What does 1 Corinthians 9:13 mean?
ESV: Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings?
NIV: Don't you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar?
NASB: Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar?
CSB: Don't you know that those who perform the temple services eat the food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the offerings of the altar?
NLT: Don’t you realize that those who work in the temple get their meals from the offerings brought to the temple? And those who serve at the altar get a share of the sacrificial offerings.
KJV: Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?
Verse Commentary:
Paul adds another reason to his list of why those who minister the gospel are entitled to be compensated in some way by those who receive their service. This time he points to Jewish religious practices, in which the temple provides food for those employed there, as well as for those who work at the altar itself.

It's possible that Paul is also referring to offerings made in the pagan temples. That would connect this example directly to the larger issue of food offered to idols. In the previous verse, Paul made it clear that he was not going to ask for any payment from the Corinthians. Instead, he seems intent on making an iron-clad case for why it is his right—it is something he is entirely entitled to. The point of making that claim is to show he is giving up his right, for the good of others. He is asking them to follow both his teaching (1 Corinthians 8:7–13) and his example when it comes to eating food that may have been offered to pagan gods.
Verse Context:
First Corinthians 9:1–18 describes Paul's case for why he, as an apostle, has the right to ask for financial support from the people he serves, including the Corinthian Christians. Though he could demand, Paul refuses to insist on his right. He doesn't want anything to get in the way of someone hearing the gospel. He must preach the gospel; he has no choice. But Paul wants to be able to boast about offering the gospel free of charge even though he has the right to ask for financial support. This passage establishes that believers have an obligation to support those who serve through ministry. This message is made more valid since Paul is not benefitting from his own argument.
Chapter Summary:
Paul encourages Christians to willingly give up their ''rights'' for the good of those who are weak in their faith. Paul shows that he, too, has given up his rights, including the right as an apostle to receive financial support from those he serves. Instead, he boasts that he serves the Corinthians without any compensation, even at great cost to himself. Paul describes himself as an athlete competing for the prize of a crown in eternity. His point is for believers to pursue godliness, and the good of others, with that kind of commitment.
Chapter Context:
First Corinthians 8 ended with Paul's declaration that he would give up his right to eat any meat rather than cause a brother in Christ to stumble. He shows in this chapter that he is already giving up his right as an apostle to be financially supported by those he serves. He doesn't want anything to get in the way of anyone believing the gospel. He limits his freedoms further by becoming all things to all people to win some for Christ. He disciplines himself like an athlete in training, to get a prize and to avoid being disqualified. The next passages will expand on this idea of distinguishing what is ''allowed'' from what is ''best.''
Book Summary:
First Corinthians is one of the more practical books of the New Testament. Paul writes to a church immersed in a city associated with trade, but also with corruption and immorality. These believers are struggling to properly apply spiritual gifts and to resist the ungodly practices of the surrounding culture. Paul's letter gives instructions for real-life concerns such as marriage and spirituality. He also deals with the importance of unity and gives one of the Bible's more well-known descriptions of love in chapter 13.
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