Reflections on 1 Corinthians 9 and 10Reflections on 1 Corinthians 9 and 10
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By A. J. Fecko

Here are some reflections of mine on 1 Corinthians 9 and 10:  

1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?

2 If for others I am not an apostle, nevertheless I surely am for you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

3 My defense to those examining me is this:

4 Have we no right at all to eat and drink?

5 Have we no right at all to be leading about a sister as a wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?

6 Or have only I and Barnabas no right not to be working?

[Paul now begins his case of how he, himself, forgoes his own rights. But in order to do that, he must overcome the unappreciative assumptions of "those examining" him, that it was the Lord's job to care for Paul's ministry. Here he starts his case with the practice of the Jerusalem apostles]

7 Who is warring at any time supplying his own rations? Who is planting a vineyard and not eating of its fruit? Or who is tending a flock and not eating of the milk of the flock?

[Here Paul gives several human examples]

8 Not according to man only am I speaking these things. Rather, is the law not also saying these things?

9 For in the law of Moses it is written: "You shall not muzzle the threshing ox." Not care of the oxen by God; rather, through us, by all means, it is saying.

10 For it was written that through us, the plower plowing in hope, is indebted also, the thresher to partake of his hope.

11 If we sow the spirituals in you, is it a great thing if we shall reap of your carnals?

12 If others are partaking of this right from you, are not we more? Nevertheless we do not use this right, but we are forgoing all, lest we may be giving any hindrance to the good news of Christ.

[Now Paul uses oxen as an example. An apostle's recompense is not left to God, but it is the Church's duty to pay it. Just as Mosaic Law required it for oxen during plowing. ]

13 Are you not aware that the workers at the sacred things are eating of the things of the sanctuary? Those settling beside the altar have their portion with the altar.

[Paul's final example is that with Temple worship the same pattern holds]

14 So the Lord also prescribes that those who are announcing the good news are to be living of the good news.

15 Yet I do not use any of these things. Now I do not write these things that it may be becoming so with me, for it is beautiful for me rather to be dying, than that anyone shall be making my boast void. 

16 For if I should be bringing the good news, it is not for me to boast in, for necessity is lying upon me, for it were woe to me if I should not be bringing the good news!

17 For if I am engaging in this voluntarily, I have wages, yet if involuntarily, I have been entrusted with an administration.

18 What, then, is my wage? That, in bringing the good news, I should be placing the good news without expense, so as not to use up my authority in the good news.

19 For, being free of all, I enslave myself to all, that I should be gaining the more.

20 And I became to the Jews as a Jew, that I should be gaining Jews; to those under law as under law (not being myself under law), that I should be gaining those under law;

21 to those without law as without law (not being without God's law, but legally Christ's), that I should be gaining those without law.

22 I became as weak to the weak, that I should be gaining the weak. To all have I become all, that I should by all means be saving some.

[This gives some explanation of why many Scriptures can be difficult to understand. 2 Peter 3:15-16. Paul and others needed to teach a variety of people. It's therefore important not to read the Scripture too causally, but try to discern the true intent of the inspired author and the Holy Spirit. Thorough reading and especially prayer is helpful. Also, some dismiss all agrapha out of hand, despite what's clearly said in John 21:24-25. Only a small number of our Lord's statements could be recorded, and those chosen to be recorded were no doubt those useful for edification of the church and for leading new people to the faith.]

23 Now all am I doing because of the good news, that I may be becoming a joint participant of it.

24 Are you not aware that those racing in a stadium are, indeed, all racing, yet one is obtaining the prize? Thus be racing that you may be grasping it.

25 Now every contender is controlling himself in all things; they, indeed, then, that they may be obtaining a corruptible wreath, yet we an incorruptible.

26 Now then, thus am I racing, not as dubious, thus am I boxing, not as punching the air,

27 but I am belaboring my body and leading it into slavery, lest somehow, when heralding to others, I myself may become disqualified.

[It is necessary at times to ignore our body's cravings for our spiritual benefit, and to serve God and to benefit our fellow creatures.]

Chapter 10

1 For I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, that our fathers all were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea,

2 and all are dipped into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,

3 and all ate the same spiritual food,

4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank of the spiritual Rock which followed. Now the Rock was Christ.

5 But not in the majority of them does God delight, for they were strewn along in the wilderness.

6 Now these things became types of us, for us not to be cravers after evil things,

7 according as they also crave. Nor yet be becoming idolaters, according as some of them, even as it is written, "Seated are the people to eat and drink, and they rise to sport."

8 Nor yet may we be committing prostitution, according as some of them commit prostitution, and fall in one day twenty-three thousand.

9 Nor yet may we be putting the Lord on trial, according as some of them put Him on trial, and perished by serpents.

10 Nor yet be murmuring even as some of them murmur, and perished by the exterminator.

11 Now all this befalls them typically. Yet it was written for our admonition, to whom the consummations of the eons have attained.

12 So that, let him who is supposing he stands watch that he should not be falling.

13 No trial has taken you except what is human. Now, faithful is God, Who will not be leaving you to be tried above what you are able, but, together with the trial, will be making the sequel also, to enable you to undergo it.

[Many Corinthian Christians may have taken Paul's teaching of salvation by faith to a point of laxity. But Paul points out that through misuse of freewill even a multitude of believers sometimes go astray.]

14 Wherefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

15 As to the prudent am I saying it. Judge ye what I am averring.

16 The cup of blessing which we are blessing, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we are breaking, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?

17 For we, who are many, are one bread, one body, for we all are partaking of the one bread.

18 Watch Israel according to the flesh. Are not those eating the victims participants with the altar?

[Most of the Corinthian Christians would have appreciated how far superior the Eucharistic service is to the Mosaic sacrifices. This is important for them to reflect on when considering the importance of not condoning through their behavior the idol sacrifices of their own Greek culture. Rabbinic authorities agreed that the life blood of a "nephesh" (ensouled being) cannot be given to anyone, not even to any of the angels, except to the Lord the giver of life. But even the blood sacrifices of the Temple had been abolished for the Church. Though the old Law included a restricted sacrificial practice, perhaps so the Israelites wouldn't abandon their covalent for idols, the Lord had clearly said He never desired sacrifices. So for the communicants of Christ to any way condone sacrifices to idols would be especially grievous.]

19 What, then, am I averring? That an idol is something? Or is an idol victim something?

[Paul has already assured the Corinthians that an idol is nothing in the universe. 1 Cor 8:4. That is, it has no evil magic power they need avoid. Still, that doesn't mean there are no dangers.]

20 But that which {the nations} they are sacrificing, they are sacrificing to demons and not to a god. Now I do not want you to become participants with the demons.

[Some important early textual witnesses lack "tὰ ἔθνη" "the nations", which may be a clarifying interpolation. Either way, the basic point is the same. To participate in idol sacrifice is to honor impure spirits. It should be noted that it says the sacrifices are for demons, plural; and not for God or a god, singular. It is not being asserted, as was superstitiously thought in latter centuries, that there is a demon for every pagan god running around with that god's name. But rather sacrificing animals to idols was one of the most degrading forms of idolatry, actions only pleasing to evil spirits.]

21 You can not drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You can not be partaking of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.

[The "cup of demons" likely refers to the libation cup that a portion was poured on the victim and the rest shared with communicants; and the "table of demons" either the altar, or where portions of the idol victims were dined on. Both of which were meant to directly connect the dinners to the act of idol sacrifice]

22 Or are we provoking the Lord to jealousy? Not stronger than He are we!

23 All is allowed me, but not all is expedient. All is allowed me, but not all is edifying.

24 Let no one be seeking the welfare of himself, but that of another.

25 All that in the market sold, eat ye of, not examining because of conscience.

26 For "the Lord's is the earth and that which fills it."

[The Greek word "makellon" "market" has commonly been translated "meat market". However, there is clear evidence that many kinds of food (not just flesh) was sold at a "makellon". Either way, the point is simply that those Christians that consumed flesh only need to act in a way so as not to condone idol sacrifice. Idol sacrifices don't literally belong to demons, absolutely everything in the universe is God's personal position. But a Christian must not give the impression he believes these blood rituals to idols are somehow holy, such acts are rather pleasing to evil beings. But interestingly, according to R. Saez Gonzalves, the food sold in a so-called macellon in the east of the Roman Empire probably did not include meat at all! See R. Saez Gonzalvez, El problema de las carnes inmoladas a los idolos y las soluciones propuestas (1 Cor 8,; Act 15, 29; 21,25; Apoc. 2, 14.20): Un estudio teologico---biblico sobre la unidad y la diversidad en el Nuovo Testamento (Rome: Pontifica Universitas Gregoriana, 1994) 81-82.]

27 If anyone of the unbelievers calls ye over, and ye want to go, eat ye of everything that is placed before ye, not examining because of conscience.

28 Yet if anyone should be saying to ye that this is a sacred sacrifice, don't eat, because of that one [who] divulged, and conscience. [Going to a meal and then to find that the main course is a sacrificial victim was likely, in the first century, a common problem. The Majority text has after this: "for the earth is the Lord's, and that which fills it."]

29 Yet conscience I say, not that of self, but that of the other, For what reason my freedom be judged under a different conscience?

30 If I participate with grace, why be blasphemed above what I give thanks? [Eating idol victims risks both their reputations and their relationship with their Christian fellowship of grace for which they should be thankful. However, the passage is ambiguous as to whom he's referring. Perhaps this might be the flip side to 1 Cor. 8:13. This could be translated "why am I blasphemed over what I give thanks?" That is, the one who has a reputation of refraining from flesh, like Paul, need not abstain from the entire meal, but can gracefully eat without offending his guests. In the latter case, it may allude to the Septuagint verse: "Better a hosting of herbs with fondness and grace, than a feast of calves with enmity." Proverbs 1517 LXX ] Self control in one area can give greater freedom in others.

31 Then, whether ye are eating or drinking, or anything ye are doing, do all for the glory of God.

32 And become not a stumbling block to Jews as well as to Greeks and to the Church of God,

[The fact that Paul doesn't make being a vegetarian a requirement for church membership it doesn't follow that the practice wasn't preferred. In fact most pre-modern movements that encouraged vegetarianism didn't require it of all their members. Requiring vegetarianism for church entrance at that time and place would likely have had practically no benefit to animals and simply ensure that Christianity remained a group of just a handful of people. In 1st century Roman society; with its massive slavery, crucifixions, and blood "sports" of human and countless other species of animals, trying to get people to act half way decently was an enormous undertaking.]

33 according as I also am pleasing all in all things, not seeking my own expedience, but that of the many, that they may be saved.

[All Christians should not only do good themselves, but act in a way that will encourage others to be better.]

See: Revelation 13:18 - 3 Symbols of the Beast

See Comments by:
By A. J. Fecko - 27 Dec 2011
By A. J. Fecko - 29 Dec 2011
By Frank and Mary Hoffman - 6 Jan 2012

Go on to comments: By A. J. Fecko - 27 Dec 2011
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