I Cor. 9:1-28
There were some in Corinth who questioned Paul’s apostleship. They reasoned that since he had not accepted monetary support from them, he considered himself inferior to the other apostles who did accept payment for their labors.
Paul met this charge head on. He replied, “Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?” The Corinthian church was a direct result of his recent labors.
Apostles, preachers and other workers for the Lord had a right to receive compensation from the church with whom they worked. Paul reminded them that even the Law of Moses stated, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.”
The Corinthians had failed to recognize the blessings that Paul had given to them by working with his own hands while he was with them. Even though he had the right to be paid for his labors, he wished to preach without charge. This was his sacrifice and it kept his enemies from saying that he was just preaching for the money.
Paul’s zeal for winning servants for Christ was as great as his zeal for persecuting the church had been before his conversion. He said that he had become all things to all men that he might by all means save some.
In matters of opinion or tradition that did not violate the commands of Christ, Paul stated that he allowed himself to become like those whom he was teaching. He observed certain Jewish rites, accepted the title of Pharisee, ate with Gentiles, quoted Gentile poets and abstained from meats offered to idols in order to have a common bond with those whom he taught.
Paul compared the Christian life with an athletic race. Participants engaged in strenuous training regimens for a contest with only one winner. The prize in the athletic event was great glory and a perishable crown. He stressed the importance of even greater preparation for a race in which all may receive a crown that never perishes. Paul realized that even though an apostle, if he did not continually control himself, he could be disqualified—not finishing the race and losing the crown of life.