What does 1 Corinthians 9:16 mean?
ESV: For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!
NIV: For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!
NASB: For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast about, for I am under compulsion; for woe to me if I do not preach the gospel.
CSB: For if I preach the gospel, I have no reason to boast, because I am compelled to preach--and woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!
NLT: Yet preaching the Good News is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I didn’t preach the Good News!
KJV: For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!
NKJV: For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!
Verse Commentary:
Paul wrote in the previous verse that he would rather die than lose his grounds for boasting. Now he makes it clear that he is not boasting because he himself has decided to preach the gospel. He doesn't feel he has any choice about whether he will continue to preach about salvation through faith in Jesus. Christ compelled Paul to preach the gospel. The Lord Himself sent Paul into the world with the message of God's grace. Both the burden and the ability come from God, so Paul cannot brag about either one.

Paul uses the terminology of the Old Testament prophets to describe what would happen to him if he stopped preaching the gospel: "Woe to me!" This implies more than just sadness for Paul if he were to stop preaching the gospel. In an Old Testament context, it suggests serious real-world consequences from the Lord if Paul were to refuse to carry out his calling. In any case, Paul knows he simply cannot stop preaching the gospel. It is not an option available to him. What is under his control, however, is the issue at hand: whether to accept compensation for his work.
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.
Accessed 5/26/2024 5:53:23 PM
© Copyright 2002-2024 Got Questions Ministries. All rights reserved.
Text from ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, NLT, KJV, NKJV © Copyright respective owners, used by permission.
www.BibleRef.com