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1 Corinthians 9:17

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

For if I do this thing willingly - If I be a cordial co-operator with God, I have a reward, an incorruptible crown, 1 Corinthians 9:25. Or, if I freely preach this Gospel without being burthensome to any, I have a special reward; but if I do not, I have simply an office to fulfill, into which God has put me, and may fulfill it conscientiously, and claim my privileges at the same time; but then I lose that special reward which I have in view by preaching the Gospel without charge to any.

This and the 18th verse have been variously translated: Sir Norton Knatchbull and, after him, Mr. Wakefield translate the two passages thus: For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if I am intrusted with an office without my consent? what is my reward then? to make the Gospel of Christ, whilst I preach it, without charge, in not using to the utmost my privileges in the Gospel.

Others render the passage thus: But if I do it merely because I am obliged to it, I only discharge an office that is committed to me, 1 Corinthians 9:18. For what then shall I be rewarded? It is for this, that, preaching the Gospel of Christ, I preach it freely, and do not insist on a claim which the Gospel itself gives me.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
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.
Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

For if I do this thing willingly - If I preach so as to show that my heart is in it; that I am not compelled, If I pursue such a course as to show that I prefer it to all other employments. If Paul took a compensation for his services, he could not well do this; if he did not, he showed that his heart was in it, and that he preferred the work to all others. Even though he had been in a manner compelled to engage in that work, yet he so acted in the work as to show that it had his hearty preference. This was done by his submitting to voluntary self-denials and sacrifices in order to spread the Saviour‘s name.

I have a reward - I shall meet with the approbation of my Lord, and shall obtain the reward in the world to come, which is promised to those who engage heartily, and laboriously, and successfully in turning sinners to God; Proverbs 11:30; Daniel 12:3; Matthew 13:43; Matthew 25:21-23; James 5:20.

But if against my will - ( ἄκων akōn). “If under a necessity 1 Corinthians 9:16; if by the command of another” (Grotius); if I do it by the fear of punishment, or by any strong necessity which is laid on me.

A dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me - I am entrusted with ( πεπίστευμαι pepisteumai) this dispensation, office, economy ( οἰκονομίαν oikonomian) of the gospel. It has been laid upon me; I have been called to it; I must engage in this work; and if I do it from mere compulsion or in such a way that my will shall not acquiesce in it, and concur with it, I shall have no distinguished reward. The work must be done; I must preach the gospel; and it becomes me so to do it as to show that my heart and will entirely concur; that it is not a matter of compulsion, but of choice. This he proposed to do by so denying himself, and so foregoing comforts which he might lawfully enjoy, and so subjecting himself to perils and toils in preaching the gospel, as to show that his heart was in the work, and that he truly loved it.

Ellen G. White
The Ministry of Healing, 216

There are miracles to be wrought in genuine conversion, miracles that are not now discerned. The greatest men of the earth are not beyond the power of a wonder-working God. If those who are workers together with Him will do their duty bravely and faithfully, God will convert men who occupy responsible places, men of intellect and influence. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, many will be led to accept the divine principles. MH 216.1

When it is made plain that the Lord expects them as His representatives to relieve suffering humanity, many will respond and will give of their means and their sympathies for the benefit of the poor. As their minds are thus drawn away from their own selfish interests, many will surrender themselves to Christ. With their talents of influence and means they will gladly unite in the work of beneficence with the humble missionary who was God's agent in their conversion. By a right use of their earthly treasures they will lay up for themselves “a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.” MH 216.2

When converted to Christ, many will become agencies in the hand of God to work for others of their own class. They will feel that a dispensation of the gospel is committed to them for those who have made this world their all. Time and money will be consecrated to God, talent and influence will be devoted to the work of winning souls to Christ. MH 216.3

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