1 Corinthians 9:19
For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant to all, that I might gain the more.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(19) For.—The question is here answered. His reward was to gain the greater number of converts—Jews (1Corinthians 9:20), Gentiles (1Corinthians 9:21), weak ones (1Corinthians 9:22). The only reward he sought for or looked for in adopting that course of conduct, for pursuing which they taunted him with selfishness, was, after all, their good.

The word “For,” introducing the answer, would seem to imply that the reward must be a greater one. “For” though an Apostle, I became a slave of all that I might gain the greater number. The words “greater number” probably include the two ideas, viz., a greater number than he could have gained had he used his rights as an Apostle, and also a greater number of converts than was gained by any other Apostle.

1 Corinthians

A SERVANT OF MEN

1 Corinthians 9:19 - 1 Corinthians 9:23
.

Paul speaks much of himself, but he is not an egotist. When he says, ‘I do so and so,’ it is a gracious way of enjoining the same conduct on his readers. He will lay no burden on them which he does not himself carry. The leader who can say ‘Come’ is not likely to want followers. So, in this section, the Apostle is really enjoining on the Corinthians the conduct which he declares is his own.

The great principle incumbent on all Christians, with a view to the salvation of others, is to go as far as one can without untruthfulness in the direction of finding points of resemblance and contact with those to whom we would commend the Gospel. There is a base counterfeit of this apostolic example, which slurs over distinctive beliefs, and weakly tries to please everybody by differing from nobody. That trimming to catch all winds never gains any. Mr. Facing-both-ways is not a powerful evangelist. The motive of becoming all things to all men must be plainly disinterested, and the assimilation must have love for the souls concerned and eagerness to bring the truth to them, and them to the truth, legibly stamped upon it, or it will be regarded, and rightly so, as mere cowardice or dishonesty. And there must be no stretching the assimilation to the length of either concealing truth or fraternising in evil. Love to my neighbour can never lead to my joining him in wrongdoing.

But, while the limits of this assumption of the colour of our surroundings are plainly marked, there is ample space within these for the exercise of this eminently Christian grace. We must get near people if we would help them. Especially must we identify ourselves with them in sympathy, and seek to multiply points of assimilation, if we would draw them to Jesus Christ. He Himself had to become man that He might gain men, and His servants have to do likewise, in their degree. The old story of the Christian teacher who voluntarily became a slave, that he might tell of Christ to slaves, has in spirit to be repeated by us all.

We can do no good by standing aloof on a height and flinging down the Gospel to the people below. They must feel that we enter into their circumstances, prejudices, ways of thinking, and the like, if our words are to have power. That is true about all Christian teachers, whether of old or young. You must be a boy among boys, and try to show that you enter into the boy’s nature, or you may lecture till doomsday and do no good.

Paul instances three cases in which he had acted, and still continued to do so, on this principle. He was a Jew, but after his conversion he had to ‘become a Jew’ by a distinct act; that is, he had receded so far from his old self, that he, if he had had only himself to think of, would have given up all Jewish observances. But he felt it his duty to conciliate prejudice as far as he could, and so, though he would have fought to the death rather than given countenance to the belief that circumcision was necessary, he had no scruple about circumcising Timothy; and, though he believed that for Christians the whole ancient ritual was abolished, he was quite willing, if it would smooth away the prejudices of the ‘many thousands of Jews who believed,’ to show, by his participation in the temple worship, that he ‘walked orderly, keeping the law.’ If he was told ‘You must,’ his answer could only be ‘I will not’; but if it was a question of conciliating, he was ready to go all lengths for that.

The category which he names next is not composed of different persons from the first, but of the same persons regarded from a somewhat different point of view. ‘Them that are under the law’ describes Jews, not by their race, but by their religion; and Paul was willing to take his place among them, as we have just observed. But he will not do that so as to be misunderstood, wherefore he protests that in doing so he is voluntarily abridging his freedom for a specific purpose. He is not ‘under the law’; for the very pith of his view of the Christian’s position is that he has nothing to do with that Mosaic law in any of its parts, because Christ has made him free.

The second class to whom in his wide sympathies he is able to assimilate himself, is the opposite of the former-the Gentiles who are ‘without law.’ He did not preach on Mars’ Hill as he did in the synagogues. The many-sided Gospel had aspects fitted for the Gentiles who had never heard of Moses, and the many-sided Apostle had links of likeness to the Greek and the barbarian. But here, too, his assimilation of himself to those whom he seeks to win is voluntary; wherefore he protests that he is not without law, though he recognises no longer the obligations of Moses’ law, for he is ‘under [or, rather, “in”] law to Christ.’

‘The weak’ are those too scrupulous-conscienced Christians of whom he has been speaking in 1 Corinthians 8:1 - 1 Corinthians 8:13 and whose narrow views he exhorted stronger brethren to respect, and to refrain from doing what they could do without harming their own consciences, lest by doing it they should induce a brother to do the same, whose conscience would prick him for it. That is a lesson needed to-day as much as, or more than, in Paul’s time, for the widely different degrees of culture and diversities of condition, training, and associations among Christians now necessarily result in very diverse views of Christian conduct in many matters. The grand principle laid down here should guide us all, both in regard to fellow-Christians and others. Make yourself as like them as you honestly can; restrict yourself of allowable acts, in deference to even narrow prejudices; but let the motive of your assimilating yourself to others be clearly their highest good, that you may ‘gain’ them, not for yourself but for your Master.

1 Corinthians 9:23 lays down Paul’s ruling principle, which both impelled him to become all things to all men, with a view to their salvation, as he has been saying, and urged him to effort and self-discipline, with a view to his own, as he goes on to say. ‘For the Gospel’s sake’ seems to point backward; ‘that I may be a joint partaker thereof points forward. We have not only to preach the Gospel to others, but to live on it and be saved by it ourselves.1 Corinthians 9:19. For though I be free from all men — Not bound to do that which seems unlawful, inconvenient, or disadvantageous to myself, to please any man; yet have I made myself a servant unto all — Addicting myself to the most fatiguing duties, that I might advance their happiness; or complying with the persuasions and inclinations of others in things indifferent. The original expression, εμαυτον εδουλωσα, is literally, I have enslaved myself to all; an expression peculiarly beautiful and proper as used here by the apostle. “Slaves wrought for their masters without hire, and were careful to comply with their humours. And the apostle, while preaching the gospel, reduced himself to the condition of a slave, both by serving all men without hire, nay, without requiring a maintenance from them, and by complying with their prejudices in all cases wherein he could do it without sin.” In other words, he acted with as self-denying a regard to their interests, and as much caution not to offend them, as if he had been absolutely in their power, as a slave is in that of his master. Where is the preacher of the gospel who treads in the same steps? That I might gain the more — To true religion and salvation; in which, as he might have added, I have found a noble equivalent for all I could do or bear. By the word κερδησω, translated I might gain, the apostle intimates, that his converting men to Christ was a part of the gain or hire, which he proposed to obtain by preaching the gospel.9:15-23 It is the glory of a minister to deny himself, that he may serve Christ and save souls. But when a minister gives up his right for the sake of the gospel, he does more than his charge and office demands. By preaching the gospel, freely, the apostle showed that he acted from principles of zeal and love, and thus enjoyed much comfort and hope in his soul. And though he looked on the ceremonial law as a yoke taken off by Christ, yet he submitted to it, that he might work upon the Jews, do away their prejudices, prevail with them to hear the gospel, and win them over to Christ. Though he would transgress no laws of Christ, to please any man, yet he would accommodate himself to all men, where he might do it lawfully, to gain some. Doing good was the study and business of his life; and, that he might reach this end, he did not stand on privileges. We must carefully watch against extremes, and against relying on any thing but trust in Christ alone. We must not allow errors or faults, so as to hurt others, or disgrace the gospel.For though I be free - I am a freeman. I am under obligation to none. I am not bound to. give them my labors, and at the same time to toil for my own support. I have claims like others, and could urge them; and no man could demand that I should give myself to a life of servitude, and comply with their prejudices and wishes, as if I were a "slave," in order to their conversion; compare 1 Corinthians 9:1; see the notes at 1 Corinthians 6:12.

From all men - (ἐκ πάντων ek pantōn). This may either refer to all "persons" or to all "things." The word "men" is not in the original. The connection, however, seems to fix the signification to "persons." "I am a freeman. And although I have conducted like a slave, yet it has been done voluntarily."

I have made myself the servant of all - Greek, "I have 'enslaved myself' (ἐμαυτὸν ἐδούλωσα emauton edoulōsa) unto all." That is:

(1) I labor for them, or in their service, and to promote their welfare.

(2) I do it, as the slave does, without reward or hire. I am not paid for it, but submit to the toil, and do it without receiving pay.

(3) like the slave who wishes to gratify his master, or who is compelled from the necessity of the case, I comply with the prejudices, habits, customs, and opinions of others as far as I can with a good conscience. The "slave" is subject to the master's will. That will must be obeyed. The whims, prejudices, caprices of the master must be submitted to, even if they are "mere" caprice, and wholly unreasonable. So Paul says that he had voluntarily put himself into this condition, a condition making it necessary for him to suit himself to the opinions, prejudices, caprices, and feelings of all people, so far as he could do it with a good conscience, in order that he might save them. We are not to understand here that Paul embraced any opinions which were false in order to do this, or that he submitted to anything which is morally wrong. But he complied with their customs, and habits, and feelings, as far as it could lawfully be done. He did not needlessly offend them, or run counter to their prejudices.

That I might gain the more - That I might gain more to Christ; that I might be the means of saving more souls. What a noble instance of self-denial and true greatness is here! How worthy of religion! How elevated the conduct! How magnanimous, and how benevolent! No man would do this who had not a greatness of intellect that would rise above narrow prejudices; and who had not a nobleness of heart that would seek at personal sacrifice the happiness of all people. It is said that not a few early Christians, in illustration of this principle of conduct, actually sold themselves into slavery in order that they might have access to and benefit slaves, an act to which nothing would prompt a man but the religion of the cross; compare the note at Romans 1:14.

19. free from all men—that is, from the power of all men.

gain the more—that is, as many of them ("all men") as possible. "Gain" is an appropriate expression in relation to a "reward" (1Th 2:19, 20); he therefore repeats it frequently (1Co 9:20-22).

For though I be free from all men; the word men is not in the Greek, but is supplied by our interpreters. Some make things the substantive, and restrain it to the things of the ceremonial law. It may be understood both of men and things; he was born no man’s servant, nor by God’s law made a servant to any men’s humours, and as free as to many other things, as he was to have taken maintenance of the churches, for the pains he bestowed amongst them.

Yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more; yet (saith he) observe my practice, that I might gain men to Christ, (so the apostle several times calleth converting souls, bringing them in love with the gospel, and into a road that may bring them to heaven, which we ought to account the greatest gain in the world, as it appeareth from Daniel 12:3), I have become, or made myself, the servant of all; not the servants of their lusts and corruptions, (that is the way to lose men’s souls, and destroy them, not to gain them), but a servant to their weaknesses and infirmities, so far as they were not sinful: I have denied myself in my liberty, and determined myself to that part in my actions, which I saw would most oblige, profit, and endear them to me, and to bring them more in love with the gospel. For though I be free from all men,.... As an apostle, being in the highest office in the church, he had none superior to him, that could exercise any power and authority over him, and was also independent of men for his maintenance, which he got by his own hand labour: though it may be observed, that the word "men" is not in the original text, and the word "all" may as well have respect to things as men; and the sense be, that he was free, as from the curse of the moral law, so from the yoke of the ceremonial law, and all the rituals of it, and might, if he would, make use of his Christian liberty; the following verses seem to incline to this sense, as the preceding ones do to the former:

yet have I made myself servant unto all; in faithfully and indefatigably preaching the Gospel to them; undergoing all manner of affliction and persecution for the sake of that and them; behaving towards them with all meekness and humility; condescending to their weakness, and accommodating himself to their capacities and customs:

that I might gain the more; than other apostles have done, or than it could be reasonably thought he should, had he behaved in a more lordly and domineering manner: his end was not to amass wealth, to gain riches and treasures of good things to himself, but many souls to Christ, who otherwise must have been lost; but being brought to the knowledge of Christ, and salvation by him through his ministry, it was profit to them, and gain to Christ: the metaphor is taken from merchants, who spare no pains, but take every method to acquire gain and profit; the ministers of the word are spiritual merchants, their traffic lies in the souls of men, whom they are studiously and anxiously careful to bring to Christ.

For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Corinthians 9:19-22. Confirmation of this εἰς τὸ μὴ καταχρ. τ. ἐξ μου by his practical procedure in other matters, which was such, that not to renounce the use of that ἐξουσία would simply be to contradict himself; it would be a gross inconsistency.

ἐκ πάντων] Masc. It belonged to the apostolic ἐξουσία to put himself in bondage to no man, but to be independent of all (1 Corinthians 9:1; comp Galatians 1:10); to hold and to make good this position of freedom towards every one, was a result flowing from, and a constituent part of, his rights as an apostle (in opposition to Hofmann, who asserts that a position precisely the converse of this was the only one logically tenable by the apostle).[1500] Notwithstanding, Paul had made himself a bondsman to all, accommodating himself to their necessities in ministrative self-denial. It is only here that ἐλεύθερος occurs with ἘΚ; elsewhere (Romans 7:3; comp Romans 6:18; Romans 6:22; Romans 8:2; Romans 8:21) and in Greek writers with ἈΠΌ.

ΤΟῪς ΠΛΕΊΟΝΑς
] i.e. according to the context: the greater part of the πάντες, not: more than are converted by others (Hofmann). Comp 1 Corinthians 10:5. By acting otherwise he would have won, it might be, only individuals here and there.

ΚΕΡΔΉΣΩ] namely, for Christ and His kingdom, by their conversion. Rückert explains it as meaning: to carry off as an advantage for himself, which Hofmann, too, includes. But the precise sense of the phrase must be determined by the context, which speaks in reality of the apostle’s official labours, so that in substance the meaning is the same as that of σώσω in 1 Corinthians 9:22. Comp Matthew 18:15; 1 Peter 3:1. Regarding the form ἐκέρδησα, see Lobeck, a[1504] Phryn. p. 740.

[1500] According to Hofmann, Paul establishes the negative question τίς οὖν μοι ἐσαὶν ὁ μισθός by the sentence linked to it with γάρ, which states that, so far from receiving reward, he had given up his freedom, etc., for the same end for which he refrained from claiming support. This view is connected with his incorrect rendering of ver. 18, and falls with it.

[1504] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.1 Corinthians 9:19. ἐλεύθερος γὰρ ὤν κ.τ.λ. serves further to explain, not εἰς τ. μὴ καταχρήσ. (the impropriety of a grasping use of such right is manifest), but Paul’s general policy of self-abnegation (1 Corinthians 9:15-18). The real aim of this long discussion of ministerial ἐξουσία comes into view; the Ap. shows himself to the Cor[1371] as an example of superior privilege held upon trust for the community, of liberty asserted with a view to self-abnegation: “For, being free from all, to all I enslaved myself, that I might gain the more”.—πάντων is masc., like the antithetical πᾶσιν (cf. τ. πᾶσιν, 1 Corinthians 9:22); ἐλεύθερος ἐκ—a rare construction (commonly ἀπό)—implies extrication, escape from danger (cf. Luke 1:71, 2 Timothy 2:26). In 1 Corinthians 9:1 ἐλεύθερος signified freedom from needless and burdensome scruple, here freedom from entangling dependence. Paul freed himself from everybody, just that he might be everybody’s servant; had he been bound as a salaried minister to any particular Church, his services would in that degree have been limited. For the motive of this δουλεία, cf. Galatians 5:13; and for Paul’s aim, in its widest bearing, Romans 1:14; Romans 15:1; also John 13:12 ff., Luke 22:24 ff.—τοὺς πλείονας, “the more”—not “the greater part” (as in 1 Corinthians 10:5; so Mr[1372] and others), nor quam plurimos (Bg[1373]), but “so much more” than could otherwise have been gained (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:15, Luke 7:43; so Ed[1374]). The expression κερδήσω is used for σώσω (1 Corinthians 9:22), in allusion to the charge of gain-seeking to which P. was exposed (2 Corinthians 11:12; 2 Corinthians 12:17 f., 1 Thessalonians 2:5; cf. Titus 1:7; Titus 1:11); “gain I did seek,” he says, “and greedily—the gain of winning all sorts of men for Christ” (cf. Matthew 4:19).

[1371] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[1372] Meyer’s Critical and Exegetical Commentary (Eng. Trans.).

[1373] Bengel’s Gnomon Novi Testamenti.

[1374]
T. C. Edwards’ Commentary on the First Ep. to the Corinthians.219. made myself servant] Literally, enslaved myself.

the more] Not necessarily more than other people, but as our version implies, more than he would otherwise have gained.1 Corinthians 9:19. Ἐκ πάντων, from all men) Masculine, as we have immediately after, unto all; comp. the more. I was free from all men, i.e. no one could have held me as subject to his power.—ἐδούλωσα, I made myself a servant) a servant suits himself entirely to another.—τοὺς πλείονας, the more) The article has a force relative to all, i.e. as many of them as possible.—κερδήσω, I might gain) This word agrees with the consideration of a reward.Verse 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). Made myself servant (ἐδούλωσα)

Rev., brought myself under bondage; better, as bringing out the force of δοῦλος bond-servant, from which the word is derived, and thus according with stewardship, 1 Corinthians 9:17.

Gain (κεδήσω)

Carrying out the thought of servant in 1 Corinthians 9:18. "He refuses payment in money that he may make the greater gain in souls. But the gain is that which a faithful steward makes, not for himself, but for his master" (Edwards). The word is not, as Godet, to be limited to its purely natural meaning, but is used in the sense of Matthew 18:15; 1 Peter 3:1.

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