1 Corinthians 9:15
But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done to me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.
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(15) But I.—Again, after the assertion of the right, we have the statement that though he had vindicated the right by the highest and unquestionable authority of Christ Himself, the Apostle had not seen fit to avail himself of it.

Neither have I written these things.—Better, neither am I writing. The Apostle in these words carefully guards against the possibility of their taking these arguments used here as an indication of any intention on his part to give up now the independent position which he had hitherto assumed.

It were better for me to die.—The meaning of these words is evidently that the Apostle would rather die than make void his right to boast or glory in his unremunerated work in the Church—which would be the case if he now or ever condescended to receive, as others did, any support from them. There is, however, a great variety of readings as to the actual mode of expression of this thought. One suggestion is that the words may read thus:—“It were better for me to die than (receive reward from you); no man shall make my ground of boasting void.” Another is; “It were better for me to die, rather than any one should make my ground of boasting void.” There is great weight in favour of both of these readings. The following have also been suggested as possible readings of the passage:—“It were better for me to die than that my ground of boasting should die; no one shall make it void;” and “It were better for me to die than that my ground of boasting ——; no man shall make it void.” In this last case the Apostle pauses in the middle of his impassioned declaration, and leaves the sentence unfinished, as he flings aside the thought that his ground of boasting could be removed, and exclaims earnestly and emphatically, “No man shall make it void.” Perhaps, on the whole, especially having regard to the character of the writer, this last rendering is most likely to be the true one. In any case, the general drift and meaning of the passage is the same. The Apostle would rather die than lose his ground of boasting, and he boldly asserts his determination to let no one deprive him of it.

1 Corinthians 9:15-18. But — Though my right to a maintenance, as an apostle, be established by the precepts both of the law and of the gospel; I have used none of those things — During my abode among you, as you well know; neither have I written these things that — If, according to my purpose, I should ever visit you again; it should be so done unto me — But only to teach you how to use your Christian liberty. For it were better for me to die — To suffer the greatest want, even to starving; than that any man should make my glorying — That I have preached the gospel freely; void — By drawing me to require a maintenance. In other words, to give occasion to them that seek occasion against me. For, though I preach the gospel — And that ever so clearly and fully, faithfully and diligently; I have nothing to glory of — Being, after all, but an unprofitable servant, and having done no more than was my duty to do, Luke 17:10; for necessity is laid upon me — By Christ’s appearing to me, and commanding me to preach, and I must either preach it or perish: and to preach it merely to escape damnation, is surely not matter of glorying. Yea, wo is unto me if I preach not the gospel — For me to decline a work assigned me by so condescending an appearance of Christ, when, with the most malicious rage, I was persecuting and endeavouring to destroy his church, would be an instance of ingratitude and obstinacy deserving the most dreadful and insupportable punishment. For if — Or rather, if indeed, I do this thing — Namely, preach the gospel; willingly — Without reluctance, and from an obedient mind. In preaching the gospel willingly, the apostle evidently included his preaching it from such a conviction of its truth and importance, and from such a principle of love to God and regard for his glory, and love to mankind and concern for their salvation, as enabled him to do it with cheerfulness, alacrity, and joy. I have a reward — Prepared for me according to my labour; that is, I shall obtain that distinguished reward, which, in the life to come, will be bestowed on them who turn many to righteousness, and who in that work undergo great hardships. This was Paul’s case, who, in his voyages and journeys among the Jews and Gentiles, exposed himself to innumerable dangers and sufferings, with much bodily fatigue. But if against my will — As I said before; a dispensation is committed unto me — And I must of necessity fulfil it. What then is my reward — What is that circumstance in my conduct for which I expect a peculiar reward from my great Master? — Verily — Surely this; that when I preach I may make the gospel without charge — May communicate it to my hearers free of expense; that I abuse not — To any low and secular purpose; my power in the gospel — Or carry it beyond its due bounds.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.But I have used none of these things - I have not urged and enforced this right. I have chosen to support myself by the labor of my own hands. This had been objected to him as a reason why he could not be an apostle. He here shows that that was not the reason why he had not; urged this claim; but that it was because in this way he could do most to honor the gospel and save the souls of people; compare Acts 20:33; 2 Thessalonians 3:8. The sense is, "Though my right to a support is established, in common with others, both by reason, the nature of the case, the examples in the law, and the command of the Lord Jesus, yet there are reasons why I have not chosen to avail myself of this right, and why I have not urged these claims."

Neither have I written these things ... - "I have not presented this argument now in order to induce you to provide for me. I do not intend now to ask or receive a support from you. I urge it to show that I feel that I have a right to it; that my conduct is not an argument that I am conscious I am not an apostle; and that I might urge it were there not strong reasons which determine me not to do it. I neither ask you to send me now a support, nor, if I visit you again, do I expect you will contribute to my maintenance."

For it were better for me to die ... - There are advantages growing out of my not urging this claim which are of more importance to me than life. Rather than forego these advantages, it would be better for me - it would be a thing which I would prefer - to pine in poverty and want; to be exposed to peril, and cold, and storms, until life should close. I esteem my "glorying," the advantages of my course, to be of more value than life itself.

Than that any man should make my glorying void - His glorying, or boasting, or "joying," as it may be more properly rendered τὸ καύχημά μου to kauchēma mou; compare Philippians 1:26; Hebrews 3:6), was:

(1) that he had preached the gospel without expense to anybody, and had thus prevented the charge of avarice 1 Corinthians 9:18; and,

(2) that he had been able to keep his body under, and pursue a course of self-denial that would result in his happiness and glory in heaven, 1 Corinthians 9:23-27. "Any man" would have made that "void," if he had supported Paul; had prevented the necessity of his labor, and had thus exposed him to the charge of having preached the gospel for the sake of gain.

15. Paul's special gift of continency, which enabled him to abstain from marriage, and his ability to maintain himself without interrupting seriously his ministry, made that expedient to him which is ordinarily inexpedient; namely, that the ministry should not be supported by the people. What to him was a duty, would be the opposite to one, for instance, to whom God had committed a family, without other means of support.

I have used none of these things—none of these "powers" or rights which I might have used (1Co 9:4-6, 12).

neither—rather, "Yet I have not written."

so done unto me—literally, "in my case": as is done in the case of a soldier, a planter, a shepherd, a ploughman, and a sacrificing priest (1Co 9:7, 10, 13).

make my glorying void—deprive me of my privilege of preaching the Gospel without remuneration (2Co 11:7-10). Rather than hinder the progress of the Gospel by giving any pretext for a charge of interested motives (2Co 12:17, 18), Paul would "die" of hunger. Compare Abraham's similar disinterestedness (Ge 14:22, 23).

Though I have such a liberty to marry as well as others, and a liberty to demand a maintenance of those to whom I preach the gospel, yet I have done neither. Nor do I now write to that purpose, that I would now impose a burden upon you to raise me a maintenance. I know I am calumniated by some, as if by preaching the gospel I only sought my own profit and advantage: I have gloried in the contrary, Acts 20:33,34; so 1 Corinthians 9:18; and I look upon it as my great honour, that I can preach the gospel freely, and I had rather die by starving than lose this advantage of glorying. And if I for your profit, and for the advantage of the gospel, abate of my liberty, should not you abate of yours, to keep your weak brethren from destroying their souls by sinning against God? But I have used none of these things,.... Either none of these arguments or reasons, for a minister's maintenance, taken from the reason of things, the law of Moses, the examples of the priests and Levites, and the order and appointment of Christ, in favour of himself, and that he might be provided for by them accordingly; or none of the things he had a right to do as other apostles, as to eat and drink at the public expense, to lead about with him a sister, a wife, had he any, and to forbear working with his own hands:

neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me; it was not on his own account that he gave these strong reasons, urged these instances, and so undeniably proved this point, that ministers should be maintained by the people; and this he says to prevent what some might be ready enough to suggest, that though the apostle had as yet took nothing of the church at Corinth, it was plain, that for the time to come, he meant to do it; and therefore had written these things with such a view, to make way for his after supply from them. This he denies, and gives his reason for it,

for it were better for me to die; through want, with famine, could he be supplied no other way, than to take the least farthing of them:

or than that any man should make my glorying void; meaning not so much his inward pleasure, joy, and satisfaction in preaching the Gospel freely, it being more blessed to give than to receive; but his boasting or glorying, not before God, but against the false apostles; that he had never taken anything of the church at Corinth for preaching, nor never would, when they had insinuated he preached for gain, and by artful methods had got their money, and drained their purses.

But I have used none of these things: {10} neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.

(10) He takes away occasion of suspicion by the way, that it might not be thought that he wrote this as though he was demanding his wages that were not payed him. On the contrary, he says, I had rather die, than not to continue in this purpose to preach the Gospel freely. For I am bound to preach the Gospel, seeing that the Lord has given and commanded me this office: but unless I do it willingly and for the love of God, nothing that I do is to be considered worthwhile. If I had rather that the Gospel should be evil spoken of, than that I should not require my wages, then would it appear that I took these pains not so much for the Gospel's sake, as for my gains and advantages. But I say, this would not be to use, but rather to abuse my right and liberty: therefore not only in this thing, but also in all others (as much as I could) I am made all things to all men, that I might win them to Christ, and might together with them be won to Christ.

1 Corinthians 9:15. Ἐγὼ δέ] Paul now reverts to the individual way of expressing himself (1 Corinthians 9:3), effecting thereby a lively climax in the representation. From this point onward to the end of the chapter we have a growing torrent of animated appeal; and in what the apostle now says regarding his mode of acting, his desire is that he alone should stand prominent, without concerning himself about others, and how they might act and appear in these respects.

οὐδενὶ τούτων] none of these things; Oecumenius, Theophylact, Estius, Rückert, al[1454], make this refer to the grounds of the ἐξουσία in question which have been hitherto adduced. But there is no reason why we should not refer it simply to the immediately preceding statement as to the ordinance of Christ regarding the ἘΚ ΤΟῦ ΕὐΑΓΓΕΛΊΟΥ ΖῇΝ. Of what belongs to that ordinance (food, drink, money, clothing, etc., see Acts 20:33)—of none of these things (ΤΟΎΤΩΝ) had Paul availed himself. How common it is for Greek writers also to use ΤΑῦΤΑ of a single thing, when considered in its different component elements, may be seen in Kühner, § 423, note; Stallbaum, a[1455] Plat. Apol. Soc. p. 19 D. Hofmann holds that the “facts from the history of redemption,” cited in 1 Corinthians 9:13-14, are meant. But οὐδενί implies that what is referred to is a multitude of things, which is summed up in τούτων.

Observe the use of the perfect κέχρημ. to describe a continuous course of action. It is different with ἘΧΡΗΣΆΜ. in 1 Corinthians 9:12.

A full stop should be put after τούτων; for with ΟὐΚ ἜΓΡΑΨΑ ΔῈ ΤΑῦΤΑ (all from 1 Corinthians 9:4 to 1 Corinthians 9:15) there begins a new section in the apostle’s address.

ἽΝΑ ΟὝΤΩ Κ.Τ.Λ[1456]] in order that (for the future) the like (according to what I have written, namely, that the preachers of the gospel should be supported by the churches) should be done in my case (comp Luke 23:31; Matthew 17:12).

μᾶλλον] potius, namely, than let myself he supported (not magis, Vulgate).

ἢ τὸ καύχημα μοῦ οὐδεὶς κενώσει] (see the critical remarks) expresses what is to take place, if the ἀποθανεῖν does not ensue. That is to say, the cannot here be the than of comparison,[1458] as it would be were we to adopt the Recept[1459], which in fact has just arisen from men failing rightly to understand this . It means “aut,” or otherwise (comp 1 Corinthians 7:11; Acts 24:20), equivalent to ΕἸ ΔῈ ΜΉ, and so specifying “what will take place, if the thing before named does not happen” (Baeumlein, Partik. p. 126), so that it is equivalent in sense to alioquin. See Ast, Lex. Plat. II. p. 12; Kühner, a[1461] Xen. Andb. i. 4. 16; Ellendt, Lex. Soph. I. p. 750 f.; Baeumlein, l.c[1462] What Paul says is: “Rather is it good for me to die, i.e. rather is death beneficial for me, or otherwise, if this ἀποθανεῖν is not to ensue and I therefore am to remain alive, no one is to make my glory void. Comp as to this asseveration, 2 Corinthians 11:10.

ΤῸ ΚΑΎΧΗΜΆ ΜΟΥ Κ.Τ.Λ[1464]] i.e. No man will ever bring me to give up my principle of preaching without receiving anything in return, so as to produce the result that I can no longer have ground for glorying (καύχημα here too means materies gloriandi, as in 1 Corinthians 5:6 and always). Lachmann’s conjecture (Stud. u. Krit. 1830, p. 839, and Praef. p. xii.), which is adopted by Billroth: νὴ τὸ καύχημά μου· οὐδεὶς κενώσει (comp 1 Corinthians 15:31), breaks up the passage unnecessarily; and the same meaning would be arrived at more easily and simply, were we merely to write with the circumflex, in the sense of sane, which is so common in the classics (Baeumlein, Partik. p. 119 f.): in truth, no one will make my glory void. But this use of does not occur in the N. T. Rückert’s opinion is, that what we find in the old MSS. gives no sense at all;[1466] we cannot tell what Paul actually wrote; but that the hest [how far?] of what we have to choose from is the Recept[1467]. Ewald, too, and Hofmann, follow the latter.

It does not follow from 1 Corinthians 9:14 that by ἀποθανεῖν we are to understand precisely death by famine (so Billroth, with Theophylact, Erasmus, Piscator, al[1468]); but the thought is generally to this effect: so far from letting myself be supported by the churches, I will rather be kept by death from this disgrace, by which, while I live, I shall let no one rob me of my glory. The idea is that of ἀντὶ τοῦ ζῇν ἀποθνήσκειν εὐκλεῶς, Isocr. Evag. 1. The apostle’s καύχημα would have been made empty (κενώσει), if he had been brought to a course of action whereby that in which he gloried would have appeared to be without reality. Comp 2 Corinthians 9:3. He would thus have been shown to be κενεαυχής (Homer, Il. viii. 230).

[1454] l. and others; and other passages; and other editions.

[1455] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[1456] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1458] My own former view (ed. 2) was to this effect, that instead of saying: “Better for me to die than to take recompense,” Paul made an aposiopesis at , breaking off there to exclaim with triumphant certainty: My καύχημα no man will make void! According to this, we should have to supply a dash after , and take what follows independently. I now regard this interpretation—although approved by Winer, p. 532 [E. T. 715]—as too bold, being without analogy in the N. T., in which, as with classical writers, the suppression of the apodosis occurs only after conditional clauses (comp. Romans 9:22 f.). Maier has followed this view; as does Neander, on the supposition that Lachmann’s reading were to be adopted.

[1459] ecepta Textus receptus, or lectio recepta (Elzevir).

[1461] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[1462] .c. loco citato or laudato.

[1464] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1466] The readings of B D* א* and A give the above sense; F G again, with their τις κενώσει, in which it is simplest to take the τις as an interrogative (comp. Boerner: “quis evacuat”), give the plain and good sense: for it is better for me to die (than that such a thing should happen in my case); or who will bring my glory to nought?

[1467] ecepta Textus receptus, or lectio recepta (Elzevir).

[1468] l. and others; and other passages; and other editions.1 Corinthians 9:15-23. § 29. PAUL’S RENOUNCEMENT OF RIGHT FOR THE GOSPEL’S SAKE. The Ap. has been insisting all this time on the right of Christ’s ministers to material support from those they serve, in order that for his own part he may explicitly renounce it. This renunciation is his “boast,” and his “reward”; of his office he cannot boast, nor seek reward for it, since it was imposed upon him (1 Corinthians 9:15-18). In this abnegation P. finds his freedom, which he uses to make himself impartially the slave of all; untrammelled by any particular ties, he is able to adapt himself to every condition and class of men, and thus to win for the Gospel larger gains (1 Corinthians 9:19-22). For himself, his best hope is to partake in its salvation with those he strives to save (1 Corinthians 9:23).15–23. St Paul’s use of his Christian liberty is restrained by the thought of the needs of others

15. But I have used none of these things] Having disposed of the objections against his claims to Apostleship, he proceeds to the instance he had been intending to give of his voluntary abandonment of his rights as a Christian for the sake of others. Thus he vindicates his own consistency, shewing that the doctrine he laid down in ch. 1 Corinthians 6:12, and which he again asserts in 1 Corinthians 9:19 of this chapter, is a yoke which he not only imposes upon others, but willingly bears himself.

than that any man should make my glorying void] A remarkable inversion in the order of the Greek here has led some editors to prefer a different reading, which is found in some MSS., and which may be thus rendered: (1) It were better for me to die than my ground of boasting—no one shall make (it) void; or (2) It were better for me to die than—no one shall make my ground of boasting void. But the latter introduces an unfinished construction more harsh than is usual in St Paul’s Epistles. The word here translated glorying is translated in the next verse ‘a thing to glory of.’ See note on the same word in ch. 1 Corinthians 5:6.1 Corinthians 9:15. Ἔγραψα, I have written) lately.—μᾶλλον, rather) construed with die. The reason of such a solemn affirmation is explained at 2 Corinthians 11:7, etc.—τὶς, any man) who should either give me a livelihood by the Gospel, or should declare that I thus gained my living.Verses 15-23. - Self denying ordinance of St. Paul. Verse 15. - I have used none of these things. None of the forms of right which I might claim from these many sanctions. He is appealing to his own abandonment of a right to encourage them to waive, if need required, the claims of their Christian liberty. His object in waiving his plain right was that he might give no handle to any who might desire to accuse him of interested motives (1 Corinthians 9:4; Galatians 6:6, etc.). Have I written; rather, do I write; the epistolary aorist. That it should be so done unto me. Do not take my argument as a hint to you that you have neglected your duty of maintaining me, and have even seen me suffer without offering me your assistance. Better for me to die. Not "to die of hunger," as Chrysostom supposes, but generally, "I should prefer death to the loss of my independence of attitude towards my converts." Than that any man should make my glorying void. The Greek is remarkable. Literally it is, than my ground of boasting - that any one should render it void. Another reading is, better for me to die than - no one shall render void my ground of boasting.
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