What does 1 Corinthians 9:4 mean?
ESV: Do we not have the right to eat and drink?
NIV: Don't we have the right to food and drink?
NASB: Do we not have a right to eat and drink?
CSB: Don't we have the right to eat and drink?
NLT: Don’t we have the right to live in your homes and share your meals?
KJV: Have we not power to eat and to drink?
Verse Commentary:
Paul asks a series of questions about his right as one of the apostles. He begins with asking if he and other apostles have a right to eat and drink. By this, he means they have a right to have their necessities met, starting with the most basic of all, food and drink.

Paul is leading up to the idea that, as a minister of the gospel—and especially as an apostle—he could ask those he serves to provide him support so he would not have to work outside of ministry to support himself. Then, he will remind the Corinthians that he has never asked them to do this. His reason for making this comparison is to show that Paul practices what he preaches. He has asked the believers in Corinth to put their "rights" aside for the good of others, which is something Paul himself has already demonstrated.
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 4/22/2024 2:43:27 PM
© Copyright 2002-2024 Got Questions Ministries. All rights reserved.
Text from ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, NLT, KJV © Copyright respective owners, used by permission.
www.BibleRef.com