1 Corinthians 9:17 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

1 Corinthians 9:17, NIV: If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me.

1 Corinthians 9:17, ESV: For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship.

1 Corinthians 9:17, KJV: 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.

1 Corinthians 9:17, NASB: For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a commission nonetheless.

1 Corinthians 9:17, NLT: If I were doing this on my own initiative, I would deserve payment. But I have no choice, for God has given me this sacred trust.

1 Corinthians 9:17, CSB: For if I do this willingly, I have a reward, but if unwillingly, I am entrusted with a commission.

What does 1 Corinthians 9:17 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

The burden and ability to preach the gospel were both given to Paul by God. He is not preaching as a volunteer, but under orders as a willing and engaged bondservant. As such, Paul states he has no reward for merely doing what he must do. Instead, he views himself as a steward entrusted with a task. He is honored to be entrusted with this task of carrying the message of the gospel to so many people, but he recognizes that he is simply following orders. He is glad to play his part, as he must, but all the content of what he says and all the outcomes belong to the Lord.

Paul's reason for explaining all of this has many layers. One is to show that he is living out the same message he's preached to others: that they ought to put the needs of others ahead of their own "rights" (1 Corinthians 8:7–13). Paul is also pointing out that it's reasonable for ministers of the gospel to be given support for their work. Lastly, Paul is emphasizing that he's tried not to give anyone a reason to doubt the sincerity of his preaching.