1 Corinthians 9:11
If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?
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(11) If we have sown unto you spiritual things.—The two sentences in this verse contain a striking double antithesis, the “we” and “you” being emphatic, and “spiritual” being opposed to “carnal.” The spiritual things are, of course, the things of the Spirit of God, by which their spiritual natures are sustained; the carnal things those which the teachers might expect in return, the ordinary support of their physical nature. The force of the climax will be better realised if we notice that the previous argument proved the right of a labourer to receive a remuneration the same in kind as was the quality of his labour. A plougher or a sower would have his reward in a harvest of the same kind as he had sown. That being the principle recognised in civilised life, and sanctioned by the object which the Law of God had in view, the Apostle adds, with a slight touch of sarcasm—Such being an ordinary thing in life, is it a great thing for us to have a reward as inferior to our work as carnal things are to spiritual things?

1 Corinthians 9:11-12. If we have sown unto you spiritual things — By our incessant diligence in preaching to you the gospel of the blessed God; is it a great thing — More than we have a right to expect; if we shall reap your carnal things — Namely, as much as is needful for our sustenance? Do you give us things of greater value than those you receive from us? If others — Whether true or false apostles or ministers; be partakers of this power over you — Have a right to be maintained by you; are not we rather — Entitled to it, having first preached the gospel among you, and brought you to the knowledge of the truth, and having laboured much more among you? Nevertheless we have not used this power — Though founded in such evident and various principles of equity; but suffer all things — Every kind of hardship, particularly the fatigues of labour, and the want of needful or convenient support, 1 Corinthians 4:11-12; lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ — By giving an occasion of cavil or reproach to those who are watchful for opportunities to misrepresent and censure our conduct. “By preaching the gospel free of expense, the apostle rendered it the more acceptable to the Gentiles, and drew them the more readily to hear him. There was another reason also for his demanding no reward for preaching, namely, that in future ages mankind might be sensible that in preaching the gospel, he was not animated by any worldly motive, but merely by a full persuasion of its truth. Foreseeing, therefore, that his disinterestedness would, in all ages, be a strong proof of the truth of the gospel, the apostle gloried in preaching it to all men, without fee or reward.” — Macknight.

9:1-14 It is not new for a minister to meet with unkind returns for good-will to a people, and diligent and successful services among them. To the cavils of some, the apostle answers, so as to set forth himself as an example of self-denial, for the good of others. He had a right to marry as well as other apostles, and to claim what was needful for his wife, and his children if he had any, from the churches, without labouring with his own hands to get it. Those who seek to do our souls good, should have food provided for them. But he renounced his right, rather than hinder his success by claiming it. It is the people's duty to maintain their minister. He may wave his right, as Paul did; but those transgress a precept of Christ, who deny or withhold due support.If we have sown unto you spiritual things - If we have been the means of imparting to you the gospel, and bestowing upon you its high hopes and privileges; see the note at Romans 15:27. The figure of "sowing," to denote the preaching of the gospel, is not unfrequently employed in the Scriptures; see John 4:37, and the parable of the sower, Matthew 13:3 ff.

Is it a great thing ... - See the note at Romans 15:27. Is it to be regarded as unequal, unjust, or burdensome? Is it to be supposed that we are receiving that for which we have not rendered a valuable consideration? The sense is, "We impart blessings of more value than we receive. We receive a supply of our temporal needs. We impart to you, under the divine blessing, the gospel, with all its hopes and consolations. We make you acquainted with God; with the plan of salvation; with the hope of heaven. We instruct your children; we guide you in the path of comfort and peace; we raise you from the degradations of idolatry and of sin; and we open before you the hope of the resurrection of the just, and of all the bliss of heaven; and to do this, we give ourselves to toil and peril by land and by sea. And can it be made a matter of question whether all these high and exalted hopes are of as much value to dying man as the small amount which shall be needful to minister to the needs of those who are the means of imparting these blessings?" Paul says this, therefore, from the reasonableness of the case. The propriety of support might be further urged:

(1) Because without it the ministry would be comparatively useless. Ministers, like physicians, lawyers, and farmers, should be allowed to attend mainly to the great business of their lives, and to their appropriate work. No physician, no farmer, no mechanic, could accomplish much, if his attention was constantly turned off from his appropriate business to engage in something else. And how can the minister of the gospel, if his time is nearly all taken up in laboring to provide for the needs of his family?

(2) the great mass of ministers spend their early days, and many of them all their property, in preparing to preach the gospel to others. And as the mechanic who has spent his early years in learning a trade, and the physician and lawyer in preparing for their profession, receive support in that calling, why should not the minister of the gospel?

(3) people in other things cheerfully pay those who labor for them. They compensate the schoolmaster, the physician, the lawyer; the merchant, the mechanic; and they do it cheerfully, because they suppose they receive a valuable consideration for their money. But is it not so with regard to ministers of the gospel? Is not a man's family as certainly benefited by the labors of a faithful clergyman and pastor, as by the skill of a physician or a lawyer, or by the service of the schoolmaster? Are not the affairs of the soul and of eternity as important to a man's family as those of time and the welfare of the body? So the music-master and the dancing master are paid, and paid cheerfully and liberally; and yet can there be any comparison between the value of their services and those of the minister of the gospel?

(4) it might be added, that society is benefited in a "pecuniary" way by the service of a faithful minister to a far greater extent than the amount of compensation which he receives. One drunkard, reformed under his labors, may earn and save to his family and to society as much as the whole salary of the pastor. The promotion of order, peace, sobriety, industry, education, and regularity in business, and honesty in contracting and in paying debts, saves much more to the community at large than the cost of the support of the gospel. In regard to this, any man may make the comparison at his leisure, between those places where the ministry is established, and where temperance, industry, and sober habits prevail, and those places where there is no ministry, and where gambling, idleness, and dissipation abound. It is always a matter of "economy" to a people, in the end, to support schoolmasters and ministers as they ought to be supported.

Reap your carnal things - Partake of those things which relate to the present life; the support of the body, that is, food and raiment.

11. we … we—emphatical in the Greek. We, the same persons who have sown to you the infinitely more precious treasures of the Spirit, may at least claim in return what is the only thing you have to give, namely, the goods that nourish the flesh ("your carnal things"). By spiritual things the apostle meaneth the doctrine and sacraments of the gospel; which are called spiritual things, because they come from heaven, they affect the soul and spirit of a man, they tend to make men spiritual, they prepare the soul for heaven. By carnal things he means things which only serve our bodies, which are our carnal, fleshly part. From the inequality of these things, and the excellency of the former above the latter, the apostle argueth the reasonableness of ministers’ maintenance from their people, they giving them quid pro quo, a just compensation for such allowance, yea, what was of much more value; for there is a great disproportion between things spiritual and things carnal, the former much excelling the latter: so as the minister of the gospel had the odds of them, giving people things of a much greater and more excellent value, for things of a much less and inferior value.

If we have sown unto you spiritual things,.... The preachers of the Gospel are compared to sowers of seed; the seed they sow is the word of God, which is like to seed, for its smallness and despicableness in the eyes of carnal men; and yet as the seed is the choicest which is laid by for sowing, the Gospel is most choice and excellent to true believers; like seed, it has a generative virtue through divine influence; and whereas unless sown into the earth, it brings forth no fruit, so neither does the word, unless it has a place in the heart, where, as seed in the ground, its operation is secret, its increase gradual, and its fruitfulness different. The ground they sow upon is, very various; some of their hearers are like the wayside, careless, ignorant, and on whom no impression is made; others are like the stony ground, who though for a while they express some affection and liking, yet not having the root of grace in them, whenever persecution arises, forsake the hearing of it; others are like the thorny ground, which are at first very promising, and greatly reformed, but inwardly full of the cares and lusts of the world, which choke the word, and make it unfruitful; and others are like the good ground, who are made good by the grace of God, understand the word, receive it, hold it fast, and in whom it is fruitful: sowing requires skill and art, and so preaching the Gospel does, and that more than human; and is constantly in its returning season to be attended to, notwithstanding the winds and clouds, and so the ministry of the word, notwithstanding all reproaches, persecutions, and afflictions; and as the same sort of seed, without mixture, and in plenty, is to be cast into the earth, so the same pure and unmixed Gospel of Christ is to be preached, and that without keeping back any thing that is profitable: and once more, as the sower, when he has cast his seed into the earth, waits long and with patience for its springing up and increase, so do the faithful dispensers of the Gospel: and what they sow or minister is of a spiritual nature; it comes from the Spirit of God, he is the dictator of it; he by his gifts qualifies men to preach it, and by his power makes it effectual to the souls of men; and through it conveys himself to them, as a spirit of regeneration and sanctification: the matter of the Gospel is spiritual; it contains spiritual doctrines, such as justification, pardon of sin, adoption, regeneration, &c. and are what concern the souls and spirits of men, and their spiritual and eternal welfare:

is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? meaning temporal ones, what concern the flesh, the body, the outward man, and the support thereof. The argument is from the greater to the less, and much the same with that in Romans 15:27. The difference between carnal and spiritual things is very great; the one has a vastly superior excellency to the other; and therefore if for carnal things men receive spiritual ones, they can be no losers thereby, but must be gainers; nor should it be thought any hardship or burden upon them, or any great and wonderful thing done by them, to support and maintain such who are so useful to their souls, and the spiritual welfare of them.

{7} If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?

(7) An assumption of the arguments with an amplification, for neither in so doing do we require a reward appropriate for our work.

1 Corinthians 9:11. Application of 1 Corinthians 9:10, and that in such a way as to make the readers feel ὅτι μείζονα λαμβάνουσιν ἢ διδόασιν, Chrysostom; an argument a majori ad minus.

ἡμεῖς] does not include Barnabas, who cannot be proved ever to have joined company again with Paul after the separation recorded in Acts 15:39, and who certainly had no share in founding the church at Corinth. The apostle means himself along with his companions of that period, when by casting forth the seed of the gospel he founded the church to which his readers belonged (ἐσπείραμεν), Acts 18:5; 2 Corinthians 1:19.

ἡμεῖς ὑμῖν] An emphatic juxtaposition, the emphasis of which is further heightened by the ἡμεῖς ὑμῶν which follows.

τὰ πνευματικά] spiritual things, Christian knowledge, faith, love, etc., inasmuch as these are the blessings which, proceeding from the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22), become the portion of believers through the sower’s work of preaching the gospel (Matthew 13:3 ff.). Contrasted with these are τὰ σαρκικά, the things which have nothing to do with the Holy Spirit, but belong to the lower sphere of man’s life, to his sensuous, corporeal nature, such as food, clothing, money, etc. Comp as regards the antithesis, Romans 15:27.

ΜΈΓΑ] res magni momenti, Xen. Cyrop. vii. 5. 52, Anab. vii. 7. 27. It means here, from the connection: something disproportionate. Comp 2 Corinthians 11:15.

ΘΕΡΊΣΩΜΕΝ] see the critical remarks. The subjunctive after εἰ “respectum comprehendit experientiae” (Hermann, de partic. ἄν, p. 97); see regarding this idiom on Luke 9:13, and Hermann, a[1437] Viger. p. 831; it occurs in Homer and the lyric poets, and, although no certain instance of it can be given from the Attic prose writers, is frequent again in later Greek.

[1437] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

1 Corinthians 9:11-12 a appeal to the sense of justice in the Cor[1311]; τὸ δίκαιον δείκνυσιν τοῦ πράγματος (Thp[1312]): cf. Galatians 6:6.—μέγα εἰ …; “Is it a great thing if …?” = “Is it a great thing to ask (or look for) that …?” cf. 2 Corinthians 11:15; the construction is akin to that of θαυμάζω εἰ (see Gm[1313], s.v. Εἰ, i., 4)—a kind of litotes, suggesting where one might have vigorously asserted. The repeated collocation ἡμεῖς ὑμῖν, ἡμεῖς ὑμῶν, brings out the personal nature of this claim: “We sowed for you the things of the Spirit; should not we reap from you the (needed) carnal things?”—τὰ πνευματικὰ (cf 1 Corinthians 2:12, 1 Corinthians 12:1-13, Romans 8:2; Romans 8:5 f., Galatians 5:22, etc.) include all the distinctive boons of the Christian faith; “the carnal things” embrace, besides food and drink (1 Corinthians 9:4), all suitable bodily “goods” (Galatians 6:6).—The question of 1 Corinthians 9:12 a assumes that other Christian teachers received maintenance from the Cor[1314] Church; the claim of Paul and his fellow-missioners was paramount (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:15; also 2 Corinthians 10:12-18; 2 Corinthians 11:12 ff., 2 Corinthians 11:20, where this comparison comes up in a new form).—ὑμῶν is surely gen[1315] of object, as in Matthew 10:1 (= ἐξουσίαν ἐπὶ, Luke 9:1), John 17:2,—“the claim upon you”. Ev[1316] and Ed[1317] read the pron[1318] as subjective gen[1319]—the latter basing the phrase on 1 Corinthians 3:22 f.—sc. “if others share in your domain,” instead of “in dominion over you”; this rendering is sound in grammar, and has a basis in 1 Corinthians 4:7-12, but lies outside the scope of ἐξουσία in this context. The expression “others participate” suggests a right belonging to these “others” in a lesser degree (cf. μετέχω in 10): the πατὴρ should be first honoured, then the παιδαγωγοί (1 Corinthians 4:15).

[1311] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[1312] Theophylact, Greek Commentator.

[1313] Grimm-Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the N.T.

Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[1315] genitive case.

[1316] T. S. Evans in Speaker’s Commentary.

[1317] T. C. Edwards’ Commentary on the First Ep. to the Corinthians.2

[1318]ron. pronoun.

[1319] genitive case.

1 Corinthians 9:12 b. “But we did not use this right”—i.e., P. and his comrades in the Cor[1320] mission (2 Corinthians 1:19).—ἀλλὰ πάντα στέγομεν: “Nay, we put up with everything (omnia sustinemus, Vg[1321]), lest we should cause any (kind of) hindrance to the good news about Christ”.—στέγω (see parls.), syn[1322] in later Gr[1323] with ὑπομένω, βαστάζω, “marks the patient and enduring spirit with which the Ap. puts up with all the consequences naturally resulting from” his policy of abstinence (El.). What this involved we have partly seen in 1 Corinthians 4:2 ff.; cf. 2 Corinthians 11:27, Acts 20:34.—The ἐνκοπὴ he sought to obviate (military term of later Gr[1324], from ἐνκόπτω, to cut into, break up, a road, so to hinder a march) lay (a) in the reproach of venality, as old as Socrates and the Sophists, attaching to the acceptance of remuneration by a wandering teacher, which his enemies desired to fasten on Paul (1 Thessalonians 2:3 ff., 2 Corinthians 11:7 ff; 2 Corinthians 12:13 ff.); and (b) in the fact that P. would have shackled his movements by taking wages from particular Churches (1 Corinthians 9:19), so giving them a lien upon his ministrations. For the Hebraistic phrase ἐνκοπὴν δίδωμι (= ἐνκόπτω), cf. 1 Corinthians 14:7, 2 Thessalonians 1:8.—τοῦ Χριστοῦ is always obj. gen[1325] after εὐαγγέλιον; see Romans 1:2 f., also μαρτύριον τ. Χριστοῦ, 1 Corinthians 1:6 above.

[1320] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[1321] Latin Vulgate Translation.

[1322] synonym, synonymous.

[1323] Greek, or Grotius’ Annotationes in N.T.

Greek, or Grotius’ Annotationes in N.T.

genitive case.

11. If we have sown unto you spiritual things] St Paul’s third argument is drawn from the principles of natural gratitude. If we have conferred on you such inestimable benefits, it is surely no very burdensome return to give us our maintenance. Not, says Estius, that the one is in any sense the price paid for the other, for the two are too unequal: but that he who receives gifts so invaluable certainly lies under an obligation to him who imparts them—an obligation which he may well requite by ministering to his benefactor in such trifles (see Acts 6:1-4) as food and drink. Cf. Romans 15:17; Galatians 6:6.

1 Corinthians 9:11. Ὑμῖν, unto you) he does not say yours, as afterwards.—μέγα, a great thing) Comp. 2 Corinthians 11:15; 2 Corinthians 11:14, where it is explained as the same as “a marvel.”

Verse 11. - If we. The we is in both clauses emphatic, to show that the argument applied directly to St. Paul's own case. Is it a great thing. An argument a fortiori. If ordinary labour is not undertaken gratuitously, is the spiritual labourer to be left to starve? St. Paul always recognized the rights of preachers and ministers, and stated them with emphasis (Galatians 6:6; Romans 15:27), although from higher motives he waived all personal claim to profit by the result of his arguments. 1 Corinthians 9:11
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