What does 1 Corinthians 9:15 mean?
ESV: But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting.
NIV: But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast.
NASB: But I have used none of these things. And I have not written these things so that it will be done so in my case; for it would be better for me to die than that. No one shall make my boast an empty one!
CSB: For my part I have used none of these rights, nor have I written these things that they may be applied in my case. For it would be better for me to die than for anyone to deprive me of my boast!
NLT: Yet I have never used any of these rights. And I am not writing this to suggest that I want to start now. In fact, I would rather die than lose my right to boast about preaching without charge.
KJV: 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.
NKJV: But I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things that it should be done so to me; for it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my boasting void.
Verse Commentary:
In the previous verses, Paul established firmly his right as a minister of the gospel to receive financial support from the people he serves. Using citations from both the Old Testament (1 Corinthians 9:9) and the words of Jesus (1 Corinthians 9:14), he's shown this is a reasonable, legitimate expectation. However, Paul makes clear to his readers that he has never claimed those rights for himself. He does not intend to start.

Why? In verse 12, he said he would not ask for money from the Corinthians because he did not want to put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. He apparently did not want anyone to shy away from the gospel because they thought he was preaching it only for the sake of a financial reward.

Now he gives a new reason for not claiming any right to be paid by the Corinthians. He wants to keep on "boasting." In fact, Paul says that he would rather die than to lose his grounds for boasting about preaching the good news of the free grace of God in Jesus Christ free of charge of his own free will.

Is this a self-glorifying boast? Is Paul demonstrating selfish pride by refusing to take any money from those he serves? No. As the following verses will show, Paul feels free to boast about preaching the gospel without financial payment because that is the only thing he can give that is of his own free will. His calling comes from God, as does his ability to carry it out. Only turning down payment from those he serves is truly his to give (1 Corinthians 9:16–18).
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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