1 Corinthians 9 Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)
Rights That Paul Has Not Used
9 I am a free man. I am an apostle. I have seen Jesus our Lord. You people are an example of my work in the Lord. 2 Others may not accept me as an apostle, but surely you do. You are proof that I am an apostle in the Lord.
3 Some people want to judge me. So this is the answer I give them: 4 We have the right to eat and drink, don’t we? 5 We have the right to bring a believing wife with us when we travel, don’t we? The other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Peter all do this. 6 And are Barnabas and I the only ones who must work to earn our living? 7 No soldier ever serves in the army and pays his own salary. No one ever plants a vineyard without eating some of the grapes himself. No one takes care of a flock of sheep without drinking some of the milk himself.
8 These aren’t just my own thoughts. God’s law says the same thing. 9 Yes, it is written in the Law of Moses: “When a work animal is being used to separate grain, don’t keep it from eating the grain.”[a] When God said this, was he thinking only about work animals? No. 10 He was really talking about us. Yes, that was written for us. The one who plows and the one who separates the grain should both expect to get some of the grain for their work. 11 We planted spiritual seed among you, so we should be able to harvest from you some things for this life. Surely that is not asking too much. 12 Others have this right to get things from you. So surely we have this right too. But we don’t use this right. No, we endure everything ourselves so that we will not stop anyone from obeying the Good News of Christ. 13 Surely you know that those who work at the Temple get their food from the Temple. And those who serve at the altar get part of what is offered at the altar. 14 It is the same with those who have the work of telling the Good News. The Lord has commanded that those who tell the Good News should get their living from this work.
15 But I have not used any of these rights, and I am not trying to get anything from you. That is not my purpose for writing this. I would rather die than to have someone take away what for me is a great source of pride. 16 It’s not my work of telling the Good News that gives me any reason to boast. That is my duty—something I must do. If I don’t tell people the Good News, I am in real trouble. 17 If I did it because it was my own choice, I would deserve to be paid. But I have no choice. I must tell the Good News. So I am only doing the duty that was given to me. 18 So what do I get for doing it? My reward is that when I tell people the Good News I can offer it to them for free and not use the rights that come with doing this work.
19 I am free. I belong to no other person, but I make myself a slave to everyone. I do this to help save as many people as I can. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew so that I could help save Jews. I myself am not ruled by the law, but to those who are ruled by the law I became like someone who is ruled by the law. I did this to help save those who are ruled by the law. 21 To those who are without the law I became like someone who is without the law. I did this to help save those who are without the law. (But really, I am not without God’s law—I am ruled by the law of Christ.) 22 To those who are weak, I became weak so that I could help save them. I have become all things to all people. I did this so that I could save people in any way possible. 23 I do all this to make the Good News known. I do it so that I can share in the blessings of the Good News.
24 You know that in a race all the runners run, but only one runner gets the prize. So run like that. Run to win! 25 All who compete in the games use strict training. They do this so that they can win a prize—one that doesn’t last. But our prize is one that will last forever. 26 So I run like someone who has a goal. I fight like a boxer who is hitting something, not just the air. 27 It is my own body I fight to make it do what I want. I do this so that I won’t miss getting the prize myself after telling others about it.
1 Corinthians 9 New International Version (NIV)
Paul’s Rights as an Apostle
9 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? 2 Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
3 This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. 4 Don’t we have the right to food and drink? 5 Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas[a]? 6 Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?
7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? 8 Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”[b] Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10 Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?
But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.
13 Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? 14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.
15 But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast. 16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. 18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.
Paul’s Use of His Freedom
19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
The Need for Self-Discipline
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.