What does 1 Corinthians 9:7 mean?
ESV: Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?
NIV: Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk?
NASB: Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not consume some of the milk of the flock?
CSB: Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its fruit? Or who shepherds a flock and does not drink the milk from the flock?
NLT: What soldier has to pay his own expenses? What farmer plants a vineyard and doesn’t have the right to eat some of its fruit? What shepherd cares for a flock of sheep and isn’t allowed to drink some of the milk?
KJV: Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?
NKJV: Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?
Verse Commentary:
Paul has asked if he has the right as an apostle to receive financial support from the people he serves. He has indicated that other apostles do this (1 Corinthians 9:4–6). He appears to be challenging the Corinthians for not supporting him with money. In truth, he has refused to take money from the people to whom he delivers the gospel.

In order to make his greater point, Paul indicates this is unusual, almost unnatural. He makes this point in a series of questions: people in most professions receive pay for the work they do. No soldier pays his own way in a war. Nobody faults the vineyard worker for eating some of the fruit. No farmer refuses milk from the flock he tends.

The reason for this comparison is to support Paul's earlier teaching: that it is good for a Christian to give up their "rights" for the spiritual benefit of others (1 Corinthians 8:7–13). If Paul is willing to demonstrate this in such a dramatic way, the believers in Corinth have no excuse for not doing the same.
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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