What does 1 Corinthians 9:3 mean?
ESV: This is my defense to those who would examine me.
NIV: This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me.
NASB: My defense to those who examine me is this:
CSB: My defense to those who examine me is this:
NLT: This is my answer to those who question my authority.
KJV: Mine answer to them that do examine me is this,
Verse Commentary:
In the previous two verses, Paul established that he is a true apostle of Jesus Christ. "Apostle," in this case, means one specially sent by Christ as a messenger to others. The Corinthians are fully aware that Paul came to them in exactly this way. They exist as a community of Christians because they believed the message of Jesus as he presented it to them.

Now Paul reports that what follows will be his defense before those who will examine him. In other words, he is about to present arguments about himself, arguments he believes will hold up to scrutiny.

What will Paul be defending? He plans to show that, as an apostle, he has rights to several things. Among those is the right to be supported financially by those he serves with the gospel. And yet, Paul will also argue that he has not demanded those rights, out of love and concern for those to whom he ministers. He means this as an example of how Christians ought to put their "rights" secondary to the spiritual good of others.
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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