Summary: Reading this passage brings to mind four words which may reveal the objective of the Apostle: SELF-DENIAL—ZEAL—MINISTER—EVIL

January 27, 2013

Commentary on First Corinthians

By: Tom Lowe

Lesson 7.5: Renunciation By an Apostle

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 9.15-23

1 Cor 9.15-23 (KJV)

15 But I have used none of these things: 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.

16 For though I preach the Gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel!

17 For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the Gospel is committed unto me.

18 What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the Gospel, I may make the Gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the Gospel.

making himself, rather, the servant of all

19 For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.

20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;

21 To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.

22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

23 And this I do for the Gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.


A casual reading of this passage brings to mind four words which may reveal the objective of the Apostle for writing this section of his first epistle to the Corinthian Church.

SELF-DENIAL—the act of refusing to partake of anything not necessary for life or service to God. Sometimes self-denial can become extreme, in which case it is called asceticism. Paul denied himself support from the Corinthians.

ZEAL, ZEALOUS—enthusiastic devotion; eager desire; single-minded allegiance: “And the king called the Gibeonites, and said unto them; (now the Gibeonites were not of the children of Israel, but of the remnant of the Amorites; and the children of Israel had sworn unto them: and Saul sought to slay them in his zeal to the children of Israel and Judah.)” (2 Sam 21:2; KJV). The psalmist wrote, “Zeal for Your house has eaten me up” (Ps. 69:9). When Jesus cleansed the Temple, His zeal reminded the disciples of the psalmist’s words: “And his disciples remembered that it was written, the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up” (John 2:17; KJV). Even before he became a Christian, Paul was zealous toward God and the Law of Moses: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, at the feet of Gamaliel, instructed according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God, even as ye all are this day” (Acts 22:3; ASV).

MINISTER, MINISTRY—a distinctive biblical idea that means “to serve” or “service.” In the Old Testament, the word “servant” was used primarily for court servants. During the period between the Old and New Testaments, it came to be used in connection with ministering to the poor. This use of the word is close to the work of the seven in waiting on tables in the New Testament (Acts 6:1–7).

EVIL—a force that opposes God and His work of righteousness in the world (Rom. 7:8–19). The word is also used for any disturbance to the harmonious order of the universe, such as disease (Ps. 41:8). But the Bible makes it plain that even these so-called “physical evils” are the result of a far more serious moral and spiritual evil that began with the FALL of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3).


15 But I have used none of these things: 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.

But I have used none of these things:

Here Paul repeats what he had said previously in verse 12: “If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless, we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the Gospel of Christ.” He did not take maintenance from the Church at Corinth, although he did accept gifts from other assemblies: “Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction. Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the Gospel when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. But I have all and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God. But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:14-19; KJV). The Philippians had sent Paul monetary gifts while he was ministering in Thessalonica, and here he shows his deep appreciation for their support; but notice that he declares, “Not because I desire a gift”—meaning that he had not solicited a gift from them. In 2nd Corinthians, we are told that the Church at Corinth was the only one where he ministered but did not accept maintenance. Why did he refuse their support? “Neither did we eat any man's bread for naught; but wrought with labor and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you” (2 Thess 3:8; KJV). Paul is saying, “We paid for what we bought, and worked with our hands so that we might have money to buy what was necessary.” He believed that by not taking anything from them, he could do more to honor the Gospel and save souls.

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