1 Am I not a free man? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? [See Acts 9:17; I Cor. 15:8]. Are you people not [the result of] my work in [the service of] the Lord? 2 [Even] if I am not [accepted as] an apostle with other people, at least I am with you. For you people are my seal [i.e., proof] of my apostleship in [the service of] the Lord. 3 My defense to those people who [want to] examine my credentials is this: 4 Do we [i.e., Barnabas and Paul. See verse 6] not have the right to eat and drink [i.e., at the expense of the church]? 5 Do we not have the right to take a believing [i.e., a Christian] wife with us [on our preaching tours], just like the rest of the apostles, and the Lord's brothers do [i.e., James, Joseph, Judas and Simon. Mark 6:3], and Cephas [i.e., Peter]? 6 Or, are Barnabas and I the only ones who must have a [secular] job for our living? 7 What soldier ever served [in the army] and paid his own expenses? Who [ever] planted a grape orchard and did not get to eat some of the grapes it produced? Or, who [ever] tended a flock of goats and did not get to drink some of the milk? 8 Do I say these things from a purely human standpoint, or does not the law of Moses also teach the same thing? 9 For it is written in the law of Moses [Deut. 25:4], "You should not put a muzzle on an ox while it tramples over the grain." Is it the oxen that God is concerned about? 10 Or, is He not really saying this for our sakes? Yes, it was written for us because the farmer ought to plow in hope [of planting a crop], and the harvester ought to thresh grain in hope of reaping a crop. 11 If we have planted spiritual seeds [i.e., the Gospel message] among you, is it too much to expect to reap a material harvest from you? 12 If other people have the right to receive a share of what you have, should we not have even more [right to it]? Yet we did not make use of this right, but instead we put up with whatever we had to so we would not become a hindrance to [the spread of] the good news [about Christ]. 13 Do you not know that those who perform service in the Temple [are permitted to] eat food from the Temple? And those who serve at the Altar receive a share of what is sacrificed on the Altar? 14 Even so the Lord directed that those who proclaim the good news [about Christ] should get their living from [preaching] that good news.
15 But I have not availed myself of any of these rights. And I am not writing this so that it would be done in my case, for I would rather die than have anyone make my boast [i.e., of preaching without financial support] an empty one. 16 [But] I do not have anything to boast about if I preach the good news because I am compelled to do it. For it would be too bad for me if I did not preach the good news. 17 For if I preached because [I personally decided] I wanted to, I could claim a reward. But if I did not preach from a personal decision to do so, then it would be because I was entrusted with the task [by God]. 18 Then what is my reward? It is being able to preach the good news without receiving financial support [for it], so as not to claim my full rights in [the work of preaching] the good news.
19 For although I am free from [being accountable to] all people, I placed myself under obligation to them [as a slave], so as to win as many as possible [to Christ]. 20 I behaved like a Jew in front of the Jews in order to win Jews [to Christ]. I behaved like a person who was under [obligation to observe] the law [i.e., Jews] in front of those who observe that law, although I was not [really] under [obligation to] it. I did this to win those who are under [obligation to observe] the law. 21 I [also] behaved like a person without [obligation to observe] the law [i.e., a Gentile] in front of those who are not obligated to it, although I was not [really] without obligation to God's law; but was under [obligation to] Christ's law. I did this to win those who are without [obligation to observe] the law [i.e., Gentiles]. 22 I behaved like a weak person in front of weak people [See 8:9-12], in order to win them over [i.e., to help them become stronger]. I have become all things to all people so that, in every way, I could save some of them. 23 And everything I do is for the sake of [the work of] the Gospel, so that I may share in its benefits.
24 Do you not know that [although] everyone runs in a race, only one person wins the prize? So, you should run in order to win. 25 And everyone who [strenuously] competes in athletic events exercises self-control during training. Now they do this to receive a laurel wreath that withers, but we [do it to receive] a lasting crown. 26 So, I run with a purpose and I fight that way [too]; I do not just shadow box. 27 But I work out and get my body in shape [i.e., spiritually], so that after preaching to other people, I myself do not become disqualified [i.e., for winning the prize from God. See verse 24].