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1 Corinthians 9

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Verses 1-14


1 Corinthians 9:1.—Notice the reversed order of clauses in the better-attested reading. Free.—I.c. quâ man; he is always Christ’s “bondservant”; it is of his own choice that he submits to such limitations (1 Corinthians 9:19-22) upon his liberty as, e.g., in 1 Corinthians 8:13; or as this in question, that he should maintain himself by his manual labour, whereas he was also “free” to demand Church maintenance for himself if he had chosen. Apostle.—He had once been the Apostle (Sheliach, the Talmudic equivalent) of the Jewish authorities at Jerusalem to the synagogue in Damascus. [In this, etymological, sense and employment of the word Barnabas is called an apostle (Acts 14:14). So the same popular, freer use derived from the Jewish practice lingers in 2 Corinthians 8:23 (of Luke and the bearers of the “collection”), in Philippians 2:25 (of Epaphroditus). The sense of “among the apostles” as including Andronicus and Junias (Romans 16:7) is very disputable, especially if the latter name be a woman’s, “Junia.”] Now a greater High Priest had sent him forth as His messenger and representative. For this the two needful qualifications were, to have had his commission direct from Christ’s own lips [“I send thee” (Acts 26:17), putting him on an equality with those who heard Him say, “Go ye therefore,” etc. (Matthew 28:19-20)], and to be able, at first hand, and not merely by hearsay or report of others, to assert as a fact within his own knowledge that the Crucified Christ was risen again and was then really living [putting Paul on the footing of Peter and the rest, who could say, Acts 5:32; cf. Acts 1:22 (very explicit); cf. 1 John 1:1]. Important for us that the first link of the chain of historical evidence and testimony should be sound. [If indeed the uniqueness of the position of the apostles in their special selection, commission, and qualification for this testimony, out of the witnesses of 1 Corinthians 15:6, does not make them, not merely the first link, but the strong staple, holding the first link, and itself driven into the solid rock of the facts. The Apostolic company mediated between the Great Fact—the Living, Risen Christ—and the long succession of Christian teachers who must needs receive the truth on evidence of others (supported, indeed, by the subjective evidence of their experience of His working). My … in the Lord.—Observe how the second phrase guards, almost corrects, the first. [Cf. 1 Corinthians 16:23-24 : Christ’s grace; my love.] No independent work; no success of his own. He has no wisdom, strength, success, except as his whole life is “in Christ”; and thus Christ wins the success and does the work through him. It is Christ’s working and power; it is only a question which of the members of the Body He shall employ for any particular part of the great task, and to which shall be “credited” the particular share of the great total result.

1 Corinthians 9:2. To others.—Q.d. in their opinion, and by their recognition, “I am not.” Notice “at least,” R.V. seal.—As by-and-by his “crown” (Philippians 4:1), and, then and now, his “joy” (ib.). “At Corinth, at all events, there can be no doubt of the original validity of my commission, or whether it be still running and valid.”

1 Corinthians 9:3. Answer.—Apologia, as, e.g., Acts 22:1; 2 Timothy 4:16. A forensic word, like “examine,” as, e.g., in Acts 4:9; Acts 24:8; Acts 28:18; (1 Corinthians 4:3-5).

1 Corinthians 9:4. Power.—In the sense of “right”; so in 1 Corinthians 9:12, “to eat and to drink,” q.d. at the expense of the Church.

1 Corinthians 9:5. Sister.—In the Christian sense, parallel to “brother” (1 Corinthians 5:11, etc.); “a wife” who is also a Christian “sister.” The brethren of the Lord.—Three long-discussed, influentially sustained, theories:

(1) Children of Mary and Joseph, born after Jesus (the IIelvidian theory);

(2) Children of Joseph by a former wife (the Epiphanian);

(3) Cousins of Christ, children of Mary the sister of the Virgin, assumed also to be the wife of Alphæus (Jerome’s theory). Probably the data are insufficient for a sure conclusion, agreement in which would otherwise long ago have been arrived at.

(1) is unquestionably the most natural impression to be gathered from the Gospel history and from the word “brethren.”
(2), and in a degree
(3), no doubt originated, or found a very strong motive for their propagation and acceptance, in a desire to save the “perpetual virginity” of Mary.

(1) accounts best for the prominence in the Church at Jerusalem of the James of Acts 15:0, and of Paul’s Epistles. Cephas.—Matthew 8:14. [Very precarious speculation has seen another touch of Peter’s domestic life in 1 Peter 5:13, and yet more precariously has made his wife the “elect lady” of 2 John, because of 1 Peter 5:13, which is only “the elected one (fem.) at Babylon.”]

1 Corinthians 9:6.—Barnabas was a rich landowner in Cyprus (Acts 4:0), and needed neither to work for his living nor to ask the Church to maintain him. If (with Bishop Lightfoot, Galatians 2:11) we make Paul’s rebuke of Barnabas’s vacillation occur during Acts 15:30-40, they may have started together with a “soreness” which made Barnabas (or both of them) tenderly irritable, and helped to the “quarrel” (so-called) about John Mark. This the earliest mention of Barnabas by Paul after the separation. [The spirit of even this passing mention may be paralleled by John Wesley’s persistent kindness of thought and speech to and about Whitefield, after their separation over the Calvinist controversy.]

1 Corinthians 9:7.—Matters little whether the master or the employé in the vineyard, the owner or only the hired shepherd, be intended. Probably the former. As to the soldier, note the R.V.

1 Corinthians 9:8. As a man—Found in Romans 3:5 (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:19); 1 Corinthians 3:3; 1 Corinthians 9:8; 1 Corinthians 15:32 (Galatians 1:11, plur.), 1 Corinthians 3:15; “after man,” as a pattern or norm, but with varying shades of meaning. Here: “According to the sense of what is right, customary amongst men.” Not only does the common judgment of mankind bear him out in his contention, but God has delivered His mind also.

1 Corinthians 9:9.—“Deuteronomy 25:4, quoted also in 1 Timothy 5:8, is very conspicuous for its unexpected, sudden, and momentary reference to cattle amid matter quite different” (Beet). [But the whole chapter looks like a succession of legislative dicta, “entered up” in the statute-book with no order or connection beyond that of their succession of actual enactment as the occasion arose.] An instance carrying a far-reaching principle in regard to the interpretation of the Old Testament. If some enactments seem vague, impracticable, trivial, or even minutely vexatious, “unworthy of the attention of such a Book and of God,” we may say:

1. A trivial case may carry a great principle.
2. Some simple precepts have large analogical meanings when transferred to spiritual things.
3. The çy près principle applies here, as in all legislation which is affected by changing circumstances.

4. Only fair to the Bible to bring in common sense, to explain or apply, as in ordinary life. True order of thought, in this and all similar instances, is not up from the temporary, “trivial” case to the higher spiritual analogy, but down from this to the lower and Jesser. In this small enactment we are touching a widely applicable principle of the Divine order, in a very lowly, temporary embodiment. N. B.—This “law of Moses” is also what “God saith.”

1 Corinthians 9:10. Our sakes’ altogether.—Not denying the early, lower intention of God, who does, in this passage, “take care for oxen.” Similar to “I have loved Jacob, and hated Esau”; or rather to “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice”; where evidently the negation is not absolute, but comparative, in its force. Our.—Hardly to be narrowed to mean only Christian ministers. Note the change of reading, and of consequent rendering. “Partaker of his hope” meant, “Enjoying the reward he hoped for as he laboured.” This also a general principle, not specialised until 1 Corinthians 9:11; 1 Corinthians 9:14, but a point of Divine “political economy,” which should be embodied in (say) the relations between capital and labour.

1 Corinthians 9:12.—Cf. 2 Corinthians 11:12.

1 Corinthians 9:13.—Stanley sees in this resumed argumentation, and in the reiteration in 1 Corinthians 9:14 of what had been said in 1 Corinthians 9:11, the probable sign of a resumption of the letter after some pause. [As perhaps a change of amanuensis, or a new morning’s work. Cf. 2 Corinthians 10:1. He presses also “I wrote,” in 1 Corinthians 9:15.] Leviticus 6:16; Leviticus 6:26; Numbers 18:8-19. See in connection with 1 Corinthians 8:1.

1 Corinthians 9:14. The Lord Christ hath ordained.—Matthew 10:9 sq., Luke 10:7 are quoted [not necessarily from written Gospels] as in 1 Corinthians 7:10.

HOMILETIC ANALYSIS.—1 Corinthians 9:1-14

The Support of a Stipendiary Ministry.

I. What the minister has a right (1 Corinthians 9:4-6) to expect from his people.—Maintenance (1 Corinthians 9:14). This right rests upon:

(1) The natural fitness and “right” of the case (1 Corinthians 9:7; 1 Corinthians 9:11-12);

(2) The Old Testament legislation (1 Corinthians 9:8-10), definitely endorsed and adopted in

(3) The words of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:14).

II. What the people have a claim to expect from the minister.—

(1) That he have all needful credentials (1 Corinthians 9:1-2);

(2) That he do his work; he actually “preaches the Gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14).

III. What Christ has a right to expect from His servant.—That in claiming, or enforcing, or using his “right” he shall not “hinder” his Master’s Gospel.

I. The central verse of this section is 1 Corinthians 9:14. All turns around this.

1. To some ears the “rights of the ministry” has an ugly sound. The minister is often expected to be above such considerations, and to let nothing be heard from himself but how he feels the call of his “duties” press upon him. So he does, if he be a minister worthy the name. He comes into the ministry with a “woe” in his ears, as the penalty of any alternative course. He preaches to his people—rich and poor—that Rights mean Duties. The poor need to have this preached to them as certainly as the rich. But Duties also mean Rights. If the “call” of Christ and His Church be such as to indicate that he must make the ministry the one business of his life, then he must be maintained whilst he is fulfilling his “calling.”

2. Paul is discussing the case of the Apostolate. It was no doubt a unique order of men, charged with a function for the Church of their own time, and for the Church of all time, which cannot be repeated by any other set of men, and never needs to be repeated. Once for all they have set Christian dogma upon the firm basis of History. (See Critical Notes.) But the analogy holds good, in this particular matter, between the case of these unique and extraordinary servants of Christ and of the Churches and the ordinary ministry. The inspired and authoritative declaration of 1 Corinthians 9:14—whether paraphrased from, e.g., Matthew 10:9, or a divinely guaranteed report of an unwritten word of Christ (similar to the case of Acts 20:35)—generalises the application of the principle.

3. The “ordinance” of Christ foresaw, took account of, provided against, a separated ministry. The Body of Christ has simply, and from the necessity of the case,—a necessity recurring in connection with every growing, enlarging, organisation whatsoever,—followed the analogy—“the law”—of all organised structures in Nature. As complexity increases, as the demands of the organisation multiply and are differentiated, so the organs which meet the demands are multiplied, and become specialised in their function and faculty. The specialisation of work and of officials in the Body began in Acts 4:0, when the apostles ceased to attempt to do everything in the Church, and “Deacons” (so-called) were told off to a special portion of what had been included in their work. A simple Church, independent of organised fellowship, of small numbers, of simple requirement, may reproduce the early simplicity of pastoral and official organisation. But as it grows, and, above all, if a system of grouped, affiliated, connexionalised, organised Churches comes to form a new Church, it becomes a matter of expedient division of labour to set apart a pastorate, who will need, and should give, a whole and undivided attention to the teaching and “ruling” needed by the enlarged work and community.

4. “A paid ministry” is a theory and a practice which may reasonably be criticised and objected to; but a “sustained, supported ministry” is a necessity of the case. The man must “live” of the Gospel; not “starve” or “struggle” upon it. His “flock” should do their utmost to see that the shepherd is not the worst fed of them all; they should set him free from need and care. And 1 Corinthians 9:5 enlarges the range of this principle of necessary, suitable support. “Life” is not merely food, clothes, house, bed, books, cut down to a minimum of possibility. A “living” is not merely what will keep the man himself out of want. The apostle, or his ministerial successor, is a man, for all he has been called into, thrust into, office. In all ordinary conditions full, all-round manhood means marriage, a “wife,” a home, perhaps children. Celibacy like Paul’s, should always be the exceptional thing, and never compulsory. It has cut off the ministry from the manhood of the Church, in regard to the sympathy which comes from, and only by, experience. It has morally been a snare to the ministry itself, and often a curse to the community. The “fork” of rigid ecclesiastical legislation cannot “expel Nature” from the man, merely because his work becomes specialised, and he himself is separated in order to do it the more effectively. The “recurrence” and the revolt of outraged Nature have often been disastrous, and full of disgrace, to the Christian, and the ministerial, name. The man, though made a minister by the expediency and the necessity of circumstances, has the “right to lead about a wife”; to have his own home, with its solace and its support. And the “living” covers the needful, suitable provision for this also. His “right” is “authority.” His Lord authorises him to requisition his support from his people. This “right” is manifestly in accord with:

(1) The fitness of things, and the analogy of ordinary human affairs. Whether he be master or servant, the vine-dresser may reasonably expect that his vineyard shall at least sustain him whilst he cultivates it; the shepherd, be he sheep-master or shepherd-man, may hardly be expected to render all his service gratuitously, or to be content that all the produce and advantage shall go to others, who have done nothing, whilst he goes unsupplied. [Cf. the (perhaps) Virgilian protest:—

“Sic vos non vobis nidificatis aves,
Sic vos non vobis vellera fertis oves,
Sic vos non vobis mellificatis apes,
Sic vos non vobis fertis aratra boves.
His ego versiculos feci; tulit alter honores.”]

The minister can indeed never urge the claim of the Owner of the Vineyard (Isaiah 5:2); “the Great Shepherd of the sheep” (Hebrews 13:20), “Whose own the sheep are” (John 10:12), has a claim which no under-shepherd can advance; but, though the “wages” theory is no satisfactory or suitable one for the money-relations between minister and people, the workman might ever claim his “wages,” the under-shepherd his “pay,” his “keep.” Paul and his fellow-or successor-ministers are soldiers on campaign. The war is urgent; there is no respite in the campaign. Discipline and duty, under ordinary circumstances, both forbid that the soldier should need to go foraging for his rations, or should need to combine with his soldering some other means of support. He must not be “entangled with the affairs of this life” (2 Timothy 2:4). The side-occupations, the by-employments, to which he might have to resort, might easily impair his own spirituality, and so his efficiency; indeed, in them he might easily be tempted to do some business with the Enemy. The Enemy will be his provider readily enough, if only he can so divert him from his campaigning and soldierly duty. He looks to his Captain for his support, and his Captain bids him draw upon the Church. They must “honour” the Captain’s draft, and find the soldier’s “salt-money.” And are they not, moreover, themselves in debt to the minister? They owe to him their “spiritual things,” “their own selves also” (Philemon 1:19). It is not repayment, it is only due acknowledgment of their indebtedness, that they should give him such “carnal things” as his need requires. Indeed, it is “sowing” and “reaping.” Will they begrudge, or deny, him a handful, and that of the less valuable produce, of the harvest in their lives, springing, too, from his sowing? Religion means to many, new habits, a new character, God’s blessing, which are very directly and obviously productive, even in their business career (Matthew 6:33; 1 Timothy 4:8). Many a man thus indirectly owes wealth and position—“carnal things”—to the minister whose labours first sowed the seed of eternal life in his heart. “How much owest thou unto thy Lord?” “How much owest thou to thy Paul, thy minister?” If any man should see to it that the ministry is supported, it is that man who owes to the faithful, sympathetic pastor and friend his conversion; his Sabbaths of blesssing, which mean new inspiration for his best life, and multiplying, propagating, reproductive, spiritual help for the work of the weekdays; the spiritual influences in his home; the conversion of his children. Corinth at least should have felt the obligation to see to it that Paul wanted for no “carnal things.” All this is embodied in

(2) The Old Testament legislation. (See Critical Notes.) He will take the Jews on their own familiar ground. They did “hear the Law” (Galatians 4:21). Then to the Law they shall go. [No need to disparage such a style of argument, because the Rabbis to an absurd extent so “targumed” Old Testament passages. Their “targum” often employs a perfectly legitimate method, and lays bare a true, Divine, and abiding significance in the temporary or “trivial” enactment or story. The question is in any case one of evidence, and is not to be dismissed with a sweeping, preliminary dictum condemning all. Does Paul’s “targum” approve itself to the spiritual judgment of the profoundest—not always, or of necessity, technically the most “learned”—students of the Word of God? An interpretation of an Old Testament passage occurring, employed, in the New Testament, is adopted, sanctioned, guided, by the Inspiring Spirit.] The great principle in the mind of the Lawgiver is found in Deuteronomy 25:4, in a miniature, temporary, special, concrete form. De minimis curat hœc lex, and for greater matters also. The oxen are not deemed unworthy of His “care,” indeed; but they are part of man’s world, and God is caring for man, is caring for apostles; for workmen of every order and degree, but with not least solicitude for the “workmen” in the Church (1 Corinthians 9:1). The temporary colour washes out of this, as out of so many more, Mosaic ordinances, and leaves us with perhaps a little, but a real, piece of a stuff made for everlasting wear. Your Apostolic, ministerial “ox” plods his way, and hauls along, his heavy drag week after week, year in, year out. Do not muzzle his mouth, or grudge him his mouthful! Such enactments are part of the whole Revelation of God’s mind and will.

(3) “The Lord” knew His Father’s mind in this, as in all else, and has put upon the old principle His own universal, generalised shape—the Teacher and Legislator as He is, for a Race and for all Time—and has put it on the Statute-book of His kingdom, “that they who preach … shall live,” etc. His word is final. Beyond it no Church can go, nor behind, nor beside it. The minister’s “right” is formally enacted by the King Himself.

II. But the Church has its claim in the matter also.—If a man—though he be a “minister”—work, he has a right to eat. If a man will not work—minister or any man—neither shall he eat. And the man whom the Church is asked to sustain should be unchallengeably a “minister,” who—

1. Can produce his credentials.—Paul could. Point by point he could match the “letters of ordination” produced by Cephas or “the brethren of the Lord,” or by any other teacher whatsoever. Once more (as shown in Critical Notes) it is to be remembered how exceptional were the case and the credentials of an “apostle” [in the strict, narrow sense of the title]. But as in the natural so in the spiritual world, no work of God is isolated. Every fact has its relations, generally its analogies, to many adjacent facts. Evolutionary science has that much of right, in its teaching that a deep, close-drawn unity of idea runs through all the works of God. Earliest and latest, simplest and most complex, lowliest and highest, are all bound together into One Work of God. The Miracle has its relations to the Ordinary; it is not a mere isolated marvel. The Apostolic office was the exceptional, the extraordinary; but it was traced upon lines which are also the foundation lines of the draft of the Ministerial Office. So far as the diversity of facts allows, the analogy holds good between both the apostolate and the ministry. The credentials of both are analogous. The minister of Christ who holds a valid commission, and who may claim support from the Church, has (a) “seen the Lord,” and he so preaches with “the demonstration of the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:4) that he can appeal to a people who are his work “in the Lord.” (On this last point, see the Critical Notes.) He must himself have come into real, personal relations with Christ, and in the indwelling strength and wisdom of Christ he must have been successful in bringing some others into real, personal relations with Christ too. The two things hang together very closely. No man who has really received his commission from Christ, and has by a holy watchfulness kept himself from all which would sever the living, life-giving, strength-imparting connection with Christ implied in being “in Him,” will ever be long together without his accrediting, manifest “work.” On the other hand, no man will ever accomplish such “work” who has not first “seen the Lord.” He must “know Christ”—and that in the widest sense, and to the fullest content of the idea of “knowing” Him—at first hand; hearsay will not do. He will be a theoriser, a speculator, a critic, but not a witness. Like Thomas, like Paul, he must have stood in the presence of the Risen, Glorified Christ, and seen, as by a flash of holy intuition (or rather by the demonstration of the Great Preacher of Christ, the Holy Ghost) One before Whom intellect and heart have bowed down in trustful, reverent, loving adoration, recognising, “My Lord and my God!” And he must often have renewed the holy vision; must often “stand in the Presence” of his Lord, like an ancient prophet [e.g. Jonah 1:3; or like a very angel, Luke 1:19]. And his people will know it. (And they will know it if he has not!) He will speak with a power which their heart and conscience will recognise and will respond to. In his bearing, his words, perhaps his very face, they will see as they gather before him what will make them say, “He has seen Christ Jesus the Lord!” He will be unhappy, and a failure, if his ministry lack this qualification. This will give it a perpetual freshness; every other source of suggestion, every other class of topic, will soon be exhausted, and will soon cease to satisfy hungry souls in his flock. The mere graces of diction, the mental furnishing of mere literary or educational acquirements, will in the long-run do no “work,” certainly none such as is “in the Lord.” A real Church recognises such a man as a true “minister.” His credentials are “read and known of all” (2 Corinthians 3:2). They will sustain such a man, especially will they who are “his work.” (b) No tie so tender, no gratitude so deep, as that between the convert and the man who led him to Christ, between the sheep who is in himself a token of the seeking, patient, watchful, helpful love and work of a real Shepherd. Unhappy the man who year after year can show no “work”!

2. He should be a man who does his work, that for which he was “called” by his Master. (For an examination of the phrase “preach the Gospel,” see Homiletic Suggestion on 1 Corinthians 9:14.) The idler has no “right.” The Church has a claim against the man that he shall show cause for his “wages,” if his idleness bring down the question so low as to become one of work and pay. The work of the true minister of Christ is many-sided, of many types; hardly any line of study but may be made contributory to the cause of the Gospel. Some are set for the defence of the Gospel. The ministerial scholar, or editor, or botanist, or historical student, or tutor, or antiquary, may, if he will, consecrate his work and make it subservient to the cause of Christ’s Gospel. “If he will,”—but he must. It must converge, of his set purpose, upon Christ. It is a grave question, to be decided as the several cases arise, how far subsidiary occupations of time and strength should be allowed or pursued by the man who, to the necessary basis of natural qualifications for the preacher and pastor, has also the two essential marks above analysed

(1. and 2.). In the widest sense he should “wait on his ministering.” The Church has that claim.

III. Abstract right may be carried to a very mischievous length of practical exposition and enforcement.—The Gospel is not made for the apostle, but the apostle for the Gospel. If the claims of these should seem to clash or compete, the claim and need of the Gospel must stand first. Nothing, not even the abstract “right” of a Paul, must be allowed to “hinder the Gospel of Christ.” The very “right” is only given, indeed, for the sake of the furtherance of the Gospel; it is for the advantage of the Gospel, under all ordinary circumstances, that the ministry should be maintained by the Churches. But in Paul’s case, as he believed, circumstance made it for the advantage of the Gospel, or at least for the obviating of disadvantage and detriment, that his right, the very “ordinance” of his Lord should be waived and should stand aside. To him “to live” was “Christ,”—that dear Name gathered up to itself all Paul’s activities, all his devotion; every motive received its impulse and its direction from that Christ. Of his own eager self-devotion, therefore, he readily chose to set his right aside. His heart and reason, the heart and reason of the true minister, would say that the Lord had the claim upon him that he should. Such a man will, e.g., uphold, or waive, his pastoral prerogatives in a meeting; he will defend himself, or let judgment go against him in silence, when he is misjudged or misrepresented; he will resist, or yield to, the opposition of “unreasonable and wicked men”; as, from one case to another, the interests of the Gospel of Christ may seem to require. In any case of doubtful character the balance will perhaps always be more readily given against himself. It is his debt to his Master that it should be. The Gospel of the Master deserves that consideration!


1 Corinthians 9:10. Hope cheering Labour.—[The verse may be made the occasion of a sermon on the Rewards of Labour and the Returns of Capital.]

1. Diversity of contributors to the ultimate harvest.—Some “plough,” do the preliminary, rough, necessary toil, in manufacturing processes, in all engineering and mechanical trades, in commerce and trade; the “ploughmen” may stand for the unskilled labourers. Some “thresh,” and bring to finished readiness for the consumers’ use all the product of a succession of workers and of the chemistry of nature [i.e. of God in His laboratory within the soil, where the seed is buried and dies, to live again]. The “threshers” may stand for the capitalist, or any (supposed) higher-grade contributors to the final result. Many must co-operate; each beginning upon the basis of the work of another order of workers; and at some point in the chain of production, the blessing and work of God coming in indispensably; if the hungry world is to have itsbread.”

2. There is interdependence of producers.—The ploughman’s work is a necessary preliminary to that of the thresher. The thresher completes the otherwise unfruitful work of the ploughman. Each man is needed. The much-abused “middleman” has arisen out of a need; his work, however selfishly or extortionately or tyrannically it has been used, is in itself only an instance of division of labour, necessitated by the complexity of modern life and business. The man who is not wanted, who does not justify his own place and support, will not long be supported. But the ploughman must not grudge the reward of the thresher, nor must the thresher forget what he owes to the ploughman. And must not forget to give it to him, either.

3. No man should labour, whether ploughman or thresher, without a fair reward for his labour, or without hope of being partaker of the fruits of his toil. The right apportionment of the profits, the fruits, of labour is a growingly difficult problem, [and one on which Christian men may honestly differ as to guiding principles and results; not to be discussed in a neutral Commentary like this]. Labour may be as thoroughly selfish and tyrannical in the matter, as it charges Capital with being. Some of the complexity, the perplexity, of the problem is removed whenever on either side an honest, earnest, sympathetic, painstaking endeavour is made to appreciate the view and the demand of the other. Each side also would need to cease to insist upon absolute, mechanical, doctrinaire, “right.” [In this noblesse oblige; whether it be the noblesse of “superior” station, or of better education and wider views of the complex problem; or of greater ability, financial or other, to go back from the full limit of “rights”; above all, if it be the noblesse of the Christian profession and character. Noblesse should lead the way in concession to prejudice, in patience with ignorance. The Christian spirit should be foremost in softening the rigour of the mere mechanical “political economics,” with their formulation of self-interest working against self-interest.] Logic, “wages,” are not the last words of discussions in times of strained relations and class-conflict. The heart is often illogical, and traverses all theories and formulas; but it rules. The heart understands, if the thresher gets close to the ploughman, and the ploughman tries to understand the thresher. Labour without hope of properly proportioned “partaking,” is the labour of slaves. Such labour, without hope to cheer weariness, to incite to effort, to reward diligence and real work, begets the slavish temper—sullen, rebellious, dangerous. There should be no rigidly mechanical adherence to “rights” on either side; so much time, to a half-minute; so much labour, to a single hand’s-turn; so much wages, to a half-farthing. Brotherliness should “rub down” the hard lines of such a plan of the relations between man and man. [The “lord” in the Saviour’s story who said, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with my own?” is nevertheless a master who gave to some a whole day’s “penny” for one hour’s labour.] To say, “There is no friendship and no religion in business,” is not to utter Gospel, Christian, economics. Let capital leave the door of hope open for the labourer; let not the labourer grudge or make impossible the hope of the employer. All the political economies must adjust themselves according to this fixed, divinely sanctioned principle. [Wherever God is the Employer, He will see to it that His ploughman or thresher does realise the “hope” in which he laboured.]

1 Corinthians 9:12. Note three important things as assumed here.

I. Men may hinder the Gospel.—The end of human history is, no doubt, a victory for God and for Goodness, for Christ and His Gospel, and, along with this, a vindication of all the perplexing facts connected with God’s method in leading on the course of history to the goal. Yet one aspect of the ever-present problem of Evil is that the rate and extent of the progress of the Gospel is made dependent upon man’s faithfulness and activity. There have seemed ages of the Church when the Church did nothing to extend, and hardly seemed to keep, the ground previously won for Christianity. No soul will ever be lost, simply and only because a Church or an individual Christian was inconsistent, a stumbling-block, or in apathetic worldliness did not do its duty to that soul. Yet are there none lost who might have been saved if the Church or the Christian had been faithful? What a power, to be able to narrow, or to divert from those dying for it, the river of the water of life—to make the wheels of Christ’s chariot drive heavily, plunged in the sand or the bog of a Church’s indolence or unspirituality or unbelief! [The unbelief of the healthy people in Nazareth prevented Jesus doing all He desired for the need of the sick in Nazareth. How one man, Achan, and he no chief or prince, but only a common man, could hold all Israel in check, and really slay the six-and-thirty Israelites who lay dead in the valley before Ai! Perhaps, on the other hand, 2 Peter 3:12 may mean “hastening the day of God.”] [Illustrate thus: Holland is a country for the most part lying below the level of the sea; it would naturally be covered by the waters. But with long years of patient, watchful industry the inhabitants have built and kept up, around their coasts and along their canals, huge dykes, and these, with a system of gates and locks, keep out the waters. All this is the salvation of Holland. But unbelief can build its walls and barriers around itself, and around a Church, and shut out the tide of blessing which God desires to send upon the “thirsty ground.”]

II. Even good men may be in danger of hindering the Gospel.—If, e.g., Paul had insisted too stubbornly on his right to be maintained by the Church, or lawfully to enjoy the company of a wife and the comforts of domestic happiness at the cost of the Church.

III. To hinder the Gospel is so great an evil that to avoid it, or even the danger of it, is worth any sacrifice, except of principle; to help forward the Gospel is worth any cost. Everything which will arouse conflict and bad feeling, everything which may, even incidentally and unjustifiably, cause offence, everything which is found to “give place” to the ever-watchful Adversary, and so to put the brake on to the wheels of progress, the Christian man will forego, “lest he hinder,” etc. He will give up his liberty in the matter of amusements, or recreation, lest though remotely he check the work of the Gospel in even one soul; above all, lest he should cripple his own usefulness, or dull the edge of his own spirituality, and so “hinder,” etc. If the work of God seems to lag, to drag, to be hindered, then Churches and individuals should begin anxiously, and with unsparing fidelity, to inquire the cause. [See the inquiry when Achan’s sin blocked the way of Israel’s conquest. No use for Joshua to be humbled on the ground in prayer: “Get up! Search out the sin!” (Joshua 7:10). The saying of the disciples at the supper-table: “Is it I? Is it I?” was better than their earlier saying, “Who is it?”]

1 Corinthians 9:12. The Gospel hindered.

I. The progress of the Gospel in the world seems, and surely is, slower than the purpose of God, the desire of Christ, the aim of the Spirit’s work, would lead us to expect.—Faithful hearts yearn for greater, wider, more rapid and sweeping conquests than are actually won. They cannot acquiesce in the actual condition of the matter; they cannot adjust their hope, or activity, to the actual rate of progress. They have a heart, an instinct, within them, which rebels against any such acquiescence and adjustment. They ask, “Why is it? What doth hinder?” The man who is content that the Church—or his own particular, sectional or local Church—should do no more than work on the programme, “As last year,—only more so!” has lost one of the first, simplest tokens of being “in Christ,” and therefore of being in the communion of sympathy with his Lord.

II. Replies which are not answers.—1 “It is of no use to fret or be anxious. God is sovereign; things are going as He wills, and as fast as He just now wills they should.” The spirit of the reply of a Baptist pastor to the offer of Carey for India. Not often heard now; yet, if not explicitly taught, it is implicitly embodied in the practice of the Church. There is, always has been, a sovereignty in the measure and time of the outpouring of the Spirit. The Church has actually progressed spasmodically, by Revivals after times of inertia or unfaithfulness; and these have not always seemed given in response to a specially pleading Church. They have sometimes come upon a sleeping Church. Yet, whilst the Church says to God, “Awake, awake,” He says in reply to the Church, “Awake, awake.” (See Dr. Maclaren, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 19 sqq., Isaiah 62:1; Isaiah 62:6-7.) God is covenanted to hear, and to give, and to bless the world and the work of the Church, whenever the conditions are fulfilled by It. At all events, sovereignty or no sovereignty, He is in fact waiting, eager, forward, to give the success which seems hindered. We may count upon Him.

2. The seeming failures cannot mean that the Gospel has found a soil, a race, a heart, for which it has no message, or to whose needs it has no adaptation. That were to charge Him Who has made both heart and Gospel with something less than the perfection of Divine wisdom. History and age-long experiment give no support to such a supposition. On the contrary, the Gospel has conquered, saved, satisfied, sample cases in every land, century, race, temperament, social grade, mental cast, young, old, ignorant, learned, etc.
3. Nor that it has found a race or a heart which does not need it. No other religion as yet has so satisfied and possessed its votaries as that some—sample cases again—have not found a longing for something else, and better, which the Christian faith has supplied. If not before, in the very presentation of this supply the heart learns to know its need.
4. “But the superstitions are so inveterate, the habits of a life-time so hopelessly deep-rooted, the depravity and degradation of heart and conscience and life are such in the the adults, that we must let them go—leaving them to God—and depend upon the young, the coming generation.” But Paul’s Gospel won its triumphs amongst adults, and from inveterate, degraded, deeply depraved heathenism. His Gospel solved the same problems which we face to-day at home or in foreign lands. The Gospel is meant, not only for those who need it, but for those also who need it most.
5. “The Gospel is only to be preached for a testimony to all nations; the actual inbringing of the nations on any wide scale must come with the Thousand Years.” [A large question. Matthew 24:14 is appealed to. To many this reply seems like invoking something to supply a lacking effectiveness in the Gospel; like calling upon Christ to come and do what the Spirit and Word of God have failed in accomplishing.]

6. “We want more money, more organisations, a new Society, or Committee, for this or that.” All good; all needed, perhaps. But the Gospel won its first triumphs, and has often triumphed since, with few or none of these helps. Evidently, historically, these are not all, or the essentials. [One-man power, consecrated, is better than all Committees and organisations, though most productive when working under control and with organisation. Money must be made no substitute for the Spirit of God.]

II. [As above, “Men may hinder the Gospel.”] Generally, want of the power of the Holy Ghost is underneath all slow progress. He does what is done, much or little. He would do more, if the conditions on which He co-operates with His Church were better fulfilled by it. [As with Christ at Nazareth, above.] A spiritually low condition of His Church, showing itself in little prayer for the progress of the Gospel, in lack of the spirit of consecration, and issuing in the withholding for self of money, time, family, or anything else needed to the progress and extension of the work, is the great hindrance; it “grieves the Spirit.” Little appreciation of the Gospel at home; therefore little zeal for its propagation, no real faith in, or concern about, its saving power and success; are sometimes “hindrances.” Of secondary importance, but yet real causes, may be, defective representations of the Gospel in the preaching, or in the life of individuals and Churches; it may be overlaid with ritual, or hidden beneath intellectual speculation; it may be made too much a question of philanthropic benefit rather than of redemptive purpose; may now and then be proclaimed in a shape too specially that of a Church or nation. [E.g. must not expect some English modes of working and effort to suit equally well France, or India, or China; only an encumbrance to progress to attempt to transplant methods or some peculiar ecclesiastical constitution into another type of nation and life.]—Suggested in part by remarks inHomilist,” v., vi.


1 Corinthians 9:8-10. The Law of God is

I. Reasonable.
II. Humane.
III. Comprehensive.
IV. Just.—[J. L.]

Or thus:—

1 Corinthians 9:8-10. Principles of Equity.

I. Commend themselves to reason.
II. Are enforced by the Law of God.
III. Are of universal application.
IV. Contribute by their operation to the best interests of all.—[J. L.]

Verses 15-23


1 Corinthians 9:15. Used.—As in 1 Corinthians 9:12. “Have not availed myself of my right, nor urged upon you the Law of Moses and the Lord Christ’s command.” For Paul’s sensitiveness about being misunderstood, sec Philippians 4:11; Philippians 4:17. Glorying.—“Boasting.” Twenty-nine times occurring in a few chapters of these two Epistles (especially in 2 Corinthians 10:11, 2 Corinthians 10:12), and only twenty-six times in all his other writings. (Farrar; who compares the “puffed up” of 1 Cor. passim, elsewhere only Colossians 2:18.)

1 Corinthians 9:16. Though.—Better “if” (R.V.).

1 Corinthians 9:17.—Choose between two slightly divergent lines of interpretation:

(1) In so far as I act voluntarily in foregoing my right to maintenance, I have my reward; in so far as I act without my choice, but under compulsion of the “woe,” I am only His servant, His steward but His bondslave, whose whole service is duty, and needs no thanks; and what then is my reward, that I should thus preach gratuitously? Why, the ability to appeal to men with the more effect, because I am independent (as in 1 Corinthians 9:19-20). My concessions to them have greater force of appeal.

(2) More usually, the “reward” is taken simply to mean (as 1 Corinthians 9:18) the privilege, and the satisfaction to himself, of preaching gratuitously. But this would have no self-centering value to Paul, and only would be to him desirable as giving him the vantage-ground for 1 Corinthians 9:19-20. Evans (in Speaker) thinks that 1 Corinthians 9:19-20 formally specify the “reward”; most find it in 1 Corinthians 9:18. The “reward” is hardly one given by God. If it be, yet the act rewarded is done in strength which is entirely grace. There is no such independent worthiness in the man as to claim reward as a right; yet it is fitting that the right act should have its recognition from God. Stanley, happily, says: “This contradiction [i.e. of 1 Corinthians 9:16 to 1 Corinthians 9:15] is … specially characteristic of the Apostle’s style when he speaks, as here, of ‘boasting.’ He can hardly mention a ‘boast’ without instantly recalling it.” He adds: “In one sense he clings to his boast, in another sense the necessity of preaching the Gospel sweeps it away. And thus the construction of 1 Corinthians 9:17 was probably meant to be, ‘Whether willingly or unwillingly, I have a stewardship entrusted to me.’ ” But (he proceeds to suggest) probably as in 2 Corinthians 5:13, with a sudden change of conception (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:3) an intrusive thought gets into the former clause.

1 Corinthians 9:19.—Well expounded in Galatians 5:13, compared with 1 Corinthians 9:1.

1 Corinthians 9:20.—Keeping the great feasts and observing vows, circumcising Timothy, [but not Titus].

1 Corinthians 9:21.—“Under law” in both cases. Too absolute to say that without the article “law” in general, and with the article, the Mosaic law, are meant. Truer statement in Cremer, Lexicon: “The article is usually wanting where stress is laid not upon its historical impress and outward form, but upon the conception itself; not upon the law which God gave, but upon lam as given by God, and as, therefore, the only one that is or can be. So especially in passages where the article is alternately found and omitted, Romans 2:14-15, etc. But that νόμος without the article also means the law which was given to Israel, is clear most manifestly from Romans 5:13” (pp. 430, 431). Augustine’s “law” for a Christian life, “Dilige, et quod vis fac,” is not practically enough. Christian liberty is within the bounds of the will of another—Christ “the Lord.” And this is now the great law of “God”: “Be ye under the law and will of The Son, Christ.” (Cf. John 4:29.)

1 Corinthians 9:22. All … all … all … some.—If only he could have said “all” in the fourth instance! But some will “perish for whom Christ died” (1 Corinthians 8:11); no great wonder, then, if some are not saved for whom Paul preached, and used this holy, self-sacrificing versatility, but all in vain! Obviously “all things” has its limits. “To do wrong can save no one” (Beet).

1 Corinthians 9:23.—“That I may obtain, in company with these whom I hope to save, the blessings promised in the Gospel” (Beet). Good exposition in 1 Timothy 4:16.

HOMILETIC ANALYSIS.—1 Corinthians 9:15-23

Subject: The Independence of the Minister. The central word of this section is “Free” (1 Corinthians 9:19).

I. Free from all men.

II. Free, yet under compulsion to preach.

III. Free, yet under willing bondage to men’s weakness and ignorance.

I. [Sufficient said, in Critical Notes and in Analysis of preceding section, as to the literal, special sense in which Paul used the word and asserted his “freedom.” But the freedom, and the independence it gave him, as well as the ground of appeal with which it “rewarded” him in his approach to men of all classes, coming to them, as he did, a man under obligation to no man,—all these points have their widely applicable analogies in the relations between minister and people still.]

1. If he is to be faithful, he must be free. His people, if they know their own interests, need that he shall be faithful; they should therefore carefully, for their own sakes, if for nothing else, guard against anything which would even appear to put constraint upon him, or limit his freedom of judgment or action. [E.g. the rich man should, with even “gentlemanly” feeling, and much more with a fine sense of Christian propriety, carefully abstain from doing or saying what might seem to “put the screw on,” and the more so if the minister lives very much upon supplies drawn from his pocket. The strong politicians in the Church should let the minister’s politics alone. And so on.] If they want a “man of God” amongst them, who will lift them out of the secular round to a higher level with its larger life, let them give him all freedom to say out all that God gives him to speak. [A Homiletical Commentary of the character of this is not the place in which to deal with the question of the degree of liberty in doctrinal teaching a Church should permit or prescribe to their minister.] Let the congregation, or the meeting, or the council which may be its official representative, for their own good jealously guard their minister’s fullest liberty for feeding and ruling the flock as their pastor.

2. His independence will not be a thing to be obtruded in every face, or a banner to be flung out ostentatiously in every petty skirmish or bit of friction. There are boasters of their “independence” who are simply offensively discourteous in speech; their “freedom” of tongue is only the expression of coarseness of feeling and of mere vulgar pride and self-assertion, in season and out of season. [So Robertson, Expos. Lectures, in loco: “Even the bold unpopularity that cares not whom it offends may be, and often is, merely the result of a contentious, warlike spirit, defiant of all around, and proud in a fancied superiority.”] This “free” Paul can say, “Ourselves your servants,—your bondservants, your slaves,—for Jesus’ sake”; and that to these very Corinthians (2 Corinthians 4:5). The verbal, surface discrepancy runs down to a very real agreement and unity of conception and feeling beneath. The “freest” and most “independent” man is the one who can best concede something, and abridge his liberty “for the Gospel’s sake” (1 Corinthians 9:23). He may give up something of his liberty (say) for peace’ sake; but the Church should not ask it; they have no right to demand it. The loving, wise, patient, diligent, faithful minister in the Church will usually get all the honour he can wisely desire, and all the “freedom” he can wisely use.

II. Free, looking manward, Paul is yet under most urgent compulsion, looking Christward. (See “constraineth,” in the Notes on 2 Corinthians 5:14.)

1. No worthy heart can look unmoved upon need or misery, and know and possess the remedy; no worthy heart can refuse the “constraint” so put upon it. The beggars of the street stand silent, simply exhibiting their sightless eyes, or crippled hands, or mutilated members; they know they need say nothing to move really compassionate hearts; their needs have “poor dumb mouths” which “speak for them”; their very necessity is a plea which the tender-hearted patron will not, cannot, resist. [So may we say that, if in our ignorance or weakness we “cannot pray,” if we are brought so low, physically, mentally, spiritually; then if we can only lie helpless before God, exhibiting ourselves in our need, to Him, it will be a most effectual appeal to His heart, a prayer He cannot but hear. He cannot sit upon His throne, and see, and know, and do nothing (Exodus 3:7-8).]

2. The man, who is himself saved, and then for the first time, by contrast and by new insight, understands in any real sense what peril and misery it is to be “lost,” who is daily walking in the blessedness of “salvation” and of fellowship with God in Christ, cannot selfishly keep locked up within his own bosom the news, the secret, of the new possibilities for sinners through the Gospel. He must be an evangelist, telling out the good news; he must be missionary in instinctive impulse, in motive and activity. “Necessity is laid upon him.” And no man will ever be of use as a minister of Christ in whose soul this inward, urgent necessity is not continually present. He should jealously watch against the first beginnings of its decline; he should mourn before Christ over its absence; he should guard it as a most precious possession.

3. But Paul lies under the (almost) coercion of a more mighty impulse still. “Woe is unto him if he preach not.” (See Separate Homily, 1 Corinthians 9:16.) The first, original “call to the ministry” is the Master’s call. And that call is a “claim” which it were rebellion—sin—to ignore, or refuse, or resist. The Church in its “calling” is only the organ of the Spirit of the Master, and has no power, or function, beyond that of ascertaining, so far as man may, who are the men called by Christ. Above all:

III. This “free” Apostle is under willing bondage to the prejudices, the imperfectly enlightened conscience, the liabilities consequent or weakness of principle or character in those whom he approaches.

1. His Divine Master, to save him, “humbled Himself,” “emptied Himself,” and, Lord of all as He was, “became obedient,” the servant of His Father’s will, and that even to the length of “dying,” and that dying a death upon a cross (Philippians 2:8). His Master had “stuck at nothing,” of self-surrender and self-sacrifice, when it was a question of saving him and his fellow-sinners. Nothing was too much to do, to suffer, to give up, if only men might be saved. And Paul is His Master over again in this. The Jew found him ready to concede all that involved no unfaithfulness to Christ, and was not inconsistent with the very meaning and raison d’être of the Gospel,—ready to accommodate himself in all really indifferent points to the prejudices of a Jew’s education and lifelong habits of feeling and practice. Within the same—happily broad—limits the Gentile, “without the law,” found this Jew, “born, made, under the law” (Galatians 4:4), ready to meet him, to lay aside any Jewish habit or practice, which would stand in the way of their getting perfectly into that touch and that sympathetic understanding of each other without which Paul could do nothing to help him; indeed, a Gentile found no more resolute and steadfast champion of Gentile freedom from the Mosaic ritual law than this ex-Pharisee Paul. Paul would walk with shortened steps by the side of the weakest, that he might lead them to his Christ; keeping to their pace “with equal steps,” lest, by insisting on their moving onward at his own pace, he should leave them behind, fallen out, unable to follow, to become a prey to the Enemy of souls. Anything of innocent concession, of innocent accommodation, to any man, if by any means he might save him.

2. What a model of method and of aim for a minister! Anybody can drive away or cut off a troublesome, obstinate, stupid, prejudiced member from a Church. The business of a shepherd is to keep all his sheep. His aim is to save them,—all. It is too much the inclination of the natural heart to grow impatient with the slow-paced, the mentally sluggish or warped; the men tied hand and foot with what we see to be needless, morbid scrupulosities about trivial points of teaching or practice; too easy to say, “Let them go. We cannot be troubled with such weaklings. We cannot narrow our action, or check our advance in the development of the congregational life, by waiting till these get to see what every man of sense sees already.” But the Church and the minister exist to save even the “weak”; the prejudiced, narrow Jew, the half-instructed, “lawless” Gentile. “If by any means I may save some.” Even one soul is too precious to be neglected, or left behind, or cast over.

3. No pains are too great to find out how to approach a soul, in order to save it. Sympathy means “feeling with.” It means laying oneself alongside of the man; projecting ourselves into his position; getting to his standpoint; trying to understand and see what he sees, as if with his eyes; contracting ourselves to his measure, that we may understand his deepest life; endeavouring to make our heart beat pulse and pulse with his, that then we may understand his difficulties and remove them, and may lead him up and out with us into our higher and larger knowledge and enjoyment and life. [See how Elisha (2 Kings 4:34) applied himself to the body of the child of the Shunammite, mouth and mouth, eyes and eyes, hands and hands, till his own warm life made the cold body beneath him warm again into readiness for life. How every teacher, even on secular subjects, especially in dealing with the young, finds the urgent necessity of sympathetically understanding the pupil’s mind, and entering into his position, if he is to teach, and to give what himself knows.] He who would teach and help and save must begin by serving.

4. The unsympathetic observer cries, “Mr. Pliable!” The honestly narrow Jew says, “What shocking lawlessness! Why, the man makes into matters indifferent some of the most explicit and long-binding laws of Moses! Rank Antinomianism! Rank infidelity!” “No,” Paul would reply, “I am not lawless. I am under law, [and in a very real sense “under The Law”] to my Master, Christ.” If principle were touched, or any point which concerned the honour of His Lord, then no one could be more rigidly uncompromising than Paul. Circumcise Titus? When that meant, either that the Christ was no Saviour, and that the Circumcision must save, or at least that salvation depended upon Christ and Circumcision, Christ being no complete Saviour; then, “No, not for an hour!” (Galatians 2:5). Concede to a Gentile inquirer, or Gentile convert, any liberty in (say) the matter of sexual license? No; such a one “shall God destroy” (1 Corinthians 3:7). Paul is “free” again in an instant, and with all the independence of his freedom—he is no man’s servant to say “yes” and “no” as his master calls for “yes” and “no”—he speaks his mind. Nay, he is the minister of Christ, and independent, first to be loyal to his Master, and next “to save, by all means, some” souls.


1 Corinthians 9:21. The Principle of Law under the Gospel Order.

I. “Under law” or “under the Law,” which?—(For a lexical decision, see extract from Cremer in Critical Notes.) A “burning question” to the Hebrew Christian community, the members of which stood, historically and personally, on the line of the “meeting-place of the ages” (Hebrews 9:26). The fire of that day is for all practical purposes extinct in ours. [The council of Acts 15:0 met on account of this difficulty of practical action. The conflict of Paul’s middle life with the Judaisers shows the urgency then of a decision.] We, standing clear of the temporary controversy, can see that the Law of God is one and continuous through all the dispensations, and as truly extant and binding outside Judaism as within it. If God once speak, His word is man’s law. By His expressed will every man, of every age and race, is bound to shape his life. For a special purpose, arising out of local and national emergency, “The Law” was a thing interjected [between Abraham and Christ], a remarkable historical incident and episode in God’s whole government and ordering of the religious history of the world, and particularly of the covenant people, one in Abraham and Christ. [Two passages are the key to this: Galatians 3:19; Romans 5:20.] But it was only a passing, temporary embodiment of permanent principles. Even the Decalogue has local colouring in four of its enactments. Part of God’s expressed will toward mankind is His judgment of and against sin, and the plan on which alone He will be approached by a sinner. These had a local, temporary expression given to them in the ritual law, with its defilements and purifications, and with its sacrifices of atonement, of consecration, of fellowship [sin, burnt, peace offerings respectively]. Detached from [do not say “purified” from] the temporary, national, theocratic accompaniment; stripped of the dispensational, and (e.g. 1 Corinthians 9:9) very temporary enswathement; all local, Jewish colour washed out; the “law” in “The Law” has come forward into Christianity, which is the newer, world-wide, race-suiting form of the one continuous government of the world by the God of Redemption. Every principle of man’s relation to God, or to man, which can be proved to underlie the enactments—even the “trivial ones”—of the Mosaic code and ritual, is in full validity under Christianity. “God is one” (Galatians 3:19) in all the dispensations, and His law is one. The Christian is, e.g., “under the law” about “not muzzling the ox,” “unto Christ,” as a matter of loyal obedience to God in Christ. The “law” in “the Law” of the Passover is still a fully valid part of the Christian scheme (1 Corinthians 5:8). “The eternal morals of the old economy are rewritten in the pages of the New Testament, as the standard of requirement, the condition of the charter of privileges, and a testimony against those who offend” (Pope, Theol, iii. 173).

II. The Gospel still employs the principle of a law external to the man.—No doubt an ideal Christian “perfection” requires no code. All the old statute-book is consolidated and codified into one law, “Love.” All obedience lies in germ in the service of Love. A perfectly instructed Love would enact, from instance to instance, a perfect law for the individual. On the basis of the grace of the Gospel, the man whose status before God is that of a sinner accepted for the sake of, and in, Christ, finds the law and the obedience prescribed and secured by even an imperfectly instructed Love, accepted by God. Love is the ideally sufficient motive and force for all obedience. Ideally the life springing from a perfect and perfectly instructed Love coincides with the whole requirement of a perfect Law. The external code says no more, asks no more, than Love teaches and enacts and secures. Very glorious approximation to all this is the privilege of all in Christ, and very glorious embodiments of the possibility and privilege are found in every Church, in every century. But “no code, no law, but that of love,” can only be acted upon simpliciter as between one soul and its God, alone together. God’s law and His government need not only adapting to an individual case, but to men in associated life. The enlightenment of conscience and of love varies as between individual and individual, and between stage and stage of the spiritual growth of the same man. A merely subjective law would be one of continually varying interpretation, and of often mistaken interpretation. Even the greatly advanced Christian man is often in need of an external, objective, absolute, standard. His newborn instinct of love will often be the best, or only, expositor to himself of the external commandment; but, on the other hand, he will often need this to interpret and correct the dim, or hesitant, or biassed verdict or direction given by Love within. “The best Christians need a remembrancer: they obey the law within, but are not always independent of the teaching of the law without.” The law without is the safeguard, and the trainer, and the instructor, of the instinct of obedience within. [So an inborn taste for music, or drawing, or poetry, needs the discipline, and the check, and the help of a constant reference to the best models. A Mozart makes laws in music for others, not without first giving a thorough study and obedience to the laws of his predecessors] And much more does the man who has not yet even the new directing principle of the new, and specifically Christian, life within him, need the external law. It is the straight-edge which convicts of sad irregularity the best line traced by his life. [Kingsley, At Last, chap, i., says all this well, with special reference to the Fourth Commandment: “It would be wiser to consider whether the first step in religious training must not be obedience to some such external positive law; whether the savage must not be taught that there are certain things he ought not to do, by being taught that there is one day at least on which he shall not do them. How else is man to learn that the laws of Right and Wrong, like the laws of the physical world, are entirely independent of him, his likes or dislikes, knowledge or ignorance of them; that by Law he is environed from his cradle to his grave, and that it is at his own peril that he disobeys the Law? A higher religion may, and ought to, follow; one in which the Law becomes a Law of Liberty, and a Gospel, because it is loved and obeyed for its own sake; but even he who has attained to this must be reminded again and again, alas! that the Law which he loves does not depend for its sanction upon his love of it, on his passing fancies and feelings; but is as awfully independent of him as it is of the veriest heathen.…” And the supreme Lawgiver is not even the tenderest and most enlightened Conscience, but Christ. Indeed, the tenderness and the enlightenment are all His grace at work. His own Pattern is the one absolute all-comprising standard of human life in its perfectness. His teachings—and not least those embodied in His acts—are abiding Law for His people. All the express directions of the Epistles are the legislation of Christ for “the kingdom of heaven,” given by the Inspiring Spirit through the Apostolic writers. The Inner Light needs interpreting by, whilst in turn it flashes its own illuminative interpretation upon, the Word without. Under the Gospel Love fulfils the Law,—in principle, perfectly, from the first,—but it needs the support, the defence of itself against its own weakness or ignorance, the education, of an external standard and Law. Gospel Ethics ought to be the noblest and most perfect in practical embodiment, as the result of this co-operation of the internal and the external methods of regulation of a Christian life.

III. The text holds the safe middle between two extremes found practically perilous.—A sentence of “Rabbi” Duncan (Colloquia Perip., 109) thus states them: “Ethics without law is as bad in theology as law without ethics.” (He has some pregnant sentences re the former peril (pp. 42–44).] In the one direction tends [or from that quarter comes] all theology which minimises the expiatory, reconciling, atoning element in the death of Christ; which eviscerates the force of the phrases, “forgiveness of sins,” or “the wrath of God,” or which practically leaves out of its scheme any true “anger” in Him; which makes the death only the culminating point of the example, or of the appeal of the love of God to the alienated heart of man. In the revolt from (say) the hard, formal “governmental expedient” theory, and of the “compact” scheme between an angry Father and a loving Son; in the desire to find in theology a worthier and truer place and expression for the love of God toward even those who are alienated from Him and from goodness; there would seem a real danger lest due recognition should not be given to the universal sense of guilt, nor to the way in which even the crudest and least carefully stated formulations of the principle of “satisfaction to Divine justice” have always met and satisfied the demands of the awakened heart and conscience. And this means a defective recognition of the element of law in the relations of God in Christ towards redeemed man. The liability is towards a pattern of life marked by a sentimental goodness rather than Sanctification, and towards a view of Sin which makes it only the fall of the weak child who has not yet learned to walk; or ignorance which misunderstands God; or the limitation of the finite creature. [Teachers and taught, needless to say, are nearly always better, and their lives nobler, than their theory.]

The other peril is Antinomianism, “the Heresy of the Christian Church,” the peril of all communities; the shame of all Churches, and creeds, and confessions. It may be the coarse type of Galatians 5:13, or Romans 6:1, which took advantage of the freeness with which pardon may be, even repeatedly, sought and found through Christ, and which dared to live in sin, even gross and sensual sin, presuming on the abounding grace of God. More often—though constantly tending to this uttermost practical licence—it has based itself upon theologies which stated unguardedly such truths as “dead to the law through the body of Christ” (Romans 7:4), “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness,” etc. (Romans 10:4), “Ye are not under law, but under grace” (Galatians 5:18); theologies of “imputation of the righteousness of Christ to the believer.” [“Putting a surplice over a sweep, without first washing him,” was hardly a caricature of some extreme forms of this.] The “Antinomian” regards the requirement of perfect holiness as so fully met by Christ that he needs not measure his conduct by any law. Obedience is to him expedient, proper, perhaps rewardable; disobedience may be chastened by a Father, not eternally punished by a Judge. Obedience is to him not a condition of acceptance as to the past or negative salvation, neither is it a condition of acceptance as to the future or positive salvation. But the whole and balanced Gospel knows of no salvation which does not mean holiness of heart and life. It knows of no faith which does not work by love, in all its practical exhibition towards God and man. [The old Jewish desire of a “glorious kingdom of God” for all Israelites, apart from any question of their personal character, reappears in the tendency of every heart to desire heaven, without the trouble of holiness; to make Christ and His cross a convenient help from a deathbed into heaven, although the life may have been spent over self, the world, or in plain sin.] The most conspicuous honour ever done to the supremacy of moral law was seen where Christ hung upon the cross of Calvary. Law is so sacred a thing, Sin that violates it is so terrible a thing, that He who is no sinner, but only the representative of the race of sinners, died, not merely an example, but a “curse” under “the curse of the law.”] [It were strange, if in days when “law” is more completely than ever seen to hold in its grip Creation and God’s order in it, the New Creation should not be thought to run on analogous lines. There is no possibility of trifling with natural law with impunity. In the moral world we should expect it to be as certain that punishment must light—the curse must “come to roost”—somewhere, where law has been broken.]

1 Corinthians 9:16. “Woe … if I preach not the Gospel.”—Do not think the ministry “an honourable profession” for your sons before whom nothing else seems definitely to open, or for yourself—perhaps not exactly successful at anything else; “good pay, good social status, not too much work.” Think of its responsibility; you understand in business what it is to pay for responsibility as well as for ability in employés: for how much pay will a man undertake to answer for immortal souls?

I. A great task—“to preach the Gospel.”Not to be too narrowly conceived and interpreted. [Even John Wesley complains (Works, xii. 130): “Of all preaching, what is usually called Gospel preaching is the most useless, if not the most mischievous: A dull, yea, or lively, harangue, on the sufferings of Christ, or salvation by faith, without strongly inculcating holiness. I see, more and more, that this naturally tends to drive holiness out of the world.”]

1. A complete Gospel should be preached.

(1) The sanctions of the Law of God, the threatenings of the Word of God, are an integral part of the Gospel. [No teacher speaks, e.g., of “fire” so often or so explicitly as Christ.] It is “good news” to know the dangers of disobedience or neglect, as certainly as to know the possibilities of forgiveness and of help toward obedience. A complete human nature includes fear. The whole message of God to men does not disregard this motive. Men need awakening, as well as directing to Christ. “Mere promise-mongers are no Gospel ministers” (Wesley).

(2) The Ethics of the Gospel should be preached. To preach a crude, hard, unguarded “Election” led to Antinomianism (“What does it matter how we live, if we are elect?”). So to preach an unguarded “free grace” leads to Antinomianism (“Let us continue in sin; grace will abound; pardon may always be had!”). “The Gospel” is good living as well as good news. St. James’s teaching is as really a part of God’s whole revealed will as is St. Paul’s. Holiness on earth, as well as heaven after earth, is contemplated by the Gospel. It knows of no peace which is not connected with righteousness. “We are created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Ephesians 2:10). [For a young tradesman to go on year by year contentedly losing money, because his kind, wealthy father year by year clears off his balance for him, “is not business.” So for a “Christian” to be less careful about falling into sin because the forgiving mercy of God is so free, and so constantly cancels “the debt,” “is not Gospel.”

2. Yet the Ethics should be Gospel ethics, distinctively. Christian morals all converge upon Christ. Love to Him is the summary of all motive, the one master-impulse. What He would have done, or been, in our circumstances is often a compendious, but sufficient, rule of action and standard of character. He is Himself the Mercy and the Morality of the Gospel, embodied. Natural systems of morals appeal to the sinner’s own force of character, to his own strength of will, to his self-respect, his self-interest, to some recuperative force within the man himself. In Sin they see only failure because of inexperience or weakness; or the finite, because of its limitations, missing, coming short of ideal obedience; they know nothing of guilt, guilty shame, guilty fears. The motives and the power of obedience, of moral elevation, of growth, are all posited within the man, and are his own. Gospel Morals transfer the centre to God. The whole power is that of the Holy Spirit; man cannot raise himself, or obey of himself. All moral power is grace, a gift, is ab extra, and gratuitous mercy for Christ’s sake. [Every topic of the “Gospel preacher” should be exhibited in its close, direct relation to Christ and to God’s purpose in Christ.]

3. Thus treated—exhibited in relation to Christ—every style of preaching, the utterance of every cast of mind, may be made really “preaching of the Gospel.” The preacher of doctrine, dogma, theology, may be of course only an utterer of theses, mere scientific, professional prelections or disquisitions on Scripture topics; but he may be as really a Gospel preacher—laying the foundation of correct, clear thought, and of intelligent experience, in his hearers—as the fervent evangelist, full of illustration, poetry, wit, pathos, and appealing mainly to the emotions. Theology is the Science underlying the preacher’s Art. The Old Testament may yield up Gospel teaching to a student as really, if not as clearly, as the New. Some men will preach from the Proverbs; others from St. John’s writings. But no style of talent, no method of treating Scripture topics, no special class of topic, must be narrowly excluded as not compatible with “preaching the Gospel.”

II. No matter of self-glorification to or by the preacher.—

1. As Christ is central in the matter of the Gospel, so He must be in the preacher’s manner and thought about, and during, and after, his work. Christ must be to the front, the preacher hidden behind Him. Attention must be made to centre upon the theme, not upon the speaker. [“He shall glorify Me” (John 16:14; but notof Himself,” 1 Corinthians 9:13; quite another thought). The Holy Spirit is the model preacher of Christ and His Gospel. How, in 1 Corinthians 9:9-11, all His “convincing” work moves toward and centres in Christ!]

2. All success is traced up to His power, and must be laid at His feet. [1 Corinthians 2:5; Philippians 2:17, a believing people is brought by Paul and laid upon the altar before Christ, and then his own life is poured out as a libation over the offering.]

3. The preacher is not the discoverer of the Gospel he preaches. It is no credit to him to have such a message to deliver. He can claim none of the deserved plaudits which greet and reward a scientific discoverer or a successful inventor on announcing his new thing. He is barely, only, a reporter. “Ye shall be witnesses—no more—unto Me” (Acts 1:8).

4. He is himself only a sinner whom the Gospel has saved. His whole status before God rests, and will eternally rest, upon God’s mercy to him for the sake of another—Christ. It is an honour which is mercy, as well as responsibility, that he is “put in trust with the Gospel” (1 Thessalonians 2:4). He is only the “earthen vessel”—the crock of common pottery—that holds the golden treasure (2 Corinthians 4:7). An ambassador who was once an enemy, sent to his fellow-rebels. Not a source, but a channel, for the water of life. The honour of his office is not personal, but is reflected from his King.

5. He is unworthy to fulfil such an honourable function; he is, in himself, quite unable to fulfil it aright, or worthily of its tremendous issues.
6. Do not praise the preacher, or congratulate him on his success. His zeal, his skill, his success, are all from the outside, from Christ. Above all:

III. He has no choice; he dare not but preach.—[Yet this is constraint, not compulsion. Like Jonah or Balaam, men may refuse the commission of God, or only half discharge it; and must take the “woe” which is the consequence. The model of the spirit of the preacher, called to be the servant of Christ in this work, is, in its culminating example (cf. Psalms 40:6-8, not merely “targumed,” but authoritatively applied to, and expounded of, Christ, Hebrews 10:5-7), Christ Himself, in His voluntary, self-devoting (John 17:19, “I sanctify Myself”) acceptance of the call.] He feels the compulsion of (a) gratitude; (b) compassion for men’s need, and consideration of their danger (perhaps, here, “knowing the terror of the Lord,” 2 Corinthians 5:11; but this not certain); (c) a sense of right; he ought to tell what has been such a blessing to himself; (d) above all, and this here, he dares do nothing else. “Free” as regards man’s power and payment (1 Corinthians 9:1), but bound as to God’s call. [An old missionary, in his journal (penes me), speaking of his “call” to the ministry, writes: “When I am at my best religiously, the impression is the most powerful and persistent. The everlasting salvation of my soul is intimately, if not inseparably, connected with my obedience in this respect.”] No question whether he shall “choose the ministry.” He is “called” to it. God designed him for it “from his mother’s womb.” Pity the man who gets into the work without this call and commission, and who finds it out in later life, when perhaps too late to retrace his steps and undo the past. But “woe” to the man who, being called, will not hear; who ought to preach the Gospel, but who chooses some easier, or more lucrative, or more congenial, line of life! What sin is there like it, to refuse the honour of being an ambassador who may save souls? [Yet how patient God is with reluctant Moses, who is almost petulant and rebellious in his urgent protest against going to Egypt (Exodus 3:11; Exodus 3:13; Exodus 4:1; Exodus 4:10), excuse after excuse, until finally, 1 Corinthians 9:13, “Here am I, but do not send me; choose, and send somebody else.”] Do not envy the “preacher of the Gospel,” even if he be very successful. “Brethren, pray for us.”


1 Corinthians 9:15; 1 Corinthians 9:23. Paul an Example of

I. Self-denial.
II. Humility.
III. Disinterestedness.
IV. Affability.
V. High motive.—[J. L.]

1 Corinthians 9:16.

I. What to preach: “The Gospel.”
II. How to preach: “Without glory to self in any way.”

III. Why preach? “Woe.”—[J. L.]

Verses 23-27


1 Corinthians 9:24.—His own salvation is at stake as well as that of his hearers. He must do all these things, not only as expedients which for his hearers’ sakes may make him a successful soul-winner, but because to do everything he can to ensure success is to discharge faithfully his “stewardship” (1 Corinthians 9:17), and is thus one condition of his final acceptance when he comes to the goal. The comma after “run” in the A. V., and, still more, the “even so run” in the R.V., makes it clear that the reading should not be carelessly taken to be, “Run so that ye may,” nor, “So run as that ye may.” “So” looks not forward to “that ye may obtain,” but backward, to the way racers run who know that they are competitors, the success of one of whom means the failure of all the others. This is not a maxim standing alone and meaning, “Do you run your Christian course in such a manner as to ensure that you will win the prize.” It is a picture gathering up the scene on which Paul and his hearers are gazing. “See the sustained straining, and the concentration of energy; see how nothing diverts attention from the Prize; see the fierce eagerness of competition; remember the long, self-denying training for that moment of supreme effort. That is the way to win your Crown. Run your course like that—so—thus—if you mean to attain.”

1 Corinthians 9:25.—Racing, boxing, wrestling, all kinds of athletic contests “for the mastery.” See the rendering. The Olympic games were in Paul’s time still celebrated, and survived the Isthmian, which, however, were more familiar to the Corinthians, and at the time were more important. Nero contended in them, with “an agony to succeed” (Stanley). Ten months’ preliminary training—dieting, etc.—was obligatory on every competitor. [The metaphor of the foot race is found not only in Philippians 3:12; Philippians 3:14; 2 Timothy 4:7-8 (Hebrews 12:1); but in briefer phrases—Acts 12:25; Acts 20:24; Galatians 2:2; Philippians 2:16; Galatians 5:2; 2 Thessalonians 3:1; perhaps Romans 9:15-16. (See Dean Howson, Metaphors of St. Paul.)] A corruptible crown.—At the Isthmus this was of Grecian pine leaves; because these were so valueless intrinsically, the more to be admired was the eagerness of the competitors.

1 Corinthians 9:26. Uncertainly.—With no definite goal, keeping to no particular track. Beating the air.—As if fighting a shadow, or merely “lunging about” for practice to the muscles. “It is no ‘practice,’ but the serious contest, I am engaged in.”

1 Corinthians 9:27.—See Homiletic Suggestions. Buffet for “keep under.” Lit., by derivation, “Give it a blow that bruises it under the eye—to keep it in its place, as servant, not master.

HOMILETIC ANALYSIS.—1 Corinthians 9:23-27

The Minister’s Care for his Own Salvation.—We see him:

I. In Conflict. Then

II. Crowned. Or

III. Castaway.

I. In conflict.—

1. 1 Corinthians 9:23 is transitional. A new thought is introduced, out of which this paragraph grows. The preacher of the Gospel hopes to be, needs to be, a “partaker of the Gospel along with” those to whom he preaches it. He is himself vitally interested in its truth and its success. He may be an apostle; but he is first a sinner, lost and in bondage, and himself needing to hear the “joyful sound” of release and recovery. The trumpet of Jubilee which he is set to sound, proclaims an “acceptable year of the Lord,” in whose happy issues he too hopes to share. He has heard the Gospel, and is rejoicing in its salvation; but if he is to retain his status, he must be faithful to his duty as a preacher, set to “save as many souls as he can.” If he fail personally, he will be a failure officially; no man will succeed in the ministry who does not keep his personal life right. Conversely, if he fail officially, through neglect or unfaithfulness, he will fail personally, His unfaithfulness is sin. (See this and some after points expounded in Separate Homily, “An Apostle’s Peril,” 1 Corinthians 9:27.)

2. A racer, putting all his energies into the race; making no play of his ministry, but most serious and arduous and even exhausting labour. A boxer, matched with a busy, active, dangerous antagonist in his very “body”; finding here again that it is no play to deal with himself. His nature every moment waits to render him secure, and then in his security to gain an advantage over him. Indolence, love of ease and comfort, and even natural weariness, need to be watched, lest they deal deadly blows at his life. He must be ready to return rebuke for suggestion, blow for blow. [“Get thee behind Me, Satan!” said Christ to Peter, who had revolted against the idea of the shame and the bodily suffering of the cross. “Do not think of such a thing, Lord! That be far from Thee! Be propitious to Thyself (lit. Greek); be kinder to Thyself than that!” Had the Master just passed through conflict in anticipatory presence of the cross? And now, with mistaken kindness, His friend, Peter, makes the very suggestion, which, quite innocently, His own holy body may have been making. “Shun the pain!” (Matthew 16:22).] There are dangers of the couch, the arm-chair, the hospitable table, the glass, the pipe, the cycle, many (literal) body-dangers besetting, buffeting, the Christian “boxer.” [Make the very body come obediently “to heel.”] [As there are also dangers in the study,—of dilettante reading and work, known to, condemned by, nobody outside; dangers of success; dangers in days of what seems “failure”; dangers of the infection of the “secular” temper—for the minister may do his work in as thoroughly “secular” a spirit as any business man in the market or the shop.]

3. He is in constant training for his running. He must never suffer himself to get “out of condition.” Things allowable if he were not running a race, or if he were not in the ministry, and bound to “fulfil it” [Colossians 4:17; cf. the R.V. in Revelation 3:2 : “No works of thine fulfilled before God; many things purposed, begun, half done, nearly finished, but “not fulfilled”], are not permissible to him. He must keep himself free, pure, not entangled nor self-ensnared, in the best order of body, mind, heart, to do his work and accomplish his “course.” [“Temperate in all things.” See Separate Homily.]

II. Crowned.—[Revelation 3:11 is a warning to an official life that its official “crown” may be given over to, passed on to, worn by, some other who has done more faithfully and effectually work which was allotted to the uncrowned man. Revelation 2:10 is the personal reward of the personal life. And notice] the “crown” of a successful, faithful life is “Life.” “Uncorruptness” in teaching (Titus 2:7, where notice the displaced reading, which was significant in its reiteration of idea), and in that love (Ephesians 6:24) which is the very element of the Christian walk, thus leads up to “life and incorruption” (2 Timothy 1:10). The purifying of the nature from all that belongs to “death” at last made complete; the life which sprang here from “incorruptible seed” at last developed into eternal, indefectible perfection of all its features and capacities; whatever of added happiness “Heaven” may include,—happiness ab extra, dependent upon surroundings, companionships, appointed employments; all this in perfection, with nothing of transitoriness to dim, even as a possibility, the enjoyment of the present; with no remotest possibility of an end, to cloud over as with the gradual closing in of an eternal Night, the Divine glory of the eternal Day of that world’s life;—this “Life” is Paul’s “crown.” The spiritual life here was all the work of Christ in the soul; and to His heart also that after-life which is the expansion, the fulness, the sequel as well as the successor of this, is the crown of this. Finis coronat opus Christi, et Pauli. [What crown is there of all for which men in the “natural” realm “strive for the mastery,” which is incorruptible? E.g. how much of the knowledge acquired by a lifetime of study and self-denying, enslaving labour is merely relative! It is modified, supplemented, made obsolete, almost before the man who won it and wore it is cold in his grave. Or, how distance of time dwindles and “corrupts” away the mere crown of fame and honour given by contemporaries, and not unworthily, to the majority of the famous people of any one century or nation! How unsatisfying the best reward of mere secular labours! How many a hot-browed athlete has found his crown begin to wither and perish almost as soon as it has been placed upon his head!] Or, unhappy alternative:

III. Castaway.—(See, again, below.) Of all the “lost,” is the rejection of any man more pathetically painful to imagine than that of the preacher, who has set others to run, who has directed their training and their running, who has enheartened them in their days of faintness or discouragement, who has seen them take the one last step which bears them in death over the line that marks the goal attained; and then himself presents himself to the Judge for “approval” and for crowning, only to be thrust away “reprobate” “castaway”?


1 Corinthians 9:24-27. “Temperate in all things.”—(May be made the basis of a Temperance Sermon.)

I. Christian religion honours the body.—Only one that really does. Such religion as Corinthians knew took no account of it; bodily sins and lusts were reckoned things indifferent.

1. Some to-day make almost a religion of bodily exercise. Athletics the god which gets their best devotion. Read nothing else in the paper; can talk on no other topics. That an exaggeration. [Body not everything. Some giants very poor creatures in mind. Dwarfs have done great things. Two most wonderful figures in Europe at end of seventeenth century were two commanders of large armies: William III., an “asthmatic skeleton”; Luxembourg, “the princely hunchback” (Macaulay).] 2 As real an exaggeration to make teetotalism the only devotion, the only religion, the only remedy for human ill. [Easy to understand the “intemperance of temperance people”; not difficult to excuse, or even justify, it. Man who sees most of the wide extent, and dire results, of intemperance; lives in midst of its woe and wreck; finds all efforts, hopes, prayers, defeated by it; finds the thick moral induration of the drunkard-habit turn edge of keenest sword, or most pointed arrow; finds the work of years of painful recovery blighted by outburst of old, mad passion again; may be excused if he feel or speak with “undue” strength. May be forgiven his “madness” when he sees wife, child, friend, minister, dragged down to the slough of the sin and shame of drunkard-life. No doubt, too, if we could make drunken England into part of sober England, we should cut tap-root of nine-tenths of English ills, and solve many a social and economic problem. No doubt total abstinence the only remedy for large percentage of misery and sin; the most practical remedy, as things are to-day. Yet it is exaggeration.] It is not all. Some appeals to the intemperate are only less liable to become mischievous than drink itself. E.g. appeal too strongly to the saving of money effected; may cast out devil of drink by putting in covetousness. Appeal too exclusively to self-respect or strength of will; may make reclaimed drunkard a Pharisee in pride of self. May sometimes only have cured physical mischief by inoculating with moral poison—Be temperate even in your remedy fôr intemperance. True way of regarding question is to make it part of the Christian honour of the body, as an instrument through which Christ is to be served. Highest purpose of education is to make mind a fit instrument for serving Christ. And so too the body is His; He bought it; bought all of the man—body and soul. It is to be kept in best possible order for Him, and His use. Therefore, in mind and body,—temperate in all things.

II. What is temperance?

1. See driver of ancient chariot, or modern four-in-hand; his strong bit; still more, his firm, skilled hand. That perfect control of his team is temperance. Man, boy, drives team of three bodily appetites; mettlesome horses, powerful, sometimes turbulent, in their strength; but they have their work to do. Temperance is having the team well in hand, making them do their work, but no more; do it, at the man’s will; or leave it alone, at his will. Horses must not be allowed to run away with chariot, with man. “Be temperate, lest team carry you over the precipice of ruin here and hereafter.”

2. See chorus on the orchestra, how built up of four classes, masses, of voice. Conductor makes each do its part, but no more. Too much bass, too much treble, equally spoil the music. If tenors (or even one voice) over-assert themselves, they spoil balance and harmony. Conductor makes each do its part, loud, soft, everything, as he will. Mind, body, pleasure, work, intellect, heart, will,—in the perfect harmony of Life, all take their part; no more, no less; nothing dwarfed or stunted; nothing exaggerated or over-grown. Be the conductor in full authority over your choir of gifts, powers, passions; make all temper to a happy balance and wholeness. Drunkard lets one voice out-shout the rest and ruin the music of the life.

3. Intemperance means not having oneself perfectly in hand, having something a man cannot saynoto. [“Never so let yourself go that you cannot ‘pull up’ at will. Find cannot say ‘no’ easily? Then put foot down, say ‘no’ absolutely. Body wants to be master? Give it a buffet under the eye—that is Paul’s word—to keep it under. Make it know you will be master, the grace of God helping you. Body and mind are partners in business of life; neither is a sleeping partner; but not equal partners; body has some stake in concern, but must not have the management, especially in drinking. Mind—you—must be master. That is temperance.”] “In all things.” Rule for ancient athletes, and for Christians now, for everybody who wants even to win the prizes of life. Nothing really worthy in being a teetotaler, and yet an impure man; a hard worker, yet intemperate in relaxation after hard work. Not too much reading, music, sleep, anything. Every single thing in measure, all in balance.

III. In many thingsnot drinking onlythis may mean total abstinence. As to drinking:

1. For every drunkard, or man or woman in danger, a necessity. Such must abstain, or they cannot be Christ’s.

2. For Christians it may become expedient (see Homily on 1 Corinthians 8:9-13). In England, in last century, may not have been. May not be on Continent to-day. Are things, however, coming, or are they come, to such a pass in England, that Christian people must stand clear of what is cursing England as never before?

3. For young people, safety. No guarantee “worth a rush” except conversion; even that sometimes overborne No strength but God’s in them absolutely to be trusted; but total abstinence a safeguard.

IV. If not, will not win the prize.—Happily public opinion is beginning to say intemperate people (in every sense) shall not. Also inevitable working of “natural law” forbids. Boys and men handicap themselves physically by any exaggerated or sinful excess. Success even in business means clear head, sober hand, healthy body. Highest work demands body and mind at their best. So Christ’s work demands it. Also if some intemperate men seem to “win,” they lose themselves and are cast away (cf. Luke 9:25; 1 Corinthians 9:27). [Our forefathers bore with intemperate Pitt, and too-convivial Scott, and the sinner Nelson. But, a little later, they would not give Byron his place in Westminster Abbey. To-day not all the witchery of their Shelley or our Swinburne must permit them to take first rank in our national devotion. Day coming when Christianised society will refuse, and say that neither an intemperate man nor an impure man shall lead the national life: “We won’t have it!”]

1 Corinthians 9:26. Christian Progress.—Compare the progress suggested by (a) Running with that suggested by (b) Growth. Four Contrasts.

I. (a) Progress, in the outward aspects of it: the life of action and of conflict, of speech, of work.—Every detail of life a step forward towards the goal or backward towards the starting-point, or out of the prescribed course altogether. (b) Progress in the inner life; in strength of character and of principle, greater simplicity and directness of motive; greater abundance in the fruits of grace, in loveliness and Christ-likeness. “Every detail a step.” Then how important every smallest detail. There is nothing which “does not matter.” Everything “matters.” And, further, why fear dying? It is but one more step, to be taken in the same strength as that next preceding and all preceding; the one step which carries the runner over the line which marks the goal attained; but, except for that, perhaps not intrinsically so difficult or so important as many another preceding. Let every detail of life have its right direction, and carry us forward.

II. (a) Progress in a definitely marked-out course.—The runner is kept right by rules and bounds imposed from without. (b) The thing that grows is kept right in its progressive development from within, according to the “law” of its very life. The plant or the body obeys the ideal of its kind or order. The oak, the moss, unfold themselves and assimilate and dispose into their structure new material, in obedience to the life within them. No need to watch or take pains that in pattern or kind the leaves shall grow those of the moss or the oak. So the new life in the soul has its ideal and its laws. It will naturally show a developing progress, the features characteristic of the Christ-life appearing of themselves. But the Racer is only kept right as he keeps within bounds prescribed; he may go wrong at any point. On this side stand God’s “Thou shalts”; on the other His “Thou shalt nots.” Within these lies the one, only path to the goal and the prize. If in his advance the racer has not submitted to the direction or the restraint of these, he runs “unlawfully” and “uncertainly.” He may not be surprised if he find himself, after all, “cast away” as the result of the Judge’s verdict. If all other indications of the course fail, the steps of Christ are the supreme summary of all direction. What He did, and, above all, the principles of His words and acts—these are His “steps.” They show the path in which alone progress can be made.

III. The progress of growth is solitary; that of running is in company.—The one palm will grow as well solitary in an oasis as in a grove of palms. No tree helps the next to grow. The children in a family grow hearty or weakly independently of each other. As there is a spiritual life which must be lived, and progress which must be made, alone. A man might be, if need were, a great saint in a great solitude. It would be one-sided sainthood. No Christian fellowship or united worship can do the work of the closet and the searched Word. But the progress of Running is progress in company; all the helpfulness of companionship and sympathy is brought into use. The runners in training for athletic contests will secure a friend to run by their side during the last “lap” of the course; by the fresh and unexhausted vigour of the friend to help themselves over the strain of the last portion of their path. The sloth or eagerness of one Christian’s progress will affect the pace of a fellow-runner. His steady pursuit of the prize may decide some feebler, wavering soul just feeling the first strain after the eagerness of the start is over, and beginning to wonder whether, after all, the prize is worth such an effort to win.

IV. Growth speaks of a steady, quiet progress; not to be measured from moment to moment, but palpable enough in accumulated results. We see that the plant has grown, or the body, but not the actual growing. Racing puts forward the continuous, eager, straining effort, and the concentration of it upon the one thingthe crown. Our life is no “walk-over” the course; no lounging parade towards the goal; but “racing,” with all the eagerness of competition, where the racers are companions, but not competitors. There is no turning aside to examine the beautiful sculptures and altars by the side of the course; no stopping to exchange greetings with the friends amongst the spectators. [“This one thing I do” (Philippians 3:13) is well illustrated by the last words shouted by the “coach” to the men in the trial eights on the river: “Now then, keep your eyes in the boat; look at the shoulder of the man in front of you; don’t think of anything but the time and the stroke.”] The racer’s progress is possessed by one idea: “The prize,” “the crown.” He sees nothing but that. From head to foot, from the finger-tip of his outstretched hand to the extremity of the foot, which barely touches the ground from one step to another as he strains along, and flies rather than runs—every inch of him, ever muscle in his frame, says, “The Crown!” Everything is made to bend to that; everything in life which will not help progress is discounted or dismissed; all must help to win the goal and the Judge’s award. The Christian man knows what he wants, and makes that the serious, ruling business of his life. [In Hebrews 12:1 are the added ideas of training away all superfluous “weight” every ounce which is not bone or muscle, which will help in running, and of stripping off all encumbering, “clinging” (= “easily besetting”) garments.] Look at the runners. So run, as they do, that ye may obtain. It is not never-ending progress leading to no definite issue; an endless seeking and never finding; an unending effort which attains to no prize. [Edward Irving exclaims, “Probation does not lead to probation, but to issues!” (Divine Judgments, vii.); to “crowning” or “cast away.”] “A great deal of trouble to make Christian progress!” Certainly. But see Proverbs 14:4 : “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean; but,” etc. Nothing is easier than have a clean stable, and to escape the “trouble” of cleansing it; but the indolent man must be content to forego the “increase which is by the strength of the ox.”

1 Corinthians 9:27. An Apostle’s Peril.—Both words, that for “preach” and that for “castaway,” are, themselves or their cognates, so common in St. Paul that we need not overpress the derivational meaning of even the former, or necessarily regard them as saturated with suggestion springing from the imagery of a racer. The herald who has called others and induced them to enter for the prize, who has announced the conditions of the competition and even seemed to be joining in the race himself, comes to the judge’s seat for the crown. “No crown for you; you have not yourself submitted to the rules, have not contended ‘lawfully’ ” (2 Timothy 2:5). And he turns away from the judge’s seat filled with the beginnings of the disappointment of an eternal failure. Probable; suitable to the context; true; but not certainly to be got out of the words.

I. An official application of the words.—Pauls peril is from his body.—He “keeps his body under.” Must take this precisely for what he says: not the “flesh,” but the “body,”—a narrower and very definite source of danger. Sin in Gentile life ran most frequently into physical excess. All heathenism, all natural human life, gravitates sooner or later into indulgence of the three physical appetites. Mere human wisdom and morals have no sure reason why these should not be indulged; the tendency is always to treat bodily sins as venial, or even indifferent actions. Strangely enough, also, the same temperament which makes some men, some ministers, seem highly receptive of the Spirit’s enduement of power, appears to expose them to the assault of physical temptation. From high spiritual exaltation to bodily excess is not an uncommon fall. Paul seems to have been by temperament and by special grace in little peril in one particular direction. [1 Corinthians 7:7, as usually interpreted, but the inference is by no means so certain as is generally assumed]. And he may be in some degree identifying himself with his readers, and the “I” not be entirely personal, but rather representative. A real danger to a minister arises from the frequent association with women in the work of his life, whether as grateful and attached hearers, or busy helpers, or the objects of his labours. There are dangers at the hospitable tables of his congregation. Dangers of indolence fostered by the sedentary nature of his work in the study. Nowadays ministerial athletics may become a peril. Paul is in danger from his body; and, further, in two particulars in this very chapter does he give the body a check. “Paul’s refusal of maintenance, and the bodily toil resulting thereupon, and his refusal to eat meat which might injure a weak brother, were blows against the spiritual power of his own body, and tended to make the body more and more a servant of the spirit within” [Beet, in loco. We may add also]: All the physical dangers and suffering which he not only submitted to, but accepted and gloried in (2 Corinthians 4:10; 2 Corinthians 6:5; 2 Corinthians 11:23-27), as the accompaniments of his work for his Master, became, through his persistent, voluntary pursuit of a career which made him run the gauntlet of so many blows upon his body, really in effect his own buffetings of his body. All the exhausting physical toil of the modern ministry; long walks, wearying pastorising; the contact, so repugnant to all the training and instincts of a gentleman, with physical squalor, dirt, disorder, and disease in the fulfilment of his labours; unwelcome exposure to all weathers;—all may be sanctified into blows which “keep the body under.” Asceticism, ingeniously, gratuitously, inventively prescribed, is uncalled for. In the direct application of the possible figure (above), official defect, and condemnation of his official life and work, are most prominent. But not apart from personal unfaithfulness and failure, and a personal rejection. [He regards it as quite possible for a teacher to lose his life’s superstructure and building, whilst himself being saved because on the one foundation (1 Corinthians 3:14-15).] Personal unfaithfulness is by far the commonest cause of ministerial and official failure. Not the apostle only, but the man, has to take account of the liability to be at the last a “castaway.” So then:

II. An application of the principle to the personal life.—

1. Every Chris-tion may become a “castaway,” and miss the crown. [The thought, but not the same (original Greek) word, in Luke 9:25.] All safety is of God’s grace, with which the man must co-operate; [and the co-operation is in the strength of grace also]. The grace must go all the way, for the peril goes all the way. [To the last the Christian soldier is not on the parade-ground, but on the battle-field. He must hold himself ready for fighting or sudden attack at any moment. No “standing at ease”! Danger never far away.]

2. No man is exempt because of high honour, long service, or great success in the work of God; Paul had all these. Nor because of great gifts or grace at one time enjoyed; Paul had these. Through these, indeed, fatal temptation may reach the soul; e.g. if a man thus honoured and endowed become proud, self-satisfied, self-reliant to the exclusion of dependence upon God’s grace.

3. Each man should know his own liability, his own vulnerable point. Perhaps, safe everywhere else, he may, like Achilles, be in danger at the heel; the lowest part of his nature, that wherein he touches the earthly most nearly, may be the point of attack, rather than the heart or the exalted intellect.

4. Each man should “exercise” himself [Acts 24:16; the physical training of the combatant in the games]. Keeping himself well in hand; taking care that the spiritual is always the dominant element in his life. Yet the self-distrust, the watchfulness over oneself, the fear of the sad possibility of after all missing the prize, must not be so dwelt upon as to become a morbid dread, or a haunting terror, overshadowing with gloomy clouds the “joy of the Lord.” The case of a “castaway” is by God’s grace a very rare one, though a possible one. Moreover, dwell also upon the grace for the faithful, patient, successful running of the course until we say, “I have finished my course” (2 Timothy 4:7). [There is yet a Greater Runner than Paul Who is proposed for our contemplation (Hebrews 12:1-2): “Looking at (as well as unto) Jesus,” who has won His prize. Did He, may we not say, “keep under His” very “body”?] Leading up to the temple of Neptune at Corinth, close by the Isthmian race-ground, Pausanias the traveller saw two hundred statues of victors in the games, ranged in honourable array on either side of the path. What an inspiration to after-competitors! We, too, have our array of victors. Amongst the most distinguished stands the figure of Paul. No “castaway” after all! And the grace which kept him and crowned him may keep and crown any of us!


1 Corinthians 9:24. Six Earnest Counsels on the Race of Life. (A Sermon to the Young.)

I. Trifle not; the business is earnest.

[“Each word we speak hath infinite effect;
Each soul we pass must go to heaven or hell;
And this our one chance through eternity;—
To drop and die like dead leaves on the brake,
Or like the meteor-stone …
Kindle the dry moors into a fruitful blaze.
Be earnest, earnest, earnest,—mad, if thou wilt!
Do what thou dost as if the stake were heaven
And that thy last deed ere the judgment day.” (Kingsley, Saint’s Tragedy.)]

II. Delay not; the opportunity is short.

III. Err not; the path is narrow. [“Narrow!” Yes; as the railway lines make a “narrow” track for the engine and its train. But the “narrow” grip of the rails upon the wheels is safety for the travellers. “Liberty” from their compulsion to keep the track is danger, disaster, ruin. Plenty of liberty to run forward, in the only safe direction, with all prudent speed.]

IV. Divide not your attention; the work is difficult. [“The children of this world are, in (for the aims and purposes of) their generation, wiser than the children of light.” The “Jack-of-all-trades” danger of some characters.]

V. Relax not your efforts; he only that endureth to the end shall be saved.

VI. Faint not; the prize is glorious.—[J. L., in part.]

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.