1 Corinthians 9 is an interesting monologue by Paul. At first, it sounds like he’s all over the place and, frankly, a little bitter. But he ends up at that imperishable crown. As I listened and read the chapter multiple times, it became clear that he had purpose in taking us on this roundabout journey.
First, defining the difference between disciple and apostle might be helpful. Diffen.com says this: While a disciple is a student, one who learns from a teacher, an apostle is sent to deliver teachings to others. “Apostle” means messenger, he who is sent. … The word “apostle” has two meanings, the larger meaning of a messenger and the narrow meaning to denote the twelve people directly linked to Jesus Christ.
Paul called himself an apostle because of the encounter with Jesus, and being sent to evangelize the Gentiles. In this passage, Paul starts out as if he is going to make the case for being supported by the offerings of those who benefit from his teaching as the other apostles were apparently privileged to do.
He also lists a few other benefits the apostles enjoy and brings up Deuteronomy 25:4, which directs one not to muzzle the ox while it treads the grain. In other words, don’t do anything to impede someone from doing their work. In the case of a pastor, it translates into paying him a wage so he can concentrate on ministering to the congregation instead of worrying how he’s going to feed his family.
But then Paul kind of takes a left turn. It seems he doesn’t want to take advantage of any of those rights. He doesn’t want anyone to ever accuse him of preaching the Gospel for the money. It’s not a job to him; it’s even more than a calling. He is compelled. He can’t not do it. And therefore, he doesn’t want to give up being able to boast that he endured, or that he was disciplined. He ran the race and won the prize.
Oh, that we all would be like Paul.
How’s your race going? Are you running for that imperishable crown? Let me know your thoughts below.