may by all means save some.” for he shows for what purpose he endeavors to gain all — with a view to their salvation. At the same time, he here at length modifies the general statement, unless perhaps you prefer the rendering of the old translation, which is found even at this day in some Greek manuscripts. 503503     The rendering of the Vulgate, referred to by Calvin, isUt omnes servarem, (That I might save all.) Four ancient Greek MSS. have παντας σώσω, that I might save all The same rendering is given in the Syriac version, and is embraced by Mill, Benzelius, and Bp. Pearce. In Wiclif’s version, (1380,) the rendering is — “To alle men I am made alle things to make alle saaf.” In the Rheims version, (1582,) it is rendered — “That I might saue al.” — Ed For in this place, too, he repeats it — that I may by all means save some 504504     “Afin queie sauue tous;” — “That I may save all.” But as the indulgent temper, that Paul speaks of, has sometimes no good effect, this limitation is very suitable — that, although he might not do good to all, he, nevertheless, had never left off consulting the advantage of at least a few. 505505     “Le profit et salut pour le moths de quelques uns;” — “The profit and welfare of at least some individuals.”

23. That I may become a partaker of it. As the Corinthians might think with themselves, that this was a peculiarity in Paul’s case on the ground of his office, he argues, from the very design of it, that this is common to all Christians. For when he declares, that his aim had been, that he might become a partaker of the gospel, he indirectly intimates, that all who do not act the same part with him are unworthy of the fellowship of the gospel. To become a partaker of the gospel is to receive the fruit of it.

24. Know ye not, that they who run in a race. He has laid down the doctrine, and now, with the view of impressing it upon the minds of the Corinthians, he adds an exhortation. He states briefly, that what they had hitherto attained was nothing, unless they steadfastly persevered, inasmuch as it is not enough to have once entered on the Lord’s way, if they do not strive until they reach the goal, agreeably to that declaration of Christ — He that shall endure unto the end, etc. (Matthew 10:22.) Now he borrows a similitude from the race-course. 508508     “De ceux qui conrent a la lice pour quelque pris;” — “From those who run in the race-course for some prize.” For as in that case many descend into the arena, but he alone is crowned who has first reached the goal, so there is no reason why any one should feel satisfied with himself on the ground of his having once entered upon the race prescribed in the gospel, unless he persevere in it until death. There is, however, this difference between our contest and theirs, that among them only one is victorious, and obtains the palm — the man who has got before all the others; 509509     “Qui a mieux couru que los antres, et est le premier venu au but;” — “Who has run better than the others, and has come first to the goal.” but our condition is superior in this respect, that there may be many at the same time. 510510     “I1 yen pent auoir plusieurs de nons qui soyent couronnez;” — “There may be many of us that are crowned.” For God requires from us nothing more than that we press on vigorously until we reach the goal. 511511     “Que nons ne perdions point courage, mais que perscuerions constamment jusques a la fin;” — “That we do not lose heart, but persevere steadfastly unto the end.” Thus one does not hinder another: nay more, those who run in the Christian race are mutually helpful to each other. He expresses the same sentiment in another form in 2 Timothy 2:5,

If any one striveth, he is not crowned, unless he strives lawfully.

So run. Here we have the application of the similitude — that it is not enough to have set out, if we do not continue to run during our whole life. For our life is like a race-course. We must not therefore become wearied after a short time, like one that stops short in the middle of the race-course, but instead of this, death alone must put a period to our running. The particle ὅυτω, (so,) may be taken in two ways. Chrysostom connects it with what goes before, in this manner: as those who run do not stop running until they have reached the goal, so do ye also persevere, and do not stop running so long as you live. It will, however, correspond not inaptly with what follows. “You must not run so as to stop short in the middle of the race-course, but so as to obtain the prize.” As to the term stadium, (race-course,) and the different kinds of races, 512512     “Qui estoyent anciennement en vsage;” — “Which were anciently in use.” I say nothing, as these things may be obtained from grammarians, and it is generally known that there were some races on horseback, and others on foot. Nor are these things particularly needed for understanding Paul’s meaning.

25. Now every one that striveth. As he had exhorted to perseverance, it remained to state in what way they must persevere. This second thing he now sets before them by a comparison taken from pugilists; not indeed in every particular, 513513     “Non pas qu’il vucille appliquer la similitude en tout et par tout;” — “Not that he meant to apply the similitude out and out.” but in so far as was required by the subject in hand, within which he confines himself — how far they ought to yield to the weakness of the brethren. Now he argues from the less to the greater, that it is an unseemly thing if we grudge to give up our right, inasmuch as the pugilists eating their coliphium, 514514     “C’estoit vnc sorte de pain propre pour entretenir et augmenter la force, duquel vsoyent ordinairement les lutteurs et telles gens. Les Grecs le nonmoyent coliphium;” — “This was a kind of bread that was fitted to maintain and increase strength, which was commonly made use of by wrestlers, and persons of that sort. The Greeks call it coliphium.” The term coliphium is supposed to be compounded of κῶλον, a limb, and ιφ, strongly — a means of strengthening the limbs It is defined by Tymme, in his Translation of Calvin on the Corinthians, to be “a kinde of breade whereof the Wrastelers did use in tyme past to eate, to be more strong.” It is made mention of by Juvenal (2. 53.) — Ed and that sparingly and not to the full, voluntarily deny themselves every delicacy, in order that they may have more agility for the combat, and they do this, too, for the sake of a corruptible crown But if they value so highly a crown of leaves that quickly fades, what value ought we to set upon a crown of immortality? Let us not, therefore, think it hard to give up a little of our right. It is well known that wrestlers were contented with the most frugal diet, so that their simple fare has become proverbial.

26. I therefore so run He returns to speak of himself, that his doctrine may have the more weight, on his setting himself forward by way of pattern. What. he says here some refer to assurance of hope — (Hebrews 6:11) — “I do not run in vain, nor do I run the risk of losing my labor, for I have the Lord’s promise, which never deceives.” It rather appears to me, however, that his object is to direct the course of believers straight forward toward the goal, that it may not be wavering and devious. “The Lord exercises us here in the way of running and wrestling, but he sets before us the object at which we ought to aim, and prescribes a sure rule for our wrestling, that we may not weary ourselves in vain.” Now he takes in both the similitudes that he had employed. “I know,” says he, “whither I am running, and, like a skillful wrestler, I am anxious that I may not miss my aim.” Those things ought to kindle up and confirm the Christian breast, so as to devote itself with greater alacrity to all the duties of piety; 515515     “Toutes choses concenantes la piete et crainte de Dieu;” — “All things that relate to piety and the fear of God.” for it is a great matter not to wander in ignorance through uncertain windings.

27. But I keep under my body 516516     “Mais ie matte et reduy en seruitude mort corps;” — “But I mortify my body, and bring it into servitude.” Budaeus reads Observo; (I keep a watch over;) but in my opinion the Apostle has employed the word ὑπωπιάζειν 517517     Its original meaning is to strike under the eye, being compounded of ὑπό, (under,) and ὤψ, (the eye,) to beat black and blue, as the wrestlers were accustomed to do with the cestus (See Arist. Pac. 541.) — Ed here, to mean treating in a servile manner 518518     “Manier rudement et d’une faqon seruile;” — “To handle roughly, and in a servile manner.” For he declares that he does not indulge self, but restrains his inclinations — which cannot be accomplished unless the body is tamed, and, by being held back from its inclinations, is habituated to subjection, like a wild and refractory steed. The ancient monks, with a view to yield obedience to this precept contrived many exercises of discipline, for they slept on benches, they forced themselves to long watchings, and shunned delicacies. The main thing, however, was wanting in them, for they did not apprehend why it was that the Apostle enjoins this, because they lost sight of another injunction —

to take no concern for our flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.
(Romans 13:14.)

For what he says elsewhere (1 Timothy 4:8) always holds good — that bodily exercise profiteth little. Let us, however, treat the body so as to make a slave of it, 519519     Our author has evidently in view the literal meaning of the original word here used δουλαγωγῶ, I reduce to slavery It is used in this sense by Diodorus Siculus. (12. 24.) — Ed that it may not, by its wantonness, keep us back from the duties of piety; and farther, that we may not indulge it, so as to occasion injury, or offense, to others.

That, when I have preached to others Some explain these words in this way — “Lest, after having taught others with propriety and faithfulness, I should incur the judgment of condemnation in the sight of God by a wicked life.” But it will suit better to view this expression as referring to men, in this way — “My life ought to be a kind of rule to others. Accordingly, I strive to conduct myself in such a manner, that my character and conduct may not be inconsistent with my doctrine, and that thus I may not, with great disgrace to myself, and a grievous occasion of offense to my brethren, neglect those things which I require from others.” It may also be taken in connection with a preceding statement, (1 Corinthians 9:23,) in this way — “Lest I should be defrauded of the gospel, of which others are partakers through means of my labors.”

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