1 Corinthians 9


Again, Paul is responding to criticism received from the Corinthians in a previous communication. It would seem that Paul was criticized for the manner in which he traveled and performed missionary work (v. 5-6), for the manner in which he dined with investigators and members (v. 4, 7-14), and some even questioned his authority (v. 1-3).

1 Cor. 9:1 have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?

"Paul cannot easily be understood without accepting the supernatural knowledge that he claimed. As he remarked, the life of ease was as available to him as to others, yet he chose to risk danger 'every hour' (1 Cor. 15:30). Paul was not some distorted soul who thrived on conflict, for he penned sensitive lines on love and displayed constructive relationships with his friends in the faith and beyond. He faced outer conflict because of the inner fire of conviction. His sacrifices convincingly show the reality of his divine visions." (Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 20.)

1 Cor. 9:5 Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles?

In this verse, Paul may be responding to criticisms that he had traveled at times with a sister missionary in his group. In his response, we learn that the other apostles, including the Lord's half-brothers and Peter, often performed missionary labors in company with their wives or other sister missionaries. Paul saw nothing wrong with this and used it as his defense in this particular case.

1 Cor. 9:5 the brethren of the Lord

Bruce R. McConkie

"Frequent special reference is made to the sons of Joseph and Mary as the 'brethren' of Jesus, though in fact they were his half-brothers. (Matt. 12:46; 13:55; John 2:12; Acts 1:14; 1 Cor. 9:5.) Though they were reared in the same household and came under the benign influence of Joseph and Mary, though they were aware of the teachings, ministry, and miracles of Jesus himself, yet these his close relatives had not so far accepted him as the Messiah. However, all of them, apparently, were converted later (Acts 1:14); one of them, identified by Paul as 'James the Lord's brother' (Gal. 1:19), was to minister in the holy apostleship; and yet another, Judas, who calls himself, 'Jude, the . . . brother of James' (Jude 1), wrote the epistle of Jude." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 1: 437.)

1 Cor. 9:9 Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn

A muzzle was a device to keep an animal from eating or biting. Paul's reasoning in referring to this passage from Deut. 25:4 is as follows: If the Lord was concerned enough to command the House of Israel not to place unnecessary restrictions upon their beasts of burden, then the Corinthians should not place an unnecessary burden, or muzzle, on Paul. Their criticisms of Paul in a previous letter are likened to placing a muzzle on the workhorse of the Gentile missions. It would seem that the Corinthian saints thought that Paul's dining practices were improper, either because he was seen as too dependent upon his hosts or because he was considered in violation of Mosaic laws regarding mealtime cleanliness. They expected him to work without receiving so much as a meal's pay for his ministry. They did not understand that 'the labourer is worthy of his hire' (Luke 10:7).

1 Cor. 9:10 he that ploweth should plow in hope

Neal A. Maxwell

"Tolkien reminds us: 'It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule' (The Return of the King [1965], 190).

"Therefore, brothers and sisters, in our own little family plots, we can bequeath to the succeeding generations 'clean earth to till'! Thus not only does charity begin at home, but so does hope!

"Whatever our particular furrow, we can, in Paul's words, 'plow in hope,' not looking back, and refusing to let yesterday hold tomorrow hostage (1 Cor. 9:10)." ("Hope through the Atonement of Jesus Christ," Ensign, Nov. 1998, 63)

Neal A. Maxwell

"Genuine hope is urgently needed in order to be more loving even as the love of many waxes cold; more merciful, even when misunderstood or misrepresented; more holy, even as the world ripens in iniquity; more courteous and patient in a coarsening and curt world; and more full of heartfelt hope, even when other men's hearts fail them. Whatever our particular furrow, we are to 'plow in hope,' without looking back or letting yesterday hold tomorrow hostage (1 Cor. 9:10)." ("Brightness of Hope," Ensign, Nov. 1994, 36)

1 Cor. 9:11 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?

"Paul was frequently criticized by his enemies, who accused him of living on the liberality of the Saints, taking food and money of them for his own advantage. It was probably these accusations that caused him to emphasize so many times that he labored with his hands for his support." (Robert J. Matthews, Behold the Messiah [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1994], 336.)

1 Cor. 9:17 a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me

Bruce R. McConkie

"Gospel dispensations are those periods of time during which the Lord reveals or dispenses the doctrines of the gospel to men so that reliance need not be placed on past ages for this saving knowledge. If the priesthood and keys have not come down by proper descent from a previous dispensation, these also must necessarily be conferred upon men again by the opening of the heavens.

"Since the gospel, 'the power of God unto salvation' (Rom. 1:16), was first revealed to Adam, we speak of the Adamic dispensation as the first from the standpoint of time. (Moses 5:57-59.) Thereafter, the saving knowledge and powers of the gospel, as Paul expressed it, were 'revealed from faith to faith' (Rom. 1:17), that is from era of faith to era of faith or from dispensation to dispensation...

"When we speak of the great gospel dispensations, we generally have in mind those given to Adam, Enoch (Moses 6; 7), Noah (Moses 8), Abraham (Abra. 2:6-11; Gal. 3:6-8, 18) Moses (D. & C. 84:17-28); the apostles in the meridian of time (Matt. 16:18-19; 18:18; D. & C. 27:12-13; 128:20), and to Joseph Smith and his associates, (D. & C. 112:14-32.) The keys and powers exercised by the Lord's prophets in each of these ancient dispensations have been conferred upon men in this final dispensation, for in 'the fulness of times,' the Lord says, 'I will gather together in one all things, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth.' (D. & C. 27:13; Eph. 1:10.)" (Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], 201.)

1 Cor. 9:16 woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!

"As we read Joseph Smith's teachings and Paul's letters, we can see the commitment of each prophet. Both were men consumed with a mission. Of his work, Paul said, 'Necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!' (1 Cor. 9:16.) With the same conviction of urgency, Joseph Smith said: 'If I had not actually got into this work, and been called of God, I would back out. But I cannot back out-I have no doubt of the truth.'

"These two prophets, who had stood in the presence of Jesus Christ, knew the urgency of each day and the work of eternity going on around them. Their lives testify eloquently to the truth of their message-and of their callings as prophets." (Richard Lloyd Anderson, "Parallel Prophets: Paul and Joseph Smith," Ensign, Apr. 1985, 17)

Wilford Woodruff

"I will say as Paul did, 'Woe be unto me if I preach not the Gospel.' [1 Cor. 9:16.] I will say the same for the Apostles, the High Priests, the Seventies, and the Elders, so far as they are called to declare the word of life and salvation to this generation; the judgments of God will rest upon us if we do not do it. You may ask why. I answer, because a dispensation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has never been given to man in ancient days or in this age, for any other purpose than for the salvation of the human family." (Journal of Discourses, January 9, 1881, 22:204.)

1 Cor. 9:18 when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge

To the paid ministries across the width and breadth of Christianity, we ask, "what did Paul mean when he said, 'I make the gospel of Christ without charge'?" The only payment Paul received as he traveled without purse of scrip was the hospitality of his host and the blessings of bringing souls unto Christ.

M. Russell Ballard

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn't have a paid, professional clergy. Everywhere the Church is organized, it is administered and staffed by members of the ward or branch (which is what we call our congregations) who have been called to their positions through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And that's quite an accomplishment." (Our Search for Happiness: An Invitation to Understand The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1993], 108.)

Bruce R. McConkie

"'Salvation is free.' (2 Ne. 2:4.) It has no price tag; it cannot be purchased with money. None is ever asked to buy saving grace. God's decree is: Every living soul is entitled to hear the truth taught and the testimony of Jesus born by a legal administrator, who has no purpose in preaching except the eternal welfare of his hearers. To all preachers the Lord's directive is: 'Freely ye have received, freely give.' (Matt. 10:8.)

"But the ministers of salvation must eat and drink; they must be clothed, marry, raise families, and live as other men do. When all of their time and strength is expended in building up the kingdom, others-happily, those blessed by their ministrations-must supply the just needs and wants of the laborers in the vineyard, for 'the laborer is worthy of his hire.' (D. & C. 84:79.) 'But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish.' (2 Ne. 26:31.)" (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 2: 351.)

1 Cor. 9:19 though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all

Spencer W. Kimball

"I have a great admiration and affection for our brother Paul, our fellow apostle. He was so dedicated, so humble, so straightforward. He was so eager, so interested, so consecrated. He must have been personable in spite of his problems, for the people hung onto him with great affection when he was about to leave them. I love Paul, for he spoke the truth. He leveled with people. He was interested in them. I love Paul for his steadfastness, even unto death and martyrdom. I am always fascinated with his recounting of the perils through which he passed to teach the gospel to member and nonmember." (Conference Report, April 1969, Afternoon Meeting 29 - 30.)

1 Cor. 9:22 I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some

John K. Carmack

"Tolerant people are not 'me' oriented but look outwardly to serve the needs of others. Their versatility helps them be more mature and effective in working and living with people. Their versatility comes from experience, rooted in a sincere understanding of who they are and the value of other people.

"Versatile people are not, however, chameleons who, in order to please other people as they move from one location or situation to another, change their color to become something other than who they are. Rather, they seek to retain their uniqueness as a person of a particular race, religion, nationality, culture, or community...Mission presidents and their wives constantly observe the progression of their missionaries from young men and women who think mostly of themselves and their own needs to powerful servants of the Lord who enjoy the gift and ability to adapt instantly to the needs of those with whom they interact. Outstanding and experienced missionaries are versatile. Paul understood this, sharing his manner of doing missionary work with the Corinthian Saints in the following words: (quotes 1 Cor. 9:19-22.)

"Paul's points are clear and sharp, giving brilliant insight into the versatility he developed.

"First, Paul declared that he was a free man--a unique individual who as one of God's children was different from every other person. He valued himself and did not seek to become an imitation or copy.

"Second, however, he adapted himself to every circumstance that he found himself in:

· When working with the Jews, he adapted himself to that outstanding nation of people with its unique practices, customs, and characteristics.

· When teaching those Jews who practiced the law of Moses, he worked with them in sympathy and understanding, knowing how they felt about the importance of the law.

· In his work with the Gentiles he sought to become as one who was not encumbered with the law of Moses that had been fulfilled and supplanted by the gospel of Christ. He adopted a posture that did not threaten them or put them down because they did not have the law.

· To the weak, he became as if he were weak, showing empathy and love to meet them on their level.

"Finally, he explained that this versatility had allowed him to become all things to all people, that is, to adapt himself to every situation and meet the needs of all people. He concluded by explaining that he did all of this for the sake of the gospel and for the purpose of bringing Christ and salvation to people.

"Paul did not change who he was and what he believed, but held fast to his firm testimony of Christ. By this time in his ministry he had progressed from being a highly intolerant Pharisee to being an effective and versatile missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ. The gospel had added tolerance to his character.

"These verses provide an excellent scriptural example of what versatility means and how Paul applied it in his ministry. He stood before great magistrates, preached to all of the known nations of the earth, and became a versatile missionary.

"If narrow, intolerant Saul of Tarsus could grow into versatile Paul, there is hope for the rest of us. We can learn versatility and tolerance." (Tolerance: Principles, Practices, Obstacles, Limits [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1993], 19.)

1 Cor. 9:24-26 Paul's reference to Olympic athletic event

"Among the Greeks the rage for theatrical exhibitions was such that every city of any size possessed its theatre and stadium. At Ephesus an annual contest was held in honor of Diana. It is probable that St. Paul was present when these games were proceeding. A direct reference to the exhibitions that took place on such occasions is made in 1 Cor. 15:32; St. Paul's epistles abound with allusions to the Greek contests, borrowed probably from the Isthmian games, at which he may well have been present during his first visit to Corinth...The contests took place in the presence of a vast multitude of spectators, Hebrews 12:1; the competitors being the spectacle. 1 Cor. 4:9; Hebrews 10:33; The games were opened by the proclamation of a herald, 1 Cor. 9:27; whose office it was to give out the name and country of each candidate, and especially to announce the name of the victor before the assembled multitude. The judge was selected for his spotless integrity; 2 Timothy 4:8; his office was to decide any disputes, Colossians 3:15; and to give the prize, 1 Cor. 9:24; Philip. 3:14; consisting of a crown, 2 Timothy 2:6; 2 Timothy 4:8; of leaves of wild olive at the Olympic games, and of pine, or at one period ivy, at the Isthmian games. St. Paul alludes to two only out of the five contests, boxing and running, more frequently to the latter." (William Smith, Dictionary of the Bible, "Games")

1 Cor. 9:24 they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain

"I love to exercise. I run four or five miles six days a week...One impressive lesson, for example, came while I was running in a marathon. At the 17th mile every muscle ached from lack of sufficient oxygen. My rib cage was sore from heavy breathing, and my feet were burning. I wanted to collapse. Yet a small voice inside urged me not to give up but finish the race. And so I kept a steady pace.

"At the 25th mile, with one mile and 385 yards left, I passed a runner who had run a much faster, stronger race but had fallen by the side of the street. He made no effort to get up as I passed him and crossed the finish line.

"That image has stayed with me ever since. Whenever I become weary-too tired to do my visiting teaching, read the scriptures, or pray-I see the fallen runner. That mental picture gives me the power to persevere, to endure until I cross that great, eternal finish line." (Virginia R. Scott, "Crossing the Finish Line," Ensign, Oct. 1997, 69)

Marvin J. Ashton

"...before the words of Paul fell upon the ears of his listeners, the counsel of the Preacher, the son of David, cautioned: 'The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.' (See Ecclesiastes 9:11; Matthew 10:22; Mark 13:13.)

"What does it take to endure in the race for eternal life, to become a champion?

"To become a winner in the race for eternal life requires effort-constant work, striving, and enduring well with God's help. But the key is that we must take it just one step at a time.

"The ingredient that is essential in learning to endure is consistent effort. In our race for eternal life, pain and obstacles will confront all of us. We may experience heartaches, sorrow, death, sins, weakness, disasters, physical illness, pain, mental anguish, unjust criticism, loneliness, or rejection. How we handle these challenges determines whether they become stumbling stones or building blocks. To the valiant these challenges make progress and development possible." (Be of Good Cheer [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1987], 19.)

Thomas S. Monson

"Each of us is a runner in the race of life. Comforting is the fact that there are many runners. Reassuring is the knowledge that our Eternal Scorekeeper is understanding. Challenging is the truth that each must run. But you and I do not run alone. That vast audience of family, friends, and leaders will cheer our courage, will applaud our determination as we rise from our stumblings and pursue our goal. The race of life is not for sprinters running on a level track. The course is marked by pitfalls and checkered with obstacles...Let us shed any thought of failure. Let us discard any habit that may hinder. Let us seek; let us obtain the prize prepared for all, even exaltation in the celestial kingdom of God." ("Happiness-The Universal Quest," Ensign, Oct. 1993, 5)

Thomas S. Monson

"On sunlit days during the noon hour, the streets of Salt Lake City abound with men and women who for a moment leave the confines of the tall office buildings and engage in that universal delight called window shopping. On occasion I, too, am a participant.

"One Wednesday I paused before the elegant show window of a prestigious furniture store. That which caught and held my attention was not the beautifully designed sofa nor the comfortable appearing chair that stood at its side. Neither was it the beautiful chandelier positioned overhead. Rather, my eyes rested on a small sign that had been placed at the bottom right-hand corner of the window. Its message was brief: 'FINISHERS WANTED.'

"The store had need of those persons who possessed the talent and the skill to make ready for final sale the expensive furniture the firm manufactured and sold. 'Finishers Wanted.' The words remained with me as I returned to the pressing activities of the day.

"In life, as in business, there has always been a need for those persons who could be called finishers. Their ranks are few, their opportunities many, their contributions great.

"From the very beginning to the present time, a fundamental question remains to be answered by each who runs the race of life. Shall I falter, or shall I finish? On the answer await the blessings of joy and happiness here in mortality and eternal life in the world to come." ("Finishers Wanted," Ensign, June 1989, 2)

1 Cor. 9:25 every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things

Joseph F. Smith

"How humiliating it must be to a thoughtful man to feel that he is a slave to his appetites, or to an over-weening and pernicious habit, desire or passion! We believe in strict temperance. We believe in abstinence from all injurious practices, and from the use of all hurtful things." (Gospel Doctrine: Selections from the Sermons and Writings of Joseph F. Smith, compiled by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939], 239.)

1 Cor. 9:25-27 Paul retranslated

"'And so I now run, not aimlessly, and so I box, not as flailing the air. But I press my body and force it to serve, lest after preaching to others, I should be rejected' (1 Cor. 9:24-27, literal trans.)." (Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 301.)

"Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown of laurel that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore, I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man shadow boxing. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Cor. 9:25-27, NIV.)" (Rodney Turner, Studies in Scripture, Vol. 6: Acts to Revelation, ed. by Robert L. Millet, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1987], 120.)

1 Cor. 9:26 so fight I, not as one that beateth the air

Henry D. Moyle

"'...so fight I, not as one that beateth the air' (1 Cor. 9:25-26.) I like that phrase. In our worship of God, in our keeping the commandments of the Lord, in our living the principles of righteousness and virtue in our lives, let us not be guilty of just beating the air-I have no doubt Paul meant by just giving lip service. Let it become a part and parcel of us, the very fiber of our being. We live, we breathe, we act, in order to live our part as children of our Heavenly Father." (December 13, 1961, BYU Speeches of the Year, 1961, 6.)