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The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ 1-corinthians-9.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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1 Corinthians 9:1-27
The rights and the self denial of an apostle.
1 Corinthians 9:1-14
An apostle's right to maintenance.
1 Corinthians 9:1
Am I not an apostle I am I not free? The order of the best manuscripts is, Am I not free? am I not an apostle? St. Paul designed in this chapter to show that he was not only giving a precept, but setting an example, He told the "strong" Corinthians, who had "knowledge," that they should be ready to abnegate their rights for the good of others, he now wishes to show them that, in a matter which affected his whole life, he had himself abnegated his own rights. Being free and an apostle, he could, if he had chosen, have claimed, as others had done, a right to be supported by the Churches to which he preached, he had thought it more for their good to waive this claim, and therefore he had done so at the cost (as appears in many other passages: 1 Corinthians 4:12; Acts 20:34; 1 Thessalonians 2:9) of bitter hardship to himself. But St. Paul practically "goes off" at the word "apostle." It was so essential for him to vindicate, against the subterranean malignity of hostile partisans, his dignity as an apostle, that in asserting that authority he almost loses sight for the time of the main object for which he had alluded to the fact. Hence much that he says is of the nature of a digression—though an important one—until he resumes the main thread of his subject at 1 Corinthians 11:15. Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Doubtless he mainly refers to the vision on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3, Acts 9:17; 1 Corinthians 15:8), though he received other visions and revelations also (Acts 18:9; Acts 22:14, Act 22:18; 2 Corinthians 12:1, etc.). he had probably not seen Christ during his life on earth (see my 'Life of St. Paul,' 1:73-75). The words are added to remind them that those who boasted of personal knowledge and relation with Jesus—perhaps the Christ party—had no exclusive prerogative. Are not ye my work in the Lord? I am not only an apostle, but emphatically your apostle (Acts 18:1-11; 1 Corinthians 4:15).
1 Corinthians 9:2
Unto others. If the emissaries from Jerusalem or the Petrine party do not choose to regard me as their apostle or an apostle at all, yet at any rate I am yours. Doubtless; rather, at least, at any rate. The seal of mine apostleship. Your conversion attests the genuineness of my claim, as a seal attests a document. Thus baptism is the seal of conversion (Ephesians 4:30; comp. Romans 4:11; John 3:33).
1 Corinthians 9:3
Mine answer; literally, my defence; the word "examine" is the word used for a legal inquiry. The Corinthians had as it were placed him on his defence at the bar of their criticism. Is this. That I was the cause of your conversion. In 2 Corinthians 12:12 he refers to other proofs of his apostolic power.
1 Corinthians 9:4
To eat and to drink. To be supported by those to whom we preach (Luke 10:7).
1 Corinthians 9:5
To lead about a sister, a wife. There can be no doubt that this represents the true reading, and that the meaning is, "We have power to lead about, that is, to travel in company with, some Christian sister to whom we are married, and who is supported at the expense of the Church." This plain meaning, however, involving the assertion that the apostles and desposyni ("the Lord's brethren") were married men, was so distasteful to the morbid asceticism which held celibacy in a sort of Manichaean reverence, that the scribes of the fourth, fifth, and later centuries freely tampered with the text, in the happily fruitless attempt to get rid of this meaning. They endeavoured, by putting the word in the plural or by omitting "wife," to suggest that the women whom the apostles travelled with were "deaconesses." Augustine, Tertullian, Ambrose, and others explain the verse of "ministering women" (Luke 8:2, Luke 8:3). The false interpretation avenged itself on the bias which led to it. Valla adopts the wilful invention that the apostles, though married, travelled with their wives only as sisters. Such subterfuges have eaten away the heart of honest exegesis from many passages of Scripture, and originated the taunt that it is a "nose of wax," which readers can twist as they like. It was the cause of such shameful abuses and misrepresentations that at last the practice of travelling about with unmarried women, who went under the name of "sisters," "beloved," "companions," was distinctly forbidden by the third canon of the first Council of Nice. Simon Magus might unblushingly carry about with him a Tyrian woman named Helena; but apostles and true Christians would never have been guilty of any conduct which could give a handle to base suspicions. They travelled only with their wives. A sister. A Christian woman (1 Corinthians 7:15; Romans 16:1; James 2:15, etc.). A wife; i.e. as a wife. Other apostles. This is a positive mistranslation for "the rest of the apostles." It might be too much to infer positively from this that every one of the apostles and desposyni were married; but there is independent evidence and tradition to show that at any rate most of them were. The brethren of the Lord. They are clearly and undeniably distinguished from the apostles. According to the Helvidian theory (to which the plain language of the Gospels seems to point), they were sons of Joseph and Mary. This is the view of St. Clement of Alexandria in ancient times, and writers so different from each other as De Wette, Neander, Osiander, Meyer, Ewald, and Alford, in modern. The theory of Jerome, that they were cousins of Jesus, being sons of Alphseus and Mary, a sister of the Virgin, is on every ground absolutely untenable, and it was half dropped even by St. Jerome himself, when it had served his controversial purpose. The theory of Epiphanius, that they were sons of Joseph by a previous marriage, is possible, but incapable of proof. It comes from a tainted source—the apocryphal Gospels (see my 'Early Days of Christianity,' 2). Cephas. St. Paul also uses the Aramaic name in Galatians 2:9. Peter's wife is mentioned in Matthew 8:14 and in the tradition of her martyrdom (Clem. Alex., 'Strom.,' 7. § 63).
1 Corinthians 9:6
And Barnabas. Like St. Paul, Barnabas was in every respect a genuine apostle, by the Divine call (Acts 13:2; Galatians 2:9), though not one of the twelve. He seems to have continued in his separate mission work the practice of independence which he had learnt from St. Paul. This allusion is interesting, because it is the last time that the name of Barnabas occurs, and it shows that, even after the quarrel and separation, Paul regarded him with love and esteem. To forbear working. To give up the manual labour by which we maintain ourselves without any expense to the Churches (Acts 18:3; 2 Thessalonians 3:8, 2 Thessalonians 3:9). If, then, St. Paul toiled at the dull, mechanical, despised, and ill paid work of tent making, he did so, not because it was, in the abstract, his duty to earn his own living, but because he chose to be nobly independent, that the absolute disinterestedness of his motives might be manifest to all the world. For this reason even when he was most in need he would never receive assistance from any Church except that of Philippi, where he had at least one wealthy convert, and where he was beloved with a peculiar warmth of affection.
1 Corinthians 9:7
Who goeth a warfare, etc.? In this and the following verses he adduces six successive arguments to prove the right of a minister to be supported by his congregation.
1. From the ordinary laws of human justice (1 Corinthians 9:7).
2. By analogy, from the Law of Moses (1 Corinthians 9:8-10).
3. A fortiori, from the obligations of common gratitude (1 Corinthians 9:11).
4. From their concession of the right to others who had inferior claims (1 Corinthians 9:12).
5. From the Jewish provision for the maintenance of priests (1 Corinthians 9:13).
6. By the rule laid down by Christ himself (vers 14). Goeth a warfare. Analogy from the payment of soldiers (2 Corinthians 10:4). At his own charges. The word used for "cost" means literally rations (Luke 3:14; Romans 6:23). Planteth a vineyard. Analogy from the support of the vine dressers (Matthew 9:37). Feedeth a flock. Analogy from the support of shepherds (1 Peter 5:2). The two latter classes of labourers are paid in kind in the East to this day.
1 Corinthians 9:8
Say I these things as a man? Am I relying exclusively on mere human analogies? The same phrase occurs in Romans 3:5; Galatians 3:13. Saith not the Law. The verbs used for "say" (λαλῶ) and "saith" (λέγει) are different: "Do I speak [general word] these things as a man? or saith [a more dignified word] not the Law," etc.?
1 Corinthians 9:9
In the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 25:4). He uses the same argument again in 1 Timothy 5:19. The mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn; rather, an ox while treading out the corn. The flail was not unknown, but a common mode of threshing was to let oxen tread the corn on the threshing floor. Doth God take care for oxen? Certainly he does; and St. Paul can hardly mean to imply that he does not, seeing that tenderness for the brute creation is a distinguishing characteristic of the Mosaic legislation (Exodus 23:1-33. Exodus 23:12, Exodus 23:19; Deuteronomy 22:6, Deuteronomy 22:7, Deuteronomy 22:10, etc.). If St. Paul had failed to perceive this truth, he must have learnt it at least from Psalms 145:15, Psalms 145:16; John 4:11. Even the Greeks showed by their proverb that they could pity the hunger of the poor beasts of burden starving in the midst of plenty. It is, however, a tendency of all Semitic idiom verbally to exclude or negative the inferior alternative. St. Paul did not intend to say, "God has no care for oxen;" for he knew that "his tender mercies are over all his works:" he only meant in Semitic fashion to say that the precept was much more important in its human application; and herein he consciously or unconsciously adopts the tone of Philo's comment on the same passage ('De Victim Offerentibus,' § 1), that, for present purposes, oxen might be left out of account. The rabbinic Midrash, which gave this turn to the passage, was happier and wiser than most specimens of their exegesis. St. Paul sets the typico allegorical interpretation above the literal in this instance, because he regards it as the more important. It is a specimen of the common Jewish exegetic method of a fortiori or minori ad magus. Luther's curious comment is: "God cares for all things; but he does not care that anything should be written for oxen, because they cannot read"!
1 Corinthians 9:10
Altogether. It is probable that St. Paul only meant the word to be taken argumentatively, and not au pied de la lettre. This application (he says) is so obviously the right application, that the other may be set aside as far as our purpose is concerned. In the margin of the Revised Version it is rendered "Saith he it, as he doubtless doth, for our sake?" In hope. St. Paul's large experience of life, and his insight into character, sufficed to show him that despairing work must be ineffectual work. The spring and elasticity of cheerful spirits is indispensable to success in any arduous undertaking.
"Life without hope draws nectar in a sieve,
And hope without an object cannot live."
1 Corinthians 9:11
If we. The we is in both clauses emphatic, to show that the argument applied directly to St. Paul's own case. Is it a great thing. An argument a fortiori. If ordinary labour is not undertaken gratuitously, is the spiritual labourer to be left to starve? St. Paul always recognized the rights of preachers and ministers, and stated them with emphasis (Galatians 6:6; Romans 15:27), although from higher motives he waived all personal claim to profit by the result of his arguments.
1 Corinthians 9:12
If others. St. Paul felt a touch of natural indignation at the thought that these Corinthians submitted to the extremest and haughtiest exactions from other teachers who had been loud in the statement of their own pretensions, while his own claims were shamefully disparaged, and he was even left, with perfect indifference, to suffer real privation. We shall find the full expression of his wounded sensibilities in 2 Corinthians 11:1-15. We have not used this power. This strong climax here asserts itself before the time. It anticipates 2 Corinthians 11:15. Suffer. The same word, which also means "to contain without leaking," is used in 1 Corinthians 13:7; 1Th 3:1, 1 Thessalonians 3:5. All things. Any amount of privation and distress. Hinder the gospel of Christ. By giving any handle for malicious misrepresentations as to our being self interested. The word for "hindrance" means etymologically "cutting into," i.e. an impediment on a path, etc.
1 Corinthians 9:13
They which minister about holy things. Jewish priests. He adds his two final arguments—since the right which he is pleading has its own intrinsic importance—before proceeding to the example which he set in order to prevail on the strong to give up their rights and their liberty, when need was, for the sake of the weak. Live; literally, eat, or feed. The Zealots used this excuse for themselves when they broke open the temple stores in the siege of Jerusalem (Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' 1 Corinthians 5:13, § 6). Of the things of the temple. They shared in the victims offered (see Numbers 18:8-13; Deuteronomy 18:1). Partakers with the altar. Only certain portions of certain victims were allowed them.
1 Corinthians 9:14
Hath the Lord ordained (Matthew 10:10;.Luke 10:7). The reference has special interest, because it shows that St. Paul was at least orally familiar with the discourses of Christ. Indeed, there is nothing impossible or improbable in the supposition that some of these were already being circulated in manuscript. Should live of the gospel. If, that is, they desired and had need to do so. He does not say, "to live of the altar," because Christians have no "altar" except in the metaphorical sense in which the cross is called an altar in Hebrews 13:10.
1 Corinthians 9:15-23
Self denying ordinance of St. Paul.
1 Corinthians 9:15
I have used none of these things. None of the forms of right which I might claim from these many sanctions. He is appealing to his own abandonment of a right to encourage them to waive, if need required, the claims of their Christian liberty. His object in waiving his plain right was that he might give no handle to any who might desire to accuse him of interested motives (1 Corinthians 9:4; Galatians 6:6, etc.). Have I written; rather, do I write; the epistolary aorist. That it should be so done unto me. Do not take my argument as a hint to you that you have neglected your duty of maintaining me, and have even seen me suffer without offering me your assistance. Better for me to die. Not "to die of hunger," as Chrysostom supposes, but generally, "I should prefer death to the loss of my independence of attitude towards my converts." Than that any man should make my glorying void. The Greek is remarkable. Literally it is, than my ground of boasting—that any one should render it void. Another reading is, better for me to die than—no one shall render void my ground of boasting.
1 Corinthians 9:16
1 have nothing to glory of. He is desirous to remove all appearance of haughtiness from his tone. There was, he says, no merit involved in his preaching the gospel. He did so from the sense of overwhelming moral compulsion, and he would have been miserable if he had tried to resist it. Necessity is laid upon me. "We cannot but speak" (Acts 4:20).
1 Corinthians 9:17
If I do this thing willingly. The word rather means "spontaneously;" "without compulsion." He was preaching willingly, but still it was in obedience to an irresistible behest (Acts 9:6, Acts 9:15). I have a reward. The reward (or rather, "wage ") of such self chosen work would be the power to fulfil it (comp. Matthew 6:1). Against my will; rather, involuntarily, "under Divine constraint." A dispensation. He was appointed a "steward" or "dispenser" of the gospel, and could only regard himself at the best as "an unprofitable slave," who had done merely what it was his bare duty to do (Luke 17:10). There is no merit in yielding to a must.
1 Corinthians 9:18
What is my reward then? The answer is that it was not such "wages" as would ordinarily be considered such, but it was the happiness of preaching the gospel without cost to any. I abuse not; rather, I use not to the full, as in 1 Corinthians 7:31. It may be said that this was a ground of boasting, not a reward. It was, however, a point to which St. Paul attached the highest importance (1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Corinthians 11:7-12; Acts 20:33, Acts 20:34), and he might therefore speak of it, though almost with a touch of half unconscious irony, as his "fee." There is no need to adopt the construction suggested by Meyer: "What is my reward? [none] that I may preach gratuitously;" or that of Afford, who finds the reward in the next verse.
1 Corinthians 9:19
For though I be free; rather, though I was free. He has voluntarily abandoned this freedom. The true rendering of the verse is, For being free from all men [Galatians 1:10], I enslaved myself to all. In acting thus he obeyed his own principle of not abusing his liberty, but "by love serve one another" (Galatians 5:13).
1 Corinthians 9:20
Unto the Jews I became as a Jew. When, for instance, he circumcised Timothy (Acts 12:3) and probably Titus also; and he was continuing this principle of action when he took the vow of the Nazarite (Acts 21:21-26), and called himself "a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees" (Acts 23:6). To them that are under the Law. That is, not only to Jews, but even to the most rigorous legalists among the Jews. It should be carefully observed that St. Paul is here describing the innocent concessions and compliances which arise from the harmless and generous condescension of a loving spirit. He never sank into the fear of man, which made Peter at Antioch unfaithful to his real principles. He did not allow men to form from his conduct any mistaken inference as to his essential views. He waived his personal predilections in matters of indifference which only affected "the infinitely little."
1 Corinthians 9:21
To them that are without law, as without law. In other words, I so far became to the heathen as a heathen (Romans 2:12), that I never wilfully insulted their beliefs (Act 19:1-41 :87) nor shocked their prejudices, but on the contrary, judged them with perfect forbearance (Acts 17:30) and treated them with invariable courtesy. St, Paul tried to look at every subject, so far as he could do so innocently, from 'their point of view (Acts 17:1-34.). He defended their gospel liberty, and had intercourse with Gentile converts on terms of perfect equality (Galatians 2:12). Not without law to God. Not even "without law" (anomos) Much less "opposed to law" (antiheroes), though free from it as a bondage (Galatians 2:19). The need for this qualification is shown by the fact that in the Clementine writings, in the spurious letter of Peter to James, St. Paul is surreptitiously calumniated as "the lawless one." Even the Gentiles were "not without law to God" (Romans 2:14, Romans 2:15). So that St. Paul is here using language which base opponents might distort, but which the common sense of honest readers would prevent them from misinterpreting.
1 Corinthians 9:22
To the weak. His whole argument here is a plea for condescension to the infirmities of weak converts. A similar condescension to their prejudices might be necessary to win them to Christianity at all (1 Corinthians 8:13; "We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves," Romans 15:1). St. Paul often touches on our duties to weak brethren (1 Corinthians 8:7; Romans 14:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; Acts 20:35). All things to all men. He repeats the same principle in 1 Corinthians 10:33, "I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved;" and once more, at the end of his course (2 Timothy 2:10). This condescension laid him open to the malicious attacks of religious enemies (Galatians 1:10). But not on that account would St. Paul ever be led to abandon the fruitful aid of that universal sympathy and tolerance which is one of the best tests of Christian love. That I might by all means save some. He adds this explanation of the motive of his condescension to various scruples συγατάβασις) lest any should accuse him of men.pleasing, as some of his Galatian opponents had done (Galatians 1:10). In his desire to win souls he acted with the wisdom and sympathy taught by experience, suppressing himself.
1 Corinthians 9:23
And this I do. The better reading is, and I do all things. For the gospel's sake. This is a wider feeling than even "for the elect's sakes" of 2 Timothy 2:10. With you. The "you" is not expressed in the original, where we only have "a fellow partaker [συγκοινωνὸς, Romans 11:17] of it." But the word illustrates the deep humility of the apostle.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Exhortation to earnestness as a corollary from the principles here stated.
1 Corinthians 9:24
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all? They as Corinthians would well know the full bearing of every illustration derived from the triennial Isthmian games, which were the chief glory of their city, and which at this period had even thrown the Olympic games into the shade. The words "in a race," are rather, in the stadium. The traces of the great Corinthian stadium, where the games were held and the races run, are still visible on the isthmus. This metaphor of "the race," which has pervaded the common language of Christianity, is also found in Hebrews 12:1; Php 3:14; 2 Timothy 4:7. The prize. The bracium was the wreath given to the victor by the judges. The Christian prize is that of "the high calling of God in Jesus Christ," towards which St. Paul himself was pressing forward.
1 Corinthians 9:25
That striveth for the mastery; rather, that strives to win in a contest. St. Paul never allows his converts to dream of the indefectibility of grace, and so to slide into antinomian security. He often reminds them of the extreme severity and continuousness of the contest (Ephesians 6:12 1 Timothy 6:12). Is temperate in all things. One good moral result which sprang from the ancient system of athleticism was the self denial and self mastery which it required. The candidate for a prize had to be pure, sober, and enduring, to obey orders, to eat sparely and simply and to bear effort and fatigue (Epict., 'Enchir.,' 35) for ten months before the contest. A corruptible crown. A fading garland of Isthmian pine, or Nemean parsley, or Pythian olive, or Olympian bay. An incorruptible; "unwithering" (1 Peter 2:4); "amaranthine" (1 Peter 5:4); "a crown of righteousness" (2 Timothy 4:8); "a crown of life" (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10; comp. also 2 Timothy 2:5; Revelation 3:11).
1 Corinthians 9:26
Not as uncertainly. My eye is fixed on a definite goal (2 Timothy 1:12). So fight I (Romans 7:23; Ephesians 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7); literally, so box 1. Not as one that beateth the air; rather, as not beating the air. Not what the Greeks called "a shadow battle." I strike forthright blows, not feints, or blows at random.
1 Corinthians 9:27
I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; literally, I bruise my body, and lead it about as a slave. The word tamely rendered "keep in subjection" means literally, I smite under the eyes. The pugilistic metaphor is kept up, and the picturesque force of the words would convey a vivid impression to Corinthians familiar with the contests of the Pancratum, in which boxing with the heavy lead-bound caestus played a prominent part. The only other place in the New Testament where the word occurs is Luke 18:5, where it seems (on the lips of the unjust judge) to have a sort of slang sense. How St. Paul "bruised his body" may be seen in 2Co 6:4, 2 Corinthians 6:5; Colossians 3:5; Romans 8:13. It was not by absurd and harmful self torture, but by noble labour and self denial for the good of others. When I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. "Lest"—such is the meaning of the metaphor'' after proclaiming to others the laws of the contest (as a herald), I should myself violate those conditions, and be not only defeated as a combatant, but ignominiously rejected from the lists and not allowed to contend at all." The metaphor is not strictly adhered to, for the herald did not personally contend. No candidate could compete without a preliminary scrutiny, and to be "rejected" was regarded as a deadly insult The word "rejected," "reprobate"—hero rendered "a castaway"—is a metaphor derived from the testing of metals, and the casting aside of those which are spurious. That Paul should see the necessity for such serious and unceasing effort shows how little he believed in the possibility of saintly "works of supererogation, over and above what is commanded." "When the cedar of Lebanon trembles, what shall the reed by the brookside do?"
1 Corinthians 9:1-21
The leading characteristics of a truly great gospel minister.
"Am I not an apostle? am I not free?" etc. Taking these verses as a whole, they illustrate some of the leading characteristics of a truly great gospel minister, and I offer the following remarks:—
I. The greater the minister of Christ, the MORE INDEPENDENT OF CEREMONIAL RESTRICTIONS. Paul was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, ministers of Christ that ever existed. He was an apostle, and had "seen Christ"—a qualification that distinguished him as a minister from all, but eleven others, that ever lived. Besides this, his natural and acquired endowments placed him in the very first rank of reasoners, scholars, and orators. He was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, etc. But see how this great minister regarded the mere conventionalities of religious society. "Am I not an apostle? am I not free?" He refers in all probability to the preceding chapter, which treats of the eating of meat offered to idols, and concerning which he says, "if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth." As if he had said, "I am free to eat that meat, and free to reject it; I am not bound by any conventional custom or ceremonial law, for I am 'an apostle.'" Now, it may be laid down as a universal truth that, the greater a gospel minister, the more independent of ceremonies. Indeed, the greater the man, always the more independent he is of forms, fashions, customs. Hezekiah called that which his countrymen worshipped "Nehushtan"—a piece of brass. Cromwell called that glittering insignia of authority on the table of the House of Commons, and at which most of the members, perhaps, trembled with awe, a "bauble." Thomas Carlyle called all the pageantry of office and the glitter of wealth "shams." Burns called the swaggering lordling a "coof." How much more would a man like Paul—who possessed that spirit of Christ which gave him an insight into the heart of things—look down, not merely with indifference, but with contempt, upon all that the world considered great and grand! The more Christly inspiration a man has, the more he will discern degradation on thrones and pauperism in mansions. A famous French preacher began his funeral address over the coffin of his sovereign with these words, "There is nothing great but God." To the man whose soul is charged with the great ideas of God, all the distinctions amongst men are only as the distinctions existing among the various bubbles on the flowing stream. Some are a little larger than others, some are tinged by the sunbeam, and some are pallid in the shade; but all have the same common nature, and all, breaking into the abyss, are lost forever. "Am I not free?" says Paul. A grand thing this, to be free from all the conventionalities of society and the ceremonies of religion. What cared Elijah for the kings of Syria, or Israel, or Judah? Nothing. Agrippa trembled before the moral majesty of Paul, even in chains. Oh for such ministers as Paul in this age of hypocrisies and forms!
II. The greater the minister of Christ, the HIGHER THE SERVICE HE RENDERS TO SOCIETY. What high service did this great minister St. Paul render to the members of the Corinthian Church! "Are not ye my work in the Lord?... The seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord." Ye are, as far as ye are Christians, "my work." I converted you; I turned you away from idols to the one true and living God, from the kingdom of Satan to the kingdom of Christ. No work on earth equal to this. "He that converteth a sinner from the error of his ways," etc. This work which I effected in you "in the Lord," or by the Lord, is a demonstration of my apostleship. What work again, I ask, approaches this in grandeur and importance? It is the work of creating men "anew in Christ Jesus;" it is the work of establishing that moral moral empire in the world, which is "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." The man who succeeds in accomplishing this work thereby demonstrates the divinity of his ministry. Hence Paul says, "Mine answer to them that do examine me is this." Those that question or deny my apostleship I refer to the spiritual work I have accomplished; "this is my answer," my defence. Truly it might be said of Paul, "No man can do the works that thou doest, except God be with him." The only way by which we can prove ourselves true ministers is, not by words, but by spiritual works.
III. The greater the minister of Christ, the MORE INDEPENDENT HE IS OF THE ANIMAL ENJOYMENTS OF LIFE. "Have we not power to eat and to drink? Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?" Paul claims the privilege to eat and drink as he pleased, and to marry or not according to his pleasure, to be a celibate or a benedict. Perhaps some of the members of the Corinthian Church questioned Paul's apostleship because he was not married. Those who belonged to Peter's party—who was a married man—would be likely to say, "Paul cannot be an apostle, for Cephas, who is an apostle, has his wife, whom he takes about with him in the prosecution of his mission." And then the "brethren of the Lord," too, they have their wives. Paul's reply to this is virtually, "I have the power and the right to all connubial privileges and comforts, the right to feast at banquets, and to form domestic relations; but I forego them, I am independent of them, I have higher tastes and sublimer sources of enjoyment. 'For me to live is Christ.' He is the all and in all of my soul." The more brain and Christly inspiration a man has, the less carnal, and the less carnal the more independent of material enjoyments.
IV. The greater the minister of Christ, the MORE CLAIM HE HAS TO THE TEMPORAL SUPPORT OF THOSE WHOM HE SPIRITUALLY SERVES. The apostle goes on from the sixth to the fourteenth verse to say that he and Barnabas would be right if they were to forbear working for their livelihood, and claim their temporal support from those to whom they spiritually ministered. He goes on to indicate several reasons why he had a claim to their temporal support.
1. The general usage of mankind. "Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges?" etc. He draws three illustrations from human life to show the equity of the principle—from the soldier, the agriculturist, and the shepherd.
2. The principle of the Jewish Law. "Say I these things as a man? or saith not the Law the same also?" etc. On a space of hard ground called a threshing floor the oxen in Jewish times were driven to and fro over the corn thrown there, thus separating the husk from the grain. "God," says Matthew Henry, "had therein ordered that the ox should not be muzzled while he was treading out the corn, nor hindered from eating while he was preparing the corn, for man's use, and treading it out of the ear. But this law was not chiefly given out of God's regard to oxen or concern for them, but to teach mankind that all due encouragement should be given to those who are employed by us or labouring for our good, that the labourers should taste of the fruit of their labours." "Doth God take care for oxen?" Yes. He enjoined that the mouth of the working ox should not be muzzled, but should have food to eat. Is not man greater than the ox? And shall he work and be deprived of temporal supplies?
3. The principles of common equity. "If we have sown into you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?" They had given to them far higher things, infinitely more important than the temporal support which they required. He who gives to his race Divine ideas gives that Which alone can secure the progress of humanity, both in temporal and spiritual good. True ideas destroy bad institutions and create good ones.
4. Other apostles and their wives were thus supported. "Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?" .. If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather?" This language implies that all the others who worked amongst them obtained their temporal support. Why should not we? Have we done less? Is our authority inferior?
5. The support of the Jewish priesthood. "Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and their which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?" "The first part of the passage refers to the general principle that the priests who were engaged in the temple services were supported from the various offerings which were brought there; and the second clause more definitely alludes to the particular fact that, when a sacrifice was offered on the altar, the sacrificing priests as well as the altar had a share of the animal."
6. The ordiniation of Christ. "Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel" (see Matthew 10:10). "Should live of the gospel," not grow rich on the gospel, but have from it that which is needful for subsistence. Looking at all that Paul says on that question here, and at the immense service that a true minister renders to society, the conviction cannot be avoided that no man has a stronger claim to a temporal recompense for his labour than a true gospel minister. Albeit no claims are so universally ignored. What Churches in these modern times tender to their ministers as an acknowledgment of their service is regarded as a charity rather than a claim. Charity, indeed! Call the money you pay to your butcher, baker, lawyer, doctor, charity; but in the name of all that is just, do not call that charity which you tender to the man who consecrates his entire being and time to impart to you the elements of eternal life.
V. The greater the minister of Christ, the MORE READY TO SURRENDER HIS CLAIMS FOR THE SAKE OF USEFULNESS. Great as were the claims of Paul, he magnanimously surrenders them all in order to become more useful. He would not feast at banquets, enjoy conjugal life, or take payment for his services, lest his usefulness should be in the least impaired. "But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me; for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void." I would sooner die than be dependent on you for a livelihood. Grand man! He stood before his congregations and said, "I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me."
1 Corinthians 9:22, 1 Corinthians 9:23
Moral identification with others a qualification of the evangel.
These verses and the context are sometimes taken as expressive of the accommodating spirit of the apostle in his endeavours to save men. Hence he is regarded as acting in a somewhat Jesuitical way, pretending to be what he was not, coming down to the prejudices of men, and taking them as it were by guile. Such a view of the apostle is utterly untrue. From his very constitution, to say nothing of his Christianity, he could not bend to any temporizing expediency. There was nothing of the Jesuit or the diplomatist in him. All that he means, I think, by the words is that he endeavoured to put himself into the place, or rather into the views and feelings, of those whom he endeavoured to win to Christ. He transmigrated himself, so to speak, went into their souls, clothed himself with their feelings, and argued from their standpoint. Now, this way of influencing men is both right and wise. As a debater, whether in politics, philosophy, or religion, he only acts fairly and with power who endeavours to put himself into the very position of his opponent, to look at the points in dispute from the opponent's standpoint, with the opponent's eyes, and through the opponent's passions. Such a man becomes mighty in debate. This is what Paul did. He made "himself all things to all men." In arguing with the Jew he made himself a Jew in feeling, with the Greek a Greek in feeling, with a slave a slave in feeling, with a master a master in feeling. Thus he was a philosopher when he spoke to the Athenians, and a Jew when he spoke to the Jews. Now, we regard this power of moral transmigration, this power of passing into another man's soul and taking another man's experience, as an essential qualification for a successful evangel; and this power implies at least three things.
I. A HIGHLY IMAGINATIVE TEMPERAMENT. The phlegmatic man, whose nature is incapable of taking fire, who moves with the creeping legs of logic rather than on the wings of moral intuition, would find it all but impossible to realize another man's experiences. He could not be a dramatist. He could not show another man to himself. No one can enter into the experience of another only on the strong warm current of social sympathy. Hence no young men should be encouraged to assume the work of the Christian ministry who have not that fervid imagination, that glowing temperament, that constitute a dramatic genius,
II. A KNOWLEDGE OF HUMAN LIFE. It is necessary that we should make ourselves thoroughly acquainted, not merely with the outward circumstances of the men we seek to influence, but with their inner life—their moods of thought, their habits of mind, their leading passions, their strongest proclivities. This requires study of men, not as they appear in books, but as they appear in their circle; and men, not in the mass, but in their individual character and idiosyncrasies. Can an Englishman so know a Hindoo, a Chinese, or a Japanese, as to put himself into his experience? I trow not.
III. A PASSIONATE LOVE FOR SOULS. Nothing but the constraining love of Christ can invest man either with the disposition or the power for such a work—a work requiring self sacrifice, patience, tenderness, invincible determination, and hallowed devotion. This is what gave Paul the power to be "made all things to all men." "I please all men in all things," he says, "not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved."
CONCLUSION. The work of a moral redeemer is, of all works, the greatest and the most arduous. There is no work in all the departments of human labour that requires such high qualifications as the work of bringing souls to Christ.
1 Corinthians 9:24-26
The Christian race.
"Know ye not that they which run in a race, run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air." The Christian life is a race, and we are exhorted to run that the prize may be obtained. "So run." How?
I. Run in the PRESCRIBED COURSE. The course is marked out and measured. The starting place is at the foot of the cross, and the goal is planted in the grave.
II. Run WITHOUT INCUMBRANCE. "Lay aside every weight," all worldly cares, and inordinate sympathetic embarrassing prejudices, and fettering habits.
III. Run WITH ALL POSSIBLE CELERITY. Shake off sloth and languor, stretch every muscle and limb, throw the whole force of your being into the effort.
IV. Run WITH UNTIRING PERSISTENCY. Pause not, nor loiter a moment until the end is obtained. "So run, that ye may obtain."
1 Corinthians 9:27
Hell after preaching.
"But I keep," etc. These are terrible words, and they teach at least three things.
I. THAT DELIVERANCE FROM HELL DEMANDS THE MOST EARNEST SELF DISCIPLINE. "I keep under my body." I subdue the flesh by violent and reiterated blows. The reason for this mortification of the flesh is, "lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." Self discipline may be said to consist of two things.
1. The entire subjugation of the body to the mind. The body was intended to be the organ, the servant, and the instrument of the mind, but it has become the master. The supremacy of the body is the curse of the world and the ruin of the man.
2. The subjugation of the mind to the Spirit of Christ. Though the mind governs the body, if the mind is false, selfish, unloyal to Christ, there is no discipline. The mind must be the servant of Christ in order to be the legitimate sovereign of the body. These two things include spiritual discipline.
II. THAT THE NECESSITY OF THIS SELF DISCIPLINE CANNOT BE SUPERSEDED BY THE MOST SUCCESSFUL PREACHING. "When I have preached to others." Paul had preached to others. He had preached to many in different lands, preached earnestly and successfully, preached so that thousands were converted by his ministry, preached so as no one else has ever preached; yet his preaching, he felt, did not do the work of self discipline. Indeed, there is much in the work of preaching that has a tendency to operate against personal spiritual culture.
1. Familiarity with sacred truths destroys for us their charm of freshness.
2. A professional handling of God's Word interferes with its personal application.
3. The opinions of audiences, favourable or otherwise, exert an influence unfavourable to spiritual discipline. In connection with all this, Satan is especially active in opposing the growth of spiritual piety in the preacher's tone. So that there is a terrible danger that, whilst the preacher is cultivating the vineyards of others, he is neglecting his own.
III. THE MOST SUCCESSFUL PREACHING MAY BE FOLLOWED BY ULTIMATE RUIN. "I myself should be a castaway!"—rejected! Who shall fathom the meaning of this word? A successful preacher a "castaway"—be rejected! The Tophet of him who has offered mercy to others which he has despised, urged truths on the credence of others that he has disbelieved, enforced laws on others which he has transgressed, will burn with severer fires and peal with more awful thunders. A magnifying glass held in a certain position by the hand of a child may convey sufficient fire through it to wrap the neighbourhood in conflagration, albeit the glass through which the fire has passed remains unheated, cold as flint. So a man may convey to others the rays of the sun of Righteousness, and yet his own heart remain cold as ice. Truly a terrible fact this.
HOMILIES BY C. LIPSCOMB
1 Corinthians 9:1-14
How St. Paul regarded his apostleship and its rights.
To induce the Corinthians to deny themselves the exercise of a liberty they had in things indifferent, St. Paul bad made the argument in the eighth chapter. Liberty was amenable to conscience, knowledge secondary to love, and love was the constructing or building up power of the new spiritual edifice. Not one of these could be spared, for they were all constituents of manhood in Christ; but they must be adjusted to one another under the supremacy of love. If one had a true reverence for his own conscience, he would reverence conscience in others. The conscience of another might be weak, and he might pity the weakness, and yet this pity, if genuine, would not allow scorn or contempt. The argument was a lesson in patience and forbearance, a lesson in self abnegation, and a lesson, furthermore, in responsibility for our example; So far as the immediate issue is concerned (meats offered to idols and participating in feasts held in heathen temples), the logic is direct and conclusive. At no moment does the apostle confine himself to individual rights on the part of such as had enlightened views as to the nothingness of idols. He looks also at community rights and discusses a special duty on the ground of general interests. Here, as in the former chapters, the community man, the community Christian, is before him; and he shows the great characteristic of a teacher in the fact that his business is to mould a body of men into unity. Of what value are minds of large endowments, in their social relations, if they stand for a narrow and cramped individualism? If a man has a finer eye than others, it is that he may see further into the needs of the race. If he has more ardent sympathies, it is for their wider outgoing. Genius is nature's protest, not against ordinary talents, but against the littleness and selfish absorption of individuality. And so far, genius is an instinctive yearning in the direction, of a world wide appreciation and love, and is one of those innumerable parables m which Christianity lies imbedded till the human mind can be prepared to receive it. Now, St. Paul was the foremost representative, in a certain sense, of this community idea, and, unquestionably, Corinth put its strength and compass to a very severe test. At his time of life, at that era in his ministry, and from just such a mixed people, this grand sentiment of universality was destined by Providence—so we may conjecture—to undergo a thorough discipline. Each truth has its own peculiar test. Some truths need a hotter furnace than others to separate the human dross and bring out the refined gold. If, then, St. Paul was experiencing a special mental and spiritual training in respect to this transcendent doctrine, we have an insight into his mode of argument, and even into the style of his illustrations and enforcement. Identified with his doctrine, he himself merging, as it were, his personality in its nature and operations, his own fortunes bound up inseparably with its fortunes,—how could he avoid citing his own example to confirm the views he so fervently advocated? One paragraph, at least, must be given to his individual portraiture as a community man, a race man, intent with his whole heart on bringing a world to the Lord Jesus. And he had sprung to this high level of his own experience and history when he said in the thirteenth verse of the previous chapter, "I will eat no flesh," etc. On that ground, remote as it was from that occupied by some of his Corinthian friends, he was perfectly at home; he knew his strength in God; he saw precisely what to say of grace and its workings in his soul, and how to say it with unanswerable force—straightforward, vivid, incisive. The movement of thought, even for him, is uncommonly rapid. Sentences are short; the words simple, intense, and closely linked. Interrogation abounds. He is an apostle; a tree apostle; an apostle who saw not Christ in his humiliation, and never knew him after the flesh, but has seen him in his glorification, and dates his conversion from the spectacle of his Divine exaltation; and, last of all, an apostle whose success among the Corinthians ("my work in the Lord;" "the seal of mine apostleship") has vindicated and verified his claims as Christ's chosen servant. Self assertion becomes under some circumstances a very important duty, and, if self be surrendered to God, there is no way more effective to exemplify humility. One who can ascend to a height so lofty, and stand among the sublimities of the universe apart from self and even dead to self, is a far greater man in the moral scale than one who, on the low plain of this world, merely foregoes his selfishness and acts disinterestedly to comply with an earthly contingency. Full of the infinite and eternal, St. Paul's thoughts are God's thoughts finding tone and accent in his utterance. There is no faltering, no nice qualifyings, no hesitating apprehension lest self should insinuate its pretensions. But the view given of himself is large, massive, and, for its purpose, strikingly complete. Men cannot speak of themselves in such a strain unless an utter self forgetfulness be precedent. A thinker's illustrations show what hold a thought has on him. In this instance St. Paul's illustrations are significant as well as diversified. Soldiers in the field, husbandmen in the vineyard, shepherds with their flocks, supply his imagination with analogies to establish the right claimed by himself "to eat and to drink," "to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles," and "to forbear working." On all grounds, natural and civil and religious, he maintains the right, and then advances to Old Testament authority. "Doth God take care for oxen?" Yea, not only for their sakes as animals, but for man's benefit, the providence over the lower creation being tributary to the providence that looks to man's welfare as the final earthly cause of all arrangements in the kingdom of nature. Yea, verily, we are in the song of the bird and the muscle of the horse and the fidelity of all domesticated creatures, as surely as in the grass and the cereals and the luscious fruits of the ground. Most true it is that
"More servants wait on man
Than he'll take notice of; in every path
He treads down that which doth befriend him
When sickness makes him pale and wan.
Oh, mighty love! Man is one world, and hath
Another to attend him."
The prefigurations and the wondrous homologies are all from below, so that whatever may be found by industry, by science and art, in the amplitude and beneficence of material things and of animal existence, are but so many prophecies of man's natural position of headship. Yet what incompleteness were in all this, and what a mockery of man's exaltation, if it were all!—a vast pyramid enclosing a mummy—a magnificent temple, like the heathen temples, in which you walk through portico and corridor and hall to confront at last a worthless image in stone. To perfect this idea of man shadowed forth beneath him and ever advancing towards him, there must be a counterpart. The counterpart is the archetype above. It descends to man in Christ—Son of man because Son of God. "For our sakes, no doubt, this is written;" and all the writings, below and above, on the earth's strata, in the Holy Scriptures, are alike in this: "for our sakes." It is all a unity or it is all nothing. And this power of manhood St. Paul declares to belong to him, and vested to the full in his apostleship. If, now, St. Paul had exhorted the Corinthians so urgently to obey the dictates of conscience in a matter clearly harmless, and thus avoid a wrong to the weaker brethren and a wrong to their own souls; and if he had avowed his own inflexible resolution to "eat no flesh" (the meat of which he bad been speaking) "forever;" it was a fit occasion to testify to his own self denial for the sake of the gospel. The solace of domestic life, the special tenderness of close sympathy, the offices of watchful affection, ministerial support, "carnal things" that might have lightened the burden of poverty and made his toil much easier,—these were cheerfully resigned. Others allowed themselves these aids and comforts; he refused them, one and all. From the common order of apostolic life he would stand aside in his own isolated lot, and "my gospel" should have in his own career the most forcible demonstration of his glorious individuality. And then, recollecting the law of the temple service which provided for the support of the priests, he would strengthen the analogical argument already presented in favour of his rights. At every touch the individual portrait of the community and race man glows more vividly on the canvas. The contrast had cost him much. Poverty, loneliness, sorrow, had been intensified, but there it was—a contrast with the soldier, the husbandman, the shepherd, the priest, the apostles—self assumed and a perpetual obligation—"lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ."—L.
1 Corinthians 9:15-23
Reasons for this self denial.
The rights had been resigned, the power to use his privileges had been unused, and the obligation, self assumed, was to be perpetual. Did any one suspect otherwise? "Better for me to die" than this matter of boasting should be taken from me. No ground for boasting existed in the mere preaching of the gospel; but he could claim and did claim that, in renouncing his right to a support and making other exceptional sacrifices, he was entitled to the boast of preaching a free gospel. A woe is upon him if he preach not the gospel, a necessity he cannot evade while true to his moral nature, and yet a necessity which he will transmute and glorify by his magnanimity in serving without remuneration. Rights; what were they? Where there was such an overpowering sense of the goodness of God and the grace of Christ as had been manifested in his personal salvation and in conferring upon him the apostleship, "better die" than measure duty by mere equivalence of action. Out of the depths of gratitude the man rises, not to the attitude of an apostle, but an apostle who felt with the utmost intensity the obligations of sentiment no less than those of principle. Freely had he received, and freely would he give, so freely indeed as to part with a portion of freedom and to gain by his loss; and in this and by means of this he had his reward. Relinquishing his rights and descending to the condition of a slave, he accommodated himself to the infirmities and prejudices of others so as to save the greater number. Whenever he could evince his regard for the Jewish nation and conform to its customs and usages without compromising Christianity, he became "as a Jew unto the Jews." Nor did he limit his concessions to his own countrymen, but he became "all things to all men," never yielding the truth, never compromising a principle, never making conscience subservient to prudence, never finding the supreme law of action in any utility, and always resolute to concede points only indifferent and equally resolute to maintain that things indifferent involved no moral obligation. And why all this? There were two reasons for it: one was for the good of the large number, "gain the more;" and the other was the benefit to himself—a follow "partaker with you" in the blessings of the gospel. "Up to this point he has been speaking of his self denial for the sake of others; here he begins to speak of it for his own sake. It is no longer 'that I may save some,' but 'that I may be a partaker of the gospel with you'" (Stanley).—L.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Self denial urged in view of the heavenly crown.
Power is no self guiding instinct in itself. To be true power, it must be directed by something higher than its own nature. A vast fund of power is laid up within us, and of it two things may be said, viz. the amount of power abstractly considered is far greater than we can use; and, again, our available power must be held under check. As to the former, capacity in every man exceeds ability, and much of our education consists in converting capacity into actual ability. And this latency of power serves another purpose, inasmuch as it is a reserved fund held for an emergency. At times, sudden calls are made on our energies, drafts at sight, which demand extraordinary effort. Feats of physical strength are then performed which are amazing. The same is true of the mind; we witness its faculties, under some tremendous pressure, yielding a wisdom, a patience, a persistency, that surpass all expectation. On the other hand, our available power that can be brought any moment into play must be restrained, or injury results. The harm is manifold. It is pernicious to others. Power antagonizes the power of our fellow men much oftener than it conciliates, and, acting as a repellent instead of an attractive force it destroys unity, which is the great end of all existence, Nor is it less hurtful to the man himself, for, in pushing his power to extremes, he exhausts the very ability concerned in using the power. An undue use of power, therefore, overtaxes others and ourselves. And, accordingly, St. Paul takes both these facts into consideration, advancing from self denial for the sake of others to self denial for his own good, and in this way perfecting the argument. Was he not a philosopher of profound insight in this method of mental procedure? Dismiss, for an instant, the view of him as a Christian apostle, and look at him as an ethical thinker. To induce men to practise the self denial of power, he marshals all the social and sympathetic virtues to its aid; brings pity and compassion as humane instincts to its service, enlists the imagination and its sensibilities as a higher form of emotional energy, and crowns the ascending series of influences by conscience and moral affection in behalf of our fellow men. This is the first training of self denial. Thence it proceeds to its other task. It gathers up its strength and resources, and turns them to its self culture. Was this the method of Stoicism? Was not the method of Stoicism the precise opposite of this? If Seneca had observed this law of culture, would not his exile have presented a very different spectacle? If Marcus Aurelius had trained himself to discern the image of humanity in others, instead of looking into the mirror of Stoicism to see his own image, could he have been guilty, a man of such beautiful and noble virtues, of persecuting Christianity? Return to St. Paul as a Christian apostle. The true philosopher is here, but not complacently studying his own image in the glass that Stoicism held up before its disciples. What he first sees is the Christ of humanity in others, who, in a religious sense, are bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. And there is an expression of pain on the brow, and of the sorrow of the heart in his fixed eye, as he realizes that these men are not fully conscious of their relationship to Christ, and therefore very imperfect in their appreciation of others and themselves. But he comprehends them in Christ, and he can bear their infirmities since his love is no mere aesthetic sentiment. Now, then, he can show the extent of that self denial required to attain the reward of the gospel. Of course, this must be done by figurative language, images being the perfection of language and most necessary when spiritual things are to be made clear. Naturally enough, the Grecian games occurred to him; and as the pomp and splendour of these national shows passed before him, was it the gathered multitude, the high enthusiasm, the thrilling suspense, the heart of Achaia throbbing with pride and exultation, that enlisted his interest? What a sense it was to the senses, and even more than to the senses, as Greeks interpreted its meanings! The very landscape lent a charm to the contests, and conspired with the Corinthian citadel, the sloping hills, the marble seats, and the eager crowds, to perpetuate the historic memories of a vanished Greece. Even here, degenerate as the age was, moral elements were at work. A better past had not left itself without a witness in the present. Recollections of ancestry, traditions of virtue and heroism, honourable emulation, an energetic will, hard and continuous discipline for ten months, were associated with the occasion. But St. Paul's mind was engrossed by the symbolism of the Isthmian games. The metaphor of the racecourse attracts his attention. The preparatory training, the diet, the willing temperance and moderation, the regimen of the athlete, and the studious care to observe the conditions of success, furnish a forcible illustration of what was essential to those who would run the Christian race and win an immortal crown. Between the two there is a resemblance. Between the two there is a vast dissimilarity. "They do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.'' Once more, St. Paul introduces himself; he is an earnest athlete bent on victory; all his energies are in training and have long been in training; and, changing the figure at this point, the boxer is mentioned: "So fight I, not as one that beateth the air"—not as one who wastes strength in random strokes, but one whose blows are delivered with skill and an achieving purpose. And now, just as one who has toiled up to some mountain summit brings back to the plain a finer light of beauty in his eye and a larger play of strength in the muscle of the heart, so St. Paul returns from the figurative to the literal with his thought enhanced in vigour. "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection"—"buffet the body," "beat it," and "bring it into bondage." What! is the body a contestant against us? Is it an adversary to be bruised and beaten, made to know its place? So indeed St. Paul argues in respect to his own body, and the fact in his case is the fact in all cases. Ideally, the body is the soul's helper, furnishing the soul with very many true and lofty ideas, giving it much it could never have if disembodied or in an organization less sensuous, and securing it a grandeur of development not possible otherwise. Practically, the body is so sensitive to itself, so in love with its own enjoyments, so enslaved to its lusts and appetites, that it must be kept under and brought into subjection. The law is very plain. It has to be obeyed in some measure by. every one. If the epicure is nothing but an epicure and always an epicure, nature is soon in violent revolt. To be an epicure, he must have some prudence in his indulgence, and order times and seasons into the service of his pleasures. To be students, poets, artists, philosophers, ay, to be mechanics, tradesmen, farmers, we must put the body under by asserting, in a certain degree, the inherent superiority of the mind. For the most part, however, there are reactions, fearful in some, hazardous to all. Suppose, now, that the gross forms of sensuality or even the fascinating forms of sensuousness, are held under mastery. What then? Is the Divine ideal of the body realized? Nay; the body may be made a most efficient and admirable servant to the business man, to the student, to the artist, to the philosopher, and may answer all the earthly and social ends of the intellect and the natural affections, and yet be an undeveloped human body. Only in conforming to spiritual relations, only in sharing Christ's humanity, can it be developed. Faith, hope, love, Christian principles, Christian sentiments, Christian impulses, are just as requisite to form and shape the material body to the companionship of the redeemed spirit, as food, air, sleep, are necessary for its physical existence. The argument of St. Paul implies all this, nor could it imply less and be congruous with his purpose and aim. And, therefore, when he says, "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection," he means to say," I am not making my body less a part of the universe, but more a part thereof, and I am lifting this lower nature towards the higher, and developing my body in the direction of the nature and functions of the resurrection body."—L.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
1 Corinthians 9:1, 1 Corinthians 9:2
Signs of apostleship.
Why should Paul, departing from his usual custom, speak here of himself and of his claims? Undoubtedly because in this Christian society at Corinth there were those, prompted by Judaizing teachers, who called in question his apostleship, his equality with those who had been the companions of Jesus in his ministry, and had received their commission before his ascension. Wishing to incite the Corinthians to self denial, Paul put himself forward as an example of this virtue. But to make this example effective, it was necessary that he should assert and vindicate his position and rights. If he had no special commission from Christ, there was no virtue in renouncing privileges which were never his. That an apostle should live as he did—a life of celibacy and manual labour—for the Church's good, was very significant. Such was Paul's position; he sets out, therefore, by establishing his apostolic claims and position.
I. THE VISION OF THE LORD CHRIST. Not that every one who saw Jesus became an apostle; but that none became an apostle who had not seen him, who had not received the commission from his lips. In all likelihood, some of Paul's opponents at Corinth had contrasted the past history of the apostle of the Gentiles with that of the twelve, to his disadvantage. The others, it was well known, had seen the Lord; but was it certain that Paul had been so favoured? Now, Paul would not submit to an imputation which must needs weaken the authority of all he might say or do. He had seen the Lord on the way to Damascus, had heard his voice, and had by him been then entrusted with a special commission to the Gentiles. It was not simply that Paul had seen Jesus; he had been endowed with his Spirit and with his authority. He was not preaching the gospel at the instigation of his own inclinations, but in obedience to a command laid upon him by the highest authority.
II. SUCCESS IN APOSTOLIC LABOUR. The craftsman proves his ability by the work he does; the sailor by his navigation of the vessel; the soldier by his bravery and skill in war. So the apostle acknowledges the justice of the practical test, and subjects himself thereto accordingly. There may be a shade of difference in the meaning of the words employed.
1. Paul appealed to his work. Labour is misspent when no results ensue. But this man's labour had not been in vain in the Lord. Jews and Gentiles had been brought to the faith of Christ and to the hope of life eternal.
2. The workmanship of the apostle was also his seal, i.e. it bore the mark, impress, and witness of his own character and ability and office. A competent judge, looking to the Churches Paul had founded, would admit them to be evidence of his apostleship.
3. It is observable that the signs were manifest in the very community in which his authority was questioned. There is irony and force in the appeal made to the Corinthians, whether they themselves were not, in their own Christian position, proof of Paul's apostleship. Whoever raised a question, whoever offered opposition, the Christians of Corinth should certainly have honoured the founder of their Church and the bearer of the gospel to their souls.—T.
1 Corinthians 9:11, 1 Corinthians 9:12
Rights asserted and foregone.
No passage in Paul's writings more reveals to us the nobility of the man's nature than this. As we read, we feel that such a character could not fail to command the admiration and sympathy of all who were capable of appreciating it. The apostle's abilities were great; but his moral qualities towered more loftily above those of other men, even than did his intellectual powers. Such a servant of God was well fitted to be the first and the greatest preacher of Christ to the nations; for he so shared the mind of the Master, that they who saw, heard, and knew him must have been brought by such experience very near to the Saviour whose Spirit he possessed and whose gospel he preached.
I. THE JUST RIGHTS THE APOSTLE ASSERTED. Paul claimed that, like other teachers, he had a claim upon his scholars for recompense and support.
1. He supported this by striking illustrations. The soldier has his rations provided by his country on whose behalf he fights; the vine dresser eats of the produce of the vineyard; the shepherd shares in the profit of the flock which he feeds; the husbandman who ploughs, sows, and threshes does so in the expectation that he shall eat of the corn he grows.
2. He adds an argument from Scripture. Ingeniously does he apply the principle involved in the humane regulation which forbids the ox to be muzzled when it treads out the corn. A principle which holds good even with regard to cattle is surely valid when applied to men, to Christian labourers.
3. He urges the superiority of the advantages bestowed by the teacher over those which he is justified in expecting by way of acknowledgment if not of return. They who receive spiritual things may surely yield carnal things.
4. This right Paul claims for all ministers and evangelists, himself included.
II. THE NOBILITY OF SPIRIT WITH WHICH THE APOSTLE WAS WONT DELIBERATELY TO FOREGO THESE RIGHTS.
1. Observe the fact. The apostle had acted upon this principle from the beginning. An open statement like this could not have been made had it not corresponded with the actual and well known facts of the case.
2. Consider what this purpose involved, viz. hard manual labour. Like every Jew, Paul had been taught a trade; he wove the Cilician goats' hair into the fabric used for tents and sails, etc. It was a tax upon his energies whilst he was thinking, writing, and preaching, to spend part of the day in hard, rough toil.
3. Remember the exception; from the Macedonian Churches, for a special reason, Paul had consented to receive a liberal gift.
4. The motive which animated Paul deserves attention. It was not pride. There was a personal motive; whilst preaching was a necessity in his case, so that he could take no credit and make no boast for his ministry, he willingly gave up his right to maintenance, that he might have the pleasure of a voluntary sacrifice, a ground of lowly glorying. And there was an official motive; his design was to remove any hindrance out of the way of the progress of the gospel. It might be thought by some that he preached for gain, and such a supposition would render his hearers suspicious and unreceptive. That this should not be the case, he chose to forego his rights, that the obvious disinterestedness of his conduct might support and render effective the gospel which he proclaimed.—T.
1 Corinthians 9:16
The obligation of preaching.
The sincerity of the strong emphatic language of the apostle in this passage is not to be questioned. His whole life is a proof that it was with him as he here affirmed. A law, a vow, was upon him; and there was no discharge, no intermission, until his fight was fought and his course was run.
I. THE SPECIAL OBLIGATION LAID UPON THE APOSTLE.
1. In what it originated. There is no room for doubt upon this point. Christ himself had met Paul on the way to Damascus, and at the same time that he shed Divine light upon the mind of the persecuting Pharisee Saul, he converted him into the apostle of the Gentiles, and gave him the "marching orders" upon which he was henceforth to act. "Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles." The tones of that voice rang in his ears throughout the whole of the ministry which was thus inaugurated.
2. How it was fulfilled. The record makes it plain that the obligation was not only recognized, but practically fulfilled, in a spirit of cheerfulness, gratitude, confidence, and devotion. Such is the explanation of a life so different from the ordinary life of men; a life which Paul himself acknowledged to be one of toil, of privation, of suffering, and persecution. "Necessity was laid upon him." In Asia and in Europe, to Jews and to Gentiles, he offered with warmth and cordiality the unsearchable riches of Christ.
3. The opening which this obligation left for voluntary devotion and sacrifice. Paul says plainly that he had no choice as to preaching; preach he must; woe is to him if he refrains from doing so! Yet his ardent, generous nature desired to do something over and above what was required. This was the explanation of his refusing to receive pay and maintenance from his converts. He had a right to this, even as his fellow labourers; but he put this right in abeyance; he voluntarily declined what he might have claimed, and thus left himself somewhat in which to glory.
II. THE GENERAL OBLIGATION LAID UPON THE CHURCH OF CHRIST. The acknowledgment here made by the apostle is one which may appropriately be made by the whole Church of Christ.
1. An obligation of authoritative command. The Lord Jesus, who is the Saviour of the world, is the Monarch of his Church. His order is, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." It is only open to us either to dispute his authority or to obey his direction.
2. A moral obligation of gratitude. Jesus himself has unfolded the law: "Freely ye have received; freely give." If we have a just sense of our indebtedness, first to the love and sacrifice of Christ, and then to the self denying labours of those whom he has sent to labour for our spiritual good, we shall feel the gracious constraint leading us to such efforts as he himself has enjoined.
3. An obligation enforced by many illustrious examples of devotion. They who read of the heroic enterprises of Christian evangelists, and of the noble fortitude of Christian martyrs who have died at the hands of those they sought to save, may well gird themselves to the labours to which they are invited by the spirit of benevolence, as well as commissioned by him whose authority is ever binding and whose recompense is ever sure.—T.
1 Corinthians 9:19-23
Ministerial pliancy and adaptation.
In great natures we sometimes meet with a remarkable combination of firmness and yielding. To do a great work in this world, a man needs a powerful will, a resolution not easily moved, at the same time that he displays a flexibility of disposition, and a readiness to adapt himself to different characters and to changing circumstances. Without the determination which approaches obstinacy, he will not keep the one aim before him; without the pliancy needed in dealing with men, he will not be able to secure the aim. Thus the same Apostle Paul who said, "This one thing I do," is here found professing that it was his principle and his practice to become all things to all men.
I. INSTANCES OF MINISTERIAL ADAPTATION. Paul's was a very varied life and ministry; he was brought into association with all sorts and conditions of men. Himself a Jew by birth, he was yet the apostle of the Gentiles, and he was equally at home with those of either race. Himself a scholar, he was prepared to deal with rabbis and with philosophers; yet he delighted to minister to the rudest barbarians. In this passage Paul mentions three instances of his pliancy.
1. To the Jews he was a Jew, i.e. he openly honoured the Divine Law given to Moses; and not only so, in certain circumstances he observed the ceremonies of his nation. This is evident in his circumcising Timothy, and in his shearing his hair and fulfilling a vow.
2. To those without the Law, outside its pale and regimen, he became as one of themselves, i.e. he was superior to many of the petty prejudices and indifferent to many of the customary observances of his fellow countrymen. How he adapted himself to the Greeks may be seen from his preaching upon the Areopagus at Athens.
3. To the weak he became as weak; e.g. in the matter treated in the preceding chapter, he had shown his consideration and condescension in refraining from eating what might possibly be ceremonially defiled.
II. THE PURPOSES SOUGHT BY THIS COURSE OF MINISTERIAL ADAPTATION. He was "free" in so far as, by refusing support from his converts, he left himself at liberty to act as he thought fit; yet he made himself "a slave" for the sake of those whose welfare he sought. The aim he set before him was one which justified the use of the means he describes.
1. He desired to gain some. Whatever he might lose, it was his hope and purpose to "win souls"—a rich recompense and an abundant compensation for all his losses.
2. He desired to save some. This is a stronger expression, for it implies the peril to which the hearers of the gospel were exposed whilst they remained in unbelief, and it implies the happiness, security, and dignity to which those were brought who received the Word.
3. He did what he did for the gospel's sake. For his own advantage he would never have submitted to all which he willingly endured because of his attachment to the truth in Christ Jesus.
4. Yet there was a personal aim before him. He hoped to be partaker himself with his converts of the blessings of the great salvation. His own interests were bound up with theirs, and it was ever his hope to share in the joys of that time when "he that soweth and he that reapeth shall rejoice together."—T.
1 Corinthians 9:24, 1 Corinthians 9:25
The Christian race.
Nothing could be more natural, more effective, than an allusion of this kind, occurring as it does in a letter to residents at Corinth. The Isthmian games, celebrated in the neighbourhood of their own city, were to the inhabitants of this famous place a matter of the greatest concern and interest. The gathering of representatives from all parts of Greece to witness the athletic contests which took place in the stadium of the isthmus, gave dignity and solemnity to the occasion. And the honours accorded to the victors were so highly coveted that there could have been but few of the ambitious young men of Achaia, indeed, of the whole of Hellas, who were not fired with a desire to distinguish themselves in these contests. No wonder that Paul should stimulate his own zeal and that of his Christian friends and disciples by reminding himself and them of the efforts and the sacrifices which were willingly undertaken for the sake of a perishable crown.
I. THE COURSE. The marble stadium of the isthmus serves as a picture to us of the course to which Christians are summoned. The Christian course is one of faith and obedience, of love and patience, of devotion to God and benevolence toward men.
II. THE SPECTATORS. It was the presence of the illustrious from every part of Greece which gave such peculiar dignity to the Olympian and the Isthmian games. In the Christian race, they who run are encompassed by a "great cloud of witnesses" the Church militant and triumphant, the glorious angels, and the Divine Lord himself looking on with the deepest interest, and perhaps justifiable anxiety.
III. THE COMBATANTS. We are not to restrict these to apostles, to preachers, to public labourers for Christ. Every disciple is a spiritual athlete, is called upon to run the race, to maintain the struggle, No room in the course for the indolent and inactive.
IV. THE DISCIPLINE AND PREPARATION. It is well known that for many months the athletes who aspired to the victor's wreath were obliged to undergo severe discipline, under the guidance and care of a skilful trainer, who required them to deny themselves many pleasures, to endure much fatigue, hardship, and suffering. Paul reminds us of the necessity of being temperate in all things, of bringing under the body—buffeting it with many blows. The Christian life is not one of ease and self indulgence; it is one of strenuous effort and self denial. They who strive for masteries must strive lawfully, must accept and obey the Divine conditions of the course.
V. THE EFFORT. The "one" combatant who received the prize did so as the result of great effort, strenuous and persevering. For neither apathy nor weariness were compatible with success. "So run," says the apostle, meaning that we are to imitate, not those who fail, but him who succeeds and conquers. What need, in living unto Christ, is there of diligence, of watchfulness, and above all of endurance!
VI. THE PRIZE. At the isthmus this was a chaplet of pine leaves, which soon faded. Yet its possession was coveted, and was counted a reward for the training and the toil. How much more should the Christian be animated by the prospect of an eternal inheritance and an amaranthine crown!—T.
1 Corinthians 9:25
"An incorruptible crown."
There was an ardour of temperament, a resoluteness of purpose, in the constitution and moral life of Paul, which made the imagery of this passage peculiarly congenial to his soul. He was fired with a sacred ambition, and he sought to inspire his hearers and readers with something of his own enthusiasm. His glowing imagination could realize something of the glory gained by the successful athlete who was welcomed with honour in his native state, whose statue was shaped in marble by some illustrious sculptor, and whose praise was embalmed in verse deathless as that of Pindar. How much more must he, with his cleared moral perceptions, his elevated spiritual aims, have sympathized with the prospects which inspired all true Christian athletes, who endured an earthly strife and hoped to gain a heavenly diadem!
I. THE GIVER OF THE CROWN. Christ has himself contended, suffered, and overcome; on his head are many crowns. He is the Lord of the course and the conflict. Coming from such hands, the recompense must be infinitely precious. He sweetens the gift he bestows by words of gracious approval. He counts the crowns of his people as his own.
II. THE WEARER OF THE CROWN. He who is to partake the throne, the triumph, must first share the strife and bear the cross of Jesus. The crown of thorns comes before the crown of victory and empire. They who shall hereafter triumph are they who now and here strive and suffer, endure and hope. Their contest must be lawfully conducted and strenuously maintained. It is they who are "faithful unto death" to whom is promised the fair crown of life.
III. THE VALUE OF THE CROWN. It is a gift, and not a reward to which there is a just claim; there is no case of merit here. At the same time, it is an expression of satisfaction and approval, and coming from Christ has in consequence a peculiar value to his people. The Isthmian wreath was in itself of no worth; its value lay in the witness it bore to the wearer's prowess. But the Christian's crown is not only a token of Divine approbation; it is accompanied by substantial recompense, especially by promotion to rule and authority. He who is crowned is made "ruler over many things."
IV. THE IMPERISHABLENESS OF THE CROWN. It is not a material crown, like the wreath of fading leaves. It is a crown of righteousness and of life, and is consequently in its nature immortal. It is worn in the land of incorruption and of immortality. It blooms perennially in the atmosphere of heaven.
1. Here is an appeal to the aspiring. Why seek earthly distinctions which must pass away, when within your reach is the unfading crown of glory?
2. Here is an inspiration and stimulus to the Christian combatant. Why grow weary in the race, why sink faint hearted in the contest, when there is stretched forth, before and above you, the Divine and imperishable crown of life?—T.
HOMILIES BY E. HURNDALL
1 Corinthians 9:1-15
The support of the ministry.
Paul recognizes a ministry set apart.
I. THE RIGHT OF MINISTERS TO CLAIM ADEQUATE SUPPORT FROM THEIR PEOPLE. Enforced by:
(1) The soldier who gives his services to his country receives maintenance.
(2) The planter of a vineyard cats of its fruit.
(3) The shepherd finds the means of his support in the flock which he tends. The Christian minister is a soldier, fighting the tattles of the Lord and of his Church; a labourer in the vineyard of Christ, planting, watering, pruning, training; a shepherd, watching over the sheep and lambs of his flock, seeking the wandering, correcting the rebellious, leading, feeding, etc.
2. The Mosaic Law.
(1) The ox treading the corn was unmuzzled, that he might feed as well as toil (1 Corinthians 9:9; Deuteronomy 25:4). The apostle claims that this was commanded more with an eye to men than to oxen (1 Corinthians 9:10).
(2) The priests and Levites lived on the things of the temple. Here the parallel becomes more striking. The ministers under the old dispensation were supported out of the offerings of the people: why should not the ministers of the new be also? Moreover, this obtained amongst men generally. Even the heathen perceived its fitness.
3. Common sense. It is reasonable that those who give up their time, energies, and gifts to the service of the Church should be supported by it. This is seen more strikingly when we remember that what is received by the Church is of infinitely more value than what is given: "If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?" The Church is not a loser, but a great gainer. What blessings God has bestowed in the past through the channel of a faithful ministry? What may he not in the future, to ourselves, our friends, our children?
4. The express ordination of Christ. As though the preceding strong arguments were not strong enough, this the strongest and altogether unanswerable one is added. The Head of the Church commands. He sees what is fitting and best. We run counter to his mind if we do not yield prompt and willing obedience. Whatever we may think, this is what he thinks (Matthew 10:10; Luke 10:8). Ministerial support:
(1) Should be rendered cheerfully. Grudging or tardy gift in such a matter is semi-disobedience to Christ, and not a little dishonouring to the givers.
(2) Should not be regarded as an equivalent for what is received. A minister is not paid for what he does. He is not in receipt of a salary. This is a degrading view of the whole matter. A minister is supported, whilst he lays himself out for the spiritual profit of those amongst whom his lot is cast.
(3) Should be sufficient. A due estimate of the advantages derived from a faithful ministry will prompt to a generous support, so that, amid many spiritual cares, temporal anxieties may not unduly press. A Church failing to adequately support its ministers, whilst possessing the ability to do so, inflicts much injury upon its ministers, but much more upon itself. Matthew Henry says," A scandalous maintenance makes a scandalous ministry."
II. THE RIGHT MAY PROFITABLY BE WAIVED UNDER CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES.
1. To remove prejudice.
2. To prove disinterestedness, showing that we are not actuated by love of lucre.
3. To gain more independence, which may be desirable under certain conditions of Church life.
4. To make a strong position for one's self when unjust charges are apprehended. The Apostle Paul would not give the least advantage to his enemies.
5. For any ether reasons which promise profit to the interests of Christ's kingdom. If thereby we can "gain the more" (verse 19). There is nothing derogatory in a minister supporting himself. It is a pity that there should be so much absurd prejudice against it. A marvel of incongruity that the title of "Rev." should be bestowed upon the minister who is supported by his people, and denied to the minister who follows the lead of the apostolic tent maker! that the one should be welcomed to certain associations and circles, and the other kept at arm's length! Not that the title of "Rev." is appropriate for any; yet if ever a man deserved such a designation, I suppose it was the very apostle, who, according to modern notions, disqualified himself for it. As to privileged societies, men of good sense need scarcely worry themselves about being excluded from those which would have blackballed the apostle of the Gentiles.—H.
1 Corinthians 9:16, 1 Corinthians 9:17
Compulsory gospel preaching.
I. THE TRUE MINISTER BECOMES SUCH NOT BY MERE CHOICE OR PREDILECTION. Preaching the gospel is:
1. Not easy.
2. Often disheartening.
3. Its joys come rather after triumph over natural inclination.
4. Too responsible to be undertaken without authority.
II. THE TRUE MINISTER BECOMES SUCH BECAUSE OF:
1. God's command. Uttered to heart—a "Divine call," corroborated by suitability, confirmed by blessing on labours
2. Claims of fellow creatures.
3. Conscientious promptings towards service.
III. THOSE CALLED TO THE MINISTRY DARE NOT REFUSE. "Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!" To refuse would involve:
1. God's displeasure.
2. The blood of our fellows resting upon us.
3. The nonemployment of gifts, and the consequences of this.—H.
1 Corinthians 9:22
The great apostle of the Gentiles was a singular man and lived a strange life. Some looking at him pronounced him to be a fool; others, a madman. He seemed, indeed, strangely destitute of that wisdom which places self interest in the front, and incites to the pursuit of position, power, and the praise of men. When brought to a knowledge of the truth, the future apostle relinquished the course which he had mapped out, and his association with Gamaliel and the great teachers. He commenced with gigantic self sacrifice: why? He desired to save souls. He became a great traveller—from city to city, town to town, village to village, he went on untiringly: why? To save souls. He underwent extreme sufferings (2 Corinthians 11:24-29)—to save souls. He exposed himself constantly to danger and death—to save souls. With the Jew he banished from his mind all Gentile tendencies—to save the Jew. With the Gentile he severed himself from all Jewish partialities—to save the Gentile. He was willing to be anything or nothing, to do this or that, if by any means he might "save some." Soul saving had become a master passion of his soul. He was in the world for it. Everything must be subordinated to it.
I. WHY WAS PAUL SO DESIROUS TO SAVE SOULS? He remembered:
1. The value of the soul. Of this he had the deepest conviction. To him the soul of man was the most precious thing in the world. Whilst men were seeking to save all other things, he would seek to save this. All other gain was as loss compared to the gain of a soul.
2. The fate of the lost soul He saw the unsaved soul going down, getting further and further from God, becoming viler, ripening for hell. The fearful words of his Master rang loudly in his ears. He believed them, he did not refine them down until they meant nothing. He saw the souls "cast out;" he heard the dread "Depart;" the "weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth" sounded in his heart; and he resolved that, as an instrument in the Divine hand, he would do his utmost to "save some."
3. The future of the saved soul.
(1) In this life. Tending upwards; becoming purified; increasing in joy, peace, usefulness; indissolubly united to God.
(2) In the next life. "With Christ." The fulness of joy. Every soil of sin removed. All powers becoming developed. The "higher ministry" commenced and continuing.
4. The glory of Christ. This was supreme in the apostle's mind. The Master was first. Paul was pre-eminently a "Jesus Christ's man." Soul saving redounded to the honour and praise of his Lord. Christ had come "to seek and to save that which was lost." The purpose of the Master became the all absorbing desire of the servant. Paul saw that his Master was glorified by the victories of the cross. So in season and out of season the apostle preached "Jesus Christ and him crucified" that he might "save some." He lived, laboured, suffered, for the clay when "the multitude which no man could number" should sing to the praise of Christ the sweet stanzas of the "new song." The love of Christ constrained him.
II. NOTE SOME WAYS IN WHICH PAUL SOUGHT TO SAVE SOULS.
1. He used all means at hand.
(1) Preaching. He had a definite object in preaching.
(2) Conversation. He could preach well to a congregation of one.
(3) Writing. What a gift he had for "Epistles"! Letter writing with a view to saving souls is an excellent means, but it requires dexterous use. Paul could not "drivel," or be "goody goody," or "talk cant." Many religious letter writers can. Hence the contrast between ancient and modern epistles.
(4) Prayer. He "bowed his knees." Stiff kneed preachers often have stiff necked people.
(5) Living the truth. Here, perhaps, lay the transcendent power of Paul. He not only prayed, wrote, talked, preached,—he was. Satan is more afraid of the gospel in the concrete than of the gospel in the abstract.
2. He complied with prejudice and prepossession. It we would make others like ourselves in things essential, we must first make ourselves like them in things indifferent. Paul tells us that to the Jew he became a Jew—remembered Jewish feeling, looked at things from a Jewish standpoint, accorded with Jewish observances. To the Gentile he became a Gentile—accommodating his utterance, manner, form of thought, mode of presenting the truth, to Gentile predilection. You can talk to a man more easily if you stand on the same platform with him. To the weak Paul became as weak; not insisting upon his liberty or ruthlessly running counter to imperfect conceptions. In fact, he asserts that he became "all things to all men" in order to realize his supreme object. Personal predilections must be sacrificed, and unpleasant restraints submitted to, if we would do effectively the greatest work under heaven. An unbending preacher will preach to unbroken hearts. An insistence upon our rights and privileges is a short method, often adopted, of ruining all hopes. A spirit of holy compliance, a disposition to stand just alongside the one we would gain,—these are potent. We often bar and bolt the very door that we are trying to unfasten. Often we forget that we are speaking to very imperfect men, and that we are very imperfect ourselves. Compliance must, of course, not be unlimited.
(1) We must exercise discretion. We must abide in the realm of "the lawful," and select what will be truly "expedient." Sound judgment need be exercised. We must look to probable results.
(2) We must never sacrifice the right. Paul was most compliant in things indifferent, but most unyielding in things essential. When he yielded he not only confined himself to things indifferent, but made it to be understood that the things were indifferent. When they were regarded as essential he refused to comply. This is strikingly illustrated in his permitting the circumcision of Timothy, but resisting that of Titus.
3. He practised great self sacrifice. He did not think of himself, but of those he sought to gain. We have seen how willing he was to sacrifice his personal predilections. He went further.
(1) In some instances he sacrificed his maintenance, supporting himself by the labour of his own hands.
(2) He sacrificed his personal ease and comfort.
(3) He sacrificed much of his freedom—he made himself "servant unto all" (verse 19). A man who is prepared for illimitable self sacrifice can do much. No sacrifice is too great for the attainment of Paul's life object. Christ laid down his life for it. He who bore the great cross spoke of crosses for his followers. His ministers often have heavy ones, but it is worth while to carry them, if by doing so we become instrumental in saving souls. Souls saved will be our "joy and crown" at last. What vast possibilities life presents, when we think that in it we may be the means of saving souls! This applies to all Christians. Every saint should toil for the salvation of men. All the sorrows endured and sacrifices made will seem like "the dust of the balance" when we see our spiritual children welcomed home.—H.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Paul compares the Christian life to a foot race and to a boxing contest. These were familiar to the Corinthians, being conspicuous features of the celebrated Isthmian games. A wise teacher speaks through things known of things unknown. Christ spoke in parables. Passing events may be made the vehicles of abiding truths. The secular may often illustrate the sacred. There is no loss of dignity or impropriety in such modes of instruction. Some people are shocked by references to everyday life; but such people ought to be shocked. Homely garb sometimes wins the readier admittance. Note some points of resemblance.
I. CHRISTIAN LIFE IS A PASSAGE—FROM SIN TO HOLINESS, FROM EARTH TO HEAVEN. It is a daily movement. We need beware of stumbling blocks, of straying from the right course, of indulgence which may hinder, of violation of laws, of loitering, since the time is short.
II. CHRISTIAN LIFE IS A CONTEST WITH ENEMIES. The "race" does not fully illustrate it. We have opponents, many and resolute. We have a trinity against us as well as for us—the world, the flesh, and the devil. We have not only to "run," but to "fight."
III. FOR SUCCESS ARE NEEDED:
1. Preparation. For athletic contests how much "training" has to be undergone, often very painful and wearying! Our preparation for Christian life is arduous and long, but it does not commence before we enter upon Christian life, but as we enter, and continues until the close. We "train" as we ran and as we fight.
2. Earnestness. No indifferent competitor was likely to win in ancient races or boxing contests. Indifference kills Christian lift,. The half hearted go not far from the starting point. Many have only enough earnestness to "enter" for the race and fight; as soon as they have "entered," they think all is done.
3. Striving. To be amongst the runners is not enough; we must exert our powers; we must call into activity all our energies. We must not be as those who "beat the air," but as those who boat their enemies. Christian life is real, with issues of infinite importance. It is not for exhibition of skill, but for stern work. "Strive [agonize] to enter in at the strait gate." Paul would have each Christian to be as the winner, who "spent himself" in snatching the victory (1 Corinthians 9:24). We do not hinder others from attaining, and for this we may be not a little thankful; but we each need to use the utmost effort.
4. Patience. Christian life is not soon over. At first we may do well, but when difficulties arise we shall be tested. Some who run fastest at first run slowest at last. Our all wise Master spoke of "enduring to the end."
5. Watchfulness. Lest we trip. Lest our enemy gets an advantage. The great Preacher's text was often "Watch!"
6. Resolution. If we are to endure to the end, we shall need stern resolve. Fixedness of purpose is an essential for Christian life. We should determine in God's strength to go on, whatever may lie in our path: to fight on, no matter what enemies confront us. Christian life demands courage and fortitude; we must not be too easily frightened.
7. Concentration. "This one thing I do." The "whole man" must be given to religion. Some professors are "called off" from the race, and lose it. They lower their guard, for their hands must be about earthly things, and then their enemy overthrows them.
8. Continuity. This tries many. If religion were spasmodic, they could be religious. There are many "now and then" Christians. People like to be pious at intervals.
9. Mortification of the flesh. Ancient athletes knew, as their modern brethren do, what this means. The victor was "temperate in all things." A pampered body meant disappointment, disgrace, loss. Paul said, "I keep under [I buffet, I bruise] my body." Our lower nature must be dealt severely with. Indulgence is disaster; we must practise self control, self denial, sob sacrifice.
10. Confidence, but not excess of confidence. Confidence that will prompt to exertion, not confidence which kills effort. "Lest... I myself should be a castaway."
IV. SUCCESS MEETS WITH REWARD. Contrast the crowns of earth with the crown of heaven. Many do so much for a corruptible crown, and we so little for an incorruptible one. A garland of leaves and a day's popularity: paradise and life eternal.
V. MANY SPECTATORS WITNESS THE CONTEST. The eyes of the ungodly are upon us. Fellow Christians watch us closely. The angels behold us, and are "ministering spirits" to us. Perhaps victors of the past, perhaps those who have failed in race and fight, watch us. The King sees us—the Judge—he who holds "the crown of righteousness" for those who have "fought a good fight" and "finished the course." "Wherefore seeing," etc. (Hebrews 12:1, Hebrews 12:2). When we think of the race and fight, we should ponder Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."—H.
HOMILIES BY E. BREMNER
1 Corinthians 9:1-3
The marks of apostleship.
This chapter grows out of the noble utterance of self denial with which the previous one closes. The apostle illustrates and enforces the duty of curtailing our liberty in things indifferent for the sake of weaker brethren, by a reference to his own example in foregoing the right of maintenance by the Church. Was he not free? Had he not all the rights belonging to Christians, unfettered by obligations to men? Nay, more, was he not an apostle? At Corinth, as elsewhere, there were some who questioned the full apostolic authority of Paul, on the ground that he was not one of the twelve; and his self denial seems to have been turned into an argument against him. It was insinuated that he refrained from asking the support of his converts, as the other apostles were in the habit of doing, because he was conscious of his inferiority. It is apparently for this reason that he here presents the marks of his apostleship.
I. HE HAD SEEN JESUS THE LORD. There is no evidence that he had seen Jesus in the days of his flesh, but the reference is mainly to the appearance near Damascus (Acts 9:4-6). On that occasion the Lord met him and gave him his commission as an apostle; and this was regarded as an essential mark of apostleship in the highest sense, as we see from the election of Matthias. In this respect the apostles can have no successors. The office was a special and temporary one, needful for the planting and organizing of the Church, and was intended to expire with the men who held it. Having set the house in order, they were to deliver the keys to the ordinary servants who were left in charge. Still, every one whom Christ sends forth to do his work must first have had the sight of him that faith gives. Only when we have beheld him in his glory, invested with "all authority in heaven and on earth," and heard from his lips the cult to go forth, shall we feel ourselves clothed with power as his ambassadors (comp. Isaiah 6:1-13.; Matthew 28:18, Matthew 28:19).
II. THE CORINTHIAN CHRISTIANS WERE THE SEAL OF HIS APOSTLESHIP. Whatever reason others might have for questioning his standing, they at least had none; for as the instrument of their conversion, he could point to them as "his work in the Lord." The power which accompanied his preaching, and which had wrought so mighty a change in them, was a proof that he had not run unsent. This of itself did not prove apostleship in the high sense in which Paul claimed it, but it proved that the Lord was with him. This kind of evidence requires to be adduced with caution, inasmuch as it is difficult for us to estimate the real success of a ministry; but where there are unmistakable proofs of the conversion of sinners and the edification of saints, we are warranted in viewing these as the seals of our mission. In seeking these high ends, we are doing truly apostolic work. Happy the minister who can say to his congregation, "Ye are my work in the Lord"!—B.
1 Corinthians 9:4-18
Having vindicated his claim to be reckoned among the apostles of Christ, Paul proceeds to assert his right to a temporal maintenance at the hands of those to whom he ministered. The other apostles received support, not only for themselves, but also for their wives: why should he not make the same claim? Though he was unmarried, and though he had hitherto supported himself by the labour of his own hands, this did not invalidate his right. Consider—
I. THE RIGHT OF MINISTERS TO A SUITABLE MAINTENANCE. This is upheld by various arguments and analogies,
1. The labourer is worthy of his reward. Three instances are adduced in illustration (1 Corinthians 9:7).
(1) The soldier. The duty of fighting for his country throws the burden of his support upon others. Why should it be otherwise with the Christian soldier (2 Timothy 2:4)?
(2) The husbandman. His labour is rewarded by the fruit. The minister of the gospel is also a husbandman (1 Corinthians 3:6-9).
(3) The shepherd. Does he not receive the milk of the flock, partly for food and partly for exchange? Why should not the Christian pastor, who tends the flock of Christ, have a similar return (1 Peter 5:2)? The principle in these instances is that every occupation in common life yields support to the worker, and that he does not require to go beyond it for daily sustenance. In like manner, the minister of the gospel is entitled to an adequate maintenance without having to resort to secular work to supply his wants.
2. The teaching of the Mosaic Law. "Thou shalt not muzzle the ox," etc.. What was the meaning of this injunction? It shows, indeed, the care of the Lawgiver for the brute creation, but it is only a particular application of a great principle. The Law has regard for oxen, not for their own sake, but for the sake of him to whom they are in subjection. And if even the labouring ox was to be fed, how much more should the plougher and the thresher work in hope of partaking! The Law of Moses thus confirms the teaching of natural analogy, that the labourer is to be maintained by his work.
3. The fairness of the claim. "If we sowed unto you spiritual things," etc. (1 Corinthians 9:11). In every case the sower expects to reap; but there is more than this in the apostle's argument. The preacher of the gospel sows spiritual things—those great truths that minister to the spirit: is it a great matter if he looks for carnal things in return—those things that minister only to the flesh? If he is the instrument, in God's hand, of saving the souls of his hearers, what amount of gold can be an adequate recognition of the service rendered?
4. Analogy of the Jewish priesthood. (1 Corinthians 9:13.) The rule was that they who served at the altar should receive a portion of the sacrifices and other gifts that were constantly brought to the temple. A sufficient support was thus secured; and the Divine sanction implied in that ancient rule applies equally to the case of the Christian ministry.
5. The express ordinance of the Lord Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:14.) When he sent forth his apostles to preach, he said, "Get you no gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses;… for the labourer is worthy of his food" (Matthew 10:9, Matthew 10:10). This was their marching order. They were to depend on the offerings of the people among whom they laboured; and the reference here shows that this was no temporary arrangement, but that it was intended to be the New Testament rule for preachers of the gospel. Instead of having to turn aside to secular pursuits, they are to be free to give themselves wholly to their work. By these various arguments the apostle establishes the right of ministers to claim support at the hands of the Christian people, and the corresponding duty of the people to contribute that support. Both the right and the duty have been but imperfectly recognized by the Church. This will appear if we consider:
(1) The average rate of ministerial support. Compare this with the incomes of men in the other learned professions or in mercantile pursuits.
(2) The manner in which giving to the cause of Christ is frequently regarded. How many either give with a grudge or do not give at all! The evil resulting is twofold—spiritual loss to the individual, and a crippling of the Church in her work. Not until all the tithes are brought into the storehouse will the Lord open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing (Malachi 3:8-10).
II. THE RENUNCIATION OF THIS SIGHT. (1 Corinthians 9:15-18.) Strongly as Paul insists upon his right to temporal maintenance, it is not with a view to urge his claim upon the Corinthians, but to bring into clearer relief his renunciation of it. That he preached the gospel free of charge was to him a matter of boasting which he would rather die than be deprived of. It was no glory to him that he was a preacher; for, as a steward put in trust with the gospel, this was his simple duty. But it was no part of his stewardship to labour without support; and this, accordingly, was a proof of his sincerity in which he was entitled to boast. In this act of self denial he had a reward in making the gospel entirely free, and in securing that on this ground no hindrance should be put in its way (1 Corinthians 9:12). Here some practical considerations emerge.
1. How a minister of the gospel should bear himself towards pecuniary support. There are cases in which he may forego his right, especially where he sees that this renunciation will tend to the advancement of the gospel. Usually, however, it is his duty to accept a stipend at the hands of the Christian people, and that for the reason which led Paul to decline it. To receive a reasonable maintenance is to be in the best position for devoting one's self entirely to the ministry of the Word. But at all times it should be manifest that the servant of Christ does not act from mercenary motives. The shepherd is not to tend the flock for the sake of the fleece. "Not yours, but you," should be his motto (2 Corinthians 12:14).
2. The obligation to preach the gospel. "Necessity is laid upon me." There is a Divine must in the case of every true preacher, as there was in the case of Jesus. The love of Christ, not less than the command of Christ, constrains him. It is with him as with the prophet: "Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his Name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay" (Jeremiah 20:9).
3. The doctrine of reward. The apostle's statement regarding the reward he expected for his optional renunciation of support has been adduced by popish divines in support of their doctrine of supererogation; but it will not bear such an application. The distinction he makes is between what was plainly a part of his bounden duty as a steward, and what seemed best for the furtherance of the gospel in his peculiar circumstances. In one sense it was a matter for his own choice whether he should accept a temporal maintenance, but this is not the sense required by the Romish argument. Whatever promises to conduce to the furtherance of Christ's kingdom, becomes thereby a duty to the apostle; for "to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin" (James 4:17). There is no act which is not included under love to God and love to man. There is no self denial to which the love of Christ should not prompt us. The gospel doctrine of reward does not rest on any theory of supererogation, but rather on the principle that God is pleased to recognize the fidelity of his servants.—B.
1 Corinthians 9:19-23
The principle of accommodation.
Paul's resolve to preach the gospel without charge was but one instance of the general rule which guided his life. Though under obligation to none, he yet became the servant of all—"all things to all men." He accommodated himself to the Jews (1 Corinthians 9:20), as when he circumcised Timothy (Acts 16:3) and purified himself in the temple (Acts 21:26). He accommodated himself to the Gentiles (1 Corinthians 9:21), by refusing to impose the Law of Moses (Galatians 2:5) and by meeting them on their own ground (Acts 17:22-31). He accommodated himself to the weak (1 Corinthians 9:22), as when he abstained from meat because of their scruples (1 Corinthians 8:13). Consider—
I. ACCOMMODATION AS A RULE OF MINISTERIAL PRACTICE. There is a high sense in which every minister of Christ is called to become "all things to all men." We are to adapt ourselves to the circumstances, modes of thought, and even the harmless prejudices of those among whom we labour. In dealing with human souls, we must not stand upon points of etiquette, but be ready when occasion requires to sacrifice our preferences and sometimes our rights. This principle will cover matters of dress and modes of living, as also our choice of recreation and amusement. William Burns, missionary to China, adopted the Chinese dress that he might the more easily gain access to the people. On the same ground we shall present the truth in language which our hearers understand, whether they are children or adults. This happy faculty of adaptation has frequently proved of great service to the gospel.
II. LIMITS TO BE OBSERVED IN FOLLOWING THIS RULE. The highest things may frequently be mistaken for the lowest. Christian accommodation may be confounded with time serving, but nothing is more unlike. The man whose principles are flexible, who trims and carves to serve his purpose, who is a devout Christian in this company and a railing scoffer in that, may be said to be "all things to all men;" but such a man is a mere jelly fish character, a mass of moral pulp. For such accommodation as Paul practised there is needed the highest principle, the strongest consistency; and in order to this, certain limits are to be observed.
1. It must not lead us to do or tolerate that which is sinful. This limit is transgressed by Jesuit missionaries when they suffer their converts to retain part of their old idolatrous worship.
2. It must not lead us to keep back any essential truth because it is unpopular. This were cowardice and infidelity to cur trust.
3. It must not lead us to do anything which would compromise the Christian name. "Let not your good be evil spoken of" (Romans 14:16).
III. MOTIVES THAT PROMPT US TO FOLLOW THIS RULE. These are:
1. A desire to save others. It is not a wish to please men, but a desire to remove every hindrance to the reception of the gospel. With this end in view, we shall not find it difficult to become "all things to all men." A human soul is not too dearly won at the cost of a little self sacrifice. In this aspect the rule we are considering is but a faint copy of the great accommodation—the incarnation and work of Jesus Christ.
2. A regard to our personal salvations. (1 Corinthians 9:23.) Paul connects his work "for the gospel's sake" with his being a "joint partaker" of its blessings. In work for the good of others we must not be unmindful of our own good; and there is nothing more conducive to our spiritual benefit than faithful, self denying service for Christ. "Continue in these things; for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee" (1 Timothy 4:16).—B.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
The race for the prize.
The thought introduced in 1 Corinthians 9:23, that Paul's self denial had a reference to his own salvation as well as the salvation of others, is here carried on and applied generally to all Christians. The imagery is derived from the Isthmian games celebrated in the neighbourhood of Corinth, and therefore well known to his readers. These games occupied a place in the national life of Greece corresponding to that occupied by the great yearly festivals in the life of Israel There is no reference to them in the Gospels, as they were unknown in Palestine, but more than once they are used in the Epistles as a metaphorical representation of the Christian life (comp. Php 3:14; 2 Timothy 4:7, 2 Timothy 4:8; Hebrews 12:1). Consider—
I. THE RACE. The stadium presented an animating spectacle. At this end stand the competing athletes, awaiting the signal to start; at the other end is the judge, holding in his hand the prize; whilst all around, rising tier upon tier, are the seats crowded with spectators. The Christian life is a race for the great prize offered by God to the successful runner. At conversion we take our place in the racecourse and have our names proclaimed by the herald. The leading ideas in the figure are:
1. Progress. "Forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on," etc. (Philippians 3:13).
2. Earnestness. The Christian life is one of strenuous effort—every muscle strung, every faculty called into exercise. No place for lukewarmness or indifference here.
3. Concentration. "One thing! do." The runner, with eye on the goal and all else out of view, bends his whole strength to this single effort. Dissipation of energy, the multa rather than the multum, is a source of weakness in spiritual life. "One thing is needful."
4. Endurance. "Let us run with patience" (Hebrews 12:1). To faint or fall is to lose the prize. The cross must be borne to the end. Nothing but "patient continuance in well doing" will conduct us to the goal (comp. James 1:12).
II. CONDITIONS OF SUCCESS IN THE RACE. To run well we must run as the successful racer. The end in view must be clear: we must know what we are running for ("not uncertainly"). Here specially emphasize the preparatory condition—self restraint. The athlete under training was required to avoid excess in eating and drinking, and every form of fleshly indulgence. The Christian athlete must practise a like temperance if he would run his course with success. In this point of view the body is the antagonist with which we contend, and which must be buffeted and bruised rather than suffered to gain the mastery over us. How many Christians are hindered in their spiritual course by lack of self restraint! The worship of comfort, the love of luxury, not to speak of such indulgences as are clearly sinful, cause many to lag in the race. An intemperate use of, or affection for, things in themselves good, is a most insidious snare in the path of spiritual advancement. Bodily mortification is not spirituality, but it is often helpful towards its attainment. The Christian runner must lay aside every weight as well as every sin (Hebrews 12:1).
II. THE PRIZE. This consisted of a chaplet of leaves—olive, parsley, pine. In addition, the name of the victor was celebrated in a triumphal ode and a statue was erected to his memory. It was a great honour—one of the greatest in a land where the gymnastic art was so highly appreciated; and even Roman emperors (Nero, e.g.) did not hesitate to enter the lists. But at best it was, like all earthly honours, corruptible. These crowns would quickly fade, that applause would soon cease. The prize for which the Christian contends is an incorruptible crown. It is the "crown of righteousness" (2 Timothy 4:8), the "crown of life" (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10), the "crown of glory" (1 Peter 5:4). To have righteousness and life in perfection is our true glory, and this is the very crown of cur being. A crown composed of such materials cannot fade away. All the trees in that country are evergreen. What an object to fill the eye and fire the soul! A proud moment when the successful runner had the chaplet of leaves put on his brow! A grandee moment for the Christian athlete when the pierced hand of Jesus places on his head the crown of glory! And if men endure so much and strive so earnestly for the corruptible, how much more should we endure and strive in order to obtain the incorruptible!
1. The human side of the Christian life is strongly emphasized in the figure of the race; but along with this we must take the other side of the truth. Without the grace of God we cannot run. Mark the striking combination in Philippians 2:12, Philippians 2:13.
2. Notice the apostle's self distrust. He is not ashamed to confess that he brings his body into subjection, "lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected." Compare such outbursts of confident assurance as Romans 8:38, Romans 8:39, and 2 Timothy 1:12, and regard the one as the complement of the other. Self diffidence goes hand in hand with genuine assurance. A lesson for all Christians, and especially for all preachers.—B.
HOMILIES BY J. WAITE
1 Corinthians 9:16
The apostle here affords us a passing glimpse of his own state of mind in reference to his high calling as a "preacher of the gospel." The revelation of the secret workings of an earnest human spirit must needs be deeply interesting to us, and most of all in the case of a man of such noble nature as Paul, and in reference to a matter of such supreme moment. We could scarcely have a finer view of the ministry of the Word, a finer model of right thought and feeling about it, than is presented in these simple but lofty words. Chiefly three elements of feeling are here expressed.
I. A SENSE OF THE DIGNITY OF THE PREACHER'S OFFICE. The preaching of the Word is evidently regarded here as a fixed and permanent institution of the Church, a work to which men are divinely called to consecrate themselves, and from which they may draw the necessary support of their life (1 Corinthians 9:14). And the fact that Paul disavows all self glorying on account of it, implies that there is that in the office which might lead a man unduly to exalt himself. But what is the real nature of its dignity? It is very different from that which belongs to social rank or any kind of worldly distinction. Much mischief springs from losing sight of this difference. Ever since the time when a halo of worldly glory began to be thrown around the witness for Christ, and the ideas of social elevation, priestly supremacy, large emolument, luxurious ease, came to be associated with it, it has been degraded by the intrusion of false motive, and by being made the prize of a purely carnal ambition. The dignity Paul recognizes in it is that which is inherent in all high and holy service; the honour he would have paid to it is that which is due to a faithful discharge of sacred responsibility. The dignity of the preacher's function lies in such facts as these:
1. It brings a man, more than any other office does, into habitual contact with the mind of God and with the realities of the invisible world. Not that he who sustains it has in this respect a privilege denied to others. Every path of human life may be thus gilded and gladdened by the heavenly glory. But it is his special business, by habits of thought and prayer, to become mere deeply conversant than other men with the revelations of God and the things unseen and eternal. And the fact that his work demands that mind and heart should be ever dwelling in such a high spiritual region, imparts a greatness and dignity to it surpassing that of all others.
2. It brings him into a purely spiritual relationship with his fellow men. Other human relations are more superficial. The world recognizes no bonds of union but such as grow out of the passing interests and experiences of this present life. To the preacher of the gospel, as such, the secular aspect of the position men occupy is nothing as compared with the spiritual. He "knows no man after the flesh." He has to do with the nobler, the immortal part of them, "to watch for their souls as one that must give account."
3. It leads on to eternal issues. All the grandeur of the endless futurity overshadows it. None of our earthly businesses have reference merely to the issues of time. Lines of moral influence are connected with them that stretch out into the great hereafter. But this is specially the case with the work of the Christian teacher, It must have infinite developments. It is the seed sewing for an eternal harvest. It is to every man "none other than the savour of life unto life, or of death unto death."
II. THE SENSE OF PERSONAL UNWORTHINESS. "Though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of." The conscious dignity of his office is coupled with deep humility. "Who is sufficient for these things?" (2 Corinthians 2:16). Paul's humility, indeed, was not that of the man who is always doubting his right to the position he occupies, and fitness for the work he is doing. He knew that he bore the stamp and seal of a Divine commission.. And every true preacher of the Word must in a measure share this feeling. If a man has no conscious or acknowledged fitness for the work, he has no business to undertake it. But it must needs be that, in hours of calm reflection, in the solitude and silence of the night, he will often lie
"Contemplating his own unworthiness."
Many things will serve to humble him.
1. The thought that he is but an instrument in the hands of God (1 Corinthians 3:5-7).
2. The fact that, in proclaiming the mercy of God to sinners, he has to look upon himself as the foremost of those who need that mercy (1 Timothy 1:15, 1 Timothy 1:16).
3. The light the Word he preaches continually sheds on the evils of his own heart and life.
4. The sense of the subtle spiritual dangers that beset his sacred calling.
5. The fear "lest that by any means, having preached to others, he himself should be a castaway" (1 Corinthians 9:27).
III. A SENSE OF MORAL CONSTRAINT. "Necessity is laid upon me," etc. The apostle felt that he had been invested by the risen Lord with a very solemn stewardship, and That he dared not be unfaithful to it. The heaviest of all "woes," the woe of a remorseful conscience, the woe of a spirit that has fallen from the height of a glory that might have been its own forever, would fall upon him if he did. His would be the misery of being basely untrue to himself as well as to iris Divine Master. There are two kinds of moral "necessity"—the necessity of an external force and that of an internal: the necessity of an outward law, backed by some form of outward penalty; and the necessity of an inward impulse, backed by the sacred fear of inward shame and loss. It was this latter kind of necessity of which he was supremely conscious. It was consistent with perfect moral freedom, because it was of the nature of a resistless force in the depths of his own soul, the decision of his own will, the impulse of his own heart. The will of God had imposed this stewardship, this "dispensation of the gospel," upon him. he had been separated unto it from his very birth (Romans 1:1; Galatians 1:15). And God's will had become his will, God's purpose his purpose. The manifested love of Christ had become a constraining power within him, leading his whole being into captivity, drawing forth every energy of his nature in a holy and joyous service. This kind of "necessity" is the loftiest principle by which any human spirit can be actuated. Never is a man so great, so free, so royal, so divinely blessed, as when he is intelligently conscious of it. This is the true inspiration of gospel ministry. The harvest is great. May the Lord of the harvest "send forth labourers" thus inwardly constrained to serve him!—W.
1 Corinthians 9:22
"By all means save some."
Two points present themselves for our consideration here—
(1) The end the apostle had in view;
(2) the method by which he sought to secure it.
I. THE END. "To save some." What does he mean by this? What to him was the salvation of men?
1. It certainly means deliverance from a dread future calamity. "The wrath to come," "the perdition of ungodly men," was to St. Paul no dream, but an awful reality. It was worth all possible effort and self sacrifice to save men from it. If he had no other impulse than that of mere human sympathy to move him, we have here a sufficient explanation of the enthusiasm of his zeal. It is often said that if Christian people really believed the future that is before multitudes of their fellow creatures to be so dark and dreadful as they say it is, they could never rest as they do m their own natural or spiritual satisfactions. They would rather be beside themselves with a frantic agony of sympathetic sorrow and desire to save. There is truth in this. The easy indifference with which too many of us regard the condition and prospects of the godless world around us, belies the reality of our faith. Our conceptions of what the solemn issues of the future shall be may differ. Some, after anxious and earnest thought, may have arrived at the conclusion that to forecast the nature or the duration of the penalty that will then fall on the transgressor is beyond our province, and that we can only take the language of Scripture as it stands, without attempting to penetrate the haze of dreadful mystery that hangs around it. But the broad and certain facts of the case are such as may well affect us far more deeply than they do, and bring forth in us far richer and more abundant fruits of practical beneficence. It is to be feared that doctrinal controversy about the future tends to weaken rather than deepen and strengthen our impressions. We lose in speculation and debate the practical earnestness the subject itself might be expected to awaken. St. Paul lived in the clear light of the future. His soul was thrilled by the sense of its tremendous reality. And though its issues probably were no more distinct and definite to his apprehension than they are to ours, yet his faith in their certainty was such as to stir up all the noble energies of his being in the endeavour to save his fellow men.
2. But the foresight of the future was far from being the only thing that moved him; it was a present deliverance from a present calamity that he had in view. To save men now from the evil that enthralled and cursed them, ruining their Godlike nature, darkening all the glory of their life,—this was the end he sought. He was no visionary. It was no object of remote and uncertain utility, but one of most practical and immediate urgency at which he aimed. Whatever its bearing on the future may be, the influence of the gospel on the present passing life of men is so benign and blessed that our utmost zeal in diffusing it is fully justified. If we think of nothing more than the superficial social changes that Christianity has introduced, how it is at this very hour the prolific root of all social progress in every land, we see here an ample reward for all the sacrifices that have ever been made for its extension. But beneath all this there lies the fact that, as sin is the ruining, destroying power in man's nature and life, it must needs be a Godlike purpose that seeks to deliver him from it (Matthew 1:21; Acts 3:26). "That I may by all means save some." He could not hope for all, but if "some" only yielded to his persuasive word, it would be a blessed recompense. This is the inspiring hope of every true preacher and worker for Christ. The net is cast, the arrow is shot at a venture; the issue is not now made manifest. But a seemingly profitless work may be linked indirectly with results that are very great and glorious. Waves of spiritual influence, from a narrow circle, travel out where none can follow them. While there are those who shall find at last that the "great and wonderful things" they supposed they had done in the name of Christ are little recognized, there are others who will be amazed to discover that their lowly endeavours have yielded fruits of which they never dreamed. And to "save some," to be able to lay some trophies at the Master's feet, will be a blessed reward.
II. THE METHOD. "I am become all things to all men." It is remarkable that words which express the highest nobleness of an apostolic spirit should have come to be used by us in familiar discourse as descriptive of a type of character and mode of conduct that is mean and despicable. It is suggestive of the behaviour of one who has no steadfast principle, no honest outspokenness; the mere obsequious time server, full of smiles and gilded insincerities; who, to serve his own ends, can pat on any face that suits the occasion;
Versed in the world as pilot in his compass,
The needle pointing ever to that interest
Which is his lode star, and who spreads his sails
With vantage to the gale of others' passion."
There was nothing of this sort in Paul. Nothing could be more abhorrent to his spirit than a time serving policy or a habit of smiling, plausible deceit. These words from his lips simply indicate that his strong desire to save men and win them to Christ led him to enter as much as possible into their circumstances, to place himself on their level. Thus would he disarm their prejudices and bring his heart into sympathetic contact with theirs. Thus would he commend to them the love of him who "was made under the Law that he might redeem them that were under the Law;" "who for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich." (Examples: Acts 16:3; Acts 17:22-31; Acts 21:26.) The lesson for all Christian preachers and workers is this: Cultivate a broad and generous human sympathy. In dealing with men in various conditions—doubt, error, poverty, sorrow, temptation, subjection to the power of evil—put yourself as much as possible in their place, if you would hope to guide, or comfort, or save them.—W.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Running and fighting.
The crown of eternal life is here set forth as the issue of successful conflict with difficulties and foes. It would seem as if all Divine excellence must needs present itself to our minds as the negation of opposite forms of evil. We cannot think of God but as the "Light" that contends with our darkness, the "Fire" that consumes our corruption. God's Law is but the Divine restraint of our wayward propensities, the Divine rebuke of our trangressions. The Divine life in the soul is an energy that reveals itself in ceaseless struggle with forces that would otherwise destroy it, a perpetual battle with the powers of death. Heaven is victory, the rising up of the soul out of the region of trial and strife and suffering to its true destiny and inheritance in the glorious presence of God. Look at this passage as suggesting certain conditions of success in this spiritual conflict.
I. CONCENTRATION OF THOUGHT ON THE PRIZE AS A MATTER OF INTENSE PERSONAL INTEREST. "All run, but one receiveth," etc. The analogy here instituted is not complete, inasmuch as in the Christian race all who "run with patience" will attain. But it serves to enforce the need of great fixedness of thought and purpose, as if each runner felt that only one could win, and he would be that one. There is nothing narrow, envious, selfish, in this. A great difference ties here between the heavenly and the earthly striving. He must be a man of very elevated spirit who is able to rise entirely above the narrowing influence of secular rivalry. In urging his way to success along the crowded thoroughfares of the world, a man almost inevitably thrusts some one else aside. The gigantic system of commercial competition means this. And it is an important problem of social life to determine how one may claim as he ought that personal inheritance in the world that God has placed within his reach, and yet not fall into the sin of a selfish violation of the rights of others. There is no room, however, for anything of this kind in the spiritual race and warfare. Mutual emulation is mutual profit. The success of each one is to the advantage and the joy of all. Strive to win the heavenly crown as if you alone could wear it, and the more intensely earnest you are in your striving, the more does your example inspire your fellow combatant, the more do you become a fount of healthful influence, a source of enrichment and blessing to all around you.
II. SELF RESTRAINT AND SELF DISCIPLINE. The severe physical discipline to which the athletes subjected themselves was gladly borne for the sake of the "corruptible crown" they sought to win. Not that the perishable wreath of wild olive encircling the victor's brow was in itself the thing he cared for. It was but the symbol of something else. To be conscious of the mastery, to have his name proclaimed by the herald before the assembled multitude as one who had conferred honour and renown on his family, his tribe, his country,—that was his reward. So that the very ephemeral character of the crown made it the more striking witness to the nobility of man's nature, to the truth that he can never find his satisfactions in the region of sense; they belong, after all, to the super sensible, the ideal world. Every form of ambition greater than the apparent object will account for or warrant, is proof of this. The enthusiasm that magnifies its objects beyond their real dimensions, and invests them with a fictitious charm, is always a significant memorial of man's relation to a higher and a better world. At the same time, this striving for the corruptible crown reminds us how vain often are the rewards of earthly ambition, and how the price men pay often for their successes is a very costly one. They surrender that which is far more precious than the thing they gain. They "spend their money for that which is not bread, and their labour for that which satisfieth not." In "seeking to save their life, they lose it." The law of the heavenly race is the reverse of this. As the unsubstantial, the delusive, the perishable, is relinquished, the soul wins for itself the "inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away." You lose the lower life to gain the higher. "Temperate in all things." Let not the word "temperance" have to our minds a limited and exclusive meaning, one which, however important, does not cover the whole field of the Scripture applications. The Christian is called to be temperate alike in all his thoughts, emotions, words, and ways; in his joys and sorrows, his schemes and activities, his personal indulgences and personal mortifications; in his worldly ambitions, and even in the zeal of his religious life. But "the flesh" must needs be the chief occasion for the exercise of this self regulating grace. "I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage." Nothing could be more expressive of that subjugation of our lower nature by which we can alone win the crown of the spirit. Not that there is any essential virtue in mere physical austerities and mortifications.
"Pride may be pampered while the flesh grows lean."
Asceticism is no natural outgrowth of Christianity, but rather of its unnatural alliance with that pagan philosophy which regarded matter and spirit as essentially antagonistic principles. Christ teaches us to honour the body that God's wonder working hand has framed, and that he makes the temple of his Spirit. But then do we most honour the body when we make it most thoroughly the submissive servant of the soul's diviner purposes, confronting it, meeting it full in the face, as it were, with the swift violence of our holy purpose, when it dares to obstruct the spirit in its path to the heavenly crown.
III. THE CONFIDENCE THAT SPRINGS FROM FAITH. "Not as uncertainly, not as beating the air." Vivid realization, unwavering assurance,—this was the secret of Paul's strength. The prize of his high calling stood out clear and luminous to his view. He had no misgivings as to the reality of it. It filled the whole field of his vision with its glory, and the whole energy of his nature was consecrated to its pursuit. We must rise above the chilling, paralyzing mists of doubt, and see the heavenly crown clearly before us, if we would have there to be any real vigour in our spiritual striving. "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."—W.
HOMILIES BY D. FRASER
1 Corinthians 9:26, 1 Corinthians 9:27
A good servant of Jesus Christ.
It was quite in St. Paul's manner to support his exhortations to Christian service by adducing his own example and experience. Those who were not acquainted with him might misconstrue such references and set them down to a vain glorious spirit, but no one could do so who knew how fully and fervently this apostle ascribed all that he was and did as a Christian to the grace of Jesus Christ. "Not I, but the grace of God which was with me." "Not I, but Christ liveth in me."
I. ILLUSTRATIONS OF CHRISTIAN SERVICE.
1. St. Paul was as a runner in the Isthmian games, and so ran "not uncertainly." Suppose one to attempt that course without his mind made up as to the reason why or the goal to which he should run, moving without spirit or purpose, looking to this side and to that; he could take no prize. One must have a clear course and a definite aim in the race which is set before the servants of Christ.
2. St. Paul was as a boxer in the arena, and fought not as one "beating the air." The poet Virgil has the same expression in describing a boxer who missed his antagonist: "Vires in ventum effudit" ('Aeneid,' bk. 5:446). To do so is to waste force. He fights well who plants his blows skilfully and makes them tell. The apostle was a man of peace, but he needed boldness and firmness, as well as love and patience, for his hard service. He had journeys to make, trials to bear, testimonies to raise, controversies to conduct, difficulties to adjust, calumnies to refute, sorrows to assuage—a great and arduous career; and, by the grace of God, he put all his force into it, ran his race of duty with ardour, fought his fight of faith with resolution.
II. TRAINING AND DISCIPLINE FOR SUCH SERVICE. "I buffet my body, and bring it into subjection." He who would subdue evil in others must suppress it in himself. Now, the apostle found that the gospel was hindered, not so much by intellectual objection, as by moral depravity. The flesh lusted against the spirit. He had felt this in himself, and knew that the flesh prevailed by fastening on the organs of the body and inducing indulgence or excess. So he brought himself into good training for active Christian work by bruising the body and "mortifying its deeds." He would not surfeit or pamper it, lest he should stupefy the soul. This is something quite different from that "neglect of the body" which St. Paul elsewhere mentions among the superstitions of a delusive piety. To deprive the body of necessary food and sleep is to disable the powers of the mind in hope of purifying the soul. Such has been the practice of men and women in the ascetic life, and at one time it took the form of a frenzy, when the Flagellants traversed a considerable part of Europe in long processions, with covered faces, chanting penitential hymns, and continually applying the scourge to one another's naked backs. Those fanatics meant well, and, indeed, supposed that they were following the Apostle Paul. But to such foolish and cruel actions few of us are prone at the present day. Our danger lies on the opposite side. We do not hold the body sufficiently under control. We give it ease and luxury and ornament; we allow dangerous scope to those cravings and passions which have a physical basis, and so our spiritual life languishes, and we can put no glow of feeling or strength of purpose into the service of Christ. Corinth was a city notorious for profligacy. The Christians there must have known that, if a young athlete did not hold himself apart from the vices of the place, he could win no distinction in the public games. Every such competitor had to resist indulgence, and bring his frame to a firmness of muscle and a full strength of vitality which would enable it to bear the fatigue and strain of the Isthmian contests. In like manner St. Paul, for a higher purpose, restrained and governed himself, cultivated simplicity in the tastes and habits of his outward life, studied to keep himself in spiritual health and vigour, that he might run well and fight well for his heavenly Master.
III. AN EYE TO CONSEQUENCES. To sustain his purpose, St. Paul kept in view the prize of success and the disgrace of failure.
1. The prize would be an incorruptible crown. In desiring this, the good servant is not open to any charge of selfishness or vain glory. He thought of no prize, conceived of no praise or glory for himself which was not wrapped up in the praise and glory of Jesus. He had no desire to sit by himself on a high seat, with a chaplet or garland on his brow, drinking in his own praises. To see the people who had been converted to Christ through his labours safe in the kingdom would be to him a crown of rejoicing. And to see Christ praised and magnified would be to the good servant a great recompense of reward.
2. The disgrace of failure would be the Master's disapproval. How mortifying for one who had been a herald to others to be excluded at last as unworthy of a prize! Paul had preached to others, and called them to the Christian race, like the herald at the public games of Greece, who proclaimed the rules and conditions of the contest, and summoned runners or combatants to the lists. Alas for him if, through self indulgence or want of thoroughness in his ministry, he should be disapproved by the great Judge at the close of the day! It is quite a mistake to infer from this that St. Paul was still uncertain about his ultimate salvation, and afraid of being cast away in his sins. That would, indeed, be strange and perplexing in the face of his strong expressions to the contrary in such passages as Romans 8:38, Romans 8:39; 2 Timothy 1:12. The question here is not of a sinner's salvation, but of a believer's service of doing well or ill in ministry; and fear of failure was and always is the obverse side of the desire of success. St. Paul was a very favoured servant of Christ, but it was none the less necessary for him to remember the need of diligence and self government in view of the day when the Master will call all his servants to account, and either reward or disapprove them at his coming. Indeed, the remembrance of this is needful for all of us as a caution against presumptuous and careless living. If the doctrine of salvation by grace be taught alone, men are apt to abuse it, and become spiritually conceited and morally heedless. The corrective is the call to service. "If a man serve me, him will my Father honour." Be not half hearted. So run as to attain: so fight as to overcome. Be not faint hearted. Pray as you run: pray as you fight. "They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength."—F.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
1 Corinthians 9:1, 1 Corinthians 9:2
The rights of apostleship.
One of St. Paul's chief difficulties arose from the efforts of his enemies to disprove his claims to apostleship. There does not seem to have been in the early Church a common understanding as to what constituted an apostle, and it was readily observed that the grounds of St. Paul's claim differed from the grounds on which the older apostles claimed. This, indeed, was but a surface appearance of difference, and did not reach the heart of the matter; but it sufficed to give the enemies of St. Paul an opportunity of questioning his authority, and even of asserting that, in the extravagance of his self esteem, he had assumed a position and office which in no sense belonged to him. It will be seen from his letters that he was very jealous of his position as an apostle, and persisted in claiming the rights which belonged to the office. We may, therefore, recall to mind the general grounds on which he believed himself to be an apostle, and the more special signs of his apostleship which ought to have commended his claim to the Corinthians. St. Peter, on the occasion of filling the betrayer's place, had declared a condition of apostleship for which he gives no kind of authority. According to his idea (Acts 1:21, Acts 1:22), "Of the men therefore which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto the day that he was received up from us, of these must one become a witness with us of his resurrection." Probably St. Peter was led to this idea by our Lord's appointment of the apostles as his witnesses, and he conceived that an apostle must have a complete knowledge to be a true witness. But the essential condition of apostleship is rather to be found in the direct pershnal call to the office by the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Each one of the first twelve our Lord personally called. St. Paul he directly and personally called. No man can claim the office. The number can never be increased, unless Christ should be pleased to make himself manifest again, and call men to the office. St. Paul saw the Son of man, and heard his voice, and received his direct call, when smitten by the light near Damascus. Where there had been this direct personal call of Christ, there would surely be a seal of the call in a Divine endowment of miraculous power. This the first twelve apostles had, and this it is certain St. Paul also had. This, then, was the general ground of his claim; but he further urges upon the Corinthians that they had special reasons for accepting him as an apostle. The power of Christ which had come to them through him carried its own testimony. "The seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord." God had witnessed to him by crowning his labours with success; and the Corinthians had felt his apostolic power. Now St. Paul had to vindicate his personal dignity and liberty and right as an apostle. He had persisted in working for his own living at the trade of the tent maker, in which he had been brought up, and his malicious enemies argued that he did so because he felt that he could not press his claim to maintenance, as did the other apostles. "The followers of St. Peter, with malicious ingenious logic, argued from this practice of St. Paul that his dignity and authority were thereby proved to be somewhat inferior to that of St. Peter and the Lord's brethren, who were supported by the Christian Church." In this chapter St. Paul declares his apostolic liberty and rights, especially in three matters.
I. HIS SIGHT OF ENTERING INTO SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS. St. Peter had a wife. Other apostles were married men. And St. Paul might have been had he chosen to be. If he voluntarily refrained from entering into this social relation, because of the limitations which its responsibilities would entail on him, and because of the itinerant character of his labours, no one need assume that he abandoned his rights or failed to recognize them. Had he so minded, he could have made both wife and family chargeable to the Churches, and the burden those who loved him would gladly have borne. Voluntary abstention from the pressing of a man's rights ought never to be construed as the surrender of those rights. So St. Paul lays down the true and only principle upon which the celibacy of the clergy can be recognized. Every clergyman has the right to "lead about a sister, a wife," but any clergyman may refuse to exercise his right, and may voluntarily set his own liberty in bonds, if he thinks that he may thus gain a higher power in the service of his Divine Lord. The principle is equally applicable in the life of the ordinary Christian. Abridgments of liberty are oftentimes necessary, and yet more often advisable, but they never involve abandonments of rights. Constantly the Christian man says, "I may, but I will not—I will not for Christ's sake."
II. HIS RIGHT OF WORKING FOR INDEPENDENT MAINTENANCE. This was certainly a peculiarity in St. Paul, and no doubt other teachers felt it to be a kind of reproach upon them. But St. Paul never argues that it was a necessary duty for others. Any other man might feel it a duty, just as he did; but he had no intention of making his conduct in this respect even an example. He was placed in peculiar circumstances; he was of a singularly sensitive temperament; he laboured among all classes, and was anxious to keep away everything that might be made a reproach of the gospel; he was determined to make his motives quite clear, and so he would receive from the Churches no maintenance, only, in times of necessity, some kindly and helpful gifts. Now, we need not even say that St. Paul was right in this. He had an unquestioned ministerial claim to support in carnal things. We can only say he had a right also to exercise his liberty, and work for his own living, if he chose so to do. Those who work for their living may serve Christ in the preaching of his gospel; and those who preach his gospel may work for their living, if they prefer so to do.
III. HIS RIGHT OF CLAIMING THE DUE REWARDS OF HIS WORK. (Verse 7.) This is urged by three figures: the support of the soldier in war; the partaking of the fruitage of his vineyard by the vine dresser; and the sharing of the milk, given by the cattle, by him who has them in charge. The true rewards of Christian service for others are
(1) their loving confidence and esteem;
(2) the expressions of that love in their holy lives and labours; and
(3) the more personal expressions of their love in gifts and care and kindly concern for the temporal well being of their teachers.—R.T.
1 Corinthians 9:7-12
The duty of supporting the ministry.
The separation of certain members of the Christian Church to the specific work of the pastor, the teacher, or the missionary, may be said to have begun at the election of the "seven," commonly called "deacons," which is narrated in Acts 6:1-6. Then certain persons gave themselves up to the study and ministry of the Word and to prayer. The question how they were to be fed and supported was at once met by the members of the Church, who, in response to a natural and reasonable demand, and in full accordance with the principles and practices of the Mosaic dispensation, made provision for their material necessities. Our Lord, in sending out his disciples on their trim mission, had laid down the principle that they should not supply their own material wants, because "the labourer is worthy of his hire." Much has been said in recent times against an organized Christian ministry, dependent on the good will of the several Churches they may serve; but the Scripture cannot be read with unprejudiced mind, and the reader fail to perceive that "they who preach the gospel should live of the gospel." In the verses now before us St. Paul urges the duty of supporting the ministry by three lines of argument and illustration.
I. BY COMMON WORLDLY ILLUSTRATION.
1. The soldier, who, if he fights the battles of his country, reasonably expects his country to provide for his maintenance and his comfort.
2. The vine dresser, who expects to reap in fruitage the reward of his labours in the vineyard.
3. And the keeper of a flock, who day by day lives upon the milk of the flock. These illustrations only touch the general principle that the worker has a claim to a portion at least of the results of his labour. The illustration of the soldier is the one most to St. Paul's point, because, while doing a special kind of work for us, he looks for our care of his temporal necessities. So the minister, in doing a spiritual work for us, commits to us the care of his "carnal things."
II. BY SCRIPTURE RULES. (Acts 6:9.) The law is taken from Deuteronomy 25:4. The figure is that of the oxen, who were driven to and fro over a hard space of ground, called a threshing floor, on which the cornstalks were spread, so that by their "treadings" the grain might be separated from the husk. Those oxen were engaged in doing work for the good of others, and it was only fitting that they should be provided for while they laboured.
III. BY THE RITUAL LAWS OF THE OLDER MOSAISM. (Deuteronomy 25:13.) Priests and Levites had special maintenance, and this almost entirely by the offerings and good will of the people. They had certain towns allotted for their residence, certain portions of the sacrifices for their food, and certain tithes for the supply of their other necessities, and such a regulation could in no sense be regarded as an unreasonable burden. St. Paul even declares, upon his apostolic authority, that "Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel." When we have sufficiently proved that the material support of a spiritual ministry is one of the first duties of the Christian professor, we are prepared to argue and to illustrate further that a generous, liberal, hearty, and even self denying provision is comely and noble; and that in securing such generous provision our thankful love may find a most fitting expression.—R.T.
1 Corinthians 9:15-23
St. Paul an exception.
He wishes it to be understood that he does precisely what he thinks to be right, but does not wish the peculiarity of his conduct to be made a model for others. There are things in life concerning which each man must make his own individual stand, upon which he may find himself compelled to take an individual and exceptional line. And he may do this without opposition to others, without making himself in any way objectionable. St. Paul found sufficient reason for the adoption of a singular course of conduct in relation to his apostleship or ministry. He would receive nothing in a way of payment or reward from the Churches among whom he laboured. His reasons probably were:
1. That the older apostles never quite approved of his work, and he found it better to act in an independent way, and make no one responsible for his modes of work, or the advanced truths which were given him to teach.
2. That he was, throughout his missionary labours, keenly watched by active and bitter enemies, who were ever ready to misrepresent his conduct, and fashion accusations against him. He well knew how promptly they would seize on his receiving payments, and declare that he was mercenary, and only preached for selfish ends.
3. That he had, in his hands, a kind of skill—that of tent making—which he could readily turn to account wherever he went. Probably it was the second of these reasons that more particularly influenced him. It was most important that he should give his enemies no opportunities or advantages against him; and he would even refuse some of his rights and privileges, if the assertion of them could be made into a hindrance of his work. The point to be considered from his exceptional conduct is the force of the double law that must rule a Christian life. We must ask both what is lawful and what is expedient, both what is necessary and what is becoming. We must beware of forcing our rights, as they may stand by the rule and by the law; and we should see that our personal and individual conduct must be ordered so that the impressions which others receive from it shall be helpful to them and to the Church. We must watch against even unintentionally causing offence and hindering Christ's work.—R.T.
1 Corinthians 9:20, 1 Corinthians 9:21
Under the Law and without Law, both to be one for Christ.
The apostle is illustrating what we may call the "Christian law of accommodation," and is urging
(1) the objects for which such accommodation may be permitted; and
(2) the careful limitations under which such accommodation must be put.
There can be no accommodation of Christian principle and truth. The sphere for it is
(1) the expression of principle in adaptation to persons and circumstances; and
(2) things indifferent, such as the wearing of Chinese dress by English missionaries in China, which might seem to have the appearance of disguise, but may be advisable in order not to shock the conservative prejudices of the race. Still, in application to modern life, accommodation, with full preservation of principle, is demanded, and is the secret of gracious and kindly relations in the family, in society, and in the Church. So St. Paul submitted to "take vows," "and be at charges," in accordance with Jewish regulations; and so he accommodated himself to Greek notions, as at Athens, by references to philosophy and poetry. For some illustrations of his method of action, see Acts 16:3; Acts 18:18; Acts 21:26; Acts 23:6; Acts 26:4, Acts 26:5, Acts 26:6, Acts 26:22, Acts 26:27; and also Galatians 2:3, Galatians 2:12, Galatians 2:14. In the verses, observe the explanatory parenthesis in Galatians 2:21, which is a kind of apology for the use of the term "without Law." See St. Paul's argument in Romans 2:14, Romans 2:15. Gentiles might be so regarded by the Jews, who were under well recognized Mosaic rules, but they were really under the living law of Christ, to whom they had yielded heart and life. We notice that—
I. MEN ARE CLASSED BY THEIR RELATIONS TO LAW. The term "law" may be applied to:
1. The natural conditions under which God has created us and set us. These are known, more or less distinctly, to every man.
2. Particular laws, directly revealed to certain nations of men. Reference here is to the particular revelation of law made to the Jews, which was rendered necessary,
(1) to secure their isolation from other nations; and
(2) to aid them in holding fast the special trust of two truths—the unity and the spirituality of God which had been committed to their charge. That Law given to the Jews was
The moral law alone was of permanent obligation; and it was precisely the same moral law that was, in other forms and terms, revealed to the entire human race. The civil and ceremonial laws of Mosaism were but a fence around the moral law, and an aid to keeping it. St. Paul recognized no permanent obligation in it. But seeing he had to do with men who exaggerated the importance of this formal law, he would stand with them on their level, and hope to raise them up to his. The secret of all good teaching, and of all high spiritual influence, is condescending to the level of those whom we would uplift and bless.
II. MEN REGARDED AS INDEPENDENT OF LAW. That is, of particular and ceremonial law. The mass of mankind never came under the shadow of Mosaism. Yet they too were "God's offspring," for whom he surely cared, and to whom, in wise and gracious ways, he had also revealed his will. Such men came under
(1) natural law, written in the conscience;
(2) under social laws, tabulated by rulers and governors; and,
(3) when they became Christians, they voluntarily put themselves under Christ's living rule, which is the everlasting law of God, finding present daily adaptations precisely to us. To these St. Paul brought the gospel, and he persisted in dealing with them just as they were. He would not require them to come under Jewish yokes in order to gain a Christian standing through Mosaism.
III. MEN DEALT WITH ON THEIR COMMON STANDING GROUND. The gospel knows nothing of such peculiarities as "under Law" or "without Law." It recognizes only two standings of men before God.
1. Sinners. And to men, as such, it brings a message of forgiveness and eternal life.
2. In Christ. And to them it brings its varied unfoldings of Christian duty and of Christian privilege. Impress the limits of the adaptations made by the Christian worker.—R.T.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
The laws of the Christian race.
The illustration used in these verses is one which St. Paul frequently employs, and we cannot but think that he must have actually seen some of these games, for the impression made by them on his mind is that which comes from personal observation and impression rather than from knowledge through books. There is special force in his allusions to the games in writing to the Corinthians, because the set of games known as the Isthmian were held in the isthmus on which Corinth stood. For details of the games, reference may be made to the exegetical portion of this Commentary, and to the articles in classical and Biblical cyclopaedias. They cannot be precisely compared with anything that we have in modern times, because they were regarded by the Greeks as great national and religious festivals. Dean Stanley, writing of these Isthmian games, says, "This was one of the festivals which exercised so great an influence over the Grecian mind, which were, in fact, to their imaginations what the temple was to the Jews and the triumph to the Romans." St. Paul refers to the game in order to enforce his exhortation to self restraint, and we may find three great practical laws commended by him.
I. THE LAW OF TRAINING. "For thirty days previous to the conflicts the candidates had to attend the exercises of the gymnasium, and only after the fulfilment of these conditions were they allowed, when the time arrived, to contend in the sight of assembled Greece." The training was very severe, conducted upon carefully prescribed rules, and designed to nourish vigorous physical power and precise skill for the kind of contest in which the man was to engage. We are to apply the illustration to moral and religious culture. Observing:
1. How God applies the law of training in the preparation of his servants for their work; as by sending Joseph into bondage; Moses to the Egyptian court and the Horeb desert; David into the wilderness of Judah; our Lord into the scenes of temptation; and St. Paul into Arabia. The providential dealings with men are meant to afford opportunities of training for their life work.
2. How men are required to meet the "law of training" by making personal efforts to secure fitness for the work to which they are called, such training taking the general form of soul culture, and the specific forms of adaptation to work. Anything that is worth our doing is worth our preparing to do well.
II. THE LAW OF TEMPERATENESS. (Verse 25.) We are wont to associate this law only with drinking. It applies to all the passions of the body, indulgences of the appetite, and relationships of the life. The Grecian philosopher says, "Wouldest thou conquer at the games? Thou must be orderly, spare in food, must abstain from confections, exercise at a fixed hour whether in heat or cold, and drink not cold water nor wine." Applied to moral and religious life, the law requires us
(1) to avoid the haste and hurry that plucks from us rest, and quiet, and calmness, and meditative moods;
(2) to keep from those religious excitements which are characteristic of our times, but unfriendly to real spiritual growth;
(3) to take up Christian work with a seriousness that will ensure "patient continuance in well doing;"
(4) to keep Christian habits, of reading, visiting, etc., under judicious control, so that we may not be brought under the power of any. Everything is at our service and for our use, within careful limits, and these limits no rules can fix, only our own good judgment decides them.
III. THE LAW OF SELF MASTERY. (Verse 27.) This reminds us that training means trial, and temperateness means severe and painful dealings with sell. "The Christian career is not merely a race, but a conflict; and a conflict, not only with others, but with one's self. St. Paul had to contend with the fleshly lusts of the body, the love especially of ease, the indisposition to hardship and toil so natural to humanity." The contest of life is between the regenerate will and the enslaved and corrupt body with its inclinations and motions (see Romans 7:1-25.). St. Paul says that the renewed will must hold the body in subjection and service. But such complete self mastery is the product of long struggle. He who fully gains it has won the moral race, and may receive the "incorruptible crown."—R.T.
1 Corinthians 9:27
The relation of personal consistency to public labors.
The expression used by the apostle here, and translated, "I keep under my body," is literally, "I strike under the eve; I beat black and blue" (comp. Luke 18:5). Mastery of the body, repression of the lusts and indulgences and evil inclinations of the body, a strong hand upon the "self," are necessary to ensure "consistency;" yet what is the worth of a Christian teacher whose life tells one story and his lips another? St. Paul contemplates with horror the possibility of his preaching the gospel to others, and, by reason of his personal inconsistencies, proving at last a "castaway." No amount of religious profession, no fervent in religious work, no mere utterance of religious sentiment, can avail without personal and practical consistency of life. On this point we dwell further.
I. THE SENSES IN WHICH PERSONAL CONSISTENCY AND PUBLIC LABOR ARE DISTINCT THINGS. It may be urged that the question is one of gifts for a particular work, and not of personal character. It may be said that we do work with the skill and power entrusted to us, and the good. workman may be personally of good or bad character. However true that may be in common life—and we should be prepared to contest its truth even there—it cannot possibly be true in the religious spheres, because all Christian work is the impress of the man himself, is inseparable from the force which his character gives to it. Exactly what we ask for in religious spheres is not mere truth, but truth with some stamp of personal conviction upon it; not mere duty, but duty pressed on us by the force of some holy example. The true preacher is the man who bears in on us the force of his own life and feeling. The true teacher is the man who can win our confidence in himself. The true visitor benefits and blesses the poor and the sick by the restings and comfortings of his own quick sympathies, that come from sanctified character. So in the religious spheres there can be no separation between holy character and faithful labour. Show that, just here, serious mistake is made, and much seeming service is unacceptable to God and of no real value to men.
II. THE POSSIBILITY OF THE INCONSISTENT MAN DOING GOOD WORK. In view of what has been said in the previous division, it would seem to be an impossibility, but those remarks may be limited to the higher forms of Christian work and the exertion of spiritual influence. Scripture teaches us, by its examples, that God. claims the service of even ungodly men, and deigns to work by them. Of Cyrus God says, "I girded thee, though thou hast not known me," etc. But perhaps there is no distress in life like that which we feel on finding that those who have helped us in our religious life fail morally. When such distress comes to us, we are almost ready to make shipwreck of our faith.
III. THE FORCE ADDED TO ALL GOOD WORK BY THE CONSISTENT CHARACTER OF THE WORKER. Reviewing the influences for good which have rested upon our life, we can but feel that the holiest and mightiest and best have come from consistent and holy men and women, who bore upon us the force of saintly character, and whose memories still keep us true and faithful. When McCheyne died, a note was found unopened on his study table. It was from some one who had recently been brought to God through his preaching, but the note said it was not so much the truth that had impressed, as the sincerity and holy fervour of the preacher. It is the great secret of the highest work. What a man is tells more for the honour of God and. the blessing of men than merely what a man does. So we may be warned by the apostle, and take heed lest, while working for others, we ourselves should prove "castaways."—R.T.