What does 1 Corinthians 9:5 mean?
ESV: Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?
NIV: Don't we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord's brothers and Cephas?
NASB: Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?
CSB: Don't we have the right to be accompanied by a believing wife like the other apostles, the Lord's brothers, and Cephas?
NLT: Don’t we have the right to bring a believing wife with us as the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers do, and as Peter does?
KJV: Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?
NKJV: Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?
Verse Commentary:
Paul has established that he is, in fact, an apostle (1 Corinthians 9:1–2). Now he is establishing that apostles, like other ministers of the gospel, are entitled to certain rights. He places this "right" in comparison to how the Corinthians believe their freedom in Christ allows them to eat food offered to idols and attend functions in idol temples (1 Corinthians 8:1–6).

It's unclear exactly who Paul means in his reference to "brothers of the Lord." Perhaps he means Jesus' actual half-brothers, born to Mary. Or this might mean "brothers" in the same sense as general Christian brotherhood. Or, it might be some other group entirely. In any case, Paul's main point is that he is not claiming his "right" to be supported by those he serves.

Paul uses the term "we" here, which presumably refers to himself and his ministry partner, Barnabas. They have the right to bring along a believing wife on their ministry journeys. He points out that other apostles are doing just that, mentioning the "brothers of the Lord" and Cephas, who is Peter. Presumably, these other apostles may have been receiving financial support for themselves and their wives as they travel from place to place.

Of course, Paul does not have a wife that would need to be supported, based on his teaching about marriage and celibacy in a previous chapter (1 Corinthians 7:6–8). In the context of this discussion, Paul is pointing out that it's reasonable for an apostle to expect support for himself and a wife—and yet Paul is asking for nothing from the believers in Corinth. This is meant to exemplify his teaching about sacrificing one's rights for the sake of others (1 Corinthians 8:7–13).
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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